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Am I Beyond God's Forgiveness? Am I Beyond God’s Forgiveness?
    by Jim Clark

    Did you ever think you were beyond God’s forgiveness? Russell Ford has befriended hundreds of men who believed that lie. Yet God’s grace showed them otherwise. When I read his story this summer I was struck with the beauty of Christ’s forgiveness and the miracle of God’s awesome grace.

    Russell Ford has watched many of his friends die. It’s an integral part of his most unusual ministry. Ford is a chaplain for Death Row inmates in Boydton, Virginia. He knows he can’t save men’s lives. But he can lead them to the One who saves souls. Ford works with men who have committed gruesome murders. Some of them refuse to accept Christ’s forgiveness. But thankfully, some do. He has helped several brutal murderers become repentant pilgrims. Men like Alton Waye. He was convicted for killing a sixty-one year old woman. Even other death row inmates found Waye to be particularly mean. As with others, Russell Ford taught this man the gospel. Months passed and yet Waye didn’t seemed to change. Then days before his 1989 execution, this murderer’s demeanor had suddenly reversed. Ford walked Waye’s cell and found him singing spirituals. He had decided to accept the pardon from Jesus. The night before he was executed Alton Waye, the murderer, confessed his faith in Jesus and was baptized. Twelve members of the death squad witnessed God’s miracle of redemption. After the baptism, they all joined hands, singing “Amazing Grace” and reciting the Lord’s prayer.

    No one is beyond Christ’s forgiveness. You may think, “But I feel so unworthy. I’ve failed God so terribly.” Listen, we’ve all failed. We’re all sinners. The great apostle Paul called himself the worst of sinners. And yet Christ showed him mercy “as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.“ (1 Timothy 1:16, NIV)

    When you’ve really blown it with your life. When you just can’t shake this feeling that God won’t forgive you, the place to go is Jesus. As I think of the stories of Jesus interacting with “sinners” and religious leaders, I’m reminded of the stark contrast between His interaction with each group. So often those who knew they were wrong before God were often the ones most attract to the Lord. While those who believed their religious balance sheet put them in the black locked horns with this One who claimed to be the Messiah.

Jesus extended the realm of God’s mercy.
    I’ve just finished an outstanding book on Jesus by my favorite author, Philip Yancey. It’s entitled The Jesus I Never Knew. His chapter on the revolution of grace unearthed for me a fresh new glimpse at the approachable nature of Jesus. As he peruses the various encounters Jesus had with the unsavory people of his day, Yancey makes these observations:

“In word and deed Jesus was proclaiming a radically new gospel of grace...In short, Jesus moved the emphasis from God’s holiness (exclusive) to God’s mercy (inclusive). Instead of the message ‘No undesirables allowed,’ he proclaimed, ‘In God’s kingdom there are no undesirables.’ By going out of his way to meet with Gentiles, eat with sinners, and touch the sick, he extended the realm of God’s mercy.”

    As I read of the grisly crimes of these death row inmates, I caught myself thinking the words of the pious Pharisee in Luke 18. Then I read Chaplain Ford’s reminder: “Christ died for all of our sins. These men committed terrible sin, but they are not beyond God’s love.“ Aren’t we all guilty? Paul states clearly that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. “For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the God’s plan.“ (Romans 3:23) In a sense, everyone of us is on death row. Until Jesus opens the door locked by our sin and acquits us of our crime against the Holy One. We all can be pardoned because Jesus “went to the chair” for us. Everyone of us. “A man who has faith is freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Christ Jesus.“ (Romans 3:24)

    We can learn a lot from Alton Waye, the death row inmate. He discovered that the grace of God was not out of his reach, no matter how badly he sinned. And neither is it out of reach for all of us. Look again at Jesus. Look again to Jesus. His life and sacrifice for us shout out the timeless good news-an eternal pardon is awaiting anyone who comes to the Father through faith in His Son. He’s the author of radical grace, the grace that truly can set our souls free.

    When you feel you’ve outsinned God’s grace, remember this: your forgiveness doesn’t depend on your worthiness, but on what Christ has done for you at the cross. He loves you. Receive that love and new start today.


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About the Author...
Jim Clark is Response Minister with Herald of Truth and Hope for Life. For more details, click here.

 
Title: "Am I Beyond God's Forgiveness?"
Author: Jim Clark
Publication Date: July 11, 2000

 

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