Much thought and effort has been given to getting to Heaven and avoiding the alternative. Most Christians assume they will go to heaven simply because they are a card carrying Christian, but will they? Lets hope so, but from the standpoint of what Heaven is, its fair to say that many won't or at least, they won't if they continue to be who they are now. Most people get angry at times, they get jealous, or greedy, or judgmental towards others. Have you ever wondered what Heaven would be like if everyone got in? For instance, what would Heaven be like if people there got angry at times? There could be fist fights. Are there fist fights in Heaven? Maybe Valhalla but not Heaven.
If beings in heaven got angry then it wouldn't be heaven anymore would it? Anger, hatred, selfishness, and greed are behavioral patterns which cannot exist in heaven because if they did, then it wouldn't be long before people would get angry and start shouting, and maybe even start fist fights. If people had fist fights in Heaven then how can you expect there to be peace in Heaven? If there isn't peace in the hearts of all those who live there then its not heaven is it? It stands to reason, does it not?
Although Jesus or Allah or whatever name you use for God forgives you for what you did in the past, he or she cannot change your mind for you, only you can do that. If you get angry or have bouts of jealousy, or greed then you can be sure that you won't be let into Heaven regardless of whether God wiped away your sins or not. The reason is obvious, Heaven is only possible if the people who live there are free of those negative patterns.
If God changed your mind by removing your hatred, your prejudges and all the things that would make you not fit in in Heaven, then you probably would not be you anymore. In order for us to be alive we have to have free will. If our mind were somehow magically re-wired without our help then we basically would be like a computer or a complex piece of software that could be re-written and restarted. If we didn't have free will, what would we be? We would be nothing more than a robot or some animated character following a carefully written script. We wouldn't be really alive. God gave us life because he gave us free will. If God started tweaking with your programming to make you compatible with Heaven then at what point would you not be you anymore? Besides, wouldn't God have done this by now if he or she could have or would have? God knows that you can't be alive if you don't have a free will of your own. He (or she) knows that the only person who can change your mind, is you. This is why he sent Jesus to the Earth, to help us change ourselves. If Jesus just had to wave his magic wand and make us all saintly again then why did he spend so much time teaching?
What did he teach by the way? He taught methods and viewpoints that will help anyone change themselves if they have to courage to really see their negative side clearly. To work on a daily basis toward becoming a better person is really what God wanted from us all along. Just about every religion on Earth has as its basis the notion that we can and should become better people. There has never been a saint who has started out as a saint. It took a lot of gentle, self compassionate understanding and daily work. Daily contemplation, daily mindfulness practice or praying are great techniques you can use and maybe already do use to change yourself.
Using Jesus as an example of someone we would like to be like, is another way of changing ourselves unless we think that we must either be 100% like him already or we have failed. Many people have this kind of notion I think. That they need to be either perfect or they have failed. This kind of perfection based understanding of personal transformation is overly simplistic. It assumes that the self is static, and it assumes that either one is a saint or not. The perfection based understanding of personal transformation is not really right. When we change we usually change slowly, its not all or nothing. For instance, very few people can just quit smoking in a day. It usually takes many times of trying to quit before they succeed. If a person felt guilt for not being able to quit the first time they might not even try again. I personally quit about 10 times before I finally succeeded. Its been almost 15 years since I have had a craving for a cigarette, yet there was a time when I smoked 20 a day.
The most important thing to remember is the one thing that people often overlook. This is the simple fact that we can change ourselves. Why would Jesus have ever even tried to teach to us if he didn't have faith in our ability to change ourselves? We can change ourselves, and that's good news. We don't have to be perfect. Not only can we change our habits and tendencies but even our perspective of our self may change. Moments of wisdom and clarity come to us at the most unexpected times and we are never really the same. Maybe its those daily times when we are quiet which help us to see and to change as a result of that seeing.
What did Jesus mainly say about how to change yourself? He demonstrated how to be meek, forgiving, truthful, loyal, loving, and perhaps most importantly, compassionate. If there is one impression I have of Jesus from what I've read it is that he was always loving and compassionate. Even when he overturned the bankers' tables in the temple, he probably didn't hate the bankers. I think he just wanted to wake them up to what they were doing. He saw how they were harming themselves by expressing their greed.
I am not the only one to say that the most important thing you need to do in order to get to heaven is to do what Jesus did. Some of the things that one needs to do is to learn to forgive, learn to let go, and always try to remember that all life is sacred and unique and deserves our respect and maybe even our love. I believe that if one cultivates love in their own heart instead of anger, judgment, hatred, arrogance, greed and pride, then that person has accomplished more than someone who is been saved by Jesus 1000 times but hasn't changed themselves at all.
I am not sure but it seems to me that maybe baptisms and saving ceremonies are really meant as good starting points on our journey to become better people. I think that is a much smarter way to look at it if your goal is to get to heaven. Seeing these ceremonies as some sort of magic wand waving is missing the whole point. To improve ourselves is to transcend our programming as selfish individuals who are only concerned with survival and getting our little needs met. To transcend ourselves we have to see ourselves clearly and we have to actively work on changing our habits and patterns.
Spirituality can be seen as some sort of conduit to magic and the kinds of things that only God can do, or it can be seen as a path to change ourselves. What approach do you think will be more effective at getting into Heaven?