“But I warn you – unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:20 NLT)
These words of Jesus were given in the context of His Sermon on the Mount, which was given early in His public ministry. The specific point He was seeking to make when He made reference to “the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” was regarding the purpose of the law.
It’s ironic that while the Scribes and Pharisees knew the laws of God inside and out, they were so focused on God’s laws that they missed God’s Son. We can do a similar thing when we become so legalistic regarding the “rules and regulations” of our particular brand of Christianity that we miss Christ.
Being ready for heaven, in some ways is like being ready for marriage. It demands we understand we’re not committing to an institution; we’re pledging our lives to a person. Similarly, when we yield our lives to Jesus, we’re not joining a religious “club,” we’re pledging our allegiance to a Person. It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship with a holy God.
In marriage, as in the Christian faith, it’s not about what we can achieve – i.e. how many times we take out the trash or do the dishes. It’s about how effectively I express my undying love to this person to whom I’ve promised to be faithful “‘til death do us part.” I can be a “perfect” husband in the eyes of my family and friends, but still lose my wife if she doesn’t feel cherished and treasured.
The purpose of marriage, as I understand it, is to exhibit the joining of two lives living for one purpose – to reflect the character of Christ in and through our love for one another. It involves humility, selflessness, sacrifice, and the surrendering of our will in favor of God’s will. Yet, understanding that and having a Christ-centered marriage are two different things.
Similarly, we can have great insights and understanding of Christian theology and still miss heaven. Our knowledge isn’t enough, and neither are our good works. Our service for Jesus isn’t going to get us to heaven, but if it’s done in the right spirit and for the right reason, it will magnify and exalt His holy name and give evidence of our submission to His authority in our lives.
We don’t serve to gain His favor; we serve out of gratitude to Him because we already have His favor. We don’t do good works in order to earn our way to heaven, we do good works to give visibility to the fact we’re going to heaven. Not because of anything we have done or could ever do, but always and only because of what Jesus has done on our behalf and in our place on the Cross.
My love and devotion to my wife grows out of and is enhanced by my love and devotion to Jesus. She’s a gift from God, not for my possession, but to be my partner in loving and serving Jesus. Jesus is our Treasure! He’s the goal of everything we do, say, or think. To the extent we love the Lord well, to that extent we’ll be freed to love one another well.
Often marital issues aren’t caused by a lack of love for each other, but by a lack of love and devotion to Jesus. When we put Him first in everything; when He’s exalted, cherished, and treasured, having first place in our hearts, we’ll find it easier to submit to one another in marriage.
The bottom line to me, in terms of knowing with certainty that I’m going to heaven, isn’t based on my performance, it’s based on God’s promise. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)
That’s the only way to have assurance that you’re ready for heaven!
Blessings, Ed 😊
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I’m waiting on my Groom to come get me for our marriage supper.
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