How You Might Be Leading Your Friends To Hell

In a recent interview, billionaire and long time atheist Ted Turner, said, “I don’t want to go to Hell.” The soon to be 75 year old, still considers himself to be an agnostic, but now he is open to the possibility that “somebody is out there.”  And to show that he is serious about avoiding eternal damnation, he has, in his latter years, focused on doing good. He has been very generous with his wealth and has become an advocate and supporter of many worthwhile causes.  But is all his good deeds enough to get him into Heaven? Jane Fonda, an openly Christian women, who also happens to be Turner’s former wife says, when it comes to Heaven, Ted Turner is a “shoo-in.”  Why is she so sure about his eternal security? Here is an excerpt from the article:

Fonda said she believes Turner’s childhood traumas left him so protective of himself that he had trouble opening up emotionally. But, she said, he does want to get into Heaven. And, she said, he’s a shoo-in.
 
“Given his childhood,” Fonda said, “he should’ve become a dictator. He should’ve become a not nice person. The miracle is that he became what he is. A man who will go to Heaven, and there’ll be a lot of animals up there welcoming him, animals that have been brought back from the edge of extinction because of Ted. He’s turned out to be a good guy. And he says he’s not religious. But he, the whole time I was with him, every speech — and he likes to give speeches — he always ends his speech with ‘God bless.’ And he’ll get into Heaven. He’s a miracle.”
 

The interviewer then summed up the article this way:

 The old Ted Turner — the one who made billions and won the America’s Cup and the World Series and launched CNN — probably would have tried to buy his way in. But the do-gooder Ted is earning his way in by saving bison and other endangered species and fighting for the oceans and preserving 2 million acres of ranch land and standing up for women and supporting causes near and dear to the United Nations.
 
That Ted Turner gets into Heaven, by Jane Fonda’s accounting.

 

Now, I am sure Jane Fonda was just trying to be nice. And maybe she plans on having many more salvation conversations with her still-good-friend Ted Turner. But if the CNN article is an accurate description of her beliefs, then sadly she is not only keeping Ted from Heaven, but inadvertently leading Ted to Hell.

To be fair it is hard for any Christian not to think that somehow the good deeds of their non believing friends or family might get them into Heaven. But the Bible is clear, no amount of good works gets any person into Heaven.

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

Ephesians 2:8-9  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Titus 3:5 [God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

How then does one go to Heaven?

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

There is only one way to Heaven:

Repent of your sins, confess Jesus as Lord of your life, and thereby receive God’s free gift of grace and forgiveness.

Matt Chandler once wrote, ““the idolatry that exists in a man’s heart always wants to lead him away from his Savior and back to self-reliance” Our good works are often just a veiled form of self-reliance. But the good news of Jesus Christ is that we no longer have to rely on ourselves (especially for salvation), instead we are now able to rely solely on the grace of God. We were made to be God-dependent, not independent.

On the cross, Jesus did all the good work necessary for you and me to go to Heaven. There is nothing we can or need to add to that.

So for all of us who, like Ms. Fonda, have friends and family like Ted who don’t want to go to Hell, let us not give them false hope in their good works. Instead, let us lead them to the One True Hope, Jesus Christ, because their good works can’t get them into Heaven, but they can lead them into Hell.

 

 

 

God’s not so big plans for your life…

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I remember the chapel like it was yesterday.  In a college gymnasium, surrounded by thousands of students, I sat on what was usually an uncomfortably hard wooden bench.  But on that day, my body did not squirm for comfort, because on that day my complete attention was on the charismatic Christian speaker in front of me.  His sermon was well-crafted, his stories were funny, and all his applications of scripture were convincing.  And with the Bible in his hand and deep conviction in his heart, he proclaimed with prophetic boldness words that spoke to my soul….”God,” he said, “has big plans for your life!”  But his sermon did not end there.  No, he then went on to give us the really good news: “God has bigger plans for your life than you could ever imagine.”

And thus began my season of despair…

Looking back, the problem was two-fold. One, at the time I could imagine some pretty big plans for my life. Once, when reading an article about a Billy Graham crusade, I saw a black and white photo of Dr. Graham preaching to a crowd of a million people.  At the time it was the largest evangelistic crusade in history.  With complete seriousness, I looked at that picture and prayed, “God would you use me to preach to two million people?”  And, truth be told, at that time I could have imagined myself preaching to three million— if God needed me to.

Of course some will respond that I misinterpreted the speaker’s use of the phrase “big plans”.   And I could not agree more.  But this only illuminates the second of the two problems. Often, when well-meaning Christian teachers and preachers say these kinds of things, they never think to define what they mean by the term “big”.   And so students, or chapel listeners (and, let’s be honest, even pastors) are left to define the term on their own. The problem is when most American Christians begin to imagine and dream about what it could mean for God to have “big plans” for their lives, their dreams often start to look like a Christian version of the American Dream.  Tell a college student today that God has “big plans” for their life, and they’ll think God is going to use them to save the world, or at least “their” world—whatever that might be.

There was another chapel speaker that year who talked about God’s plans for your life. His sermon was also well-crafted, his jokes funny, and his scriptural applications convincing.  But there, before a gymnasium full of college students, referencing Tolkien’s famous “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy, he spoke (what I now consider to be) truly prophetic words: “You are not the hero of the story. You are not Frodo. Rather, in the great battle of life, you are more like elf #351. But that is significant, because you are in the story.”

