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grace

Glorious Grace

“But God still loved us with such great love. He is so rich in compassion and mercy. Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace! (Ephesians 2:4-5)

I am not naturally a good person. Nobody, by nature, is good. Sure, we try to make ourselves think we are good compared to the “bad people” we see around us. We have an unrealistic view of our goodness, like a drove of pigs in a filthy pigpen comparing themselves to each other and feeling clean because some other pig is dirtier.

Psalm 36:1-2 says, “They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are.” When we think we’re pretty good, we’re still wicked at heart. The money we give to the homeless doesn’t change it. Working with underprivileged children doesn’t change it. No effort of our own can make us “good.”

 “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil …All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature…” (Ephesians 2:2-3). Two forces push us toward sin—the influence of the devil and our own natural inclinations.

Whether we make a wreck of our lives, leaving pain and problems everywhere we turn, or live so-called moral lives, making good decisions and helping other people, we are still tainted by sinfulness.  Unless we turn to God it doesn’t matter if we live a “bad” life or a “good” life. Either way, we are spiritually dead, headed for trouble in this life and doom in the next. Nothing we do on our own remedies our plight.

We are born with terminal sinfulness. That’s the bad news. The good news is—there’s a cure.

Ephesians 2:4 begins, “But God…” Don’t you love those two words? But God…did not leave us spiritually dead and doomed in our sin.

In his book, “Ephesians for You,” Richard Coekin gives this illustration of our dramatic rescue:

Imagine yourself as a decaying corpse…trussed up in chains inside a coffin…headed inexorably to the flames of the crematorium. Suddenly, as your coffin is engulfed by flames, someone leaps into the flames, smashes open the coffin, and despite the horrific burns that scar him forever, retrieves your corpse, breathes life into your body, washes you and clothes you in his own clothes, tenderly carries you to his chauffeur-driven Bentley and takes you home to his father’s presidential palace to stay in his rooms and feast at his table, enjoying the hospitality of his father forever.

That’s our story—the story of glorious grace. Those of us who have been so gloriously rescued should never view it as mundane or ordinary. We should never live a day without expressing sincere gratitude for what God did for us. I am so humbled and thankful for his grace. Isn’t it absolutely glorious?

Heavenly Father, I cannot express how thankful I am for your glorious grace. Forgive me for any time I thought I was good enough on my own. I know that my so-called righteousness is like filthy rags in your sight. I didn’t deserve your love and mercy, but you wrapped me in them anyway. Your grace still amazes me. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

(Today’s Reading: Ephesians 2:1-6)

Two Sides of the Same Coin

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ…” (2 John 1:3)

Some things just seem to go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Macaroni and cheese. Grace and mercy.

Grace and mercy are like heads and tails—two sides of the same coin. Grace is receiving a blessing we did not deserve. Mercy is deserving a punishment, but not receiving it. When we were saved, our sins were forgiven. We deserved punishment, but instead received mercy. Also, when we were saved, we became a child of God, joint heirs with Jesus, and were given eternal life—which we in no way deserved but received by grace.

We certainly enjoy receiving grace and mercy for ourselves, but sometimes we find it hard to extend grace and mercy to others.

David found himself in just that situation in 1 Samuel, chapter 24. As you may remember, Saul was on a blood-thirsty quest to murder David. One day, Saul went into a cave to “relieve himself.” In a weird coincidence, David and his men were hiding in that very same cave.

When David’s men saw Saul in the cave, they urged David to kill Saul, saying this chance to defeat his enemy was an opportunity sent from God.

Put yourself in David’s shoes for just a minute. David knew Saul would certainly kill him if given a chance. Surely, justice would permit him to kill Saul. Surely, Saul deserved it. But David didn’t do it. Instead of justice, David extended mercy.

David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. As Saul left the cave, David shouted for Saul, and bowed before him. In this vulnerable position, David showed Saul the piece of cloth cut from his robe. Saul realized David could have killed him…but didn’t. Saul began to cry and thanked David for his kindness. Saul asked David not to kill his family when David became king, and David extended grace by agreeing to his request.

Reconciliation flows out of mercy and grace.

Our sense of justice sometimes blocks our expression of grace and mercy. We sometimes think, “serves them right,” or, “I can’t believe they did that.” We treat people harshly when we only look at what they deserve. Justice may scream for retaliation, but grace and mercy remind us the many times we were given something much different than what we deserved.

When tempted to hold a grudge, write someone off, or think less of someone because of their actions, stop and listen to grace and mercy. Remember how we were forgiven, our debt paid, and our soul saved when we were totally undeserving. God treats us with grace and mercy. Let’s demonstrate his character by showing grace and mercy to others.

Father God, Thank you for grace and mercy. You saw me when I was lost, forgave my sins, and gave me your peace. I was so undeserving. Thank you for not giving me what I deserved, but instead giving me grace and mercy. Help me remember to treat others the same way—not necessarily what they deserve, but what grace and mercy demands. Let me live in a way that shows your character to a lost world that they may come to know you. In Jesus’s name, amen.