It’s Not Enough to “Just” Make it to Heaven

Reflections on a Puritan Prayer

I once heard someone say, “I don’t care if I just barely make it into heaven, as long as I make it through those pearly gates!”  I have to be honest, this statement did not sit well with me. 

I suppose on one hand I get their point.  However you get to heaven, everyone that makes it will enjoy the same eternal reward.  Some make it in after a lifetime of faithful service.  Others are like the thief crucified next to Jesus, who made a death bed-last minute decision to believe.  He believed, and Jesus told him he would be with him in heaven that very day. On one hand, if you make it to heaven, you make it to heaven.

That said, again, something with this person’s statement didn’t seem quite right.  I think it had to do with the fact that they had been following Christ a long time, yet their words made it seem like they were content to scrape by in their relationship with God and “just” make it into heaven by the skin of their teeth.

I am not sure God is all that impressed with this kind of attitude or approach to a relationship with him.  I believe he is unsatisfied with this kind of mediocre, half-hearted, lukewarmness.  This approach to a spiritual life certainly sits in contrast to the attitudes of others throughout history.  Consider this old Puritan prayer:

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
                                                   my lamp burning,
                                                   my ear open to thy calls,
                                                   my heart full of love,
                                                   my soul free.

No straggling through the gates there.  This person is marching through the gates with full vigor. Just think about what this poem is saying…

“Guide me to heaven with my loins girt.” 

I’ll be honest, I had to look up exactly what someone’s loins are.  Your loins are a main part of your body to the left and right of your spine.  They are below your rib cage and above your pelvis.  Your loins are a part of what makes up your core. 

In fact, when the poet here said loins, he meant core, but he wasn’t talking about the actual muscles that make up your midsection.  No, he was talking about those inner parts of our being, our essence, our spirit, our thoughts and emotions, values and goals, hopes and dreams.  He was talking about who we are in our core on the inside.  Not the tangible core, but the intangible.

Not only did I have to look up what the poet meant by loins, but I also had to look up what he meant by “girt” as well.  Girt comes from gird, which means encircled, or secured.

Take this two words together, your “loins girt”, means your core secured.  Your core, your life, secured and completely encircled by God.  Not a life that is not loosely hanging on to God by a thread, like a button that is about to fall off your shirt.  Rather a life that has him securely around it, encompassing all that it is.   

Too often, many make God a part of their life.  He is a section, piece, fraction, share, or small slice of who they are.  He doesn’t encircle everything about them, rather he is precariously attached, like a bumper dangling from the front of a car that has been in a wreck and about to fall off at any moment.

When our loins are girt, it means that God is our first priority.  He is our world, not just a part of our world.  Having our loins girt is similar to what Paul says in Ephesians, where he shares, “Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV).   It’s having God encircle all that we are.

Guide me to heaven with my lamp burning.” 

I love to hike.  One of my life goals is to hike all sixty-seven 4,000 foot mountains in New England.  Often when I go hiking, I’ll sneak up to New Hampshire the night before and camp out.  I’ll wake up well before dawn, take down my tent, and get an early start in hopes of getting to the summit of the first mountain by sunrise.  If I make it, the view at the top is majestic.  The challenge though, in making it to the top before dawn, is that it means I am hiking in the early morning dark. 

Honestly, hiking in the dark isn’t much fun.  In fact, it can outright dangerous.  The only thing that makes it doable for me is that I have a headlamp.  300 lumens of bright light strapped directly to my forehead.  Wherever I go, wherever I look, there is a bright white light guiding the way.  I see every root that would try to trip me and every hazard that would try to sneak up on me.  Honestly, when hiking at night, a light means the difference between arriving safely or not.

When the poet says he wants to make it to heaven with is “lamp burning”, he is saying he wants to make it with his life full of light.  He doesn’t just want to stumble into heaven like a lost hiker stumbling out of the woods, half turned around, and not sure of where he is at.  No, he wants to walk up to those gates with a lighthouse attached to his forehead guiding the way.  He wants to be confident as he walks through this dark world.  He wants to be able to avoid the roots, snares and other obstacles, that would easily trip someone up whose lamp is out, or who was foolish enough to try the journey without a light at all.

How do we have a bright light to guide us?  How does our life stay full of light?  The best way is to simply and passionately pursue Christ.  The Psalmist said it best in Psalm 18:28 when he said, “For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness.”

