The answer might seem obvious to you – God decides who goes to heaven and hell, right? WRONG! Every person decides whether he goes to heaven or hell.
The choice is not up to God; it’s up to you. If it were up to God, everyone would be saved – He sent His only Son so that no one would have to perish in the lake of fire. But not everyone chooses to receive Him. The Bible says that God gave the power to become children of God to all those who receive Jesus (John 1:12).
People in the world have this cliché that we are all children of God. Like many worldly ideas, that is completely wrong. We are all creations of God, but only a Christian is a child of God. “Whoa,” someone will say, “that sounds awfully exclusive! Are you saying that Jews and Muslims and Buddhists are not children of God too?” Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying! That’s what the Bible says. Those who receive Jesus become God’s children. That shows that those who don’t receive Him are not God’s children. In fact, the Bible says that they are under the sway of the wicked one. There is only one name given among men by which we MUST be saved, and it’s not Buddha or Mohammed!
“But I’ve never sold my soul to the devil. I’m just noncommittal; I haven’t chosen either Jesus or Satan.” Folks, there’s no such thing as selling your soul to the devil, despite those stories that circulate of dead rock stars who had sold their souls to the devil. If you haven’t received Jesus, the devil already has your soul, so selling your soul to the devil would be a meaningless transaction!
When I turn my one of my computers on, I have a certain number of seconds to choose a configuration. If I don’t make the choice within that time period, a “default” choice gets made for me. Hell is the “default” choice – if you want to avoid it, you have to do something in particular to go to heaven. Otherwise you get the “default” choice, and it’s not pretty.
So what do you do? The Bible makes it simple. You believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and declare Him to be Lord with your mouth. “But my religion is a private thing; I wouldn’t want to tell anyone.” Jesus said that if you won’t confess Him before men, He won’t confess you before His Father and the angels. There’s no such thing as a “closet Christian”. If you aren’t willing to say that you’re a Christian, you aren’t one, because the Bible says that it is with the mouth that confession is made unto salvation. That doesn’t mean that you have to go out on the street like I do and try to tell others about Jesus in order for you to be saved. But you do need to be willing to say to anyone who asks that Jesus is now Lord of your life. He is the boss. He gets to run your life and you follow Him. He calls the shots.
Have you ever asked Jesus to come and live inside you and forgive you of your sins? Have you received Him? He’ll never turn down your invitation! He promised that He would never cast out anyone who comes to Him. It doesn’t matter how badly you’ve messed up, Jesus will take you as you are and improve you from there! Don’t ever think, “I need to clean up my act before I go to church and become a Christian.” Jesus will accept you right now, with all your faults, failures and secret baggage. You’ll never really clean up your act without His help anyway; you’ll just leave a trail of broken resolutions.
Sin has to be punished. Jesus took the punishment for every sin you’ve ever committed and God’s forgiveness is available to you through Jesus. When you receive Jesus, the Son of God, you also receive forgiveness for your sins. It’s a package deal. He paid the price and you get off scot-free. You don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to give money in anyone’s offering to get it – it’s free! Attending church won’t save you, trying to do more good works won’t save you, even praying per se won’t save you. A lot of non-Christians pray, and plenty of them attend church and give in offerings. What makes a person a Christian is not adherence to a Christian philosophy, but rather receiving Jesus and having a personal relationship with Him. It’s a question of receiving Him and becoming a child of God. If you’ve done that, heaven is your destination. If you haven’t, hell is your destination, but the good news is that you can change destinations as long as you’re still breathing!