To enter God's Kingdom, you must make proper preparations now. Here is a checklist of things to do to make sure you succeed.
It was May, 1956. Dick Johnson, 21, newly commissioned Lieutenant Junior Grade in the U.S. Navy, prepared to take off from a naval air station at Norfolk, Va. He was to pilot a Grumman S2F Navy aircraft, a propeller driven plane whose twin engines supplied it with more than 3,000 horsepower. One of Dick's close friends, a fellow officer, told me this true story. Only Dick's name has been changed. Dick was described as a fine person, steady and dependable. He was a likable young man with high morals. He had completed one and a half years of flight training, and had shown unusual interest in learning well his craft as a military pilot. On this particular morning Dick reported for duty at 8 a.m. At 8:10 a.m. he had the plane hurtling down the runway to take off. When the aircraft reached flying speed, he pulled back on the stick and the plane started to rise. Then tragedy struck. The right wing folded and the plane flipped over and exploded into flames! In a few seconds Dick was dead. What went wrong? The ensuing investigation clearly showed the cause of the crash. Pilots are supposed to go through a checklist and perform certain routine inspections before starting a plane's engine, before taxiing, before takeoff, after reaching altitude, before landing, after landing and after shutdown. This checklist is designed with safety in mind, to prevent the pilot or his crew from neglecting any point that could cause an accident. Before even starting a plane's engine, for example, the exterior of the plane is to be visually checked to make sure that the control surfaces are able to function properly. The Grumman Company, which manufactured Dick's aircraft, had, with the cooperation of the Navy, prepared a complete checklist for this particular plane. But the investigation showed that Dick had not gone through this checklist, or he would not have crashed on takeoff. That was his fatal mistake! This particular aircraft was constructed with folding wings that could be turned up while on board ship, to minimize the storage space required. When the wings were down, and in the normal position for flying, there were 32 locking pins that had to be secured to hold the wing rigid. There were two ways to determine whether these pins were locked. One, they could be seen on inspection from the ground and two, the actuating lever in the cockpit could be checked by pushing it fully forward. The difference between the locked and unlocked positions of this lever was only one-fourth to one-half an inch. If Dick had checked visually on his ground inspection or had checked the lever, he would have known that the pins were not locked. The aircraft could not fly until the pins were locked. He did not check, the pins remained unlocked and the wing could not support the aircraft in flight. The wing folded, the crash occurred and Dick was dead. Just because he did not use his checklist. There is a spiritual lesson here.
A Christian checklist
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ is coming to this earth again soon. When He comes, the angels will gather the then-resurrected saints, along with the living saints then changed to immortality, and take them to meet Christ in the air (Matt. 24:30-31, I Thess. 4:16-17). In order to "take off" successfully and meet Christ in the air, certain preliminary conditions are essential. If even one of these essentials is neglected, we will not be able to rise and meet Christ. Here, then, is a checklist of items Christians need to be sure of in preparation for being born into the Family of God at Christ's return.
1) Repent and be baptized
Until we have faith toward God, repent, are baptized and are granted forgiveness of past sins, we have not taken the first necessary steps to becoming a Christian (Acts 2:38). Baptism is necessary not only for the forgiveness of sins, but so that we may receive God's Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands of God's ministers. Without the Holy Spirit, we are not begotten as children of God, and we will never be able to be changed to immortal spirit at Christ's return. Not only must we be forgiven of past sins and receive God's Spirit, but we must also be forgiven of any subsequent sins we may commit. Christ's prayer outline (Luke 11:1-4, Matt. 6:9-13) includes a request for the forgiveness of sins. We all sometimes sin, but if we repent of those sins—turn and go the opposite way—and ask for forgiveness, God will grant it. Sins not repented of, and thus unforgiven, cut us off from God (Isa. 59:2). No one knows when death will end this physical existence. After death, in our next conscious instant, we will stand before God. We had better not stand there unrepentant, with a lot of unforgiven sins!
2) Obey God
From Genesis to Revelation, one of the Bible's major themes is that we must obey God. Adam and Eve did not and were thrust out of the Garden of Eden—and most of mankind has been cut off from God ever since. Notice, however, •how Abraham, the father of the faithful, set the example. God said Abraham "obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (Gen. 26:5). The prophet Moses repeatedly stated that obedience to God would result in blessings, while disobedience would result in cursings. God's commands and laws show the right way to live and define sin (I John 3:4), and no sinner is going to be in God's Kingdom. In fact, if we do not keep God's commandments, we do not really know God at all and are liars if we say we do (I John 2:3-4). The last chapter in the Bible states that only those who do God's commandments will have a right to the tree of life (Rev. 22:14). Do we realize the importance of trying to keep everyone of God's commandments as perfectly as possible? Some neglect what they consider minor laws or "least commandments" (Matt. 5:19). Some justify or rationalize "white lies" or "minor" transgressions of the Sabbath and other laws. But sin is sin, and whether it is little or great, it will prevent us from entering God's Kingdom, unless repented of and forgiven. Dick Johnson neglected one "little thing" in his preflight checklist, and it cost him his life. Don't let what you might consider a little thing keep you out of God's Kingdom. Some people have the attitude of doing as little as possible—doing just what is required of them and no more. Jesus said that if we do only what is commanded of us, we are still unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10). We must do all God commands, and then go above and beyond in our Christian lives.
