2001-05-01 - Taking Heaven by Gratis
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I have been reading a book by my favorite author recently. His name is Oliver Heywood and his life story is extraordinary. In 1662 he was kicked out of his calling as a minister in the great ejection. Over 2000 ministers were, at that time, deprived of their callings. He was one of them. However he felt compelled to still try to minister to his congregation and even though it was illegal for him to be within five miles of his church he still sought to minister to them.
He made his home in caves and lived in the woods. At the risk of his life and arrest he still visited with the members of his congregation. He would still preach on Sundays, but he had to do so in secret locations in the woods. He was a remarkable man. And even though he experienced many trials, and maybe because of them, he wrote some really encouraging works. The work I am reading now is called, "Life in God's Favor."
At one point he talks about entering heaven. He says that no one will enter heaven, look around and say, "I deserved this." He then mentions a minister who he once heard say, "I will not accept of heaven gratis." Gratis is the Latin word from which we get gratuity. What this minister was saying is that he would only accept his entrance into heaven if he deserved it. Heywood then goes on to show how real religious sentiments feel quite otherwise. Heaven, our place and entrance into it, is simply the result of God's favor toward us. None of us deserves heaven, but by God's grace all who come to God for forgiveness and mercy will gain entrance into heaven. John 3:16.
The grace of God is a true wonder. In fact, God's grace is usually defined by using the term, "unmerited favor." This is why the minister above was wrong. He only wanted heaven if he deserved it, but none of us deserve heaven. Reaching the glory of heaven is only through the grace of God. This can be a freeing thing to remind ourselves of. It can be a great comfort to know that we don't have to earn salvation. It is a gift, and knowing this can free us to serve our Lord with joy. "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17
Soli Deo Gloria,