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¡This WAY to HEAVEN!
Of maps and routes in moral-spiritual territories
Beloved reader, would you like to go to Heaven when your years on Earth come to an end, or when God himself brings to conclusion his plan for humanity and the universe? Surely, you would not like to go to the regions of eternal darkness.
Do you know the Glorious Way to Heaven? If you do not have the authentic map that shows it, how could you possibly get to such a distant destination in another dimension of space and time? Perhaps via your own projections, opinions or suppositions, or those of guides who have not made that trip? Impossible to thus get there!
On the other hand, if you are already following some spiritual map, we would think it well to respectfully ask: Have you reflected on where you obtained it or who gave it to you?
This way to Heaven! By this Road, and not by those! He who knows the safe and secure Way is the one who came down from Heaven to the planet Earth, then returned to Heaven -Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 14:1-6; John 1:18). He is the One who has prepared an absolutely, reliable map, very precisely marking out in the New Testament the exact and direct route. Do you possess a faithful copy?
Beware! The Old Testament is not valid as a spiritual map for souls of the present time. That covenant, made exclusively with Israel, continues to be valuable as history, and, also for its psalms, proverbs, prophecies about Christ, the Kingdom of God, kingdoms of the world and end times, but it is not God’s spiritual roadmap for the Christian Age. As a matter of fact, it was nailed to the cross, annulled and taken out of the way by God himself (Hebrews 7:12; Colossians 2:14-16). Whoever insist on following it (keeping Sabbaths, tithing, imitating the levitical priesthood), may be overcome with great anguish on the day of judgment, because one who submits to what God has abolished is “severed from Christ,” falling “away from grace.” Such a person takes a wrong road that carries one far away from the Lord, and, consequently, from Heaven itself, with its glorious “city of the living God” (Galatians 5:1-4; Galatians 4:21-31; <1 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 11:8-16).
We are so bold as to ask again: What spiritual map are you following? Is it perhaps one given to you by your own parents? If that is so, another question arises: Where did your parents get that map? TAKE CARE! The apostle Peter warns that not a few parents teach their children “futile ways” (1 Peter 1:17-21). Superstitions, idolatries, witchcraft, vices (drunkenness, drug addiction; adultery, cursing, idleness) and no end of foolishness. Also, doctrines, traditions and rites of the religious who have no direct connection to God. While it may be natural that children who respect and love their parents would strongly resist the very idea of their inculcating false beliefs or corrupt life styles, it would behoove them to be objective and honest since the eternal destiny of the soul is at stake. Because those “ways,” though often exciting and pleasurable for the traveler, eventually lead to grim destinies, even spiritually fatal ones. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12).
Just as children “do not suffer for the iniquity” of their parents, nor parents for the iniquity of their children (Ezequiel 18:20), so children are not saved in virtue of an inherited faith nor are parents by the obedience and virtues of their children. On the spiritual road, each one must “bear his own load” (Galatians 6:3-4). No one is burdened with the load of original sin. Some consequences, yes, but not guilt.
Returning to the question about What spiritual map you are following, is it perhaps some old map, passed on from generation to generation, that shows how to get to places where “ancient Christian traditions” are said to be practiced? To places called “sacred” where relics or images of a “Christian” nature are venerated. Since Christ denounced religious traditions as vain (Matthew 15:5-9), and Paul categorized them as deceitful (Colossians 2:8), what reasoning would lead you to trust a map showing them as guides to Heaven? Very definitely, the Way to Heaven is not adorned with them. That Way is strictly according to the incorruptible Word of God that lives and abides forever. Jesus Christ, perfectly keeping that Word, declares: “I am the way” (John 14:6; 1 Peter 1:23-25). He is the perfect personification of it.
This Way to go directly to Heaven, without taking dangerous detours or getting lost! How many know how to give very precise and correct directions? How many know how to follow them? “Friend, I am looking for the Sam Jones family, on Mayfield Road, in the Blair Community.”
Mr. Uncertain Neighbor responds: “Weeell. You have to go back a piece, turn to the right and follow that road ‘til you come to a small grove. Then, left… no, I’m mistaken, to the right, and about a mile more will get you there.” Vague, confusing, imprecise instructions. Similar ones are given by not a few religious leaders of today.
Not finding the Sam Jones family with those instructions, you come upon Mr. Confident Pastor, who explains: “You’re really lost! Go on 1.2 miles more, turn left and continue to Road 92. That’s where the Blair Community starts. Go to the gasoline station. The Jones live behind it.” OK! So, you confidently proceed, only to find it is the William James family that lives behind the gasoline station and the road is Mayfair, not Mayfield. Such are the instructions of many present-day religious leaders: Very exact, but they will not get you to Heaven! “Raise your hands, close your eyes and accept Jesus as your Savior, and you will be saved!” Not that way! “Just profess your faith in Christ, and pray the sinner’s prayer for forgiveness.” Not that way either! “Let yourself go! Make way for the Spirit! Say: ‘Hallelujah! Christ has healed me and saved me.” Nothing like that in God´s instructions! What are you looking for? Some purely emotional mystical experience? Ecstatic, subjective? Or do you want “all the truth” revealed by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13)? Studying God’s attributes as revealed in the New Testament, we do not find any indication he would be a mystic, controlled more by sentiments than by the Truth. Beloved reader, let us not be deceived: Mysticism, religious sentimentalism and universal tolerance theories do not teach the Way to Heaven as laid out by Christ.
