John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Romans 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
I had heard an argument between a Christian and two atheists on a radio show not too long ago. A Christian woman had called in and told the mem: “God doesn’t send people to hell, you choose to send yourselves there.” To which the men replied: “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! If that’s all then here: I choose to not go to hell, there! I made the choice. Will God still send me to hell?”.
The caller was correct in her explanation but didn’t quite get the message across. It’s not her fault, she walked into an ambush set up by two knowledgable stubborn men who were closed to any respectful discussion.
But this conversation got me thinking, what would I say? What COULD I say, if anything at all? My best explanation would be stating that there is a difference between wanting to go to heaven and choosing to go to heaven.
In my head it can be similar to wanting to be a doctor and choosing to be a doctor. A choice requires a change in behavior, discipline and posture to show a commitment to that choice. To simply want does not provide merit for reward (ie. a medical doctorate). For salvation we require faith in Christ and from that build a relationship. Afaith comes when we put God first and trust. Relationship comes when we study His word and pray.
We have all been given the dignity to choose to follow Christ or to choose follow something else: self, idols, culture, etc and by not choosing at all we also make a choice. If I want to be a doctor but choose to not research schools to attend, loans for funding my studies, look up courses required, I effectively choose to not be a doctor, despite my wanting.
No actions, deeds or lifestyle decisions will put us closer to heaven, as our actions never measure up to the perfection of God. We have all done evil that has condemned us to an eternity without God and the only way out of that fate is a choice. A choice to accept and live in the grace God gave us through His son Jesus, and letting that decision change our hearts.