Truth that Matters: The Decision of Grace

Holiness demands that sin be punished. Mercy compels that the sinner be loved. How can God do both? May I answer the question by returning to the insurance executive illustration? Imagine him inviting me to his office and saying these words.

“Mr. Lucado, I have found a way to deal with your mistakes. I can’t overlook them; to do so would be unjust. I can’t pretend you didn’t commit them; to do so would be a lie. But here is what I can do. In our records we have found a person with a spotless past. He has never broken a law. Not one violation, not one trespass, not even a parking ticket. He has volunteered to trade records with you. We will take your name and put it on his record. We will take his name and put it on yours. We will punish him for what you did. You, who did wrong, will be made right. He, who did right, will be made wrong.”

My response? “You’ve got to be kidding! Who would do this for me? Who is this person?”

To which the president answers, “Me.”

If you’re waiting for an insurance executive to say that, don’t hold your breath. He won’t. He can’t. Even if he wanted to he couldn’t. He has no perfect record.
But if you’re wanting God to say those words, you can sigh with relief. He has. He can. For “God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself….Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God” (2 Cor. 5:19, 21).

The perfect record of Jesus was given to you, and your imperfect record was given to Christ. Jesus was “not guilty, but he suffered for those who are guilty to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). As a result, God’s holiness is honored and his children are forgiven.
By his perfect life Jesus fulfilled the commands of the law. By his death he satisfied the demands of sin. Jesus suffered not like a sinner, but as a sinner. Why else would he cry, “My GOD, my GOD, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46 ).

Ponder the achievement of God. He doesn’t condone our sin; nor does he compromise his standard. He doesn’t ignore our rebellion; nor does he relax his demands. Rather than dismiss our sin he assumes our sin and, incredibly, sentences himself. God’s holiness is honored. Our sin is punished. And we are redeemed. God is still God. The wages of sin is still death. And we are made perfect.

That’s right, perfect. “With one sacrifice he made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14).

God justifies (makes perfect) then sanctifies (makes holy). God does what we cannot do so we can be what we dare not dream, perfect before God. He justly justifies the unjust.

And what did he do with your poor driving record? “He canceled the debt, which listed all the rules we failed to follow. He took away that record with its rules and nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).

And what should be your response? Let’s go one more time to the insurance company. I return to my agent and ask him to call up my file. He does and stares at the computer screen in disbelief. “Mr. Lucado, you have a perfect past. Your performance is spotless.”

My response? If I’m dishonest and ungrateful, I will deepen my voice and cross my arms and say, “You are right. It’s not easy to be great.”

If I’m honest and grateful, I will simply smile and say, “I don’t deserve that compliment. In fact, I don’t deserve that record. It was and is an unspeakable gift of grace.”

By the way, I have a new automobile-insurance company. They charge me a little more since I’ve been bumped from a competitor. And who knows? I may get a few more letters before it’s all over.

My eternal soul is under heavenly coverage, and Jesus isn’t known for dismissing clients. He is known, however, for paying premiums and I’m paid up for life. I’m in good hands with him.

Max Lucado

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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