St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

How Do I Get To Heaven?

Sermon on Acts 4:8-12

Text: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Before we leave to go someplace we have never been before, we try to find the best way to get there. We may consult a map. We might get on the Internet to find driving directions. We plug in our destination to our gps device or phone. We study these things to carefully choose the roads that will get us from here to there. If someone has been there before, we may ask them what they recommend as the best possible way to get where we want to go. If we don’t carefully choose our roads, but just left and figured we would eventually get there, we might become lost, which would add time and frustration. If we were told the proper way, but chose to ignore the directions, again we would probably become lost. We need directions to get from here to there. This is also true in our spiritual life. This morning we look for the answer to the question HOW DO I GET TO HEAVEN? 1. People Offer Many Suggestions but 2. Jesus Is The Way.

Our text for this morning is the beginning of Peter’s defense before the Jewish council. The day before Peter had healed a man who had been crippled from birth. When the Jewish authorities saw this, they quickly took Peter and John into custody. They did so because these two men were speaking about Jesus. They wanted to stop this, so they arrested them and put Peter and John on trial. Peter got up and began to speak. He shows that he was well aware of why they were on trial. It was because he had used the name of Jesus in healing the man. However, Peter shows them that this name of Jesus brought eternal healing to all who were brought to faith in him. He told them, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” He points them to Jesus as the way to salvation.

Why did Peter have to do this? The reason is that they, as well as the rest of the world, need to know that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Every person, no matter who they are and when they lived, is aware of the fact that they are accountable to someone or something for their actions. For example, look at all of the foreign cultures with their many sacrifices all in an attempt to appease their gods. Some people in the days of the Bible would even sacrifice their children to a god, all in the hopes of appeasing their god.

People today are still are affected by this type of thinking. They realize that they have not always done what they should and so they try to get in a right relationship with God. They may attempt to do so in a variety of methods.

One of these methods might be symbolized like a ladder. People look at all of their shortcomings and then say, “I’ll just have to try harder next time.” So, next time they do try harder, and they move a little bit up the ladder. If they really try hard they might get somewhere near the top. However, they cannot get to the top, which is perfection, and perfection is what God demands.

God’s demand for perfection can be pictured in this way. Suppose you are standing in line at a movie theater. When you get out your money, you realize that you are short of the needed amount for entrance. As you dig through your pockets, you find a quarter here and a dime there. When you get to the ticket window, the person selling the tickets will not let you in , because you don’t have the necessary amount. So also with God. If you do not have the perfection that God demands, we cannot enter heaven. God tells us very plainly that no one has the required perfection in Romans where it says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So no matter how high we might climb upon that ladder, we cannot reach the level that God demands, which is perfection.

Another way in which people try to make up for the bad they have done is to try and balance it out with good, Think of an old-fashioned scale with pans hanging from both ends of an arm. You say, “Yes, I realize that I have sinned, but I always make up for it and in that way things balance out.” We do that in all phases of life. Husbands and wives, how often doesn’t this happen. We have a bad day when things don’t go the way they should. Then our spouse does just that one little thing that puts us over the edge and we really let them have it. But, later we feel badly about what we did and so we try to make it up. People try to do the same thing with God. They figure they can balance out all of the bad they have done with good. But, they still have the sin on that other end of the scale and so lack the perfection that God demands. A balancing act doesn’t work either.

Still other people try to compare themselves to others. They say, “I know I’m a sinner, but I’m a lot better than other people I know.” But, how many people can’t say this? Even the worst criminal can find someone that he feels he is better than. It is as if God grades on a curve and takes the upper 50% to heaven and leaves the others behind. But God tells us that if we want to compare ourselves to something, we are to compare ourselves to his demands for perfection. In light of that comparison, every person must quietly and humbly admit to themselves that they are far short of what God demands.

We have seen that all of man’s ways to find salvation fall short. Scriptures tell us that, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Just as following the wrong roads can get you lost, so also following man-made remedies to sin can lead to eternal punishment. Man cannot offer the way to salvation, but as Peter reminds us in our text, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Jesus shows us the way to salvation.

Why is Jesus the way to salvation? Remember that God demands a life of complete perfection. Although you and I could never live that life, Jesus did. Many people tried to accuse Jesus of sin. But, he did not sin, even in the slightest way. He fulfilled the requirements of perfection that God demanded.

Then Jesus took all of our sins upon himself and paid for them. Although he never sinned, he faced God’s full anger against sin. Every single sin that has ever been committed in thought, word, or action was placed upon Jesus as he suffered and died on the cross. All of our sins were paid in full. Remember earlier, when we spoke of being in the movie theater line with insufficient funds? Suppose someone behind you said, “Don’t worry. I’ll pay your way in.” We would be able to enter the theater. So also with us. We stand before God and are unable to enter heaven on our own. However, because of what Jesus has done for us, we have salvation. We have been set free from our sins. We are holy and perfect in God’s eyes. Only by faith in Jesus is there salvation.

This faith in Jesus means that we give up something. We give up any thought of saving ourselves. If we feel that we, in even the slightest way, help in our salvation, or because we are better than others and thus deserve God’s salvation, we are not trusting in Jesus alone for our salvation. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. The Jews of Peter’s day needed to hear his message and so do we. We put aside any thought of saving ourselves. We trust solely in Jesus to save us. When we believe this, then salvation and eternal life is ours. Again, as Peter says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Someone once remarked that the Bible is our map to heaven. How true that is. First of all, it shows us that all of man’s attempts to get salvation on their own will only lead to death and eternal punishment. But our map to heaven also points to Jesus and shows us that only by believing in him is there salvation. By following him, we have eternal life. If we follow him, we assured of many blessings that he will pour out upon us. Every time we ask for or give directions as to how to get here or there, may we also be reminded of the one way that leads to eternal life. Jesus tells us very plainly, “I am the way.” By following him, we are assured of eternal life. May each of us become more and more familiar with the map to heaven that God has given us, the Bible, for there we find Jesus Christ, the only way to salvation. Amen.