It was the depth of “the great depression” in Western Oklahoma, and there was nothing but dust blowing for as far as you could see. There would be no crop again this year. So it was decided that it was time to hunt for greener pastures. The family packed everything up and headed for Arkansas. At least it someone said, it was supposed to rain there!
While searching for this one particular farm that was for sale, the family became lost and needed directions, and so they asked a young man if he knew the way to that farm. “Yep,” he replied, “You go down this road to the second fork, then turn left, and…No. Go to the third turnoff and then go right…No, that won’t get there, neither. Try going back about a mile, then turn left at the lake, go…No. Mister, I don’t think you can get there from here. You’re gonna have to start from somewhere else.”
That old joke illustrates a vital truth in the spiritual realm. We all want to “go home” to be with God, and we search for the way that leads there. But the truth is, we sometimes can’t get there from we are. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate…there are few who find it,” (Matt. 7:13-14). If that sounds too narrow and restrictive, it could be because we don’t appreciate the glories of Heaven and the path that leads there. Later in that same conversation, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21). Just having the desire to go to heaven is no guarantee we will. Jesus further said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6). He is our only access to the Father. All those who go to heaven must go by Jesus Christ. There is no other way to God.
Further, no one is going to go to heaven by accident. Multitudes yearn for the joys and security of heaven, but they can’t get there because they are ignorant of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus explained, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me,” (John 6:45). One must learn the path God wants for him to walk before he can walk it. Christianity is a “taught religion,” and the thing taught is clearly revealed. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith,'” (Rom. 1:16-17). Paul later said, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Rom. 10:17).
Before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was an ardent defender of Judaism. He not only opposed Christianity, he persecuted Christians and helped to put them to death (Acts 26:9-10). After his conversion to Christ, he said, “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did….” This man, later looked back over his life and wrote, “even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;” (1 Tim. 1:13). He was sincere, he was honest, he earnestly believed he was right to oppose Christianity – but he was wrong. He could not go to heaven from a state of ignorance. He had to learn the truth.
Paul knew that ignorance could not save. After he came to Christ, he spent the rest of his life preaching the gospel of Christ. In Athens he found a city full of idols, and he began his preaching by talking about their altar “To The Unknown God” (Acts 17:23). He told them, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,” (Acts 17:30). Jesus said it clearly, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The only way to come to God is to learn from God (John 6:45). Only by knowing His truth can we be made free (John 8:32).
God’s hatred of sin is clearly chronicled in His word (Prov. 6:16; 8:13; etc.). How much He hates sin is revealed best at Calvary, where Christ died to set us free from the shackles of sin. It is sin that separates us from God (Isa. 59:2). Jesus told the people of His day, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). When the gospel was first preached after the death of Jesus on the cross, and people asked what to do, the first thing they were told was to “repent” (Acts 2:38). To repent means to change one’s mind about sin. If one truly intends to go to heaven, he must be willing to repent of sin, and leave that kind of life.
The good news is that people can change. Christ will not save people in their sins, but He is anxious to forgive those who are willing to leave sin. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” But then the apostle added, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified…” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Notice what Paul said, “such ‘were’ some of you.” They had been sinners. But that was in the past. They had quit living that kind of life. These people could not get to heaven if they continued to steal, get drunk, revile, etc. But they could “repent.” And when they did, the road to heaven was opened to them.
A ruler of the Jews, who considered himself a child of Abraham and a citizen of the kingdom of God, came to Jesus by night. He said “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Imagine his surprise when Jesus replied, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3). But, Nicodemus wondered, how is it possible for a man be born again? Jesus answered and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,” (Rom. 5:8; 6:3-4). When one is born, he begins new life – that is precisely what the word of God says happens when we are baptized into the death of Christ. Paul also said in 2 Cor. 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” When one is “baptized into Christ” (Rom. 6:3), he becomes a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17), because he has been “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5).
In spiritual regeneration, the “old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with,” (Rom. 6:6). The new life in Christ is begun with the new birth. The apostle Paul refers to this as the “washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5) that saves us from our sins. This is exactly what the Lord stated in the great commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned,” (Mark 16:15-16). There is the washing of regeneration. There is the new birth. There is the road to heaven.
If you are in a situation where “you can’t get there from here,” then change. Learn the will of God for your life by studying carefully His word to you, repent of your sins and turn from them, be baptized into Christ and into His death. Then, having been born again, you can walk confidently in that “newness of life” which leads God’s child to His heavenly home.