Let me start by saying that there are two kinds of Hell and two kinds of Heaven. There is the imaginary Hell and the real Hell; there is the imaginary Heaven and the real Heaven. For those of us building an imaginary Heaven and imaginary Hell, it is as John Lennon sang “easy if you try”to imagine them gone. For if they only exist in your imagination or my imagination, they instantly vanish the moment we cease to imagine them. Imagine there’s no Neverland and Peter Pan is not real; it’s quite easy if you try. Now imagine there’s “no countries.” But when I open my eyes again, there it is, with all its terrain, buildings, politics, and people. Reality does not thrive at the whim of our imagination. I get what Lennon was hoping to accomplish, to find a peaceful resolution, a global embrace, and yet the ruthless dictators of the world have not been so much inspired by the song. At any rate, a real place is entirely different from an imaginary place; thus, a real place requires a radically different approach and response.
Suppose I give you 2 tickets and tell you that one ticket gets you to a paradise island with all amenities paid while the other ticket gets you to an island with a very active volcano and no living inhabitants. Would you want to know which ticket is which? Now suppose I tell you that the ticket is one-way. Your own homeland is destined an impending calamity, and I offer you a way out. You will be boarding a ship and taking everything precious with you. I’m just guessing you’ll decide on Paradise Island as your new home. So would you pick just any ship to board? Would you choose a cruise ship? As fun as a cruise ship is, it only brings you back to your doom. I suggest you get on the ship that is destined for the specific location of Paradise Island. Now that you are on board, does it matter the people aboard with you? They may have different accents, even different languages, different dress, different customs, but wouldn’t you be willing to work through this? All for a new, safe, enjoyable life in paradise. So what if the ship’s menu offers pork for lunch and sushi for dinner? When you land, the menu of Paradise Island is the menu for the rest of your life.
All that I have said of a ship going to Paradise Island is an illustration of the way to Heaven. If Heaven is pure imagination, then the destination matters less than the ship. It’s as if we’re on a cruise ship, never really stopping anywhere for long. This is how many view religion in general. They can’t see the point in arguing over which cruise ship to take, so they assume the arguments have more to do with the cultures on board. Perhaps you are someone who has wondered why the Christian is so particular about which ship to board and which direction it’s heading. Let’s now board the ship as if Heaven is imaginary; we’ll be the “casuals.” When the casuals board ship, they don’t look forward to a real destination. So everything about the ship itself is what concerns us. We walk around the deck and see people in various fashions. We walk through the dining area and taste various cuisines. We dance to various styles of music. We casuals decide that variety is good. Then we get to the bridge of the ship, where the captain is giving orders. The Christian is there, watching keenly over the navigation. The compass is taken seriously. North is decidedly north. The navigation wheel is firmly kept from error. The map is laid out, and the distance is measured. A single degree off course is alarming. The casual now wonders what the big deal is. What is the difference between North and South? What matters a degree of separation? To which the Christian replies, “It’s the difference between landing on Volcano Island and landing on Paradise Island!” The casual shakes his head, walks away, and mutters, “I’m just here for the cruise.” Truly, many today are just going through religion like it’s a cruise. The destination doesn’t matter because they know deep inside it’s a work of fiction. If Heaven is whatever you make it out to be, then so is the way to get there. But if Heaven is a real place, then there is a very precise and unwavering course of navigation.
Of course, Heaven isn’t the only reason to accept a religion. What Heaven brings to Earth is significant in this life. Some people look for betterment, hope, comfort, or some other nice feeling. What Jesus brings from Heaven to Earth is Himself. Christianity, as C.S. Lewis described, is not coming to a place but rather coming to a person. And Jesus is the person among other religions who stated and demonstrated that He is God. In most religions, the person attains to a perfect state at which they can offer their sacrifices, their lives. So in other religions, the gods are life-takers; in Christianity, Jesus is the life-giver. If you read the New Testament, you’ll see the unfolding. First, Jesus exposes the hypocritical religious leaders; then, He challenges mankind with a standard so high they cannot reach; finally, He feeds the hunger and thirst laid bare in the human soul. Jesus healed, raised dead people, forgave sinners, and uplifted women and foreigners. Next, He offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, by His death on the cross. Finally, Jesus resurrected and revealed Himself to many witnesses, being the firstborn of all who would accept this resurrection life.
Heaven contains the throne of the living God, the Creator of all things. Because He is a perfect God in a perfect place, only perfect people stand in His presence. If we hope to enter into this perfection, we either offer our own perfection or accept the perfect blood of Jesus shed for us. Sin nature is a global disease, a cancer spreading to every member of the human race. Jesus’ blood covers us and becomes the greatest kind of gene therapy, changing our nature by realigning the deepest passions inside us. The bad news is, none of us are perfect, as the saying goes, “To err is human.” The good news is, you are one simple prayer away from accepting the perfection that Jesus Christ has already attained for you. “Salvation” is saving you from the deadly results of cancer of the soul, dependent on your consent, like a consent form awaiting your signature. When you believe, accept, and confess that Jesus is your Savior, you are totally saved! Simply pray:
Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.
I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.
You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.
Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.
Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.
Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.
Congratulations, you are a new, immortal creation. And Heaven will be better than John Lennon or any of us could imagine – no borders, no wars, no corruption, no suffering. The best way to begin your new life is to get started reading the Bible and find a local church. Most churches will help you get a free Bible; you can also download a free Bible for your device here.
The cruise ship parable is adapted from a book in the works (by T. William Watts – all rights reserved) and the “Salvation Prayer” taken from http://www.salvationprayer.info/prayer.html