Recently, Michael Bloomberg, former 108th mayor of New York City, gave an interview to the New York Times.
He talked about his mortality and, at age 72, how it started dawning on him that many he knew had passed on. With just a few days before his 50th college reunion, he was taken aback by how many of his former classmates appeared in the “in memoriam” pages of his school newsletter. He confidently said he had little doubt about what awaited him at Judgment Day. Stressing his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation he said with a smile, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven, I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in . . . I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
This belief is not uncommon among men. Politicians of all stripes and parties, as well as the average ordinary citizen, believe that some how, if they are sincere enough, they will find themselves in heaven.
Once I talked to a leader in the Boy Scouts who believed that heaven was his because of his work with the national headquarters of that organization. Another man told me he was covered because his brother was a priest and his sister was a nun. He believed that he could rely on their faith and devotion to secure his own salvation.
Jesus once spoke about a religious man who faithfully attended religious services, was generous in giving and practiced his faith daily; yet ended up lost without forgiveness.
In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus gave this story, “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house, justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The way of salvation is not based on our devotion or our sincerity. Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Salvation is when we humble ourselves before a righteous God and through His Son Jesus, ask for the forgiveness we desperately need but can’t earn by human efforts. Those who think they are good enough will discover the truth as they stand before a holy God.
Human efforts and misplaced faith is no substitute for salvation in Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Art Zacher is pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Fairfield. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.