Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Wonderful Peace"1 (Lyrics)
Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (NIV)
I attended a Christian retreat where the guest speaker asked this thought-provoking question: "How would you feel if God pardoned a repentant murderer who prayed a simple prayer of salvation from his deathbed?"
At first, a hush fell over the conference room, but eventually, it evolved into quite a heated debate. Most guests agreed that God alone knows our hearts, and only He knows whether people have sincerely put their faith in Christ as their Saviour and Lord. Much to our surprise, an older church member responded with this angry question: "I've had to keep God's commandments for more than eighty years to obtain my share of God's inheritance, so tell me, why should a murderer get off scot-free and receive forgiveness after only minutes of holy living? Surely someone who has lived a lifetime of good clean Christian living should count for more in God's eyes than a deathbed confession."
The bitterness in his voice left my spirit feeling unsettled for days afterward. My thoughts were not about the murderer; instead, I couldn't shake off that horrible aftertaste of bitterness that had flowed so freely out of the mouth of a professed Christian. I have often wondered if any guests seeking to know God would have fled the conference and never looked back!
I don't know what had caused such bitterness in the elder's heart. It was plain to see that he believed that his time spent working for God was worthy of a larger inheritance than others. Sadly, this man had missed the grace of God and a bitter root had grown up along the way. As C. S. Lewis put it, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."
How natural it is to assume that God rewards our righteous living with eternal life. But Jesus explained God's grace in the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, where the owner generously paid the workers who had worked only one hour the same as those who had worked all day. How easy it is to forget that each Christian is saved by God's grace alone, not by good works! Instead, our good works arise out of gratitude for God's grace.
Can you hear God asking us in the words of the vineyard owner, "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?" (Matthew 20:15 ESV) And remember the words of Jesus to the repentant thief on the cross, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43 ESV)
In conclusion, brothers, and sisters in Christ, "How would you feel if God pardoned a repentant murderer who prayed a simple prayer of salvation from his deathbed?"
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, help us to remember that, despite our righteous lives, each one of us is a sinner, and none of us would be forgiven without Your grace. May bitterness never take root in our hearts. Amen.