Some see grace as your constant “get out of jail free” pass. We all do, of course, need grace day-by-day for all our failures and shortcomings.
I recently saw something, however, that forever changed my view of grace…and of God’s mercy toward me.
I was watching a TV series where three men were to hang for a crime. Each criminal was standing on his “block” with his noose fastened around his neck. In a scary, last-moment confession, the third criminal confessed that he alone had committed the crime.
As the crowd shouted “reprieve!”, the judge nodded and the nooses were removed from the two. In the next moment, the executioner kicked the block out from under the one…and he died.
The two were “reprieved.” Their agony ended. Too close for comfort.
How does this affect our understanding of grace?
1. I actually DO deserve to die.
- I am not innocent. I am totally guilty. God would be perfectly justified to sentence me to eternal punishment.
- We are not “almost saved” before meeting Christ. We are buried under the list of our crimes. Our sentence is just and we must face the music.
2. The “third man” who died was Christ.
- I got away because He said nothing. He willfully took my place and was “hanged on a tree.” The image is forever in my mind of one man hanging limp and the other two nooses hanging harmlessly empty.
- This is LOVE. He took our place. He ended His life…we regained ours.
3. God is the “Judge.”
- God is the Judge of all. Your entire, eternal fate is in HIS hands. He can execute the sentence or give you a “reprieve” at the last possible second.
- This is the missing piece. We often see God as a benign “flower Creator” who only thinks positive. Actually, He is both Good and Just. Jesus said we are already under God’s judgment. His desire, however, is to give you a “reprieve” if you will call on His Son for mercy.
4. “Reprieve” is God’s specialty.
- Noah and his family were rescued from certain death in a boat as the entire human race perished under God’s judgment. “Noah found grace…”
- Lot and his family were rescued from Sodom only minutes before God’s judgment fell on that entire city and burned it to ashes. That was grace.
- Peter was rescued by an angel the night before his execution by Herod. That was grace.
- Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson and Jonathan’s son, was given a reprieve by David to sit at his table for the rest of his life. That was grace.
The Bible is actually an entire story of “reprieve.” God snatched Israel out of Egypt. God rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the fiery furnace. God reprieved Daniel from the lion’s den!
He is a God of “reprieve.” He loves you and wants to rescue you from certain judgment as well.
Receive Christ’s reprieve. Thank Him daily for His grace.
When you do, there will be an empty noose swinging somewhere in the breeze. And it’s YOURS. And it’s MINE.
Larry was Senior Pastor at Bethany Church in Baton Rouge for 30 years. He now travels around the world speaking to ministry leaders. Larry is currently the Executive Director of Surge Project, a worldwide church-planting movement that has planted over 25,000 new churches since it started in 2000.