Who’s Your Pilot?

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

Who’s Your Pilot?
Debunking Myths About What It Takes to Get to Heaven

By Jasmin Patterson

I hate traveling on airplanes. I like my feet to be on the ground. Even though I’m not a fan of flying, I love when the pilot stands at the entrance of the plane during boarding and greets the passengers with a confident smile. It makes me feel a bit more settled because I can trust this person to get me to my destination safely.

What if I told you Jesus is that smiling, confident pilot for us, in a sense? Far beyond an exotic vacation or a weekend trip to visit family, the ultimate destination you and I are heading towards is eternity. The question is, who or what are you trusting to get you to your desired destination of Heaven? There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what qualifies someone to enter Heaven, sometimes even from professed Christians.

“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:3-4 NLT)

You won’t get to Heaven by being a good person.

It’s a foundational concept in Christianity that good works out of our own human effort still fall short of God’s righteous standard. Genuine faith in Jesus expresses itself in our actions, but our works are not enough to save us from our sin, or secure eternal life for us, or to repair our broken relationship with God. That’s why we need a savior. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

You won’t get to Heaven because you come from a Christian family.

In Romans 2:28-29, the apostle Paul addresses the misguided idea that our familial and cultural background of faith in God automatically makes us right with Jesus. In this passage, he was speaking specifically to a Jewish audience who would convert to faith in Christ, but the principle applies to all of us who would believe in Jesus. You’re not a Christian because you were born to parents who believe or because you come from a culturally Christian city. You become a Christian because you personally have been made right with God and transformed by His Spirit.

You won’t get to Heaven because you go to church.

Once we become followers of Jesus, there are spiritual practices that help us grow in our relationship with God, build Christian community, and make God known to others. Going to church, singing worship songs, serving the needs of others, sharing the gospel are all examples of this. Those things are biblical and good. They’re signs of an obedient, maturing faith in Christ, but they’re not sufficient on their own.

In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus taught a startling lesson. He talked about people who would call Him Lord and even do great works in His name, yet when they stand before Him on judgment day He would say to them, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” What was His point? Just because a person is attending church services and doing all the “Christian activities” doesn’t necessarily mean they have a personal relationship with Jesus and are following His ways.

“’Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth and the life, No one can come to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6 NLT)

You get to Heaven because you have surrendered your life to Jesus and trusted Him to save you from your sins.

What does it look like to trust Jesus with your salvation and your eternal destination? According to Scripture, it’s about more than simply believing in God and giving intellectual assent to His existence. Have you placed your faith in Jesus and repented (turned away from) your sin to follow Jesus with your life instead? The invitation to know Christ and be forgiven is open to anyone who would say yes to Him.