Herald Journal Columns
Oct. 3, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

A man dies and goes to heaven

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

A few weeks ago, I ran across this modern parable (no author was listed):

A man dies and goes to heaven. He arrives at the gate to heaven and a voice says to him, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done. I will give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says. “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” the voice says. “That’s worth three points.”

“Only three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my offerings and service.”

“Terrific,” the voice says. “That’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point!?!!” the man says. “How about this. I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless people.”

“Fantastic,” the voice says. “That’s good for two more points.”

Exasperated, the man cries out, “At this rate, the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God.”

“Bingo, 100 points! Come on in.”

We often try to fix problems with WD-40 and duct tape. God did it with a nail. Amen.

The point the parable makes is that we cannot get to heaven by doing good works. Someone might object, “Wait a minute. I’m not perfect, but I’m as good as the next guy. And besides, there are a lot worse people around than me.”

That may be true, but it doesn’t help us in the least. God’s standard is not, “I’m as good as the next guy.” It’s, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

The awful truth is that none of us meets God’s standard. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Because we can’t save ourselves, we need God’s grace. Grace means God’s free and undeserved love for us sinners. His love for us sinners is what moved the eternal Son of God to become a man and to become “obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)

By his sacrificial death, Jesus paid for the guilt of all sins. Yours, mine, everybody’s.

Forgiveness and salvation is a free gift from God and available to all. But how does it come to me, personally?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

There it is in a nutshell. By faith in Jesus we have the forgiveness and salvation that he won for us on the cross.

Faith is the empty hand that gladly receives the gift from God.

What a relief. We don’t have to do the impossible – save ourselves. Jesus has done it all for us. We are free from the punishment of God’s law. We are free to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves – not to try to save ourselves, but rather to thank God for having saved us.

Eternal life is ours. No points needed, just the grace of God in Christ!

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