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A heaven-like cloud

Good Deeds and Heaven

Buying with Blood


Over many years Bill O’Brien donated more than twelve gallons of blood. He said, “When that final whistle blows and St. Peter asks, ‘What did you do?’ I’ll say, ‘Well, I gave 100 pints of blood, and that ought to get me in.” Do you think Bill’s record is good enough to get him in? Why? 


Dear Santa, Define Good


I threw the javelin for Millersville State College in 1968, 1969, and 1970. I won a silver medal in the event at the Conference Championship Meet.

That sounds impressive! My best throw was 210 feet. Is that good? Compared to whom?

In 1970 the winning throw at the Penn Relays was about 270 feet, and the American record was 300 feet. Enough said! Have you ever won a certificate, trophy, ribbon, or medal for some outstanding performance? If so, how do you compare what you do best with the best in the world?


Accurate measurements are important. They demand a standard. The yard is based on the distance between two lines on a bronze bar made in 1845.

The metric standard of mass is a one-kilogram solid cylinder. It is a platinum-iridium alloy maintained at a constant temperature near Paris.


Jesus’ words, actions, and attitudes are God’s “good” standard. We have to stand back-to-back with Him and not fall short a fraction of a moral inch. Nothing more, and nothing less. Nothing else.


Looking Bad


We desperately need the God who became like us to remake us so we can become like Him. Jesus’ goodness is to ours what the Pacific Ocean is to a puddle. Let’s look at several passages that describe Jesus’ moral perfection.

• "So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him” (John 8:28-29 NLT).

• "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).

• "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same trials we do, yet he did not sin" (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).

• “He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.” (1 Peter 2:22 NLT).


On a scale of 0-100%, how would you grade Jesus’ moral goodness? On the same scale, how would you grade your own?


Not Good Enough


Harold Weirich, my biology professor at Millersville State College, explained why we shouldn’t use a pen to take his exam. “You’re not that good.” We made way too many mistakes. We were pencil and eraser people.


In the moral realm, we write with a pen. The ink represents our words, deeds, and attitudes. We can't erase them. When you consider the paper of your life thus far, do you need a small eraser, a large one, a 55-gallon drum of whiteout, or another sheet altogether?


Good Deeds and Heaven


George Barna’s survey revealed that 83% of Americans believe people are good.    Do you agree with them? Why? Do you think you’ll go to heaven when you die? On what basis should God admit you?


We grossly underestimate God’s “right-living” requirements and overestimate our goodness. God’s moral standards are like a full-grown elephant’s foot. Our excellence is like a baby’s first socks. It’s far from a perfect fit!


The Bible uses several Hebrew words to describe how we fall short of God’s moral standards.


The Boundary Bashers


One word for “sin” in the Bible means crossing a boundary (Hosea 6:7). As children, we often ignore our parents' limits. Sometimes they knew about it, and sometimes they didn’t.


When you were out of bounds as a child, what percentage of the time were you caught? When apprehended, what percentage of the time did you escape punishment?


We’ve all bashed God’s wise and lovingly established boundaries—Heaven’s “video cameras” record every trespass. Romans 2:16 tells us that one day God will judge the secrets of every person.


The Throne-Snatchers


A second word for sin in the Bible means “to break away from.” We’ve denied God’s right to rule over us and gone our own way (1 Timothy 1:9).

We don’t want anyone to tell us what to do. Not even God. Do you agree? Why?


The Love-Challenged


The most common word for sin in the Bible means “to miss the mark” (Romans 3:23). We’ve all repeatedly missed God’s bull's-eye of perfect love for Him and our neighbor. Only Jesus didn’t. We haven’t always loved our neighbor as ourselves. According to Luke 10:30-37, our neighbor is anyone whom we have the capacity and opportunity to help.


Filthy What?


Jeremiah 17:9 NLT says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who knows how bad it is?" Isaiah 64:6 compares our lifetime production of good deeds to filthy rags.

