Day 28: God's Ocean of Grace
Thank God His grace isn't fair.
Myself, like the repentant thief on the cross, does not deserve God's grace. None of us do. That's why grace is grace - unmerited favor.
Fairness requires that heaven be home for John the beloved apostle, who obediently cared for Mary the mother of Jesus after the Lord's death and who endured persecution and exile in Jesus' name. Not for a thief who lived his entire life in blatant sin and then repents two or three hours before his death.
But the words of Jesus leave no doubt: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Feel the authority? With the power that upholds the universe, Jesus assures a dying man - a legally convicted, admitted criminal - of eternal life. As it does today, assurance of salvation rested in the unbreakable promise of God - God's trustworthiness, not man's fickleness - founded on the Savior's substitutionary work on the cross.
Moments earlier, this thief was among the many who taunted the Savior as He hung on the cross. Matthew adds, "In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him" (Matthew 27:39- 44).
"You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! He saved others, but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him."
How can this man be among the worshiping multitude in heaven, singing, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Rev. 5:12)?
Only by grace.
I've sometimes found it hard to be kind and patient with someone who has openly, purposefully, and recklessly broken a basic command of God and then is suffering the consequences. But they are just as deserving of God's grace as the person who was raised in church and is a good person, but has never really made a commitment to the Lord. Thank God His grace isn't fair.
God is like the owner of the vineyard who paid the same wage to workers who labored only one hour as he did to those who labored all day (Matt. 20:1-16). "You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day," they complained. Wouldn't you?
Replied the landowner, "Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"
God's grace is love without limits. In those agonizing moments of Grace lifted up from the earth, a criminal repented of unbelief, rebellion, and insults. Before the day ended, he joined Jesus in paradise.
Though it wouldn't be fair, having squandered so much, prodigal America has never needed grace more. Me, you, and the thief without a name all send the same message: There's no bottom to God's ocean of grace.
By Luis Palau