I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.
–1 Corinthians 1:4
Paul began his letter to the Corinthians by discussing our position in Christ. He said we have been set apart for a special purpose–and that ought to motivate us to live like Christ. Then Paul talked about our wealth from Christ. Since we have been set aside by God, He has given us a marvelous gift: the gift of grace.
Many people think grace is God not sending us to hell. No, that is mercy. Mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve; grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. Let me illustrate it this way: Imagine your teenager wrecks the car. Mercy is not grounding your child for six months; grace is giving your child a brand-new car. Do you see the difference? Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. And in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, Paul talked about three practical benefits of grace.
First of all, God’s grace provides forgiveness from the past. Verse 4 says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.” The tense of that phrase “which was given” refers to something that happened at a particular time in the past. In other words, Paul was saying there was a point in your life at which God’s grace, His forgiveness, was given to you–and that means the total removal of guilt. There are Christians who get bent out of shape over sins they have committed, and they think, “I just cannot forgive myself.” You know what? They are right. Trying to forgive yourself is like trying to play solo tennis by being on both sides of the net–it is not possible. You cannot commit a sin and then turn around and be the one forgiving that sin.
In the movie “Get Low,” Robert Duvall plays a man who is haunted by a terrible misdeed he committed forty years earlier. He had confessed his sin to a pastor but refused to ask for forgiveness. Later, the man explains, “I didn’t want forgiveness. No, I needed to hold on to what I did, to be sick from it every day of my life.” He thought he could pay for his own sin by living a miserable existence as a hermit. There are some people who, out of pride, think if they are miserable enough for long enough, they can atone for their own sins. It is only in humility that you can come to God and say, “I cannot forgive myself; I need Your forgiveness in my life.” And that forgiveness is a benefit of grace.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Answers to Tough Questions” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
“Get Low,” directed by Aaron Schneider, featuring Robert Duvall (K5 International, 2009).
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.