By Rick Marschall
SWARTZ CREEK, MI (ANS) — A lot of Christians think about Heaven in the same way that agnostics sort of hope about the afterlife, and even as assorted Hottentots of the world’s pagan cults think about appeasing the gods. That is, that “good deeds” might earn the way to eternal life.
Just act nice, nothing more? Jesus didn’t believe it, and told us so. I have gotten to think about numbers — the numbers of times the Bible tells us that our hearts matter more to God than our deeds. The number of times Jesus and the apostles affirmed it. The number of good deeds we’d have to do to persuade God that unbelief doesn’t matter.
A big number, 2000. Two thousand years since Paul wrote: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Charities, nice; but they do not equal Heaven. If so, Jesus could have saved Himself some major grief. Or 500. Five hundred years since Christians rediscovered Ephesians 2:8, 9 — “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Two thousand years, five hundred years, are a lot years to neglect when thinking about the Bible’s truths. Here are other numbers for Christians to think about. Forget good deeds like charities. Think about sins. We all sin. Yours might be small ones, but let’s count some.
Do you sin once a day? Think an impure thought, or hold onto an unforgiveness? Maybe a white lie? Share a little gossip? Don’t pray when you know you should? Fail to whisper a Christian blessing when someone needs it? Anything you don’t confess?
Let’s say you do any one of these things just once a day — which would make you a virtual saint among all the rest of us, but, anyway… that one sin a day makes for 365 a year. Over 10 years, that’s 3,650. If you have, say, 30 more years to live, that’s more than 10,000 sins.
On the other hand, if you commit these sins, even “little” sins, once an hour during your waking hours — still not an absurd standard — that’s a total of 160,00 sins. For 30 years. Let’s count starting at, say, age 12, and go until the statistical life expectancy of an American female, 82. That would add up to more than 400,000 sins. Careful: transgress a couple times an hour, and you’ll wind up a millionaire. in the sinner’s lottery.
Viewed in that statistical perspective, you’d need a lot of good deeds, a pile of charity receipts, to face eternity fearlessly, right? Well the good news — the Good News — is, we don’t have to pile up numbers of this OR that on scales of justice. Not about this. Confess with your mouth, believe in your heart.
But let’s not put the math books away yet. It is human nature to think we must do good deeds… and don’t get me, or the scriptures, wrong: We SHOULD. And we DO. When Jesus lives in our hearts, we want to do good, we cannot hold back from taking joy in good deeds. Charity becomes our response, not our “meal ticket”!
Final numbers-crunching, for those who want to: on the general basis of the mathematics above:
In your waking hours, each day, you have approximately 250 opportunities to do those good deeds — kind thoughts, helping hands, reassuring words. That’s if you show charity only every five minutes. That’s 1,750 times a week.
Expand those “good deeds” plus the time-frame: if you raise your children aright, if you pray with a hurting soul, if you seek God when He wants to talk to your spirit — added to the others, at the same pace, would approach 100,000 chances to do “good deeds” every year.
You see it coming, math wizards: Live a normal lifespan, have the love of Jesus in your heart, do good deeds because obedient and joyful Christians are good-deed-doers, and your are in the neighborhood of 7-million acts of love. The root meaning of “charity,” they’ll tell you in other classrooms, is “love.”
So, you do the arithmetic. Count the acts of charity, planning for the payoff. Or lose count of the acts of love, knowing you’re already “home,” knowing “all these things shall be added unto you.” We don’t love because we have to. That’s not love! When we act charitably from the overflow of our hearts, God’s showers of blessing will follow.
Numbers. Did you ever count the number of raindrops in a Spring shower? Not too easy, not too practical, not possible! Yet God’s response to our acts of love will be “showers of blessing”!
Have you been counting the wrong numbers? Are you hoping your good deeds will outweigh your bad ones? Maybe it’s time to observe the only numbers that matter. Psalm 105:4 teaches us to “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.” and Rev 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
The Bible says that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for our sins, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) It also says that if you confess with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) Take careful account of these numbers well and show God how much you love Him, pray something like this:
Jesus, please forgive me for my sin. I know that you died for me and that you have a plan for my life. Please teach me your ways and help me to live my life for you, free from the fears of this world and the next. I want to be ready for eternity with you. Amen
Congratulations, if you have prayed this prayer the Bible states, “ Therefore, if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Cr 5:17)