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“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8-12)
It had been a harrowing couple of weeks for me.
Circumstances had robbed me of spending sufficient time with the Lord in prayer, worship and the Word of God, so I lacked the strength of the Holy Spirit to handle these life challenges in a godly manner. I was reminded of that Scripture Jesus spoke:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Yes, that is definitely true! Apart from him I can do absolutely nothing, especially that which is good in God’s eyes. In fact, my thoughts, actions and words had been downright ungodly and devoid of love during this harrowing time. My poor husband and daughter had been the prime recipients of my harshness and snappiness.
It was in this stressed and spiritually agitated state that I left for a backpacking trip to Cape Pillar. When I got in the car I had my tail between my legs and could hardly look up to God in prayer (Luke 18:9-14). As I confessed my guilt and wrongdoing I kind of expected an iron sky and a silent God because that’s what I felt like I deserved for my behavior. In fact, I knew that’s what I deserved for my behavior. I deserved at least a few disciplinary spankings…but probably more like several.
But as soon I confessed my sins, God’s loving presence came strongly and swiftly upon me, and I was completely overcome and silenced by his grace. I could feel warmth, kindness and goodness of God’s Presence enveloping me and beckoning me into worship and deeper intimacy with him. Why was God treating me like this??? Where were my spankings?
“…God’s kindness leads you toward repentance…” (Romans 2:4)
As I continued to repent and confess my sins, the burden of guilt rolled off my back, and I began take flight on the wings of worship.
I am so thankful for the truth of that Scripture:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
I requested many things of God on this 26 km (16 mile) trip to Cape Pillar, from sleep to beautiful skies, from the abiding presence of God to protection from snakes. God answered every single one of my many prayers, and he even went beyond it by showering me with many undeserved blessings such as seeing endangered Tasmanian wedge tailed eagles and whales (and I also give thanks to my husband and intercessor friends who helped me along by their prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11)).
Truly, truly, God is so good to us, and he treats us far better than we deserve (Matthew 5:45). This is the definition of GRACE. It means “unmerited favor”.
God’s supreme demonstration of his grace on us was when he died on the cross for our sins:
All of us have sinned against God and justly deserve to be punished (Romans 3:23). God is perfect in holiness and cannot be in the presence of sin; therefore, he declares that the just punishment for our sins is death and hell (Romans 6:23).
But because of God’s great love for us, he came to save us from our sins and their consequences. He sent his Son, Jesus, to live a perfectly moral, sinless life for us in our place and then to pay the penalty for our sins through his death on the cross.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
In order to receive God’s grace (to be forgiven and reconciled to God) you must first repent (confess and turn away from your sins), and secondly, you must trust in Jesus to save you from your sins. When you do this, then Jesus gets what you deserve (death), and you get what he deserves (communion with God). God ransoms you from your sins through your repentance and faith in him.
God does this not because you deserved it or earned it but because of his own mercy and grace.
“But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace–His undeserved favor and mercy–you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption].
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].”
(Ephesians 2:3-9 AMP)
This photograph of Cape Pillar (looking north toward Cape Huay) was taken at the end of that day when God inundated me with his undeserved kindness and grace. Whenever I look at it I am humbled and silenced by the goodness and love of God for me…despite myself.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:2-8)
(See also “Message”).
(See also “Empty Hands” (Believer’s Road Series) , “Unworthy, But That’s The Grace of God” (Believer’s Road Series) and “Tasman Island from The Blade, Cape Pillar, Tasman National Park, Tasmania (Faith Extinguishes Fear)” (Tasmanian Wilderness Landscape Photography Series).)