8 Steps to Heaven: Living CAREFREE
Now and then, people tell me, “Sam, I am not sure I will end up in heaven. It’s so hard to be a Christian.” They have been taught the wrong doctrine. I say, “If you think being a Christian is hard, you’ve got it wrong.”
Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32). If you don’t feel free, it means you don’t have the truth, and you must get the truth right.
The truth is that we are saved by the grace of Christ. The moment you fully grasp this truth, you are set free and you have nothing to complain about in life. No kidding! I will explain. As long as you still have something to complain about, you have not yet understood God’s grace.
“We are saved by grace” means it is not based on what we do, but what Christ has done on behalf of us. All religions in this world can be summarized by one word, “Do”—do this do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. However, Christianity is summarized by the word, “Done!” If you have the mindset of “do,” you belong to another religion, but if you are a Christian, you understand that everything is “done.” It is done by Jesus Christ on the cross.
If everything is done for you by grace, what do you need to do? You don’t need to do anything, but you must live—live the grace. If you can live the grace, you are living in heaven on earth. You don’t have to wait until you die to enjoy the kingdom of heaven. You can enjoy it right now and right here by living the grace.
We will be in heaven one day, but we can also be in heaven right now. In fact, Jesus taught us how to live in heaven on earth. It has eight steps. I call it “8 Steps to Heaven.” Precisely “8 Steps to Heaven on Earth.”
What’s more interesting is that it was the very first thing Jesus taught. His first sermon. It’s known as the Beatitudes, meaning Blessings. From the outset of his ministry, Jesus laid out the path for you to follow. Grace is the life Jesus expects you to live. You decide whether it’s hard or not after hearing this message.
I formulate these eight steps into an acrostic CAREFREE.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:3).
The first step to heaven is consciousness or self-awareness. Without consciousness, we don’t even know we are lost. Unconscious people are usually full of themselves. They often live in denial. Consciousness makes us realize our poverty in spirit. King David said,
“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” (Psalm 40:17).
King David was obviously not physically poor and needy since he was a king, but he was talking about being poor in spirit. Only when you are conscious of your poverty, you will ask for help. The word “poor” is translated from Greek, πτωχός (ptōkhós), meaning “beggar.”
King David was asking God like a beggar, begging for help and deliverance. Consciousness makes us aware of our need for God’s grace because we become conscious of our sin and the need for redemption.
Jesus said, if you are at the stage of consciousness, you are blessed because you are entering the kingdom of heaven. What’s the kingdom of heaven—we talked about this in previous weeks—the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of grace.
Some people are conscious, but they don’t change. So, their consciousness is useless. For example, the moment I am conscious of my diabetes, I realized I might not live long enough to see my kids get married and enjoy grandkids. However, if I don’t change my lifestyle, my consciousness is useless.
If I do change my lifestyle, it means I must abandon my old lifestyle. I must stop eating sugar, I must stop snacking, and I must stop eating carbs. In the spiritual realm, it means I must abandon the sinful lifestyle, or whatever is in the way for you to live the grace.
Abandoning the old lifestyle is not easy, it makes you mourn the old lifestyle. But, Jesus said, you are blessed for taking this step,
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mat 5:4).
The word mourn is translated from Greek, πενθέω (penthéō), meaning “to lament” about our suffering, to mourn for our loss.
The biggest abandonment or the biggest thing we must lose is our ego. In such a case, we lament for the burial of our own ego.
We must abandon whatever is in our way to live in grace. Most of the time, it’s our own ego that is in the way. Jesus said,
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mat 16:24-25).
Jesus said you must nail your ego on the cross and follow him. If you are at this stage, you are blessed because you will be comforted by having a new and better life—the life of grace.
Once you abandon your ego, you will be reborn into a new life—the life of grace. The new life is like that of an infant, completely venerable, humble, and meek. If you become meek and humble, you are in the third stage of living in heaven on earth. Jesus said,
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Mat 5:5).
An infant is meek but receives abundance. They don’t do anything, but everything is brought to them. They are fed when hungry, they are wiped when dirty, and they are soothed when whiny. They surely have inherited the earth. They mean the world to their parents.
You enter this stage when you have abandoned everything and are basking in God’s grace. When you let go and let God, you are reborn into a life of grace. Jesus said,
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mat 6:26).
When you reach the stage of trusting God’s grace like a bird of the air, you are blessed. You have learned to live in grace.
The fourth step is edification. Edification is for our spiritual nourishment, just as education is for our mental nourishment. After you are spiritually reborn, you develop a hunger to grow. You want to know more about grace, and you want to embody the grace. That’s called righteousness. Many people think righteousness is about justice. No, Christian righteousness is grace. Jesus said,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mat 5:6).
At this stage, you hunger for studying the Bible; you thirst for pleasing God. That is righteousness. How do you live in righteousness? Live the grace.
This brings to the next step.
Forbearance is tolerance, mercy, or forgiveness. After you become hungry for righteousness and embody grace, you begin to practice grace. In the beginning, you were like a beggar begging for grace, then you receive grace, then you live in grace, and now you begin to give grace.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Mat. 5:7).
As your practice mercy, you receive even more mercy. As you forgive, you are more forgiven. When you practice grace, you understand God’s grace even more. As you give, you receive. The exercise of mercy is not easy, it’s like a crucible of refining fire, but it purifies you and take you to the next stage.
As you forgive, you are forgiven and you are being purified. At this stage you don’t just live in God’s grace, you become grace. Your heart is purified like pure Gold. Jesus said,
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mat 5:8).
You see God because you have become grace. If you want to see God, get to this stage by becoming an embodiment of grace.
Enlightenment in English means both ways—you get enlightened and you enlighten others. Since now you have embodied grace, you want to teach grace and enlighten others about grace. You begin to spread the good news of grace. You become a peacemaker. Jesus said,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mat 5:9).
Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace. When you become a peacemaker, you because Christ-like, so you also become a child of God, a Prince or Princess of Peace.
You become a peacemaker by shining the light of grace.
You might think enlightenment is the last stage. Why is there one more step after enlightenment? It’s because this world is the world of disgrace. Just look at Washington these days. In this world of disgrace, no good deed goes unpunished. You might think, by spreading grace, the whole world will love you. No, history has proven that they will hate you and persecute you, and even kill you.
Abraham Lincoln turned this country into a nation of grace, but he was assassinated. Martin Luther King, Jr. enlightened America about living in grace, but he was murdered. Jesus brought grace to this world, but he was crucified.
That’s why you need this one more step: endurance. Not everyone will be killed for being a peacemaker, but you need to be prepared to endure persecution. Grace drains the swamp and the swamp snakes don’t like it, so they resist and revolt. It’s so serious that Jesus spent three verses on this subject, unlike the previous ones:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mat 5:10-12).
How do you endure persecution against your peacemaking effort? Rejoice! Why? As I said at the beginning, if you understand grace, you have nothing to complain about. You can rejoice in everything because you are already in the kingdom of heaven—the kingdom of grace.
At this stage, you are living in heaven on earth! There’s nothing to complain about. The persecution may be hard, but you face with joy in your heart. I hope you can get there—to live in heaven on earth through theses eight steps. Let us all seek to live the grace and bring heaven on earth.
May God bless you all. Amen!