Just Because God Answers Your Prayers Doesn’t Mean You Are Going to Heaven

God is a popular person in American culture today. It is not unusual to hear your average citizen talking about seeking God’s will in their life regardless of whether or not they attend church regularly. There are many of us who use “God lingo” in every day conversation. Whenever things get difficult we encourage ourselves by saying that God is watching over us, and when things go well we praise God for helping us. And if we are in a positive and upbeat mood we say that we feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

            Unfortunately, these statements are sometimes based on an assumption that is pure fiction. We think that because God loves us He has a wonderful plan for us that will necessarily unfold for us. We take every good thing that happens to us to be God’s smile of approval. If we get a bigger than expected tax refund, we say it is a gift from God. If we find a new girlfriend or boyfriend we say that God is our matchmaker. If we narrowly escape a car accident we say that God was watching out for us. We then assume from all these things that we are on God’s team, and He is on ours.

            In reality, however, many people who talk like this are not on God’s team. They are actually enemies of God. People misinterpret many of the good things that happen to them on purpose because they don’t want to change the way they live their lives. They look for meaning in the confused and muddled events of everyday life because they want to ignore the clear, straightforward words of the Bible. The Bible says that everyone begins as an enemy of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). You may say that you love God, and yet there may be evidence in your life that you are still God’s enemy. The Bible says “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now” (I John 2:9). Is there someone in your life whom you hate? Is there a family member, co-worker, or elected official whom you intensely despise? It is not right for you to hate anyone, for the Bible says that we are to love even those who mistreat us (Matthew 5:44).

            The simple fact of the matter is that many people misinterpret their own self approval as God’s approval. Whenever we do something that makes us proud of ourselves we assume that God is just as impressed as we are. When we feed the poor we claim that we did it by God’s power. When we give blood we say we were told to do it by the Holy Spirit. But many times we do these things not because we know they are good things to do, but because we are trying to force God and others to approve of us. We do them to convince ourselves that we are not God’s enemy. The Bible has forceful warnings for people who fool themselves into thinking that they are on God’s side. Jesus Himself said the following:

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  (Matthew 7:21-23).

            If God’s approval is truly important to you, you will come to God His way, not your own way. You will put what God wants before what you want. In order to submit to God you must admit that you are a horrible sinner, rather than try to cover over your sins with a few good works. You must admit that you are like some of the people you hate.  The Bible says: “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” However, the very next verse gives us hope: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

            True salvation is something that happens by God’s power, not our own power. If you are extremely depressed and discouraged and feel completely helpless, then you are a great candidate for Christianity. You already know you have problems. You do not think you are better than everyone else. God loves you and wants to forgive your sins (II Peter 3:9). If you repent of your sins, and believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again, you will be saved (I John 1:9, Romans 10:9). This is a promise. God sent His Son, Jesus to be a sacrifice for your sins, so that He does not have to punish you for them. If you become a true Christian you are no longer God’s enemy:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10).

Becoming a Christian is a very simple process, but it can also be hard. You have to “deny” yourself by admitting that you are the problem, not God or anyone else. If you have truly done this, if you have repented and believed in Christ’s sacrifice, then you will be a changed person. Your salvation will be evident by the good works you do which will reflect a genuine change of heart (James 2:14-26). Other people might not immediately know the difference between the good deeds you did before and the ones you do afterwards, but you will. The former works were done to earn God’s approval, the latter ones out of gratitude for the fact that He has already given it to you.

Do not fool yourself into falsely believing that you are already a Christian just because you follow religious rituals or do some good deeds. Anyone can recite prayers on a rosary, play guitar in the praise band, or raise funds for homeless people regardless of whether or not they have surrendered their will to God. If you are living a life of contradictions you should stop it now. Surrender to God and let Him change your heart. Stop living for yourself. If you don’t you will regret it later.

-Daniel Schilling


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