I have come to believe that God’s pleasure is often not in creating “big plans” for our lives (at least not the American kind), but rather in giving significance to the sometimes seemingly small plans He has for us.

Often there is nothing glamorous, nothing inspirational, and nothing “news-worthy” about the work Christ calls us to. Often we are simply called to be obedient and to follow wherever Christ leads.  Most of the time these actions do not seem big at all— but they are significant.  In Christ we are free to give up fantasies of American grandeur and instead rest in the knowledge that our lives are significant, no matter what we do, because it is Christ who gives significance to all of our life. The good news is that our stories are forever intertwined with His story.  And so whatever we do, whether it seems big or small, it is a part of His grand eternal story, and that is significant.

In heaven I imagine we will meet missionaries who gave their lives to the work of the gospel while living in total obscurity.  We will meet pastors who never published a book, never spoke at a conference, and never started a network, but did quietly and faithfully fulfill their calling to shepherd a flock. We will meet businessmen and women who never climbed the corporate ladder, but did live simple lives of kindness, and integrity.  And there in heaven, I imagine we will see for the first time how Christ used every one of these lives and their actions to magnify His presence on earth.  And there, before the throne of God, I imagine we will stand in awe of those once obscure and un-glorious people, and together with all the saints, we will praise God for their significant lives.

Have you ever heard someone tell you God has big plans for your life? What did you think when you heard that? Does the difference between “significant plans” vs. “big plans” resonate with you at all?

Five Crazy Things You’ll Likely Do In Heaven

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The notion of eternity has always scared me to death. As a pastor, that is not exactly easy to admit, but it’s true. If I think too long about the idea of living forever I will literally start to freak out. I know I am not alone in this. Many times students in our church have shared with me that they don’t like thinking about heaven because when they think about eternity it scares them.

Eternity is scary, but only when our picture of heaven is vague.  So to help us overcome the fear, here are five crazy things I think followers of Jesus will likely do in heaven.[1]

1.       Flying (Acts 1:3-10)

After His resurrection Jesus met with his disciples to give them final instructions. After He had finished, the Bible says “ he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They [the disciples] were looking intently up into the sky as he was going…” Like a scene out of Iron Man, Jesus flew up into the clouds. If His resurrected body could fly, then there is good reason to believe that when we receive resurrected bodies we will be able to fly also.  

 2.       Walking Through Walls (John 20:19-20, 26-27)

Before they knew Jesus was alive again, the disciples were in a home “with the doors locked” and yet Jesus “came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” Locked doors and solid walls could not stop the resurrected Jesus from appearing to his disciples inside the home. And we know that this appearance of Jesus was not just a vision or even just spiritual. Jesus talked to his disciples, he ate with them, and he even let Thomas touch his wounds. These are all signs that he was very physically present. By the power of the Spirit his new resurrected physical body was able to pass through material objects. I think our future resurrected bodies will, in reflection of Jesus, do the same thing.

3.       Running Faster Than A Horse (1 Kings 18:45-46)

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:45-46). God gave Elijah the power to run so fast that even though Ahab had left before him on a horse, Elijah was able run faster than Ahab’s horse, and arrived first. If the Spirit of God gave Elijah that power on earth, why would he withhold it from us in heaven?

4.       Walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-29)

It is a famous story that we all know. In the midst of a storm, Jesus walks on water, and then Peter wants to do the same thing. Sure enough, Jesus calls him out of the boat, and together they stand on water. Sure, Peter started to sink, but it was only because of his lack of faith. If Jesus allowed Peter do such a thing on Earth how much more when we too have resurrected bodies and unhindered faith in Jesus will we, like Peter, be able to walk on water with Jesus.

5.       Teleporting (Acts 8:38-40)

Philip was on his way down to Gaza. On the way he comes across an Ethiopian official with questions about the words from the prophet Isaiah. Philip explains how Isaiah was talking about Jesus, the official puts his trust in Jesus, and then he asks to be baptized. Philip baptizes the official, but then the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord “suddenly took Philip away…” and “… Philip appeared at Azotus.”  Azotus was roughly 19 miles away from Philip’s intended destination of Gaza. It’s therefore safe to say the Spirit of the Lord teleported Philip at least 19 miles in order to move him to Azotus. No matter what the distance was, what is clear is that the same Spirit, who lives in every believer, supernaturally moved Philip.  If the Spirit was able to move Philip on Earth how much more should we expect the Spirit of God to freely empower us to move in heaven?

I don’t know about you but when I think about flying, walking through buildings, running super-fast, walking on water, and teleporting all by the power of the Holy Spirit, as a reflection of Jesus, to the glory and enjoyment of the Father… well, now eternity just sounds fun.


[1] These activities are based on the following lines of thought:

After Jesus’s resurrection he was given a new body. When we are resurrected we will be given a new body like the body of Jesus. Therefore, what he was able to do with his glorious body, we will be able to do with ours in the New Heavens and New Earth.

-and-

All miracles are the result of the power of the Holy Spirit. In heaven we will be completely full of the Spirit (without sin to hinder His presence). Therefore whatever the Holy Spirit empowered people to do on Earth, He will empower them to do in Heaven.