(c) Dr. John Jackson, 2004
Our world needs grace. We need God’s forgiveness and kindness to us
It was 1944 and Burt Freezon was an infantry man on the front lines in Europe. American forces had advanced in the face of intermittent shelling and small arms fire throughout the morning hours but now all was quiet. His patrol reached the edge of a wooded area with an open field before them. Unknown to them a battery of Germans waited in a hedgerow 200 yards across the field. Burt was one of two scouts who had moved out into the clearing. Once he was halfway across the field the remainder of his battalion followed. Suddenly the Germans opened fire and machine gun fire ripped into both of Burt’s legs. The American battalion withdrew into the woods for protection while a rapid exchange of fire continued. Burt lay helplessly in a stream as the shots volleyed overhead. There seemed to be no way out. To make matters worse he now noticed that a German soldier was crawling towards him. Death seemed imminent. He closed his eyes and waited. To his surprise a considerable period of time passed without the expected attack so he ventured opening his eyes again. He was startled to see the German soldier kneeling at his side smiling. He then noticed that the shooting had stopped. Troops from both sides of the battle field watched anxiously. Without any verbal exchange this mysterious German leaned down to lift Burt into his arms and proceeded to carry him back to the safety of his comrades on the American side. Having accomplished its self-appointed mission and still without speaking a word the German soldier turned and walked back across the field to his own troops. No one dared break the silence of that sacred moment. Moments the cease fire ended and shots began to ring out again but everybody had seen how one man had risked his life for another. That is grace in action…but in order to really see grace in operation you not only have to believe it (see Christian Times Today, June 2004 article), but you have to receive it!
You may be familiar with the story in John 8:1-11. A women was caught in adultery (where was the man?!), and she was brought before Jesus by the religious leaders of the day. Rather than condemn her, Jesus invited those without sin to cast the first stone. After everyone left, Jesus exhorted her to leave her life of sin. The woman deserved death by stoning according to their law and she was no doubt scared and horrified. Jesus didn’t deny or denounce the law…He just announced a new way.
If you are going to get a grip on grace, if you are going to move from believing it to receiving it you must at some level understand yourself as this woman who has been caught and found guilty. There is no wiggle room, it wasn’t a cheap camera trick, it wasn’t a national enquirer set up, it was the actual event, the woman was caught in sin. If you want to grab hold of grace you’ve got to at least for a moment imagine yourself in whatever is the sin issue in your life. Whatever the rebellion is, wherever the rebellion is, wherever it is that you have been disobedient to God in your life, you must imagine yourself there with nothing but a bed sheet clothing you, you must imagine yourself kneeling before a holy God, your accusers rightfully condemning you and him say, where are your accusers? And then he says, neither do I condemn you.
In order for you to RECEIVE God’s grace, four things need to happen:
- Admit to your death sentence (Romans 6:23) You must admit the sentence of death. Until you know that you have a need you will never be able to receive what God freely gives
- Recognize that we have a chance at life
- Accept freedom from condemnation and sin through God’s free gift of grace in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 8:1-2, John 1:12, John 3:16)
- Receive life from the only one who can give it. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
When the woman was brought to Jesus, she was thrown with her face low to the ground. It was probably in the moment of the worst shame of her life. There was only person who could give her life and that was Jesus the Son of God. And this is also true of me. And this is also true of you. There is only one who can give you life. Not only do you have to believe it’s possible but you have to personally be willing to receive it
In 1829 a Philadelphia man named George Wilson robbed the US mail and he killed someone in the process. Wilson was arrested and brought to trial, convicted and he was sentenced to be hanged. Some friends intervened on his behalf and they were finally able to obtain a pardon for Wilson from President Andrew Jackson. When informed of this, George Wilson effused to accept the pardon. The sheriff was unwilling to carry out the sentence. He had a pardon from the President to the United States but Wilson refused to accept the pardon and the sheriff said I am not going to hang a man who has a pardon setting on my desk. And so the case went all the way to the Supreme Court where the president asked the Supreme Court to rule on this issue. Must a sheriff carry out a sentence when he has a pardon on his desk for the accused? The Supreme Court pondered this and Chief Justice ruled that a pardon rejected is no pardon at all. George Wilson would have to face his sentence. So George Wilson was hanged to death. But his pardon was on the sheriff’s desk.
God has made available a pardon for you. You can choose to reject it and if you do you will continue to live separated from God and not receiving his grace. But, He loves you and not only wants to believe in grace but to receive. Do not die while the pardon is sitting on someone’s desk.