This is the second sermon given by fictional Pastor Jason in the forthcoming novel , Steve’s Grace. I hope you enjoy it.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes… For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. –Romans 3:10-24
“How many of you here,” he asks, “fall short of what they know they ought to do.”
He raises his hand, and almost everyone in the congregation raises theirs. I do, and Cindy quickly follows.
“It is impossible to be human, and make all the right choices,” he says. “That’s the nature of the free will we have been given. Sometimes, we choose wrong. And when we choose something other than what God wants us to do, that’s sin. It is falling short of God’s desire for us, and our duty to serve Him.
“How many here have made a really, really bad choice at some time in their life?” he asks.
Several hands go up. Mine is one of them.
“How many have made a really bad choice in their life but don’t want to admit it?” he asks, chuckling. Another hand goes up, but most do not. “That’s okay,” he says. “You don’t have to admit it in public, or even to me. But sooner or later, you have to admit your sin to yourself, and to God.
“Why do you have to admit it? Because until you do, there can be no redemption. If you don’t admit you did wrong, you can’t be forgiven.
“Think about it, people,” he says. “If I steal your wallet, and I deny I did it, can you forgive me? Of course not. You’re not even sure who took it!
“Suppose I come to you and say, ‘Hey, Bob, I stole your wallet and I know it was wrong and I’m asking for your forgiveness.’ Now you have the option of forgiving me. And it is an option. You don’t have to forgive me. Unless, of course, you happen to be a Christian, in which case Jesus tells us that we can only be forgiven for our sins if we forgive the sins of others.
“And that right there is the formula for being forgiven,” he says. “You have to admit your sin and ask for God to forgive you. And you have to forgive the sins of others.
“But what if you’ve done something really awful? I know a man who committed murder. Because of the circumstances, he was never arrested or tried by the law. But he did it, and he knew it was wrong. Now, the Bible says the penalty for murder is death. If he asks God to forgive him, will God do it?
“Yes! Because Jesus gave his blood so that those who repent might be saved.
“And that man did ask for forgiveness, and he repented, and now he lives his life according to what he believes God wants him to do. He helps people. And he does it not so he can be a good person, but because he wasn’t a good person and he owes a debt to God that can never be repaid.
“Every one of us is a sinner,” he continues. “Every one of us owes a debt for God’s forbearance. Because God sent his only son Jesus to die for us. What an amazing gift that is! Jesus gave his life so that we can be redeemed from our sin.
“And it is a gift. But when someone gives you the gift of life, don’t you feel just a little bit obligated to them? Maybe grateful? And wouldn’t you want to live your life in a way that expresses that gratitude?
“A wise man once said that mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve. I look at my life today, and I am struck by the mercy and grace of God. I am a sinner. But I have not gotten what I deserve for my shortcomings, and I have gotten so much goodness in my life that I don’t deserve.
“We fall short, but God forgives us. We do bad things and God forgives us. We don’t do some of the good things we should do, and God forgives us.
“Can anyone relate to that? If so, I want to suggest that when you leave church today, you find a way to express your gratitude to God. Because, I don’t know about you, but my life is better today than I have any right to expect.