Herald Journal Columns
Nov. 1, 2004 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Jesus is the real deal

By Pastor Robert Hellmann, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran, Montrose

Make a deal with God? Are you kidding? But people try to do it all the time.

“O Lord, let me pass this test and I promise to study for the next one.”

“O Lord, let me win the mega-bucks lottery and I promise to give a big gift to the church.”

“O Lord, cure my sickness and I’ll be in church every Sunday.”

The deals people offer God are endless. Maybe you’ve tried to do it a time or two yourself.

But what about the most serious question each of us must face – death and what comes after it? What kind of deal would you try to make with God to get into heaven?

“O Lord, I’ve lived a perfect life so I know that you have a special place in heaven for me.” Forget that one. The moment we say it we already know that it’s not true. None of us have lived a perfect life. If we think we have, we are only fooling ourselves.

“O Lord, I’ve done some bad things, but the good things I’ve done balance out the bad.” Try the same defense before an earthly judge: “But judge, all the times I didn’t rob a bank should make up for the time I did rob a bank.” It won’t work with an earthly judge, nor will it work with God.

“O Lord, I’ve made some missteps in my life, but I’m a lot better than most people are (or at least better than some).” This too falls way short of God’s standard, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

The truth is that we can’t make a deal with God. We are all sinners who have broken God’s commandments. We have nothing we can offer God to take away our sins. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Martin Luther (1483-1546) also tried to make a deal with God. As a young man, he felt his sins very deeply. He saw God only as a righteous judge who would condemn him to hell because of his sins.

Luther tried to make a deal with God: he would live a holy life and, in turn, God would let him into heaven. Luther tried his hardest to keep the Ten Commandments. But the harder he tried, the more he felt the guilt of his sins. He wasn’t keeping his end of the deal.

Luther responded by trying harder. He withdrew from the world and went into a monastery. He followed all the strict rules of the monastery and then some. But he soon discovered that he had still failed to make himself holy before God. He was in complete despair over ever getting into heaven.

Now, God offered Luther a different kind of deal. This deal is so good that only a fool would reject it. God’s deal is simple. “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came into this world and shed his holy blood to take away the sins of the world. God offers forgiveness and the gift of eternal life freely to all. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

Luther had learned the lesson of God’s law - that we are all sinners. God led him, by studying the Bible, to discover and to believe the gospel – that we are saved by faith in Jesus, who took away our sins on the cross.

Luther was overjoyed to be a forgiven child of God and heir of eternal life. Naturally, he wanted to share this gospel with others. He preached the gospel to large crowds in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and taught it to students in his university classes.

On Oct. 31, 1517, Luther posted his “95 Theses” (statements to debate) on the door of the Castle Church. They were widely reprinted in Germany, and the Reformation was on. The gospel began to spread like wildfire. The rest is history.

Dear reader, where do you stand? Are you still trying to make your own deal with God? No one has ever succeeded in getting to heaven that way.

God’s deal – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – is the only way to heaven.

Jesus is the real deal.

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