MELISSA, Texas (BP)–As you know from watching the news, America is in a very difficult security and political situation right now because millions of people have begun to inhabit this country without obeying the guidelines regarding immigration. This complicated issue will not be easily resolved by our competing political parties, but one simple truth remains: To become a legal citizen of a foreign land, you must follow the rules.
Some of the people who have come to the United States in violation of the rules are honest, hard-working people who want to do their best and provide for their families. Other illegal immigrants are dishonest people who engage in criminal behavior. There are undoubtedly both good and bad people who reside in our country without permission. However, no matter your behavior or personality, you must follow the rules in order to truly be an American.
As we celebrate Easter, I am reminded that to inhabit the foreign land known as heaven, one must also follow the rules. You can’t enter the kingdom of heaven by skirting policy or sneaking across the border. The only way to become a citizen of God’s kingdom is by gaining permission through God’s Son. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
To enter the United States legally, you need a visa, which demonstrates that you have received proper permission to enter. To enter eternal life, you don’t need a document; you need a relationship, by faith, with the gatekeeper known as Jesus of Nazareth. This relationship demonstrates that you have surrendered your heart and life to the Creator and King of the Universe, the God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some people who try to barge into heaven are honest, hard-working people who feel their efforts at holiness and generosity will be rewarded with citizenship. Others who try to sneak into heaven without that a relationship with Christ are dishonest or lazy or manipulative. Many people truly believe that the rules that apply to everyone else do not apply to them. Each of these folks — the honest and the dishonest, the generous and the greedy — believe that God is obligated to allow them into heaven, even if they disobey His rules for entrance.
Please understand that none of us deserves entrance into God’s kingdom. You are sinful, I am sinful, and we deserve eternal separation from God. Heavenly citizenship is eternally valuable because it has been earned by the death, burial and resurrection of a carpenter from Galilee named Jesus. You and I did not and cannot earn this heavenly citizenship, but we can receive it as a gift by faith.
Do you know why, after all these years, that first Easter Sunday remains the most important day in human history? Because we all desire heavenly residence and because the actions of one sinless man opened the doors to citizenship for every other sinful person.
How can you and I become citizens of the foreign land known as heaven? In Romans 10:9-10, the Apostle Paul tells each of us, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
That verse serves as the gate-opening formula for heavenly citizenship, whether you and I like it or not. God the Father gladly offers to open the door to His kingdom to anyone who willfully place his or her faith and trust in God the Son.
Trey Graham is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, TX (www.firstmelissa.com) and the author of “Lessons for the Journey” and “Light for the Journey.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In Dallas/Fort Worth, “Faith Walk with Trey Graham” can be heard at 8:30 p.m. weeknights on The Word 100.7 FM and “Smart Talk with Trey Graham” can be heard at noon Saturdays on KTXG 90.5 FM.