Upholding the official beliefs and doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and spreading the three angels' message of Revelation 14:6-12
LESSON 10 - GRACE BEFORE JUSTICE
GRACE BEFORE JUSTICE
A man has been sitting in prison for years, sentenced for grievous bodily harm resulting in death. Two appeals for parole have been turned down. Embittered, he explains that nobody visits him. His friends have left him in the lurch.
One day everything changes. He is standing for roll call in the prison yard. As always he is only half listening to what is being said. It doesn't concern him. Yet suddenly he pricks up his ears. 'On the occasion of her birthday the Queen has declared an amnesty which will affect the following people...' His name too is included. He thought he had fought for his freedom in vain, and now freedom has simply come his way.
Amnesty means being let off the punishment which by rights you should serve. You are given grace which you have no claim to. Nobody is duty bound to accept grace. It is a free gift.
ATTEMPTS TO GET CLOSE TO GOD
From the beginning of time man has tried to make contact with God. Religious worship, rituals, sacrifices and altars, blood and tears, incense and candles, piety and good works are well-known human efforts to find a God of grace. Behind all this lies the recognition that man cannot succeed alone. What should he do with his ruined post, with his feelings of guilt and fear of the future? Life seems like hell. Is there a way out?
GOD IS CLOSE BY
Religious exertion does not solve the problem of our guilt. The Bible makes that crystal clear when it shows us the only possible way.
'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast.' Ephesians 2:8,9.
That is the Gospel, the Good News. Grace means that God has come to us. No longer must I 'deserve' a God of grace. He comes to me. The search is at an end. Jesus Christ says:
'"I am the way and the truth and the life."' John 14:6.
God turns to me. He does not simply cover up my guilt. He releases me from it. Jesus speaks about it in a parable (Matthew 18:23-27): A servant owed his king an unimaginably high amount of money. He could not pay it back. Thereupon the kind ordered that he and his whole family should be sold as slaves. In despair the man begged the king to have patience. He would certainly repay the money. The king showed pity and decided to cancel the debts.
The roles in the parable are clear. We are the debtors; God, the King. Even the behaviour is transparent. We imagine that we can pay off the debts and make good our mistakes. We want to buy ourselves freedom with our piety, prayers and good works. By this we don't really believe that our guilt is absolutely unrepayable, and God allows justice to give way to grace. He has pity on us and forgives us everything. Because he knows that without Him we would not have the slightest chance, not only does He forgive, but He takes everything upon Himself.
BOUGHT AND PAID FOR
God's compassion for us is so great that He sacrificed His Son Jesus Christ for us. On the cross we recognize this symbol for His love, justice and grace. Perhaps we find it difficult to grasp and understand this, but we can firmly believe in it.
'For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.' 1 Peter 1:18,19.
'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.' John 3:16,17.
REVERSAL OF ROLES?
Grace, or pardon, is an indescribably strong force which permanently changes our lives. This is not true just for our relationship with God, but of necessity also for our behaviour with our fellow human beings. The reversal of roles in the story of the servant and the king makes this clear.
After the servant had been excused of his debts he met a man who owed him a very small amount which he was unable to pay. Without mercy the servant then had him thrown into prison (Matthew 18:28-30).
The servant only took the smaller part of the gift which the king had made to him, namely the forgiven debts. He had not understood the underlying principle of generosity and mercy. Therefore he had his debtor punished. On the other hand grace which has been experienced and properly understood releases a chain reaction of forgiveness and restitution. It excludes nobody, includes everybody.
A GIFT IS A GIFT
He who has been pardoned by God can still become guilty. As long as we live we have to fight against sin. We are and remain incomplete. But that should not discourage anybody. Whoever asks for forgiveness and forgives others will remain in grace. We can depend upon the fact that we will never stand alone before God in our guilt. An Intercessor always stands in for us.
'If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.' 1 John 2:1.
The debt has been repaid, the past overcome That makes us happy, and joy cannot be kept secret. Whoever has experienced mercy tells others about it (2 Corinthians 5:20) I do not have to earn mercy, nor do I need to worry about ever losing it again.
"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed", says the Lord, who has compassion on you.' Isaiah 54:10.
The only thing that I have to do is accept the gift and pass it on.
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