Do you know how to read maps? Some people know how; others do not. They turn them around and around, sideways, everyway, without finding the best route to the place they propose to go. Some stubbornly prefer to be lost, at least for a time, rather than ask for or accept advise (Proverbs 8:33; Proverbs 27:9). This attitude becomes enormously complicating and dangerous when the “ways of life and eternity are in play.”
Do you know how to read the New Testament map? Do you accept orientation? Does the spiritual map seem complicated? In reality, it is not.
The Way to Heaven begins where the traveler encounters a fork in the road of life and stops to listen to God’s message. To get to Heaven you must take the Route of Faith, but you cannot without first hearing instructions. Not just any faith will do, but “the faith” that “comes from hearing… the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This “Word of God” explains why the Route of Faith should be chosen, how to follow it and what happens along the way. Additionally, it contains very beautiful descriptions of the glorious, heavenly destination, and these inspire the wayfarer to complete the journey to the end. Though the explanations are detailed and complete, it is not necessary to know or understand all of them to start the journey, but have both the fervent desire for eternal salvation and a healthy fear of ending up in Hell. The alternative to the Route of Faith is the Route of Indifference and Sin, which leads to the ABYSS occupied by Satan and his own.
All who decide for the Route of Faith quickly come to a toll station identified as “Repentance.” There it is on the spiritual map. “Repent” (Acts 17:30-31; Luke 13:3). Of your sins. Change the trajectory of your life; your life style. From carnal to spiritual. That is the very meaning of “repent.” How much are you charged at this Toll Station of Repentance? No quotas, vows or tithes. To continue forward what is required here is your express, firm decision to get rid of your abominable baggage of worldliness, vices, ungoverned passions, bad attitudes, etc. Their removal is costly, beyond your power to ever pay. But, you are indeed fortunate! Jesus Christ has paid the very high cost of purification: his own blood shed on the cross. Now, it is your turn. Will you leave all your evils at this spiritual toll station? If you are not willing to, but continue with the illusion of being saved, appealing to your faith and to divine mercy, you will take, though you think otherwise, the Fatal Detour of Faith without Obedience. Dead faith! (James 2:14-26)
Not many miles distant but just after the Toll Station of Repentance, there is a body of water you must cross in order to continue on the Way to Heaven. Its name is “Waters of Baptism.” Looking carefully at the spiritual map, you will observe that there is no bridge or other such means of getting to the other side. This means the traveler must go into the waters and come out on the other side. (Acts 8:26-40) To be sure, the divine instructions say he must be immersed in them, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38; 22:16), confessing beforehand that Jesus is the Lord (Acts 8:26-40; Romans 10:8-17). This means the traveler will not be free of his sins, despite professed faith and repentance, until he has experienced this “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). Paul went this way. Ananias said to him: “¿And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). Why would you not have to go this way? To the water, then, straight away! Without delay! (Acts 16:33) This Way to Heaven! If you delay, questioning the purpose God has assigned to baptism, beings will likely come out of the crooked byways, saying: “Baptism is a mere work of the flesh. It is not necessary for pardon. It does NOT save,” contradicting Peter’s plain affirmation: “Baptism… now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). If you heed them, you will surely take the Detour of Doctrinal Distortions, which leads to the Forests of Christian Sectarianism, from which you may have much difficulty in escaping, if ever!
Biblically baptized, regenerated, purified of all uncleanness by Christ’s shed blood, made just by virtue of humble obedience, at this point, just when you come out of the Waters of Baptism, not before (Romans 6:3-5), God constitutes you a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) to “walk in newness of life,” and Christ adds you to his church (Acts 2:42-47). Now you stand on the Narrow Way of Holiness (Matthew 7:13-14; Hebrews 12:14), at the end of which is a splendid, new world for you, on the condition you continue forward (Hebrews 10:39), not turning to right or left. Forward, then, “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Now that you know the “Way” (Acts 9:2), the next step is yours: To find a faithful member of the church of Christ who will baptize you biblically, helping you to join the throng of all the faithful who follow this Way to Heaven.
All English site by Homer Dewayne Shappley
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PDF of This WAY to HEAVEN in the article format
SPANISH VERSION of This Way to Heaven
Bible studies in PowerPoint for youth and adults. Tracts in PDF and JPEG: Print your own or order.
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Churches of Christ in the United States www. www.21stcc.com/ccusa/