What do you think you deserve?
You just bought yourself a new wardrobe, because you deserve it. McDonalds says you deserve a break today. Perhaps, even as you read this, you’re on a “much-deserved holiday” in some exotic locale. You deserved higher marks in that course. You deserved the promotion more than the colleague who got it. You deserve greater understanding in your relationship. You deserve more assistance due to your circumstances. You deserve “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
What you really deserve–what I really deserve–is eternal condemnation in the fires of hell.
Whether or not we choose to admit it, every one of us was born in sin. Every one of us–even those who have a relationship with God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ–will commit adultery of the soul, covet, and seek friendship with the world on occasion. (JAM 4.4,5) God’s hatred of sin is measureless, and His holiness demands holiness from us–holiness we are powerless to provide.
“But he gives more grace.” (JAM 4.6a)
What a wonder it is to be on the receiving end of God’s grace! Despite His perfection and the offense our sin is to Him, He provided a way for us to be His children through faith in Christ–God in flesh, “born to die, that man might live.”*
Paul writes to the believers in Rome during the First Century:
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (ROM 3.23,24)
There is no grace in religion–only slavery, uncertainty, and hopelessness. Yet, by God’s grace, none of us need get what he or she deserves. By His grace God does not overlook sin–not at all! In fact, Romans 2.5-11 describe in sobering terms how God’s wrath and fury will be poured out on those who reject His grace. What He does is provide the full payment for sin–something we, the perpetrators, cannot do on our own.
Even in our churches today, we have misunderstood grace. Grace is not without cost. In fact, what God’s grace provides was more costly than anything in history–the very life of the Redeemer was the only acceptable payment for our sin.
Grace is not bestowed by God arbitrarily on those who prefer to reject it. It is appropriated by faith:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ” (EPH 2.8-10)
In the text above, the stated purpose for our being “created in Christ Jesus”–to walk in obedience to God–leads us to consider two more aspects of grace. Grace is available to all people, and grace does not free us to do whatever we like:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” (TIT 2.11,12)
James, Jesus’ younger half-brother, understands better than most the nature of the human heart. He can compare his own life to that of the sinless Son of God with Whom he grew up. He, better than most, can appreciate the magnificence of “God’s varied grace.” (1 PET 4.10 ) He knows God “gives more grace”–grace that is greater than all our sin.
*From the Christmas song, “Ring the Bells!” by Harry Bollbeck.