A man dies and goes to heaven where St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I 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,” says St. Peter. “That’s worth three points!”
“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”
“Terrific!” says St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.”
“One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”
“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.
“TWO POINTS!!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”
“Come on in!”
Grace is one of the most taken-for-granted messages of scripture, yet there is nothing more life-changing than this fearsome force flowing from God’s heart to messes like us. It is offered to transform our lives, and once we grab hold of its treasures, we will never be the same. If ever there were an identity-changer, it is grace.
Pastor Bill Giovannetti wrote a powerful article on this truth. “People act out of who they are. If you want a man to love his wife better, you can teach him to communicate, suggest he
bring flowers, and offer ways to express affection in the daily routines of life. That’ll preach.
“But what if he hates himself? What if he has never overcome early abandonment issues? What if the voice of dysfunction keeps screaming he’s a failure, or if all the programming inside defines him as a loser? In that case, there are no ‘practical steps toward being a better husband’ that will work.”
Giovannetti continues with the answer: Man must understand that in God’s eyes, he is righteous, valued, beloved and accepted. Scripture proves that God lavishes him with grace and calls him righteous, “so he’s got nothing left to prove to that abusive, dead father who keeps hissing from his grave.” The gifted author prompts us to get involved. “Help him see how the Redeemer’s blood has set him free from every shackle slapped on him by his stoned-out mother or that bully who made school a living hell. Grace rehabs the identity first… and maybe, two months down the road he might actually say a kind word to his wife because he’s finally feeling better about himself, in Christ.”
We cannot work enough to impress God in an effort to earn points or negate our sins. Ephesians 1:6 advises us how to proceed. Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son!
It is a reminder of where we need to start…and end.