“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
— John 14:6
INTRODUCTION TO 52 PATHS TO HEAVEN
I believe there is only one final path to heaven. His name is Jesus.
Before you can find His route, you must traverse many places. For some of us, the journey will involve thousands of little and big experiences over several decades. Others will discover Jesus in their early years.
Even after we encounter Jesus, we struggle with faith, pride, jealously, anger, anxiety, lusts and idols. The differences are stark. As Christians, the Lord constantly beckons us to resume our fellowship with Him. Unbelievers simply are invited to the relationship for the first time. Through repentance and a genuine yielding to Jesus, they can become Christians who are redeemed, saved from their sins and the penalty of eternal separation from God.
I named this book 52 Paths to Heaven to typify the myriad ways we find Jesus. It also has a familiar ring – 52 cards in a pack, 52 weeks in a year, etc.
One chapter, Global Spirituality, acknowledges that many people think any belief qualifies anyone for heaven.
However, individuals of diverse faiths can make it to heaven depending on how they respond to what God reveals to them in their consciences and His indisputable presence in nature. In other words, there is hope for people anywhere – even the remote parts of earth. Some people mistakenly believe non-Christians end up in hell if they don’t hear the Gospel.
Much of this book talks about how our vices and positive experiences can become paths that lead to heaven (through a relationship with Jesus). At some point, in an honest act of humility, we have to acknowledge our vile nature. The first two chapters – Sin and Surrender – are designed to help any reader come to terms with Jesus as soon as possible.
In my book, you’ll find that churches are great places to learn about Jesus. But 52 Paths to Heaven reiterates that God can communicate any way He wants, whether it’s a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-3) or a talking donkey (22:28-30). Do we really have to insist that He explain how?
One chapter called The Atheist describes a man who took the initiative to help me stop being so selfish. I believe God used Him to work on my heart so I’d be more likely to hear His voice.
C.S. Lewis, author of Mere Christianity, writes: “He works on us in all sorts of ways; not only through what we think our ‘religious life.’ He works through Nature, through our own bodies, through books, sometimes through experiences which seem (at the time) anti-Christian. People who were not Christians themselves helped me to Christianity. But usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others.”
If one path doesn’t wake us up, God can always allow another to form for our benefit even if it originally seems completely contradictory to His character. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result.” (Genesis 50:20).
What paths will you take to reach heaven?
Salvation – rescue from the consequences of sin – is a free gift of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can’t earn it by our deeds. We just need to humble ourselves, admit our sins, sincerely turn from them in a defining moment, welcome Jesus into our hearts and accept His sacrifice.
If you reject God’s plan, what are your options?
Do you think we all have on-demand private conversations with God like He’s some kind of Jiminy Cricket character dispensing wisdom and truth about how we can get to heaven and skip the Jesus part? It’s also not like we have to make a pilgrimage to one of 25 special viewing centers around the world to hear God’s special message just for us. His salvation plan is so simple that is disappoints people looking for a complex system.
It took me 34 years to grasp the Lord’s message.
As you read about these paths and think about your own, you’ll come across some paths I followed. One chapter, Early Writings, captures my attitude toward God as a teen and young adult.
Ultimately, I learned to shift the focus from ME to HIM. I made that decision as I drove along a major interstate in Cleveland, Ohio.
Suddenly, I was consumed with the weight of the world and Him at the same time. I sobbed and burst out in a loud voice: “I don’t want to live for myself. I want You to be in control. I’m putting my life in Your hands.”
Weeks earlier, I was scared. I thought if I gave up control it would be like flying in a trapeze act without a net. It was as if Jesus stood on the other side gently telling me to let go of my handle, fall through the air and trust Him to catch me in time.
Most people, maybe you, are going to hell. Jesus clearly says so in Matthew 7:13-14 without even needing to specifically cite hell. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
I pray that you let go of your “self” and find Him sooner than I did. The moment you do, your whole world may not change. You’ll wake up at the same time, go to the same job, and kiss the same people closest to you. But your outlook will be different. Gratitude will be the size of a mountain. Hope will beam toward heaven. You’ll be royalty too, an adopted son or daughter. You’ll belong to the King of Glory.
It’s time to meet Him.