April 9, 2018
The current hit movie “I Can Only Imagine” was based on the true story of Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian band, Mercy Me. The movie details his life growing up with an abusive father, who drove his mother away from the family and raised Bart by himself. Bart’s career had its ups and downs which included him leaving his home and father, and at one point resulted in him walking away from the music he loved. He eventually reconnected with his dad who had become a Christian and had become a different person. Bart could not accept the change in his father’s life and rejected him, but Bart reconciles with his father after he finds out that his dad had terminal cancer. After his father’s death Bart wrote the song, I Can Only Imagine. His song reflects the hope that he had to one day see his father again in heaven in the presence of Jesus.
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.
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.
Bart Millard’s story is similar to the story of the prodigal son’s older brother 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. Bart Millard was like the older brother who did not believe his dad deserved forgiveness and mercy. He had to learn that God loved his father no matter what he had done in the past, and he came to the realization that a relationship with his dad was more important than the wrongs his dad had committed in the past.
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. 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. As a result of God’s grace, we can only imagine what it will be like to one day be surrounded by the glory of God in the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ.