ILLUSTRATION: Why should God let you into heaven?

Heaven-Hell2Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and he were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say? *

Many of us would probably appeal to our good works. We’d talk about how we’ve tried to live a good life by treating others well, working hard, and being a responsible citizen of society.

Others of us who would appeal to our religious practices. We’d bring up times when we were baptized, took communion, attended church, prayed, and read the Bible.

Another group again would appeal to our commitment to Jesus. Knowing full well that our good works and religious practices are not enough, we would begin talking about the commitment we made to live for Jesus. We’d explain how we always tried to be faithful. We consistently obeyed the Bible. Everything we did was done with a heart to please God.

Essentially all three of these approaches are about ‘WHAT I HAVE DONE’. They rely upon my good works, my religious practices, or my commitment to Jesus.

But the Bible teaches that there is another way. That Jesus is the one who paid the price for us to get into heaven. He lived the perfect life that we could not live. He died the death that we should have died.

The person who gets into heaven is the person who says: “I am a sinner. My good works, my religious practices, and my commitment to Jesus mean nothing before a Holy God. All that matters is what Jesus did on my behalf. I am not relying upon ‘WHAT I HAVE DONE’. I am trusting solely in the finished work of Christ. I am betting my eternity on ‘WHAT JESUS HAS DONE'”.

(* This extremly helpful opening question is taken from Evangelism Explosion)


ILLUSTRATION: Demon Possession

demonic-possessionIf you have ever seen a movie where someone gets demon possessed, you would have noticed a battle going on between the demon, who wants to take control of the person to make them do evil, and the person, who want’s their life back. Sometimes the demon possessed person is controlled by the demon. Sometimes the person is in control of their own body. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

Although it sounds a little strange, something similar happens to a person when they become a Christian.

The Bible teaches that when a person places their life and eternity into Jesus hands, the Holy Spirit comes into their life to wage war against their sinful nature. In a sense, they get ‘Holy Spirit Possessed’. From that moment on, there is a battle that rages within between the Holy Spirit, who wants to take control of the person to make them more like Jesus, and the person’s sinful nature, which loves sin and craves sin. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is in control. Sometimes the sinful nature is in control. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

This is why when you meet a Christian, you can definitely expect to see evidence that the Holy Spirit has come into their life. The Bible describes this as ‘fruit of the Spirit’: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

But this is also why you will unfortunately continue to see evidence of their sinful nature: selfishness, gossip, lust, greed, complaining, unforgiveness, bitterness, envy, etc.

Galatians 5:17
“The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want”

ILLUSTRATION: Concentric Circles


When Jesus was asked to explain the greatest commandment, He replied by saying: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt 22:36-40).

When the Apostle Paul was speaking about doctrine, he explained that some doctrines are of first importance, implying that others are of less importance: “Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).

When the Apostle John was writing his biography of Jesus, not everything could be included. He was forced to leave our some of the less important information. In his closing statement he says: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).


The inner circle contains those doctrines which a person must absolutely believe in order to be a Christian. These would include:
> The deity of Jesus
> Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sin
> The resurrection
> That we are sinners who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus

The second circle contains those doctrines which a person may not have to believe to actually be a Christian, but they are so significant that if we mess with them there would be serious implications. One example of this might be the authority of the Bible. A person could come to place their faith in Jesus to save them without actually believing that the whole Bible is true. So in that sense, it’s not an ‘inner circle doctrine’. But the implications for not believing the Bible are huge, both individually and corporately as a church community.

The third circle contains those doctrines which typically divide denominations. These might include:
> Baptism
> Communion
> Speaking in Tongues
> Predestination
> Church Leadership Structures
> …etc

The outer circle contains those doctrines which Christians might discuss, and perhaps even hold an opinion on, but even within different Christian denominations there are varying beliefs.


Firstly, a person doesn’t need to believe absolutely everything Christianity teaches in order to become a Christian.

Secondly, the objections or questions a person has about Christianity may not be as big a problem as we might expect. Some people figure out all their questions before they become a Christian. But most people become Christians even though they have not had all their questions answered.



Floor_PlanImagine that your life is like a house, and each room of the house represents a different part of your life. One room represents your family. Another room represents your work. Another your finances. Another your church community. There are probably 10 or 15 significant areas of your life, each repesented by a different room.

Now when a person becomes a Christian, it’s as if the Holy Spirit comes in and begins to renovate the different rooms of your house.

Some wrongly assume that the Holy Spirit will complete the renovation instantantly. They believe that we can be perfect this side of heaven. But the Bible teaches that we still have a sinful nature which resists the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.

Some also wrongly assume that the Hoy Spirit will be active in every room of the house. But if we’re honest, there are some rooms that we would rather not have the Holy Spirit walk in to. This is evidenced by the fact that many Christians have blind spots. The Holy Spirit might have driven them to forgive those who’ve hurt them, but has not yet turned them into a generous and sacrificial giver. Another Christian might find the Holy Spirit giving them a huge passion for overseas mission, yet at the same time they find it difficult to share their faith with their friends and family.

