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Because of an inherent tendency to embrace forgiveness and mercy at the neglect of grace, this morning in my Prayer Notebook I am meditating on Luke 15:19-24 which states:
â€śI am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men. And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' And they began to be merry.â€ť
May I not only experience the forgiveness and mercy of my sins, but may I, as well, experience the undeserved grace of my loving Heavenly Father.
More specifically, I am reflecting beyond forgiveness and mercy to the abundance of grace offered to those who truly repent and trust themselves to the grace of their loving Heavenly Father. I so often, like the prodigal son, do my Heavenly Father a great disservice in underestimating His grace. Forgiveness, yes, mercy, yes, but abundant grace â€“ is this really also in the mix? To not only be forgiven, to not receive just punishment but, in addition, to receive blessings undeserved? I, like the older brother, resent this grace when bestowed on others rather than myself. They should receive forgiveness, yes, they should even receive mercy - not receiving that punishment due their sin, but should they really receive undeserved blessings (and a party) when they have done nothing to deserve them?
This two-edged sword - doubting the grace of God the Father and resenting the grace bestowed on those I deem less worthy - has the unintended result of keeping me from embracing and, yes, experiencing the abundant grace of which I am so in need. I find myself almost embarrassed at times to be so audacious, so bold as to ask God to bless me as though I had not sinned, yet this is exactly what the father of the prodigal son did â€“ catching both sons by surprise. This is also exactly what my heavenly Father wishes to do for me if I will only repent and cast myself not only upon His mercy but also upon His grace.
Most of us can accept grudgingly the forgiveness of the truly sinful. Forgiveness means the slate is wiped clean. We are more comfortable with forgiveness when it has been preceded by some sort of judgment, but nevertheless, we can accept it. Mercy, too, though a little harder, we accept. With mercy, forgiveness is given without payment. Thus the sinner who has lived a life of ease avoids the just rewards of his sin, receiving, instead, mercy. He does not receive what he deserves. This, for us, is a little harder but we still accept it. But GRACE!! Now that is almost too much. For in grace, we receive that which we do not deserve. Is the sinner really to be forgiven, to not be required to suffer for his sins and then, on top of this, to be blessed of God â€“ to receive that which is not deserved?!?! Can this really be? For the prodigal son was not only reinstated but received riches and had a party thrown on his behalf. This, though, is the teaching of the gospel - that when we come to God, we receive forgiveness, we receive mercy, and we receive the abundant grace of God as well.
God the Holy Spirit has put it so well in Hebrews 4:16, â€śTherefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.â€ť Consequently, this morning with bold confidence I am approaching the throne of God. As I confess my sins, by the merit of the blood of Christ, I am asking for forgiveness and mercy. Yet with boldness and confidence I am going one step further. I am asking God to grant grace in abundance, believing that the promise of 2 Corinthians 8:9 is indeed true which exhorts us that â€śyou know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.â€ť
My prayer therefore is this:
â€śThat, having received both forgiveness and mercy for my sins, my life experience would be as if I had chosen righteousness rather than sin, and exceed even this. My life and ministry would experience Godâ€™s grace in abundance as if I had done acts of righteousness, not sin. Unearned, undeserved; unmerited yet, nevertheless, lavished upon me, His wayward and rebellious son, received not with the limited grace of an earthly father but the infinite grace of my Heavenly Father. Not earned by my worthy acts of contrition but as a result of the poverty of His beloved Son. Today, I pray that I would experience the love of God with the same joy and infinite grace as did the prodigal son. Grace rather than judgment. The fruits of righteousness rather than that of sin and the flesh. All that which is deserving of a man whose sins have been forgiven, the consequences from which he is delivered; who has been fully restored, all that and abundantly more. All that would be if righteous acts were done rather than sin and far more than that, all that would be done if Godâ€™s grace alone without reference to man was the only consideration. All that which would be mine were the righteousness of Christ the sole consideration. All that which would be mine if indeed my sins were imputed to Christ and the only consideration was the righteousness of Christ imputed to me. That is the blessing, the state, the favor justly due Christ, which I now freely receive in its infinite abundance. This I boldly look for, not based on any act of my own but rather based on the grace of God and the imputed righteousness of Christ.â€ť
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon Tyumen, Russia