What do I need to do to go to heaven?
What do I need to do to go to heaven?
This is a good question because most people want to go there. Even those who are not sure that there is a heaven prefer going there instead of hell or even going there instead of going nowhere at all.
It is also a good question because the responsibility of forging a path to heaven is not completely up to us. It is not simply a matter of what we must do to get there.
Nevertheless, there are some things that we can "do" to point us in the right direction.
First, learn about who Jesus is and what he did for us? Some people believe that Jesus was a good moral teacher, but not the Son of God. As a mere human being, he was just one of many religious teachers that have come and gone along the way. Choosing to follow him is just one option among others. If he is only a mere man, then you don't have much to lose. But if he is as the Bible teaches, the very Son of God, who came from heaven to earth (John 3:16), then his exclusive claims carry great authority (John 14:6). Once you understand who he is, you can begin to understand and appreciate what he did. As a supreme act of love, he died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 5:8). Being convinced of who he is and believing in what he did, therefore, is crucial to our salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
Second, repent from your sins and ask for forgiveness? To prepare people for the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist, went throughout the countryside inviting people to repent (Matthew 3:1-2). More than just being sorry for sins committed, repentance is an act of turning around - turning away from disobedience and turning back to God. It is something that we must do, but it is in the context of something much greater, something that Jesus did for us. When we say that he died for our sins, we mean that he took the punishment that we deserve upon himself (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). It required a great sacrifice, but it resulted in a free gift (Romans 6:23). Forgiveness is a gift that comes to us in the form of Jesus and like any gift, we need to accept it. Some people don't like to accept gifts. They prefer to do everything themselves, but taking care of our sin isn't something that we can do ourselves (Matthew 19:25-26). We need to admit our need, ask for forgiveness and receive our gift (Acts 2:37-38).
Third, submit to God's authority and follow Jesus as the Lord of your life. This is where obedience properly fits. It is not what we do to earn our salvation. It is what we do because salvation has been granted to us. It is what we do out of gratitude and love (John 14:21). Some people obey God from a sense of religious duty. They may call themselves Christians, but it is not a Sunday through Saturday endeavor. You see, Jesus isn't very interested in labels. He is interested in the condition of our hearts. (Matthew 15:7-9). Jesus doesn't simply want converts, he wants disciples. He doesn't just want fans who watch from the sideline the way people become fans of a celebrity or a sports team. He wants dedicated followers (Matthew 16:24-25).
Finally, look for change. The Bible says that those who enter into a personal relationship with God by receiving Jesus (believing, repenting, submitting), are born again (John 1:12-13). Just as a baby is born and grows toward adulthood, Christians are people who are born-again, growing into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Some changes may be dramatic - like the people who upon submitting their lives to God, find an usual ability to resist certain temptations or to kick certain habits (Luke 19:8-9). Other changes may be more progressive - ever changing, day by day, hardly noticeable to the individual but very significant over time (Acts 4:13).
So much more can be said about this topic, but the simple question for you to answer is this, "Do you know for sure that you have a right relationship with God and that all your sins have been forgiven?" If you do, praise God. If you don't, start with step 1 above and learn more about Jesus.