I've been noticing a lot of division in the church lately. There are different denominations, different beliefs, and different practices. Some Christians make it their job to rip apart other Christians who sin differently than they do. But do any of us ever get it all right? Nope.
Here's some things I've heard:
I won't go to heaven if I'm not baptized into a certain church.
I won't go to heaven if I "backslide."
I won't go to heaven if I practice yoga or celebrate Halloween.
I won't go to heaven if I drink alcohol or get a tattoo.
I won't go to heaven if I'm gay.
Then there's also the belief that if I pray the sinner's prayer, I'm going to heaven whether I keep on sinning or not.
Good news. We aren't the ones who decide who goes to heaven.
My dad gave a sermon recently that included an interesting take on who goes to heaven. It resonated with me, and I've been thinking about sharing it then I read the story in my Bible this morning, so here we go.
It's the story of the sower and the seed. I've never heard it associated with heaven before, but it's given at the same time when Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven, so it's actually fitting.
Basically, there's a guy sowing seeds in four types of soil. The soil includes:
1. The road where birds ate the seed = anyone who hears the Word of God and doesn't care
2. The gravel where the seed sprouted, but the roots did not go down deep, so it withered in the sun = anyone who hears the Word of God and responds with enthusiasm, but there is no depth of character so when emotions wear off and difficulties arrives, the beliefs don't last
3. In the weeds where the seed sprouted but was strangled by weeds = anyone who says they believe the Word of God but focuses more on the worries of the world, so nothing comes of it
4. Good earth where the seed produced a huge harvest = the person who hears the Good News then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams
Before Jesus tells this story, he says, "What do you make of this?" My dad takes it to mean that only one of these people who hear God's word is actually a true believer.
No, getting "saved" isn't works-based, but if you believe what you say you believe, you're going to want to do the work. You don't do the work to "get in," you do the work because getting in changes your life so much that you want to help others get in too.
The Bible also says you can tell God is in someone's life because of the fruit they produce. So what does this mean for the list of different ways to get into heaven above? It means the list is worth squat.
Take Marty Tadman for example. He's a former BSU Bronco football player who had his arms tattooed with scripture as a way to share God's word. He was once a former drug dealer who became "the Billy Graham of Boise State." Now there's some fruit.
For Marty's life to turn around, he did have to give up some things. He shewed away the birds and tilled the soil and pulled the weeds. But he still looks like someone you might cross the street to avoid.
In the opposite way, there are people who look the part. They are clean cut. They attend church. They follow all the rules. But there's no fruit. They are too busy worrying about their appearance to grow. And they may even quote scripture to justify their dysfunction.
I'm not here to judge either type of person. I'm just here to encourage everyone to grow. We've all fallen short. But we've never fallen too far for God's seed to reach us. We all have the potential to reap a huge harvest.
What are the birds in your life?
How do you need to till your soil?
Which weeds are overgrowing?
If you believe that Jesus died to redeem us from death so we can spend eternity with him, this is the stuff that matters.