3) Good works
Jesus said that Christians are the light of the world. He told His followers, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16). An essential part of Christian living is to do good works (II Tim. 3:17). Performing good works is simply doing good to others, or following the principle of give rather than get. Good works are expressed in outgoing love and concern, in showing kindness and consideration to others. These good works must be seen by the unconverted. If we are attached to the true vine, Jesus Christ, we will have much fruit, or many good works (John 15:5).
4) Bible study
God's words are a lamp to our feet; they show us the way to go (Ps. 119:105). Without them we will go astray. There is no other method of learning the right way of life except to read or hear His words. So how can we know what God expects of us in our Christian lives unless we diligently study His Word? God must talk to us and convey to us the knowledge of His will. Since He does not audibly speak to each of us, we "hear" what it is we are to do by studying His Word. Don't think you will be able to stand before Christ and say, "They didn't tell me!" The philosophy that what you don't know won't hurt you does not apply in our relationship with God. Ignorance of the law, in this case God's law, is truly no excuse, because we have the opportunity to learn what we should know by studying the Bible. "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15, Revised Standard Version). You cannot leave such essentials of Christian living to someone else. Your wife or husband cannot study God's Word for you. You must do it for yourself. Bible study is an essential part of the Christian's daily life and routine.
Not only must God regularly talk to us, but we must regularly talk with Him. We must have two-way communication with God to please Him. The faithful people of God throughout the Scriptures were praying people. David prayed three times daily, as did Daniel (Ps. 55:17, Dan. 6:10). Daniel continued this practice even though he knew it might cause his death. Jesus Christ prayed often and long. On at least one important occasion, just before the selection of the 12 disciples, He prayed all night. "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to' God" (Phil. 4:6, RSV). Not only should we make our needs and requests known to God, but we should thank Him for His mercy and all His blessings. Count your blessings and then thank God for all of them. If you can't find much to include, study the Psalms and see how David thanked God. Compare your blessings with those of others who have not been called, to those of others in the poor nations of the world, to those of others suffering from illnesses and handicaps. You have no shortage of things to thank God for. You can't walk with God if you don't talk with God. Make prayer an important part of your daily life. Make it your habit to spend a long time each day on your knees, in a private place, in prayer. In addition, pray silently at other times during the day as the occasion permits. Notice Nehemiah's example of such a prayer—one that really brought results (Neh. 2:4-8). Occasionally you should also fast, so that you may draw closer to God.
6) Have a right attitude
It is easy to get into a wrong attitude—and sometimes not realize it. Here are some common wrong attitudes. Envy is one example. You may be envious of someone else, his opportunities or his blessings, when you compare yourself with him. But remember that we are to rejoice with others when they receive blessings, rather than envying them (I Cor. 12:26). And we are not to compare ourselves with anyone else in the first place (II Cor. 10:12). Sometimes God gives one person special opportunities of service, while at other times He gives such opportunities to someone else. We all need.to learn to be abased and to abound and take it gracefully. We must never envy or despise others in the process. Another wrong attitude is to have hurt feelings or bitterness toward others. A root of bitterness, if not torn out quickly, will ultimately consume and destroy a person (Heb. 12:15). Don't let that happen to you. Some people become upset because of what someone else does or, in some cases, what another person does not or will not do. What difference does it make what someone else does or does not do? God is the Judge of us all, and He will take care of the problem in His own way and time. Why lose your own salvation because of the actions of others? Satan is called the "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10). Some people get in a wrong attitude and do Satan's work for him by making accusations against others in the Church. If someone sins and you know it, you should follow Christ's instructions in Matthew 18:15-17, and Paul's in Galatians 6:1, instead of telling other people about it. One of the worst attitudes to get into' is one of rebellion. Satan is the arch rebel, and he sometimes is able to influence people in the Church to do what he did and rebel against God. Such rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (I Sam. 15:23). The kind of attitude we should all have is expressed beautifully in Isaiah 66:2: "But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" (RSV). Such a person is not proud or haughty, but is meek and modest. He is childlike, open, teachable and approachable (Matt. 18:3-4). He is respectful of God, His government, His law, His servants, other people and civil authorities.
7) Endure to the end
It will do no good whatever if you fulfill all of the previous six points for a while and then quit. It is the person who endures to the end who will be saved (Matt. 24:13). In a race the only ones who are rewarded are those who finish. One who drops out after a few laps is not honored. We must not quit, no matter what happens. Through thick and thin, we must keep going. We must be determined to reach our goal, God's Kingdom. Jesus Christ is going to come again to restore God's government to this earth. At that time He will reward each of us according to our works. That occasion is probably a lot closer than some think. If you do not fulfill the requirements on this check list, you may want to take off 'when Christ comes, but instead you will crash and burn in Gehenna fire. Make sure you are continually examining yourself with this "Christian checklist" so that you will not fall short in any of these areas. Then, when Christ returns, you will be able to take off and meet Him in the air.