How do you get into heaven?
Jesus says you have to be a certain way. He sums up this way in the beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 5:3)
Alternatively, you can suffer and qualify that way:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 5:12)
On the other hand Paul is also quite clear:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Romans 3:21-28.
The classic protestant understanding of the gospel – justification by faith apart from works – is summed up in the above passage from Romans and backed up by many other passages from the New Testament.
So how does that fit with what Jesus says to people in the sermon on the mount? I believe the key is in heart attitude.
There are so many people in this world that won’t ever read Paul’s writings. There are a huge amount of them – billions – who, even if they did read it won’t understand it intellectually. In general, people are not cerebral. However, even the smallest baby knows how to trust. God has made our hearts trusting, we have to be taught not to believe in Him. In that way, the intelligent and those with the leisure and money to spend time reading up all sorts of things on the Internet are handicapped. We believe clever false teachings about life so easily. The humble poor however simply believe and trust God will look after them. To them Jesus speaks and says: “Yours is the kingdom of heaven.”
Those who follow their unspoiled conscience and find themselves persecuted for persevering in doing the right thing are also showing that they believe in their hearts in God. Paul talks about them in Romans 2:
God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. Romans 2: 6-16.
Some of those who are poor in spirit will have been discouraged by now and not have read this far. Others will have read to this point and not understood it. Some will have read and understood and to those I hope this is helpful.
But you don’t have to understand Paul’s writings to be saved. You don’t even have to consciously understand the Good News to believe. Jesus died for your sins so you don’t have to and rose again so He can bring you with Him to His place when you die. That isn’t complicated.
If you don’t think you are much and feel you can’t keep up with the intellectual demands of our technically complicated society don’t worry. It will all be burnt up in the end and your soul will be with the One you trust in. Just keep going.