The movie “Schindler’s List” was the based on the true story of Nazi Czech businessman Oskar Schindler, who used Jewish labor to start a factory in occupied Poland. When Schindler realized that his workers faced certain death at the hands of the Nazis, he decided to spend his fortune to save as many Jews as he could. Schindler began to make his list. He bought his workers, to work in his factory in Czechoslovakia, and the men and women were transported to Czechoslovakia on two separate trains. Incredibly, the women were inadvertently diverted to Auschwitz, where Schindler was forced to buy them again, and the men and women were reunited at the factory, where they remained until the war’s end. He was able to save over 1100 Jews from certain death in the gas chambers. When the war ended, Schindler told his workers they were now free, but that he would be hunted as a war criminal and had to flee the country. When he told them good-bye, they gave him a ring made from the gold tooth work of a factory worker, engraved with the phrase, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” Schindler breaks down, crying that if he could have sacrificed more, he could have saved more lives. When Schindler’s motivations switched from profit to compassion he discovered that “true power is the ability and willingness to show grace and mercy.”
The human condition is that we all are hopelessly lost because of our sin, and if unchanged our sinfulness will result in an eternity separated from God. But God demonstrated His “true power” by showing us grace and mercy. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. It is kindness from God that we don’t deserve. There is nothing we have done, nor can ever do to earn this favor. It is a gift from God. Grace is divine assistance given to humans that will save them from their sins.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Bible says, “For it is by that GRACE you are saved through faith, and you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Grace is anything that I need, but don’t deserve, that I could never repay, but God gives to me anyway. Grace is also how God sees me when He looks at my failures, my faults, and my flaws.
A lot of people seek God’s grace by trying to be good. The problem with being good is that really good people have several real problems. Most importantly really good people are not, and cannot be good enough. No matter how a person may try to be good, they can never make themselves good enough for God. It just isn’t possible. Jesus tells us what God is like and he then calls on us to be like Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. When an expert on the law asked Jesus what he would have to do to gain eternal life, Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law?”. The lawyer answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10:27,28. The fact is, that the this man Jesus was talking with, as well as none of us, can really keep the law or be good enough, no matter how hard we try. Even though some people make a valiant effort to be better than others, no one is really good enough to be in the presence of Holy God. This presents a serious problem for so many people in the world today, who adhere to the belief that what they get from God is based on what they do for or give to God. It also leads us to examine what is perhaps the most important word in all of the Bible, the word GRACE.
Whenever we read a contract or any kind of agreement we look for the bottom line. We want to know before we sign our name what the rest of the story is when we enter into an agreement, and what strings are attached if we make the commitment. Fortunately the GRACE of God is unconditional and there are no strings attached. Salvation is not based in any way on our performance, only on the promise of God. It is in every way a gift from God that we do not deserve, but that He freely offers to us. The reason that God’s plan has no additions or subtraction that we can make is that Jesus has already paid for it in full. You can’t be good enough or do anything to earn something that has already been paid for in full.
The Biblical concept of GRACE is only possible because of God’s mercy. Every day we live is an act of God’s mercy. If God gave us all what we deserve, we would all be, right now, condemned for eternity. David said in Psalm 51:1-4, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.” We deserve nothing from God. God does not owe us anything. Anything good that we experience is a result of the GRACE of God.
Mercy and GRACE are best illustrated in the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. We deserve judgment, but if we receive Jesus Christ as Savior, we receive mercy from God and we are delivered from judgment. Instead of judgment, we receive by GRACE, salvation, forgiveness of sins, and abundant life. Because of the mercy and GRACE of God, our only response must be to fall on our knees in worship and thanksgiving.
In the story of the Prodigal son in the Bible, the Prodigal son left home, squandered his father’s wealth, but finally realized his need and his father’s possible kindness. “How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread but I am dying here of hunger? I will get up and go to my father and I will say to him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired men.” Luke 15:17-21. The Prodigal son humbled himself and got up and went to his father. He was truthful when he came back to the father. But the older brother didn’t like that his father extended grace to his brother. He complained to his father that his brother didn’t deserve his father’s grace. But the father still loved that Prodigal son no matter what he had done. It is the same with a loving God. A relationship with God is more powerful than the law. The Bible says, in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Under GRACE we have more than our own resources. We have the resources of the kingdom of God to help us overcome our inadequacies.
On the cross, Jesus died for our sins, for everything that we have done wrong past present or future. We were guilty and He paid for the guilt of our sin. When we confess our sins, we are taking care of what is wrong and what the cross already paid for. Being a man or woman of God is a matter of being humble and truthful about our sin and accepting His GRACE and then growing in that GRACE. Someone once said, “We often think we have to change, and to be good in order to be loved by God. But it is just the opposite. We receive God’s GRACE in order that we can change, grow and be good.” God’s GRACE gives us the freedom to face God and face the truth about ourselves in the light of God’s Word. It is why we can conclude that when it comes to being accepted by God, it is not our ability that counts it about our response to His ability that allows us to experience His GRACE.