David sinned. Eventually he repented and fell on the unmerited grace of the Almighty. Jonah sinned. Eventually he begrudgingly and half-heartedly did what God had commanded. Paul [Saul] sinned. In an encounter with the risen Christ, he came face to face with his sinful life and repented. The common thread? Sin. Sorrow. Grace. Purpose.
God wanted David to lead His people in holy living. He wanted him to teach them what it meant to be set apart for the Holy God. God wanted Jonah to magnify the Holy God before an evil people so that He could pour out His grace on their repentance. God wanted Paul to focus the attention of directionless and blinded people on the God who had created them and cared for them even though they didn’t know Him.
David would be known for all generations as “a man after God’s own heart.” Paul would “give his life” for the One he had once persecuted. Jonah would be forever known as the prophet who “got angry” at the grace of God for sinners.
The difference between the three is not sin. They all sinned. It was not even sorrow. They were all sorrowful—even Jonah. It wasn’t even purpose. They all had purpose. The difference was grace. Oh, they all experienced the grace of God to forgive their sin, disobedience and arrogance. Jonah’s view of grace, however, was different. Rather than introspection that recognized just how amazing God’s grace really is—given how terrible our sin really is—Jonah was only willing to receive the benefits of grace for himself.
Lent is a season of introspection. Grace is given to each of us. It is the free gift of God to people who wholly do not deserve such grace. Our righteousness, after all, is simply “filthy rags.” David recognized this and asked for grace that would lead him to “teach others” who could experience the same grace. Paul understood that the grace that was poured on him was worth giving his last breath to make it truly known to others.
Repenting of our sins is not about changing God’s mind about us. He knows us. Repentance and the receiving of His grace is about allowing Him to change us. It is about changing us into people who magnify God to people who would rather forget about Him. It is about living in the grace that fills us with grace for others. Is that easy? Of course, not. That’s why we need God’s reminders of grace at every turn—for us and others. We need His grace growing in us so that we can shed grace to others. Grace won’t grow in us unless we cultivate it. His grace is here and it is certainly a worthy investment!
Rev. Tim Haynes – Spartanburg First Church of the Nazarene – Spartanburg, SC