The other day my bride and I were participating in a packing party for our church’s contribution to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry that Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse work on to make sure that not only do kids in faraway parts of the world have a Christmas package delivered to them, but also that they hear the Good News of Jesus Christ – most for the first time ever.
Our church, which was started only five years ago here in Florida, has packed over 10,000 shoeboxes to send to children around the world this year.
On that day I decided to wear one of my Ohio State T-shirts to the event. I had not been at the event too long before a fellow in a blue Penn State shirt walked up to me and introduced himself, pointing to the Penn State logo on his shirt. We laughed together over our rivalry. Both of us being in Florida, and neither one of us having tickets to the game, we had some mutual fun at each other’s expense over the as-yet-undetermined outcome of the juggernaut matchup that would happen within the next week, and our lack of tickets in order to get into the game, not to mention the fact that both of us were nearly 1,000 miles away from Columbus.
That encounter reminded me of a phone call I received several years ago from a college friend of mine who said, “Hey, Chuck, I’ve got an extra ticket to the Ohio State-Notre Dame football game in Columbus on Saturday. Do you want to go to the game?”
I remember my exact response. I said, “Let me think about it … yes.” I took no time at all to make this no-brainer of a decision.
Since my college friend lives in the Cleveland area, and at the time I lived in Hillsboro, we made arrangements to meet at a specified time before the game at one of the stadium gates where I would get the extra ticket and be able to go on into the stadium for a great game.
From that point on I had a problem. I know the Columbus area fairly well, and I also know that on football Saturdays the area around the Ohio State campus gets pretty busy and somewhat unpredictable traffic-wise.
Therefore, I knew that I needed to get there early enough to make sure that I would be there when I said I would in order to meet my friend Dave at the appointed time and place. So I did.
I arrived plenty early that morning before the kickoff, found a fairly good parking place, and determined that I would wait in the general vicinity of the parking lot where Dave told me he would park. I waited… and waited… and waited… until the parking lot filled to capacity and still no Dave.
So, I decided to watch for those who would be trying to get into that parking lot and see if I could spot him. About half an hour after we were supposed to meet, I finally spotted him at the other end of the parking lot and ran down the street to find him. We met, I got the ticket, and enjoyed the game.
You know, I’ve thought about that experience recently and have discovered that in some ways that is a very real picture of the Christian life. What would have happened had I not found my friend Dave in the parking lot that day? Had I approached the gate without a ticket, the attendant would not have let me in, no matter what I told him. I could have said, “My buddy Dave has a ticket for me.” The gatekeeper would have laughed me all the way back home. I could have worn my OSU sweatshirt, presented my membership card to the OSU Alumni Association, and said, “I’m an OSU grad.” The ticket-taker would have said, “Great. You still can’t get in.” I could have dreamed up almost any excuse, but the same thing would have been the outcome – as they say in the oriental laundry, “No tickee, no laundlee!”
In the same way, many people approach the gates of heaven. They say, “I’ve lived a good life” or “I’ve kept (most of, or many of, or maybe just a few of) the 10 commandments,” or “I’ve had perfect attendance in church all my life.”
But the gatekeeper says simply: “No admittance.” It is not until we meet our friend, the Savior, Jesus Christ, and hook up with him that we gain admission into the eternal city called Heaven.
Many people in this day and age will admit to “knowing” Jesus, but when they say that, they are really saying, “I’ve heard the stories about him. I’ve been to church enough to know it is all about him. But if you are asking me to walk with Him daily so I can get into heaven… well, who really does that anyway?”
Jesus said it best, “I am the way … No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). In other words, He and He alone has the tickets which will get you and me into heaven. All he asks is that we meet Him personally, trusting completely in Him and Him alone for our admission through the gates of heaven. Won’t you meet Him today?
By the way, there is an old adage that says, “You can’t tell the players without a program.” The program for the heavenly event is the Bible. That does not mean you have to carry around a big, black, leather-bound book with a cross or the words “Holy Bible” emblazoned on the cover. In a day and age when it is so easy to access the Scriptures, there is an app for that. But you do need to look in there for all the information you need for the game.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and News Journal and former Pastor of Port William UMC.