by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Week 2 of Advent: Hope
Grace and Mercy over Justice Equals Hope
Richard J. Needham said, “Many of those who cry so loudly for justice would soon beg for mercy if justice were done to them.” When it comes to standing before God, I don’t know about you, but it’s mercy that I want – not justice. The Bible is clear that every one of us are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that the justice we deserve for our sins is death (Romans 6:23). If God were only a God of justice – none of us would have any hope. It is only by His grace and mercy that the invitation of salvation was given to us and Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us that we sinners are made acceptable by God’s grace and because of His love for us. It is the very essence of our hope.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
Our hopeless situation
As sinners, we each find ourselves in a hopeless situation. One where we are spiritually dead and enslaved in our sin as we walk among the disobedient and under Satan’s dominion. As such, we are objects of God’s wrath and His justice demands payment and the payment is a debt we are not able pay. It is impossible for us to do enough good works to change our hopeless situation. There is no amount of money large enough to donate to the church to buy your way into eternal life. There is absolutely nothing we sinful humans can do on our own to change the justice we deserve. On our own, our situation is hopeless.
But God is a God who turns hopelessness into hope and abundant life. Here’s how…
We have hope because God is Rich in Mercy and Grace
Mercy is simply God’s compassion for our hopeless and helpless situation and spares us from the justice we deserve. Instead, He shows pity, compassion, and kindness in that He made it possible for us to trade in our hopelessness for His abundant life. However, we must understand that God does not owe us mercy. In fact, mercy cannot be owed because it is given to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
Another aspect of God’s mercy, is that He is rich in mercy – or in other words, He is very patient with us. If God handed out justice immediately upon our first sin, none of us would ever get passed our toddler years. Instead the holy and righteous God chooses to hold off pronouncing judgement to a later time to give us the chance to experience His mercy, repent of our sins, and accept Christ as our Savior. William Farley wrote in Outrageous Mercy: Rediscovering the Radical Nature of the Cross, “The cross displays God’s mercy and grace, and justice, and does so with startling clarity.” Because God’s wrath and mercy met at the cross of Christ who paid our sin debt for us, we have hope and can become a new creation and a child of God.
James 2:13 tells us, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Mercy triumphs over justice, but if we choose to refuse God’s mercy, our hopelessness remains and instead of abundant life, we face eternal damnation. Rejecting God’s mercy is choosing justice and judgement instead of hope and eternal life. But if we reject what He freely offers, then we can expect to receive the justice and wages of our sin – eternal separation from God and an eternity in hell.
God’s Love is Great; therefore our Hope is Great
To see the greatness of God’s love, we only need to look at the cross. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave is only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus, the sinless son of God, took our place. It should have been us on the cross – but Jesus bore all of our sins on himself and willingly went to the cross so that we could receive God’s forgiveness and accept His mercy. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made the One [Jesus] who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” As Jesus shed His blood for us, His blood covers all of our sins and God sees us as righteous.
God’s Love is Great, Even while we are still hopelessly lost sinners
Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinner, Christ died for us.” We often hear stories but soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the platoon or a parent or spouse who steps in front of a bullet. But how often do you hear a story where someone sacrifices their life for their enemy? This is exactly what Jesus did for us. As a lost sinner, we are God’s enemy, but even then Christ loved us enough to die in our place.
Because of God’s rich mercy and great love, He extends grace rather than justice and hope rather than eternal death
If mercy is God not giving us the punishment and justice we deserve, then grace is God giving us blessings we do not deserve. Instead of justice, God extends his favor towards us when we choose to accept his free gift of salvation by faith in Christ. It is only by His grace that we receive the blessing of salvation and eternal life. It is impossible to earn it.
If I should give you a gift, but you want to pay me for it, it ceases to be a gift. If you work for the gift’s value, it ceases to be a gift. And if you refuse and reject it, then it is no longer a gift. It is only a gift when you reach out and accept it. Christ already paid the price for the gift of salvation – with His life – so that once we accept the gift of salvation our sin debt is marked “paid in full” with the very blood that Jesus shed on the cross in our place. The grace God offers, is the unmerited gift of eternal life.
Justice = Dead in Sin or Grace = Alive in Christ
When we accept God’s generous and loving offer of mercy and grace, He makes us alive together with Christ and gives us abundant and eternal life. Instead of being spiritually dead in our sin, God’s grace and mercy makes us a new creation that is now spiritually alive and when we pass on into eternity, there is a place waiting for us in heaven where we will dwell with Christ.
The work of salvation cannot be accomplished by our works. We can’t earn it and we can’t buy it. The entire process of salvation is an act of God’s goodness and only by His unmerited favor and only for His glory. When we truly see ourselves as the sinners we are and the grace and love that God has for us despite our sinfulness, we must then choose to accept or reject His gift of salvation. Accepting it by faith leads to eternal life in heaven with Christ. Rejecting it leads to the justice we deserve – eternal separation from God in hell. What will you choose?
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