Points to Consider Regarding Grace and Forgiveness
- Experiencing God’s forgiveness empowers people to face difficult circumstances
- A reciprocal relationship exists between the forgiveness we experience and the forgiveness we extend
- The Bible says we should accept each other and display the love of Christ to those around us
- Only God’s grace can allow us to let go of past hurts and forgive others
- Consider how you’d live differently if you only had one month to live
The following is an excerpt from One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life / 10th Anniversary Edition. Copyright © 2018 by Kerry and Chris Shook (@KerryShook and @ChristineShook). Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
By Kerry and Chris Shook
When people experience the forgiveness and love of God through the gift of his Son, they’re often ready to ask for forgiveness from those they’ve wounded and to extend mercy to those who’ve hurt them. With the freedom and joy they experience as a result of God’s forgiveness, they become empowered to face some of the hard chapters of their lives.
In fact, as Jesus explains in one of his parables, there’s a reciprocal relationship between the forgiveness we experience and the forgiveness we extend. I like to think of it as recycling grace—giving generously what we’ve received from God. After an indebted servant begs his king for mercy for the great debt he owes, the same servant then has another servant imprisoned for his inability to repay him much less than he had owed the king. Such a double standard doesn’t cut it in God’s kingdom: “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy” (Matthew 18:32–35, MSG).
If we judge others less and confess our own shortcomings more, then we will be investing in an eternal legacy—our character and its effect on future generations. Asking for forgiveness and admitting our hurts may never be as easy or as natural as we’d like it to be. But if we knew we might not have another opportunity to make our relationships right, we’d take every possible opportunity to convey our sorrow over how we had hurt others. Proverbs tells us that the person “who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (28:13). Confessing the fullness of our hearts can restore a level of peace that our pride, anger, and self-righteousness rob us of.
Too often we try to make amends with others without really accepting and experiencing the power of grace in our lives. We think we have to try extra hard to make it up to those we’ve offended and to keep quiet about those who have hurt us, pretending that nothing happened. But when we encounter the radical power of God’s grace, it’s literally life changing.
God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way. Philippians 2:13 (NLT) puts it this way: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” Our Father empowers us to live transformed lives when we admit our mistakes and their consequences. The Bible says God gives grace to the humble, but he opposes the proud (Proverbs 3:34). So when we humble ourselves and say, “God, I need you to give me the power to change; I need you to give me the power to love; I need you to give me the power to do the things you ask me to do,” then he fills us with his power and his strength.
Christ finds us in the middle of our mess, but he doesn’t say, “Hey, clean up your act, and then I’ll think about loving you.” No, the Bible says that while I was still a sinner, Christ reached down and picked me up, and he held me close and forgave me. When one of my children was a potty-training preschooler, he had an accident in front of several adult friends of mine. As he realized what had happened, he reacted with embarrassment and shame. He looked up at me and said, “Hold me!” How did I respond? Did I say, “No way! Gross! Go clean yourself up, and then I’ll hold you!” Of course not! I scooped him up and held him close because he’s my son, and I love him, no matter what.
Grace accepts me where I am, but grace also gives me the power to change. Titus 2:11–12 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” When we’re in the atmosphere of God’s grace and feel totally accepted, we crave change. We want to know him and be more like him.
If you only had one month to live, you would almost certainly want to do some things differently in your life. The problem is that no lasting changes can be made unless we’re transformed and energized by the ultimate power source, the grace of God. We can never hope to make a good exit from our lives without it. We can’t leave a lasting spiritual footprint unless we walk a mile in the shoes of others, forgiving them just as we’ve been forgiven.
We’re all trophies of grace. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). We’re to accept each other and display the love of Christ to those around us. This can mean confronting others at times or humbling ourselves to confess and ask for their forgiveness. Only God’s grace can allow us to let go of past hurts and forgive others. Only his grace can motivate us to set our pride, shame, guilt, and regret aside and ask others to forgive us. The more we can put the practice of grace into our lives, the greater the legacy we will leave. Author Jackie Windspear put it this way: “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.”
The above is an excerpt from One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life / 10th Anniversary Edition. Copyright © 2018 by Kerry and Chris Shook (@KerryShook and @ChristineShook). Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Bio: Kerry and Chris Shook founded Fellowship of The Woodlands near Houston, Texas, with eight people in 1993. Since then, the church has grown to more than 15,000 people. Kerry’s sermons are televised nationally and internationally each week, reaching millions of people with innovative and inspiring messages.
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