On that busy Friday night of the last Harry Potter film debut, I went with my wife to the mall to pull some money out of the ATM. The machine is right inside the entrance. As I supervised her withdrawal, I would shift a bit, and the motion sensor of the automatic doors would note my movement and open the doors. As much as I might have wanted to flee the people-ridden construction of glass and price tags, I had no intention at that moment of exiting the mall.
Children often play with the automatic doors, stepping back and forth to watch them open and close. Regardless of a person’s intent, automatic doors open to any movement detected by the sensor.
Some people think the doors to heaven are opened by sensors that detect religious movement of any kind.
- Lips that move to the words, “Jesus is Lord and Savior.”
- Rituals, both stately and frenetic, that coordinate footsteps as God-pleasers.
- Good intentions and vague wishes of godliness or piety.
- Declarations of sincerity as the ultimate password.
The doors to heaven, however, are opened only to those who obediently follow the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate decider of our fate. He declared that the gate, or door, is narrow:
Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14 NET).
By narrow he means that few will enter through it. No automatic doors in heaven that open to the slightest movement. Not many will be saved. When someone asked our Lord if few would be saved, he answered,
Exert every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to (Luke 13:24).
That’s right, he says, few will be saved, but be sure you are among them. He’d just told the disciples to worry about their own repentance (Luke 13:3, 5), rather than speculate about the sins of the dead.
As often happens, an elitist group infiltrated some churches and made the faithful feel as if they weren’t among the few who would be saved. (Those who love to describe heaven as welcoming all are certain to bar entrance for hypocrites, fundamentalists, literalists, and restorationists.) John wrote to such churches whose salvation was being doubted. He gave tests for the true Christian. Not everyone will make it. Here’s how you can tell who will be saved, he says. By chapter 5, he sums up the tests (verses 1-5):
- A faith that has content (verses 1, 5), for it’s not the act of believing, but the content of belief (Jesus’ word and work) that saves;
- A love that has form, rather than a changing lump of feeling (verses 2-3);
- An obedience that has the lightness of joy, not the burden of mere obligation (verse 2-3).
Peter also talks about what will swing the doors of heaven open — growing in godliness. After naming some Christian virtues and assuring his readers of the need for increase in those, he writes,
Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin. For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Sin is the great separator, the unscalable barrier. Growth in God’s grace and the exercise of our faith will keep the blood of Christ flowing in us and will bring us into the eternal city. Faithfulness, discipleship, fellowship, obedience, and service are the great door-openers that unlock forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice and activate the power of God’s Spirit in us.
Getting to heaven requires effort. The right effort. Biblically informed effort. Divinely approved effort.
Because heaven has no automatic doors.