by Pastor Dan Miller
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections. It appears here verbatim.
I do not know anyone famous. I can boast of no connections to powerful people. And so like most of us commoners, a brush with a person of renown is an experience you don’t soon forget. I have had a handful of these encounters, but one stands out above the rest. I tell this story repeatedly, not because I’m infatuated with the experience, but because it so clearly illustrates a deeper reality I want the world to hear.
Tom White was a high school friend of mine in Pennsylvania. Tom was not famous, but his dad was. Tom’s dad, Bill, was a six-time All-Star and Gold Glove first baseman in the National League from 1956-1969. By the time Tom and I became friends, Bill was a seasoned radio announcer for the New York Yankees and on track to become the first African-American president of the National League (1989-1993).
My family moved from the east coast to Minnesota the summer before my senior year of high school. Wanting to keep in touch, Tom called one day to inform me that he would fly to Minneapolis with the Yankees who were scheduled for a weekend series against the Twins. If I would meet Tom at a prearranged location outside Met Stadium, he would take care of things from there. I cannot convey the thrill of that offer.
So on a beautiful August afternoon, I met Tom who handed me my ticket—compliments of the Yankees—and we entered the stadium. We found our seats along the third base line and enjoyed the game and the time to reconnect as friends. During the seventh inning stretch, Tom navigated the way to an announcer’s booth—what a view!—where he introduced me to his dad during a commercial break. Bill White greeted me warmly and we chatted briefly. It was an wonderful experience.
Following the game, Tom took me to the locker room area and we exited through the press gate. As the doors opened to the outside, a cluster of reporters surged forward to meet us, then slowly drew back when they realized we were not players. That in itself was a strange thrill.
I will never forget that day as long as I live, and I will always be grateful to Tom White for making it possible. How foolish it would be to think I earned that experience or could have created it on my own merits. Had I stood at the gate and asked to get into that game free of charge, I would have been told in no uncertain terms to take a hike. I could have waxed eloquent about what a great baseball fan I was, or insisted that I knew Tom White. My pleadings would have been to no avail. And had I tried to enter that announcer’s booth in an attempt to meet Bill White on my own initiative, I would have been escorted from the premises in handcuffs.
There was only one reason I got into that baseball game, and only one reason I met Bill White that day. That reason was Tom White. Without Tom, I had no rights or privileges. With Tom at my side, I had the virtual run of Met Stadium and enjoyed audience with a baseball legend.
I retell this story often because it illustrates so well my relationship with God through Jesus Christ—a relationship I long for everyone to experience. The Bible reveals that we have no inherent right to enter God’s presence in heaven. Born in a state of alienation from him, we can contribute nothing toward gaining access to him (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:1-3, 8-9).
If you think your knowledge of God will get you into heaven, you are wrong. If you think going to church or doing good deeds will get you into heaven, you are wrong. No one will stand at heaven’s gate and gain entrance by claiming to know who God is or by claiming to have been a good person, any more than I could have gained entrance into Met Stadium because I knew a thing or two about Bill White or because I liked baseball.
No one will enter the celestial stadium of heaven unless he or she is brought in on the arm of Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 affirms “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all …” You have to know the Son to meet the Father. Only Jesus can win you audience with God. As Jesus put it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (John 14:6-7).
The good news is that Jesus has purchased your ticket by sacrificing his life in your behalf and paying the penalty of your sin (1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21). If you will own your inability and unworthiness to enter heaven on personal merit (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9), and will by faith humbly accept Christ’s gracious offer to freely pave the way for you, he will walk you into the throne room of God. And there you will receive a warm welcome from the holy Father, not because of who you are or what you have done; but because of who Jesus is and what he has done in your behalf. What an awesome experience that will be—an experience, I assure you, for which you will thank Jesus forever.
|Dan Miller has served as senior pastor of Eden Baptist Church (Savage, MN) since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (Owatonna, MN) with a B.S. degree in 1984. His graduate degrees include an M.A. in History from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He is nearing completion of D.Min. studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Dan is married to Beth, and the Lord has blessed them with four children.