The kingdom of heaven is like Chuck E Cheeses.

For anyone who may not have ever been to a Chuck E Cheeses, it is basically a place parents take their children to play in ball pits, various tubes, and slides.  There is pizza and a cast of animatronic characters.  It also features an arcade with a variety of skilled and video games.

When I was young, it was a common staple of birthday parties to get to go to Chuck E Cheeses.  (Henceforth abbreviated as CEC since it’s ridiculous to type.)  At the time, it was a blast.  I’m sure if the day comes that I have kids of my own, I’ll be over it by then, but most of my memories of the place are fond ones.

I’m forgetting something though…

The tickets.

You see, there was a prize counter, and if you played the right games you would earn tickets at the end of the game.  You would collect the tickets and turn them in for prizes just before you went home.  Each prize cost a certain number of tickets and it was often my goal to earn enough for a Nintendo or a bike or one of the cooler, bigger prizes.  The problem is that the amount of tickets you earned was directly related to how well you played the games.  A perfect performance would gain you far more tickets than the performances I was able to turn in.  So while I wanted the Nintendo that was 1000 tickets,  I was usually able to scrap up about 72 by the time we left for the day.  Enough to get me some sort of fake gold ring, and maybe some candy or some other equally worthless trinket.

It seemed like no matter how hard I fought to win tickets…I couldn’t earn enough to get what I really wanted.

No matter how hard I try to be good enough, I’ll never earn my way into heaven.

An imperfect performance in the games meant I wouldn’t get what I wanted.  An imperfect performance in life has separated me from the life I could have lived, and the future I could have had.  A game is a game, but this life thing…it’s serious.  This ‘sin’ thing is serious.

Sin isn’t messing up in a game of skiball, but any time I’ve disobeyed or deliberately hurt someone, that was an act of rebellion, an act of sin.  I’ve been found in rebellion against God and his commands in my life more times than I can count, and the end result is that I will not earn my way into heaven.

That’s why Jesus stepped in.

Imagine a father taking on the games in our place.  Earning the tickets we could never possibly earn.  Imagine this battle to win tickets costing him everything.  (Probably not too hard to imagine if you’ve ever been to CEC)  The father finishes the game victorious and walks up to you to hand you all the tickets you’ll need to redeem for the desire of your heart.  He hands you so many tickets they have to bring you a bag to keep them all in.

Imagine a father, sending his son to fight the battle for perfection on our behalf.  Earning the reward we never could, never will.  Imagine the son giving everything to earn this perfection for you.  The son, hanging on a cross, bleeding and beaten, hands you a white robe and tells you you’ve been made clean as he breathes his last and closes his eyes.

Now imagine you take that bag of tickets and go home, hiding them in your closet.  You leave them there until it’s too late to redeem them, and they are thrown out into the garbage.

You see, you didn’t redeem the tickets.  They’ve done you no good.  Having the tickets is one thing, but you can turn them in for something far better.

Jesus has bought your forgiveness, but will you redeem it?  Will you accept the new life that he is offering you, that he fought for and bought with his very own life?

Turn your tickets in.

Be redeemed.