Harvard University is the most respected in the World. In its 380-year history it has produced 47 Nobel Laureates, 32 heads of state and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners. A quick search of Google reveals a plethora of websites offering advice on getting into Harvard; which entails a whole lot more than ‘just’ being academically genius – extra-curricula activities, sporting ability, voluntary and community work and a top-notch application may get you an interview, but with less than 6% of applicants accepted you’re going to have to ace the rest of the process.
As an outsider looking in, we might rightly believe getting into Harvard is a tricky business. Sadly, for many non-believers getting into Heaven may also be seen the same way; they must confess their sins, beg forgiveness, regularly attend and be part of a church, be baptised in water, pray The Lord’s Prayer, adhere to the Ten Commandments and give 10% of their income away. Little wonder, then, that so many people are put off Christianity believing it to be a costly and miserable experience. Sadder still to think that our churches have given them these wholly false beliefs.
We’re all familiar with the three crosses of Calvary – to the left of Jesus, the cross of rejection, to His right, the cross of repentance. And this guy, this rebel, murderer and thief that hung on the cross to Jesus’ right, says to Him “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”, and Jesus replies “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43 ESV). And he is saved.
Let’s take a moment to consider some of the things this man didn’t do in order to earn salvation: –
He never apologised or begged forgiveness
He never confessed his sins
He never prayed, nor attended a church
He wasn’t baptised
He didn’t read the gospel
What he did do was repent. Repentance has such negative connotations but the true meaning of the word merely means to change our mind about about something – in this case God. All he had to do to earn eternal life was to believe – nothing more, nothing less. The very second someone chooses to believe in Christ, a spiritual heart transplant takes place and the Holy Spirit does the rest. This isn’t to say, of course, that we would want people to wait until their final minutes on earth before they come to know God – it’s very much in the Kingdom’s interest that people are saved and develop their relationship with our Father early on, so that they may know His love, enter into His rest, experience peace and joy in the most difficult of circumstances and spread the Good News. But getting into Heaven doesn’t require straight A’s, impeccable conduct and impressive application writing. We are all flawed but thanks to God’s grace we are made perfect in our weaknesses and, unlike Harvard, Heaven has a 100% acceptance rate.
Father we pray that we will bring people to know you, to show them that because you gave your only son to die for our sins, past, present and future, the floodgates to Heaven have been opened and there are no hoops to jump through, only a Saviour to believe in. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.