When Grace Is Missing

Friday, May 27, 2022
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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.

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About the author:

Lois Macdonald <loismacs5@gmail.com>
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thank you.


    A great reminder, Lois.


    Thank you, Lois. A good challenge for all of us.


    I needed that prayer today. Thank you so much.


    Thank you for your thought-provoking post, Lois. God bless!


    Yes!! Amen! Thank you.
    (N.S.)


    As Christians we gain benefits of hope, love, stability in our lives.


    While I agree that it is God’s prerogative to forgive and bequeath a repentant sinner, I take the position of the elder brother of the prodigal son.


    You nailed the Grace of God Lois! And oh, how easy it is for us to be offended with measure The Almighty chooses to give to others. Blessings.


    Good morning, Lois
    Thank you for your thought-provoking devotional this morning.
    Blessings.


    Amen Lois. God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways…and thank God, they’re not!
    Blessings.


    Amen and amen, Lois! St. Paul reminds us that there is no one who deserves God’s mercy and grace!
    Blessings.


    Elated was the first word that came to mind. When I read his response, my thought was what about the thief on the cross? What about Grace! It’s not our works…praise God for that!


    Thanks, Lois, for this very mindful devotional. The final word of forgiveness is truly in the Lord’s hands as much as we have our own ideas about who deserves punishment. Blessings for these writings you prepare.


    Oh yes. And we sin everyday. Are there degrees of sin? I think not. We, as people, see degrees of sin. But does God? Is murder any worse than being abusive, angry, jealous, envious, the hidden sins of the soul that no one sees?
    All rhetorical questions.


    Hi Lois,
    Thank you for your message today. I had a similar experience at a Bible study. Thank you for the reminder that it is only by grace that we enter the kingdom of God, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.


    Many, many thanks for your wonderful devotional today.
    In the case of the murderer, the inexhaustible mercy of God glorifies Him and even the forgiven sinner, but his case for the greater glory of God and His Kingdom. Let us pray for the elder…
    Many, many blessings.
    (Chile)


    Yes, of course, dear Lois, and another way to look at this is the extreme joy and rejoicing in heaven by the angels over the salvation of a sinner and just in the nick of time!
    And on the other hand, the defeat of and the extreme, frustration and anger on the part of Satan, who, no doubt, worked hard all of that sinner’s life to ensure the destruction of his soul, only to have him repent and switch sides at the last moment. What a sweet victory for our friend Lord Jesus and a bitter and frustrating defeat for Satan. Priceless!
    If only that elder considered whose side he was really on, he would have been overjoyed just like the angels in heaven would be, that a soul was snatched from Satan’s clutches,
    (ON, Canada)


    Dear Lois:
    Thank you for this meditation! I was raised in an atheist family and married an atheist, so I did not come into my faith until I was 40 years old – when something happened that I couldn’t fix on my own and needed God’s grace. As a new Christian, someone gave me C.S. Lewis’ book “Mere Christianity” to read, and that made me confront the same question. I was born in Germany after the war and struggled most of my life until then with guilt over the Holocaust. Lewis made me ponder “what if Hitler asked for and was forgiven?” At the time I could only find consolation in the thought that a heart as black as Hitler’s would never ask. Today I know that, assuming I make it to heaven, that I may very well find him there because God’s forgiveness and grace is greater than mine – and I have been working on mine.
    Today I work as a chaplain in LTC. I think that I will adapt your meditation and talk about it with a group of the more cognitively aware folks and the ones that I won’t hurt by asking that question.
    Stay safe and keep well. Blessings.


    Good morning, Lois,
    A powerful devotional explaining what really is important in our faith. I hope that someone prayed for that 80-year-old who had such bitterness – he didn’t say he kept God’s commandments, but he HAD to keep them. I think he did not feel God’s love, comfort, and grace in his life which is sad. I think if there had been a good discussion after this man spoke, that no guests would have fled the conference, but maybe would have gained a deeper understanding of God’s grace. The conference needed to practice grace and forgive this old man also and thank him for the chance to have a deeper discussion into our faith and the importance of grace. It is definitely not an easy concept to get our head around like the prodigal son, but definitely worth the time to get our hearts there.
    You have given us scripture and examples of what God’s grace does for us everyday, no matter how hard we try not to sin.
    I was listening to this love hymn which really did make me feel peaceful. Thanks for sharing and may you continue to make us think. Blessings


    Thank you for your thoughts on forgiveness. It was interesting that this morning my daughter-in-law sent a text with a picture quoted Galatians 6: 18 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.” It reminded me of two acronyms that two elderly ladies taught me years ago—“God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense” and “God’s Redeeming Acts Comfort Everyone” and the other reminder is the text in Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Then too, think of all the blessings that that dear soul missed in not trusting before his death. Several years ago I saw an atheist believe at age 93, and had witnessed to him, but the blessings he missed over the years — but what a blessing to hear him respond to prayer and speak of blessings in those last months. It was such a blessing to see him claim the promises after so many year of denying — a special young lady was firm with him in his last days to accept Jesus — Admit, Believe and Confess — the simple ABC’s and he did. Something to praise God for even though we may make selfish judgments. Thank you again.


    Good morning, Lois,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story “When Grace is Missing” in today’s PresbyCan Daily Devotional.
    I was stunned from your second paragraph yet had to chuckle at this man’s thoughts and that he actually had the tenacity to voice it out loud. I have heard this type of response many times and it doesn’t get easier. Now that I’m older and for my own inner spiritual sake, I find it best to laugh at the ridiculous. I believe God will deal with each of us in due time.
    This incident reminds me of a time in junior high gym class, in particular during gymnastics session. As I was involved in gymnastics outside from school, I had an advantage from what the expectations were for this grade. I did everything that was expected and did it well, yet I was scored lower in marks than most of the class. When I questioned my teacher about this, she said, “You can already do all this. I want you to extend yourself further. What have you done above your current skills?” My question to this individual would be, yes, it’s good to be so perfectly flawless in yourself following all God’s commandments, but what have you done to reach out beyond your own skills in lifting the spirits of others?
    Thank you for your line; “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.” So true.
    Do not lose sleep over his ignorance and selfishness but continue to focus on the path that Christ has lit for you.
    Thank you again for sharing your story. It’s a good reminder that there are Christians that still think like that.
    (ON)


    Thank you for your devotional. I appreciate your comments.


    Dear Lois,
    This is the first time I’ve read this topic addressed in such a compassionate and empathic way. You have written in a way that is eye and heart opening. Thank you so much.


    Thank you, Lois.
    Your devotional immediately reminded me of my study of the history of Christianity where I learned that Constantine, who is given credit for Christianizing the world, did exactly as you mentioned. He waited till his deathbed to confess his sins. Apparently, he believed that you could only be forgiven once so he waited till he could no longer commit any sins to confess his past sins.
    Your question is one we have to accept. I’ve been involved in prison ministry and it is possible for people to change. Although they’ve done wrong those in prison need to know, probably more than anyone else, that God will accept and forgive them. It is that hope that can change them. I’ve met prisoners who made a big change in their life once introduced to Christ and his love.
    Again, thank you.

 



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