Oh You Can’t Get To Heaven
Read John 3:1-3 (ESV)
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
What does Jesus say is the only way to see the Kingdom of God? What does that mean?
There’s an old traditional call and response song called “Oh You Can’t Get To Heaven.” There are a lot of verses but I’m not sure how many are original because it’s pretty easy to add on more silly lyrics. I’ve heard “Oh, you can’t get to heaven on roller skates because you’d roll right past those pearly gates.” The song also claims that you can’t get to heaven in a limousine because “the Lord don’t sell no gasoline.” Based on today’s passage, we could add: “Oh you can get to heaven just because you’re a Pharisee. You must be born again, you see.”
The Pharisees were the religious elites. They were a Jewish sect that was very conservative and legalistic. Now, it’s positive that they had such a high regard for God’s law. But on the downside, they viewed man-made traditions and rituals as equal to God’s law. They prided themselves on following the law down to the smallest letter. Unfortunately, this led to self-righteous arrogance and hypocrisy. They looked down on others who didn’t hold themselves to the same high moral standards (whether they were based on Scripture or not) and they thought their actions made them righteous before God. They had a “holier than thou” attitude.
But Jesus had quite a bit to say about the Pharisees, especially in Matthew 23. It can be summed up in these words that he repeated often: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees!” In His indictment of them, he said that they don’t practice what they preach (v. 3), they add unnecessary burdens to others (v.4-5), they act holy to impress others, not to please the Lord (v.5-7), and they look clean on the outside but are dirty on the inside (v. 25-28). Remember from yesterday, the Lord knows the hearts of man. You can’t fool Him by looking religious.
Nicodemus was one such Pharisee. He knew the law inside and out and served on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing council. The Jewish leadership had heard of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had been performing miracles and healing people. He cleared out the temple and He’d baffled the Jews that came to question Him about His authority. Nicodemus was intrigued.
But he didn’t pay Jesus a visit in broad daylight. He came under the cover of darkness. Maybe he knew he’d be in hot water with the Sanhedrin if they saw him talking with Jesus. Maybe he was too embarrassed to be seen with Him. Or maybe he just didn’t have time during the day. Regardless, he came to Jesus, called him “Rabbi” which means “teacher,” and acknowledged that he understood that Jesus received His power from God. Nicodemus knew that only God had the power to do what Jesus was doing. But remember, even the demons know that Jesus is deity. It’s not enough to be saved. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” in order to be saved. Being a religious elite wasn’t enough to get him into the kingdom of God.
Jesus isn’t interested in outward ritualistic religious activity. He is interested in our hearts. In order to see the kingdom of God, we need spiritual rebirth. We need heart transplants. Our old sinful hearts need to be transformed into new hearts filled with the Spirit. Otherwise, we’re still dead in our sins no matter how moral we appear. When we receive our new spiritual hearts, our lives are transformed and we can know for sure that we will live forever with God.
2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” I encourage you to do as Paul instructed. Examine your heart. Is Jesus Christ really in you? Have you placed saving faith in Him alone or are you just trying to look good with “Christian” religion? Oh you can’t get to heaven just by being good because you need spiritual rebirth, is that understood?
Lord, I am examining my heart today. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). I want to be found in You, Lord. Make me new. Show me the truth. Change my heart. I trust in You alone for my salvation. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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