So how do we know that we have received the Holy Spirit? If there are unrenovated rooms in our life, should we be questioning whether or not we are truly a Christian?

Perhaps the best question to ask is this: “WHO OWNS THE HOUSE?”

Five times in the New Testament we are told that “we belong to God”. The Bible teaches that we are no longer our own, and that we have been bought at a price.

One of the key differences between a Christian and a non-Christian is that Christians recognize that the deed of their house has been given to God. And although at times they may resist the Holy Spirit’s attempt to renovate the different rooms of their house, they know in their heart that the Holy Spirit has a right to do whatever He wants.


ILLUSTRATION: Woman who can’t stop having an affair

affair2There was once a woman who realized that there was something missing in her life. So she decided to go to the local church and find out more about Christianity. Upon arriving she met the pastor and began asking questions. For the next six weeks, the woman and the pastor met to discuss the Christian faith. At the end of the six weeks, the pastor asked the woman if she would like to become a Christian. The woman said that she would love to, but there was one major problem. The woman had been cheating on her husband for last two years and had not been able to stop.

The pastor’s initial reaction was to tell the woman that she would need to give up the affair before she could become a Christian. But just before the words came out of his mouth, he realized how terribly wrong he was. The woman did not have to give up her sin before coming to faith. For one thing, she was not able to. She had tried and tried and tried but continued to fail. Secondly, if it was a requirement for her to give up this particular sin, how many more sins would she have to give up before she qualified for Christianity.

So the pastor rightly said to her: “You don’t need to stop sinning before becoming a Christian. Jesus came for sinners. He came for people stuck in adultery. He came for people who are addicted to sin. Jesus can save you just as you are. He will give you the Holy Spirit who can empower you to overcome your sin”.

So in that moment, the woman simply confessed that she was a sinner, unable to save herself, and unable to change herself. She asked Jesus to pay for the consequences of her sin, and asked the Holy Spirit to give her the power to overcome her sin.



Adam vs JesusMany of us believe that where we spend eternity will be determined by how we live our lives. But the Bible teaches that where we spend eternity is actually determined by how someone else lived their life.

One way to think about this is to picture two lines of people. The first line – the line we are born into – has Adam at the front. The second line – the line that we move into when we become a Christian – has Jesus at the front. Now suppose both these lines are standing before God. How does he determine who gets into heaven?

The Bible teaches that God will judge us based on who is at the front of our line. If we stay in Adam’s line, God will judge us by Adam’s one act of disobedience (eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil). If we stay in Jesus’ line, God will judge us by Jesus’ one act of obedience (dying on the cross to pay for our sin).

Neither our good works nor our sin matter at all. All that gets looked at is Adam’s one act of disobedience, and Jesus’ one act of obedience. We either stay in Adam’s line, and get judged according to what Adam has done. Or we place our life and eternity into Jesus’ hands and move into His line, and get judged according to what Jesus has done.

“Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).


Illustration: Fashion Designer

Fashion-Designer-2Suppose you dream from an early age that you want to become a fashion designer. You do the research, and pretty quickly realize that in order to be successful you’re going to need to move to Italy, the fashion capital of the world.

So during school, you work harder than everyone else. You make sure your grades are high. You get part-time work on the weekends. You save as much money as you possibly can. While everyone else is out partying, you’re working. Then you finally get to university. Again, you study harder than everyone else. You take part-time jobs and save your money.

By the time university is finished, you’ve got enough money to get to Italy and set yourself up for the first 12 months. You’re well on your way to becoming a world-class fashion designer.

Then the unthinkable happens. There’s a financial crises and you lose everything. All your savings are gone. Your hopes have been shattered. There is no possible way you can get to Italy.

About six months later, you are surfing the internet and you come across a site run by a wealthy business woman from Italy. She describes how much she loves Italy and how she would do anything to help others experience life in her country. So she puts out an offer: If anyone wants to come to Italy, she will pay for their flights, put them up in an apartment, and find them a job. It seems ridiculous. Too good to be true. This is obviously some kind of scam. But you’re desperate. So you take a risk. And you send off your details and to your surprise she contacts you the next day with the flight details.

You’re still not sure if this is legit or not. You’re half expecting something to go wrong. But you decided to step out in faith and rock up to the airport. To your surprise the ticket is valid. You jump on the plane, arrive in Italy, and meet this incredibly generous business woman. She welcomes you to Italy, gives you keys to an apartment, and introduces you to a guy who is happy to give you a job in the fashion industry.

Now what did it cost you to go to Italy?

It cost you nothing. You did nothing whatsoever to deserve it. It was absolutely a free, unconditional gift.

But it cost you everything. Your old life in your home country had to die. You had to give up your native language. You had to give up your customs. You had to give up living with your friends and family.

Going to Italy cost you nothing, except your old life.

The same is true for us when we become a Christian. It costs us nothing. Jesus has paid for our ‘ticket’ in full. He has promised to take care of us. He gives us a purpose in life. It is absolutely a free gift. We do nothing to deserve it. But at the same time, it costs us our old life. The moment we become a Christian, we receive the Holy Spirit who wages war against our sinful nature. Our life is no longer our own, we now belong to God.

Becoming a Christian cost us nothing, except our old life without the Holy Spirit.



tumblr_m74l4yO4jN1rrh9gto1_500Suppose this year for your spouse’s birthday you want to do something really special. So you decide to make a birthday cake unlike anything your spouse has ever seen. You do the research. You bake some ‘practice cakes’. And then finally after weeks of preparation, the cake is ready for the big occasion.

On the day of the birthday party I come around to your house early to help set everything up. I see the cake and think that it looks amazing. It is by far the most impressive cake I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’m so overwhelmed with how good it is, that I take it upon myself to add my own finishing touches.

I grab some whipped cream and pour it all over the cake. I then carefully place marshmallows all over the top. Then I finish it off by pouring out three large packets of m&m’s onto the cake.

Now of course this whole thing is a disaster. Firstly, it is incredibly rude for me to look at the amazing cake that you’ve made and feel like I’ve got to add to it. Secondly, the cake now looks terrible. In my attempt to add to what you have done, I have actually destroyed what you have done.

The same thing happens when we try to add to what Jesus has done on our behalf.

A lot of people believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sin, but they don’t believe that His work is complete. They feel that they need to add to what Jesus did to make us righteous before a Holy God. So they end up trusting in a combination of Jesus’ work plus their own works to get them to heaven.

And again, this whole thing is a disaster. In the same way that it’s incredibly offensive for me to look at your amazing birthday cake and feel like I’ve got to somehow add to it, it’s also incredibly offensive for us to look at Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and feel like we’ve got to somehow add to it. And just as my attempt to add to your perfect cake actually destroyed it, any attempt we make to add to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice actually destroys His work on our behalf.

There is nothing wrong with doing good works. Christians are called to do good works in response to what Jesus has done for them. But it’s an entirely different thing again to look at the perfect Son of God and His work on the cross and conclude that it’s not enough to save us.

Jesus said: “It it finished”. We need to rest in that.


ILLUSTRATION: The Knight and the Princess

desktop_princess_dragon_knight_by_sarah_the_ninja_101-d37y8mkSuppose a princess has been locked up in a castle from the moment she was born. She’s being held captive there by an evil dragon. One day a knight in shining armor comes along. He risks his life to slay the dragon, and then offers to rescue the princess.

Now we’d naturally assume that the princess will jump at the chance to be rescued, but this is not necessarily the case. In order for the knight to rescue her, the princess needs to leave her old life in the castle behind, she needs to jump on the back of the horse, and she needs to entrust her entire life and future into the knight’s hands.

The same is true for us when it comes to Jesus.

We’ve been locked up in a prison of guilt and condemnation from the moment we were born. We’ve been held there by Satan, the most evil dragon of all. One day, our knight in shining armor, Jesus, comes along. He doesn’t just risk his life to slay Satan, He actually dies. Three days later He comes back to life and conquers death, conquers sin and conquers Satan. He does all of this in order to rescue us.

Now again, we would naturally assume that we will jump at the chance to be rescued. But in order to be rescued, we need to leave the prison of guilt and condemnation behind, we need to jump on the back of the horse and we need to entrust our entire life and eternity into Jesus’ hands.


ILLUSTRATION: The Broom vs The Bucket

Straw Broom 46537Parable
Suppose there’s a certain room in a house that is completely covered in dust. A man walks into the room and begins to sweep using an old straw broom. Although it looks like the broom will remove the dust, it actually makes things worse.  As the man sweeps, the dust begins to lift off the ground and fill the air. So the man sweeps even harder. But the more he sweeps, the worst things get. Eventually the dust begins to choke the man so he gives up and walks out of the room.

A few hours later, a lady walks into the room and sees that it’s completely covered in dust. Instead of reaching for the old straw broom, she fills a bucket with water and washes the dust away.

Here we find that the room represents a person’s heart. The dust represents their sin. And the old straw broom represents the law.

What looks like it will remove sin actually makes things worse.

The law does not eradicate sin. It simply just reveals what sin is. The Bible says: “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Romans 7:7)

In fact, the law doesn’t just reveal sin. The Bible teaches that it actually provokes it: “Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting… When the commandment came, sin sprang to life…the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death” (Romans 7:8-10).

Trying to obey the law in an attempt to remove sin is just as futile as trying to sweep away the dust with an old straw broom. The more we try and obey, the more we realize how utterly sinful we truly are. The law doesn’t make us good. It just reveals that we are not good and that we are unable to become good. It reveals our need for a savior.

But then enters the lady with the bucket of water. The bucket represents the gospel.

What could not be done through obedience to the law, is accomplished through the death of Jesus. When a person places their faith in Jesus, all their sin is washed away. They are made clean before a Holy God.

The law is the diagnosis. The gospel is the cure. The purpose of the law is to show us our sin. The purpose of the gospel is to show us our Savior.

(Adapted from an illustration by John Bunyam in his excellent book ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’)