Romans 3:10-23 teaches that no one is righteous, not even one. No one voluntarily seeks God. No one.


Isn’t it odd that 83% of Americans see the same heart these verses describe and call it good? Michael Green wrote, “The breakdown of marriage and family, the worldwide increase of torture and wanton killing, the mindless hedonism and greed, and the emptiness of belief and purpose that characterize so much of the Western world do little to support an optimistic view of human nature.” 


Why Did You Do That?


To truly see ourselves, we must look at our actions and motives. Often, we do “good” things for selfish reasons. A desire to please and bring glory to Jesus' Heavenly Father motivated His' good works.

We want recognition for ourselves. We want others to know about the good we have done. Our purpose on earth isn't to collect all the glory we can for ourselves. Romans 3:27 and Ephesians 2:9 both assure us that no one will have anything to boast about before God.


Perfect Papers


Miss Messer taught English at Middletown Area High School. Her punctuation tests brought her students to their knees. When she detected a single mistake in a sentence, she marked the whole sentence wrong.

None of her sentences were easy to punctuate. Hardly any of her students broke the 0 percent barrier.


Many think they’ll satisfy God if the paper of their life has more words spelled correctly than incorrectly. That's wrong. A holy, righteous God can’t tolerate even one undotted “ i ” or uncrossed “t.” Moral perfection is the standard, and only Jesus has it. According to James 2:10 NLT, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.


It’s very sobering to know we don’t meet God’s right-living, right-talking, right-thinking, perfect paper requirement. What are we going to do? 


A Wasted Sacrifice?


“Maybe if I try a little harder, I can do better,” we tell ourselves. Like a bee in a horizontal bottle with its base against the window, we fly, fly, and fly some more toward the light but never get anywhere.


If we could get to heaven by our performance, why did God, at tremendous personal cost, send his Son to earth to die on the cross? Wouldn’t that mean Jesus suffered and died for nothing? Explain.


Jesus Our Substitute


Romans 6:23 tells us that sin’s penalty is death (spiritual separation from God). In the Old Testament, sheep, oxen, goats, and doves took the sinner's place. The animals had to be perfect, unblemished specimens.

The one making a burnt offering placed his hand on the animal (Leviticus 1:4). That symbolized transferring his guilt. It also represented moving the animal’s innocence to himself.

As we place our hand on Jesus, the Lamb of God, our sins are transferred to Him and His virtues to us through faith. He died for us sinners (Romans 5:6). Not for perfect persons but for messed up ones!

We qualify! Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. He tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). We must trust in the sufficiency of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

We must commit ourselves to Him. When we do, we get credit for Jesus’ perfect life, and He takes the rap for our botched-up one.

"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus' goodness alone can endure the light and fire of God’s judgment. That goodness is credited to our account by faith.

All Expenses Paid


Karen Clemente was in Port Authority Bus Terminal in Times Square waiting to take a bus to Hoboken, NJ. A scruffy-looking man asked her for change for the bus, and he couldn’t afford the fare. As she walked toward the bus's open door, she couldn’t decide whether to help him.

Once inside, she found the $1.25 she needed to pay the man’s fare. The driver closed the door and began pulling out of the station.

She exclaimed, “Don’t leave! Let that man in. I’ll pay for him.”  How does what Karen did illustrate what Jesus did for all humanity?

Finding the Light

Although there are no good people, we can become better people by becoming more like Him in our faith, witnessing to others, and becoming part of a church. Use these resources to grow up in your faith and help others do the same.



1. Kuntzman, Gersh. in New York Post printed in “Heroes for Today” in Reader’s Digest. July 1998. 

2. Barna, George. What Americans Believe. Regal. 1991. 

3. Green, Michael. Evangelism Through the Local Church. Oliver Nelson. 1992. 

4. Clemente, Karen. In “Brightside.” Campus Crusade for Christ. November 1997.

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