I had a conversation recently with a dear friend who didn’t understand how a loving God wouldn’t let him into heaven simply because he didn’t believe in Jesus. He was a good person! How could a loving God do this, he wondered.

I understood where he was coming from. I didn’t understand this either for the longest time. I finally realized that the reason I didn’t understand was because my assumptions were wrong.

I thought I DESERVED automatic entrance into heaven simply because I was a good person and led an upright life.

Remember Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? This was one of my all time favorite books as a kid.  For those who don’t know (really?), the amazing and mysterious Willy Wonka ran a chocolate factory that no one had ever seen. Wonka decided to hold a drawing so five lucky kids would be given a private behind-the-scenes tour. To accomplish this, Wonka hid five golden tickets inside thousands of chocolate bars. Whoever found the golden ticket would get a tour. Imagine the joy in the heart of those lucky kids!

Did any of the winners deserve entrance into the chocolate factory? No. They were given entrance because the owner allowed it. This was his prerogative because he was the owner. And if you know the story, you know that most of those kids were terrible, but they were still allowed in because they had the golden ticket.

I don’t completely understand it with my logical mind, but something unspeakably profound happened on a spiritual level when our Creator allowed Himself to be killed by His creation. Jesus, fully God and fully man but without sin, took the punishment of sin, which is death, on our behalf. And in that moment, Jesus became the OWNER over death. As owner, Jesus holds the keys to heaven.

Furthermore, God doesn’t condemn people to hell. We are already there! Our rebel hearts, ones we inherited but nevertheless are what we have, put us on the path to death and eternal separation from God. Ouch.

But there’s good news! Phew.

God in His great mercy gives EVERYONE a golden ticket to heaven in the name of our Savior Jesus! Everyone can have victory over death and the fate of our rebel hearts. All you have to do is accept the gift, give your heart to Jesus in repentance, and believe.

How awesome…and how utterly simple…is that?

What will YOU decide? Will you open the gift and receive? Or will you tear it up in God’s face, shake your fist at Him and say “not good enough.”

The choice is yours.