“Guide me to heaven with my ear open to thy calls.” 

A majority of people sleep with their cell phone right next to them.

The average 18 to 24-year-old sends 2,022 texts per month — 67 texts on a daily basis — and receives another 1,831.

There are over 200 billion emails sent every single year.

Every 60 seconds on Facebook: 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded.

That’s a lot of calls, texts, emails and social media posts to keep up with.  One call, however, matters more than any other.  Regrettably, it is the one that so many of us always seem to miss.  Sometimes we let the other calls, and busyness of life, drown out the ring of the one call that matters the most.

John 10:27, shares Jesus’ words, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” 

Jesus speaks, the question is do we listen. 

The poet always wants his ear to be open to God’s call, and not let anything else drown it out.

“Guide me to heaven with my heart full of love.”

My wife loves The Wizard of Oz.  Actually, I apologize, I just mistyped.  My wife LOOOVES! The Wizard of Oz. In the original, the Tin Woodman was once a real man with real love for a beautiful woman he hoped to marry.  The witch hated their love, so she cast a spell on him so that one by one his limbs had to be replaced with artificial tin limbs. The tin limbs allowed him to work like a machine. So with a heart of love for his maiden and arms that never tired, he seemed destined to win over the witch’s spell.

The witch, however, made Tin Man’s axe slip and cut himself in half, and though a tinner was able to fasten him back together again, he no longer had a heart and lost all love for the girl, and did not care whether he married her or not.

You probably know the rest of the story.  Caught in a rainstorm, the Tin Man began to rust, remaining in that spot until Dorothy came all the way from Kansas to rescue him and begin his journey to Oz.

In the book, the Tin Man tells Dorothy, “During the year I stood there I had time to think that the greatest loss I had known was the loss of my heart. While I was in love I was the happiest man on earth; but no one can love who has not a heart.”

I think there are a lot of people who have lost their heart.  Like the Tin Man, they are walking around without a heart and are unable to love.  Maybe they were hurt by someone.  Maybe life threw them a curve ball.  Maybe they feel betrayed by God.  Whatever the reason they are disappointed or disillusioned and have simply lost all heart and ability to love.

An empty bitter heart makes it difficult to make it to heaven, so the poet ask God to “Guide him to heaven with a heart full of love.”  He wants God to root out all the bitterness, anger, un-forgiveness, and replace it with His love.   

Proverbs 4:23 warns against a hurting heart when it shares, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

“Guide me to heaven with my soul free.” 

There’s a story that has been told from Civil War days before America’s slaves were freed, about a northerner who went to a slave auction and purchased a young slave girl. As they walked away from the auction, the man turned to the girl and told her, “You’re free.”

With amazement, she responded, “You mean, I’m free to do whatever I want?”

“Yes,” he said.

“And to say whatever I want to say?”

“Yes, anything.”

“And to be whatever I want to be?”

“Yep.”

“And even go wherever I want to go?”

“Yes,” he answered with a smile. “You’re free to go wherever you’d like.”

She looked at him intently and replied, “Then I will go with you.”

God has set us free – free from sin, bondage, chains, and our past. In fact, Galatians 5:1 boldly proclaims, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

For those who follow Christ, we’ve been set free.  The question is what will we do with that freedom.  Will we, like the girl above, follow our rescuer? The poet declares that the freedom we have experienced should guide us to heaven and into a deeper relationship with Christ than ever before.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
                                                   my lamp burning,
                                                   my ear open to thy calls,
                                                   my heart full of love,
                                                   my soul free.

I don’t believe that God wants us to weakly limp through heaven’s gates.  I believe he wants us to burst through.  I don’t believe God is okay with the whole attitude of “just” making it to heaven.  I believe he wants us to passionately pursue a relationship with him.   No halfheartedness.  No 50/50.  No compromising.  No skimming.  No “just” making into heaven.

What do you believe though?  Are you okay with “just” making it into heaven? Are you okay with “just” getting by in your relationship with God? Or, are you like the poet that wants to make it in with his loins girt, lamp burning, ear open to his calls, heart full of love and soul freely following him?

(Note: This was only one stanza of the full prayer.  For the entire prayer, and other amazing Puritan prayers, see From Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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