Will We Be Amazed When We Get to Heaven?

This song, sung by Mahalia Jackson in 1963 the night before the March on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr., makes me think: I believe when I enter heaven, I will stand amazed, thankful, and curious. “You know my soul looks back in wonder how I got over.”

How I got over
How I got over
You know my soul looks back and wonder
How I got over
(rpt)

Soon as I can see Jesus
The man that died for me
Man that bled and suffered
Hung on Calvary
I’m gonna thank him
For how he brought me
I’m gonna thank God
For how he taught me

Yes, thank my God for how he kept me
I’m gonna thank him ’cause He never left me
I’m gonna thank God for ol’ time religion
I’m gonna thank Him for giving me a vision
I’m gon’ join the Heavenly choir
And I’m a-sing and never get tired
I’m gonna sing somewhere ’round God’s alter
And I’m a-shout all my troubles over
Lord, we got to thank you
Thank you for being so good to me
(chorus)

I’m gon’ wear a di-garment
In that New Jerusalem
I’m gonna walk the streets of gold
In that homeland of the soul
I’m gonna view the hosts in white
That been traveling day and night
Coming up from every nation
On their way to the great coronation
Coming from the north, south, east, and west
On their way to a land of rest
Lord, we gonna join the heavenly choir
We gon’ sing and never get tired
Lord, we gon’ sing somewhere ’round your altar
And we gonna shout all our troubles over
Lord, we gotta thank you
Thank you for being so good to me

Hmmm, I wanna thank you, this morning
I wanna thank you, Lord, this morning
You know all, all night long
You kept your angels watching over me
And you told your angels this morning
You told your angels, Lord, this morning
You said, “Touch her, in my name”
You said, “Touch her, in my name”
And I rose, I rose this morning
Lord, I rose, I rose this morning
With the blood, blood running warm
All in my veins, Oh Lord
Lord, I feel, I feel like running
Lord, I feel, I feel like running
Lord, you know I feel, feel like running
Lord, Lord, I feel, I feel like running
Lord, I wanna thank you
Thank you, thank you for being
So good to me.

Songwriters: Herbert Brewster

How I Got Over lyrics © S.I.A.E. Direzione Generale, Bess Music, Clara And Willa Ward Publications, ROYALTY RECOVERY INC

The Unreached People Group of Cultural Christians

Do you ever come across a passage in a book that serves as a proverbial gut-punch? Dean Inserra’s recent book The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel did just that. Here’s that passage about “cultural Christians.”

Cultural Christians are the champions of the belief that good people go to heaven, especially since they believe they are the first in line because of their values. Whether God will punish their personal sins, or if they have been forgiven by Christ’s saving work on the cross is irrelevant. They go to heaven because they have lived in line with their values and raised nice kids. It is a salvation-by-works worldview. They don’t think much about how God factors in, how one knows that heaven is a real place, and what qualifies someone as a good person. But none of those things seem to matter. What matters is being on the nice list, and every Cultural Christian believes they are on it. The Bible is clear that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10), but Cultural Christians often don’t think in terms of righteous and unrighteous. They think in terms of being a good person as defined by Western standards of values and ethics.

(Dean Inserra, The Unsaved Christian. p. 58).

Let’s listify this passage to pull out some needed takeaways:

  1. The belief that good people go to heaven.
  2. They go to heaven due to a set of values they hold.
  3. Being good people and raising nice kids are a key component to that value.
  4. The God as shown in His Word is not a big factor in their decision making.
  5. A good person is defined by Western standards of values and ethics.

Inserra goes on in this chapter to show how belief, values, heritage, rites of passage (such as baptism into a local church), and (sadly) ignorance mark the cultural Christian’s movement. Here’s some key quotes from each:

  • Belief: “Cultural Christians believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that His mom’s name was Mary. They may heven have words like “faith” and “hope” in their home decor. Just below the belief-inspired signs is where the nativity scene is set up for the month of December. They can also tell you exactly what is celebrated on Easter Sunday. Knowing stories of the Bible and believing they actually happened are commonplace in cultural Christianity.” He goes on to share how James 2:19 shows the demons believe these things are true as well, but if there’s no action backing up the faith they claim to hold, it’s dead (James 2:24).
  • Values (see the quote above).
  • Heritage: Inserra notes that “Cultural Christians are usually only a generation or two removed from gospel-believing Christians. The heritage of faith in the family can easily be confused with saving faith in Christ.”
  • Rites of passage: He shares the story of a family who never went to church excited about “Emma’s baptism… this Sunday.” Though they never returned to church, he grew up in a place where this was very important and even noble. In a follow-up conversation, Inserra asked his friend one simple question: “Why?” Doing these rites of passage may give one a reason to think they are in good standing with God. But did a genuine conversation take place?
  • Ignorance: Do cultural Christians know what the gospel is? Have they repented, or have they simply gone to church? Do they really know what the Bible teaches, or are they simply leaning on values in which they’ve grown up?

Why bring this up? The apostle Paul says, “Examine yourselves; test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5b). He wrote this to a church who confessed Christ, yet whose actions veered away from what He taught.

The gut-punch for me was that I need to continue to preach the gospel not just to the unreached outside the church, but for true Christians, cultural Christians, and everyone whom God providentially brings across my path. We all need the gospel. Revival hits when the church embraces the gospel all over again (or maybe for the first time).