The Way to Heaven
Charles F. Stanley
Scripture: John 3:1-15
We tend to think of Jesus speaking mostly to crowds. But if you'll read the New Testament, you'll discover that Jesus said many important things privately, speaking to just one person. In fact, the clearest picture we have of how to get to Heaven is from one of these conversations.
I. How does a person get to Heaven? Jesus answers this question in his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-15.
A. Who was Nicodemus? A good man, who not only knew the law, but obeyed it. He was generous, faithful, and disciplined in every way.
B. Paul, another disciplined Jew, came to the conclusion that our good works don't get us to Heaven. (Philippians 3:4-7)
C. Being "born of water" (John 3:31) means being born physically. It doesn't refer to baptism. Being "born of the Spirit" means being born spiritually.
D. How can a person be born of the Spirit? The Spirit takes the Word of God, reveals to us the truth about ourselves, and then by His Spirit brings about a new life within us.
(1 Peter 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:19)
E. When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into your life, and He gives you a new life, a new spirit.
II. What is the relationship between going to Heaven and good behavior?
A. Each one of us is a sinner because of the sin of Adam. We all have a sinful nature bent away from God.
B. The sinful nature won't always be obvious. It might be dressed up with good works or charitable giving. However, without Christ, our nature is still rebellious towards God. (Romans 8:6-7)
C. Someone with a sinful nature will not be able to live a righteous life. Until God transforms your spirit into one that submits to Him, you will have a rebellious spirit and be separated from God. Dr. Stanley's example: A sinner would be unhappy in Heaven, just like Christians would be unhappy in a wicked town.
D. Once you are saved, will you never sin again? No, but you do have the power to resist sin. (Romans 8:11) When you sin, it's an exception, and your conscience will convict you.
E. Words that describe the born-again experience:
- Redeemed: I've been bought out of slavery to sin by the blood of Jesus.
- Justified: Now, God sees me as His child—no longer guilty.
- Reconciled: Through the new birth, I am restored to a right relationship with God.
- There is no way to be saved except by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) The new birth is an unconditional gift from God.
- Jesus referred to Moses and the bronze snake to indicate to Nicodemus that the new birth was by faith, not works. (John 3:10-12, 14-15) It's a spiritual birth, not a physical one.
H. Jesus compared those born of the Spirit to the wind—it can't be entirely explained or predicted. Likewise, we can't explain how an omniscient, omnipotent God transforms a person and gives them a brand-new nature.
III. When you get saved, what changes can you expect?
A. Your relationship to God changes instantly. You're no longer an enemy of God.
B. Your position changes. You are now a child of God, and your master is now Jesus—not yourself.
C. Your nature changes. Now you have new behaviors and attitudes. Instead of opposing God, you desire to obey Him. When you sin, it really bothers you.
D. Dr. Stanley example: Receiving Christ as your personal Savior is a change that is as dramatic as the transformation from a caterpillar into butterfly.
Your eternal destiny changes the moment you say to Him, "Lord Jesus, I receive You as my personal Savior." Jesus said, "Except a man or a woman be born again, you cannot enter, you cannot see, you won't even understand the kingdom of God." And it's yours if you will ask and believe.