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The devil has a road (Matthew 7:13); God has a road (Matthew 7:14; John 14:6). The devil’s road leads to a lake (Revelation 20:10-15); God’s road leads to a river (Revelation 22:1-2). The devil’s road is wide and easy. C. S. Lewis1 said of it: “The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” God’s road is “strait and narrow” (Matthew 7:13). It may seem to always be uphill (Psalm 15:1), but it ends in the most wonderful destination.
Since heaven is a “place” (John 14:1), it ought to be possible to obtain directions to it. Since God is not the God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), the directions should not be too hard.
Go to the Nearest Stop Sign
The first step in getting to heaven is to go to the nearest stop sign and repent. Presupposing that one has learned of and believes in Jesus as resurrected Christ (John 8:24)2, the way to salvation begins at a stop sign. Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). The Jews on Pentecost were exactly at this point when they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The first thing out of Peter’s mouth in answer was, “Repent” (Acts 2:38).
A stop sign is a basic traffic law.
Probably most drivers never remember having to memorize “Red octagonal sign means ‘stop.’” They’ve known that since they were children looking at picture books. Although found sixty-six3 times in the New Testament, the word “repent” is not a familiar one to many people. What does it mean? Repentance means to make a decision to stop doing anything that we know displeases God. It may involve a sexual relationship, stealing, lying, self-destruction, hating, or forsaking worship.
This decision is caused by sorrow and results in a change of behavior. It is not just being sorry for sin’s consequences, but being sorry that sin displeased and dishonored God (2 Corinthians 7:10). It is possible to be sorry or to change a life without repenting. The rich young ruler went away sorrowful, but he did not repent (Matthew 19:16-22). A drinker may quit alcohol when his doctor says, “You’ll be dead this time next year if you do not put down the bottle” without ever giving God a second thought. Repentance is what happens between sorrow and changed behavior. It is the act of will produced by sorrow which results in better behavior. It is a basic spiritual law.
A stop sign is there for safety.
There are few signs that a driver ignores more to his peril than a stop sign. Obedience leads to the blessing of safe arrival at the desired destination. The same is true of stopping at God’s stop sign. Repentance and conversion lead to one’s sins being blotted out and the “times of refreshing” arriving from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). Penitence and acknowledging of the truth leads one to being freed from the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:25). Peter said on kingdom inauguration day that it leads to remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
A stop sign is universal.
Beginning drivers with permits and nervous parents must stop at stop signs, but so must their seasoned parents when they are behind the wheel. Truck drivers who make their living driving two thousand miles a week must apply the airbrakes when they see the red sign. Law enforcement personnel are not above the “stop sign” law.
“Repent” is also a universal command. Jesus said that we were to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). He does not address some men somewhere or even all men in the church, but all men everywhere. God “commands” repentance4. It is neither optional nor negotiable. Sin is a universal problem (Romans 3:23); forgiveness is the universal opportunity (Matthew 11:28-30); Christ is the universal answer (John 14:6); repentance is the universal command (Acts 17:31); obedience is universal remedy (Hebrews 5:8-9); and “come” is the universal invitation (Revelation 22:17).
A stop sign does not mean to slow down.
Some drivers treat stop signs as if they were caution lights—they slow down and look both ways but never cease motion. Police officers frown on such interpretation of motor vehicle law and usually reward such drivers with autographed fee—inducing certificates.
God’s stop sign does not mean “slow down” either. There is no gradual withdrawal or extended withdrawal plan. One must stop sin immediately.
“Cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27).
“Cease from thine own wisdom” (Proverbs 23:4).
“Cease not to give thanks” (Ephesians 1:16).
“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil” (Psalm 37:8; cf. Psalm 37:27; cf.Ephesians 4:26, Ephesians 4:31; James 1:19-20; James 3:14-18).
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).
“The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul” (Proverbs 16:17).
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16).
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
2 A God that can make a universe, create life, flood the earth, part a sea, and stop the sun can surely raise His beloved sinless Son from a grave. For further study of this, see “Jefferson’s Bible is a Page Short” athttp://www.housetohouse.com/HTHPubPage.aspx?cid=5606;
3 In various forms: repent, 24; repentance, 25, repented, 15; repenteth, 2.
4 Parangello, “a charge, an order, a command.”