What do you have to do to go to heaven? Do you have to be baptized? Do you have to read your Bible every day? Do you have to go to church every Sunday?
Let’s ask the thief on the cross next to Jesus. He simply said to Jesus, “Remember me.” In the next moment Jesus promised him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The thief had no time to make restitution to those he had wronged, no time for baptism, no time to live a Christian life; all he did was cry out to Jesus and he was saved.
I often ask people, “What do you have to do to get to heaven?” Most people mumble something about “being good.” But, according to Jesus, getting into heaven is not about “being good.” Getting into heaven is about crying out for “help.”
Religion always tells you to “Do, do, do…” but Jesus says, “Done, done, done.” On the cross, Jesus proclaimed “It is finished.” He did not say “To be continued…by someone else.”
Religion always tries to “do.” The Israelites foolishly told Moses, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do…” (Exodus 19:8). But, for the entire 1,500 years from Moses to Jesus, not a single Israelite managed to fulfill this promise. They tried with all their might to do what the Law commanded them to do, but not one of them was able to actually keep the Law. Within a mere forty days of making this promise, the children of Israel begged Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship. God told them not to make idols, they promised to obey, but immediately they turned around and built themselves an idol.
The same thing happens today. Every time someone tries to “do” what the Law commands, they mess up. If you teach Law, people will look holy on the outside but not on the inside. The Law is all about us doing something to get something from God.
The most common question people ask me when I talk about my evangelism efforts is, “How do you disciple new believers?”—meaning, “How do you make new converts do what it is that a Christian is supposed to do?” Simply by asking this question, people show that there is a distrust of the concept of grace. God’s saving grace is not enough, new converts have to prove they are worthy of heaven by looking and acting like proper Christians. The Bible says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Grace means you call on Jesus, period. It does not mean you have to “do” anything. Salvation is so simple that a man who drives a fast car over the edge of cliff can be saved before he hits the ground by crying out, “Jesus!”