Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” – Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23)
Over 85% of Americans believe in God and think they are going to go to Heaven when they die. Is this confidence warranted? Given the moral condition of our culture and Jesus’s stern warnings about being ill-prepared for his coming, I don’t think so. From a biblical perspective, it seems many people are walking around with a false assurance of salvation. Avoiding that is what this series is about. In it we walk through ten characteristics of people who are ill prepared to face eternity.
Chapter 1: They Misunderstand the Nature of Salvation
Many think of salvation as a one time legal transaction whereby your sins are forgiven and your name written in Heaven’s reservation book. As long as you have signed your name at some point in your life, judgment day will go just fine. As Don explains in this chapter, that is a false and dangerous idea which leads many to lead the wrong kind of lives, and ultimately keeps them out of heaven. To counter that notion, Don walks through several episodes in scripture that show God’s actual plan of redemption, revealing a pattern that shows how he creates new life and builds the family of God.
Chapter 2: They Refuse to Sacrifice
Does God require worship and sacrifice in order to make it to Heaven? Absolutely. Does that make him a capricious ego-maniac? Absolutely not. In this chapter Don looks at the meaning of worship and sacrifice, and shows how it relates to the very meaning of our existence: to love God and be loved by him. Unless we are willing to sacrifice, we will never enter into the relationship for which we were made, and ultimately will never enter into the place for which we were made, Heaven.
Chapter 3: They Focus on Their Own Glory, not God’s
Pride is at the core of most other sin, and Satan knows that if he can get you to focus on your own glory instead of God’s, his battle is won. In this chapter Don covers two biblical stories of temptation in the wilderness, showing how those that focus on God’s glory are testing by him and pass, while those that focus on their own glory try to test God and fail. He also shows how to make sure you are part of the former group.
Chapter 4: They Don’t Have Faith
Without faith it is impossible to please God, according to the author of Hebrews. What does that mean, and how does it relate to being saved by grace? Is it just an intellectual thing, or is obedience involved? Don answers these questions and more in this chapter, walking the reader through a biblical theology of faith that avoids the extremist errors that plague American Christianity. He also provided a very practical way to test ourselves to see where we are placing our faith, because without faith in Jesus, we won’t make it into the Promised Land.
Chapter 5: They Don't Work
It is true that we are saved by grace through faith, and it is also true that faith without works is dead. In other words, if you arrive before the throne of God having done no works, it will mean you didn’t have saving faith? Don walks through this often misunderstood scriptural teaching, showing what works are and just how essential they are for salvation.
Chapter 6: They Misunderstand what it Means to be Righteous
One of the most common and dangerous mistakes we can make is to think that we are righteous when, in fact, we are not. The Pharisees, for example, were convinced that they were in good standing with God. They performed religious duties and took part in acts of ministry. Unfortunately, while these actions are good, this is not a sign of true righteousness, and the Pharisees bore the brunt of Jesus’s most intense criticism. God doesn’t want us to do righteous deeds, he wants us to be righteous people. In this chapter, Don explains what that means and how it is accomplished.
Chapter 7: They Fail to Take Sin Seriously
I often get the impression that people think developing holiness is like living the “Extra Special Deluxe” edition of the Christian life. It’s nice and all, but you don’t really need it. These people have the idea that actually becoming like Jesus is OK for really fanatical people, but for the vast majority, a more moderate approach is just fine. This chapter debunks that notion, showing that sin keeps us from Heaven.
Chapter 8: They Choose Personal Peace and Prosperity Today over Heaven Tomorrow
The path to the Promised Land is a long and difficult journey through a wilderness. It’s an uncomfortable experience. At least that is what the Bible teaches. Many contemporary Americans think they can coast through life enjoying personal peace and prosperity and still show up at the pearly gates expecting to be let in. As Don shows in this chapter, salvation doesn’t work that way, and those that choose comfort over discipleship are making a deadly decision.
Chapter 9: They Doubt God's Character
One of the devil’s most effective attacks involves tempting us to despair by telling us that the path we are on is leading to catastrophe. Naturally, he uses this lie at those times when the future looks bleak: when roadblocks seem insurmountable and the struggle too hard. These are critical moments in life as they force us to decide, “Are we going to live in faith and do what we know God wants us to do, even in the face of much apparent trouble and danger – or not?” Satan comes and whispers in our ear one of his most powerful lies: “God is not trustworthy. Don’t do it.” In this chapter we will learn how to defeat that lie.
Chapter 10: They Don't Persevere
In one of the most tragic stories in the Old Testament, the Israelites rebelled against God by building a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai. One way to understand this story is to say that they were unprepared for the return of Moses from the top of the mountain. In the same way, people today have built golden calves and are not prepared for the return of Jesus. in this chapter we examine the nature of readiness, and show what must be done to avoid the fate of the Israelites.