Kay Arthur is a well known Bible teacher, but I’d never heard her until just recently as a part of a video series on David. Today’s lesson was on grace, and it was so encouraging that I wanted to share a few of her thoughts. Kay pointed out that “Sin will take you further than you ever expected to go, it will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay, and it will cost you more than you ever expected to pay.” I think if we could all get that truth implanted firmly in our brains, it would keep us from boatloads of sorrow. However, the real focus of her message was on the fact that God is gracious. No matter what we’ve done or whom we’ve hurt, as long as we’re not dead yet, then it’s not too late to be “converted”…to change our mind about sin: repent, confess, and ask God’s forgiveness…not based on any “deal” or promises about being perfect in the future, but based on His perfect love and ability to forgive us, to change our hearts, to reconcile us to himself and sometimes even those we’ve hurt, and to transform us into people who reflect his forgiveness and grace toward others.
What is grace? It is “Charis”…free, unearned, unmerited favor…God’s kindness and benefits bestowed on us not because we deserve them, but because we need them so desperately and ask God to help us. In the course of the session, Kay mentioned that she hadn’t become a Christian until she was 29…after she’s made a terrible mess of her life. Since then she found herself complaining, “God, why didn’t you save me sooner? Why did you allow me to live such a destructive life?” After years of soul-searching, she felt like the Lord told her that if she’d stop moaning and groaning, he’d redeem even her ruined past by giving her the privilege of sharing her story with others in a way that would help them avoid the pits that she fell into. She learned with the Apostle Paul (who also led a terribly destructive life of persecuting Christians before he was converted himself) to say, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 10:15) …no more…no less. We can’t change our past, and we can be sure that we will be judged for our past. Just like David, whose family was forever marred by the consequences of his sins, we will reap what we’ve sown. Forgiveness does not mean there will be no consequences, but it does mean that we can still be used by God to share our story with others and encourage others to avoid our failures. Grace means that we can be blessed in spite of our failures, and that (whether or not it “pleases” us) we can bring glory to God through our heartaches, failures, and pain.
I’ve had people say to me, “There must not be a God, or he wouldn’t allow such evil.” Would you like to have no freedom to choose right or wrong? To do this or that? When believers get to heaven, the Bible says that we will “be like Him,” and then I believe we will no longer make unwise or sinful choices, but until that day, we have the privilege and bear the responsibility for making our own decisions—for good or ill. We can either be a great blessing to those around us or a cause of pain and suffering. Our choices are ours. Will we be good even when others are not? Will we believe God and trust Him, or will we follow our own natural inclinations? “There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Will we seek forgiveness when we sin…and will we forgive those who hurt us? Are we willing to become conduits of God’s grace?
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).