Romans 5-6, Psalm 135
My favorite broadway musical is Les Miserables. Woven in the story is a beautiful illustration of the conflict between grace and legalism. The escaped convict Jean Valjean desperately finds himself at the door of a bishop's house. After the bishop kindly gives him food and lodging, Valjean steals his silverware and flees. He is immediately caught by the authorities and brought before the bishop who simply had to confirm the theft and Valjean will go back to prison for life. Extending pure grace the bishop picks him up and tells the police that the silverware was a gift. This act of grace transforms Valjean's life into a vessel of grace to everyone else he meets. As the story moves forward he is continually chased by Javert, the picture of legalism. A law was broken and payment is required. Javert completely ignored the obvious change in Valjean, blinded by his own sense of justice. Through a series of events in the French Revolution, Javert is caught and given to Valjean by the revolutionary students to execute. In a pure act of grace, he frees Javert. Soon after Javert kills himself because his legalistic mind can not accept or comprehend grace.
Grace is when one receives something that is not deserved. In the story of Les Miserables this is an example of horizontal grace extended between humans. In today's reading we see the vertical grace extended from God to humans. In the first 3 chapters of Romans, Paul already made the case that we are all guilty of sin and condemned as a result. Justification by grace is explained in Romans 3:21-25, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,...,being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation (making atonement) by His blood, through faith...". Notice in this equation our works and deeds have no part, it is purely based on what He did. In Romans 5:6,8, this one direction offer is exemplified, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly...But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Paul elaborates on this in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
When we consider the grace of God it should humble us all. Father God freely gave us His Son. Jesus freely gave up His life for us. All He asks in return is for us to accept what He has done and give Him our heart. Jesus did this for us unconditionally. Yet, how many of us are unwilling to extend grace unless we are sure that person is truly sorry or has truly changed. Jesus revealed what true love and grace is in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." All who accept Christ's free offer are now His friends. May we all be washed in His grace and freely and lovingly extend that grace to others as Jesus exemplified to us.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: