Life At Its Best: God doesn't give us what we deserve
"What goes around, comes around." We've all heard this phrase before. I'll never forget a time I was convinced to make it become a reality.
It was in a baseball game, and my team was playing against our biggest rival. It was my turn to bat. I stepped up to the plate, and the pitcher threw the ball - intentionally - at me, from my view. I tried to get out of the way, but it nailed me right in the behind.
The next inning, it was his turn to bat. I was playing second base, and I'd already determined that if I got the chance, I was going to give him what he deserved. He hit the ball, rounded first and began heading toward me. My teammate threw me the ball. I caught it, swung my arm around and drilled him hard before he reached the base.
I must admit that it felt pretty good. But when I think of that story, I'm reminded how grateful I am that God doesn't handle us that way. He doesn't want revenge on us. He doesn't want us to experience the terrible things we deserve.
Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." When we're at our worst, God continues to give us mercy. It's not something we deserve or earn, but it's something we freely receive through Jesus' blood.
Then, not only does God want us to "receive mercy," but also to "find grace." It's not enough just to know we're forgiven. We must find His grace that gives us strength to make changes in our lives.
Jesus shows us a true picture of mercy and grace at work in John 8. The Pharisees brought Him a woman caught in adultery and asked Him what to do with her. His answer was, "Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone."
One by one, they left, until only Jesus and the woman remained. He looked at her and said, "Woman . Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin."
Jesus didn't see her as the sins she'd committed. He looked at her through eyes of mercy and let her know that she was accepted and loved by Him. And His message is the same to us. His mercy is not and will never be based on our actions. He loves and forgives us right where we are. We just have to receive it.
Then, not only did Jesus show this woman mercy, but He also encouraged her to live in His grace. He commanded her to leave her life of sin because He knew that if she was going to experience His best, her lifestyle had to change.
The same is true for us. It's not enough to know that we're forgiven, though it's an important first step. We must also allow that forgiveness to inspire us to live clean.
Oftentimes, living clean requires making some hard changes. Like the woman in John 8, we'll have to leave old habits and lifestyles behind. But the sacrifice is well worth the reward of living in God's best.
Are you feeling condemned today? Then I encourage you to receive Jesus' unconditional love and allow it to change the way you live. It's never too late to begin living your best life.
Jim Graff is the Senior Pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria, faithfamilyvictoria.com.