You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).
Decades ago, I (Phil) was in a group of men that had met together almost every week for a year. We had shared our struggles, pain, heartache, and sin, as well as our triumphs, joys, and spiritual growth. As we talked about grace, one of the men's faces flushed bright red with angry intensity. His words spewed out with soul-grinding bitterness:
I’m usually good about redirecting comments, but I sat there absolutely stunned and dumbfounded. No one moved. I’m not sure any of the guys breathed for the next several minutes. Our friend’s resentment, along with his self-righteous arrogance, fell through the air like a bomb descending slowly from high altitude, but about to land with a life-destroying jolt.
After this extended silence, one of the guys asked to pray for our friend and his broken heart. After the “Amen!” everyone made a loving attempt of affirmation for him but left quickly. I was left alone to visit with this angry young man. Unfortunately, he went out and did what he had threatened, ripping a deep hole in his soul before he recognized that no one "got away with the good stuff of sin" without causing incalculable self-harm. It took several years for him to dig out of the hole he made for himself with his lack of appreciation for grace and his own need of it before he went on his sinful spree of long-desired debauchery.
James talks about this deeply needed grace in today’s video:
If you can't see the video, and you sure don't want to miss it, view it online. For additional ideas to consider and some things to discuss with others, we encourage you to look at the Study Guide.
I love James' emphasis:
God extends his mercy and grace to us, longing to awaken us to the life he gave everything for us to have. He loves us so much that he even gave his Son for us (John 3:16-17). And, God gave us mercy and grace when we didn't deserve it. Notice the underlined words in the scripture above. This list is our resume to apply for the grace we need:
Our state of lostness is when God showed us his love, mercy, and grace. We didn't deserve it any more than Cain... or Jeffrey Dahmer. You see, we don't measure our worthiness based on the worst of sinners we can imagine. Our worthiness is based upon an honest evaluation of ourselves compared to God. Our resume shows that we have all fallen short, way short of the character and compassion to which we have been called to live and created to display. But, thank God and his mercy and grace, that is not the end of our story.
Paul, the great apostle, had spent his life trying to be the best a good, righteous, religious person could be. He dedicated his life to doing what he thought was right. He felt that he had lived way above the line of righteousness achieved by his peers (Philippians 3:4-8). But, his religious zeal had led him to do the unthinkable. Yet in his honesty about doing the unthinkable, God's grace reached him and changed the world forever through him. Paul said it this way:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
No matter how far you have fallen short of God's character and compassion (Romans 3:23-25), God's grace reaches out to give you what you could not earn and do not deserve. No matter what you feel you may have achieved religiously for God, God's grace reaches out to bless you with what you do not deserve and could never deserve (Philippians 3:7-11). Jesus came into the world to save sinners, people who are not deserving of his grace and mercy. Jesus came to bring grace for the worst of us... even me!
Our prayer is that this grace has come to your heart, that you celebrate, cherish, and share this grace with others. And, we hope you will choose to join us in seeking and celebrating this grace together as we travel on down our journey of redemption!
Until next time, let's stay the course and keep seeking lasting truth about God, life, and the meaning of our journey!
Just as the oceans wash the beach free of the footprints of low tide, so also does the mercy of God wash away the sins of life's lowest times. He freely gives us this grace in Jesus so that our lives can have a fresh start for our new journey home to him. May that this journey of grace and mercy be yours today!
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:11-12).
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