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grace

October 27, 2010

Wrestling with an AngelThis week on the Connected Kingdom podcast, David and I interview Greg Lucas, author of the new book Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability and the Lessons of Grace. Greg is the father of four children, one of whom has severe developmental disabilities. Last year Greg began a blog where he began to write about “lessons in the life of a father learned through the struggles of his disabled son.” It is not a blog about disability, but a blog that is all about grace—about lessons learned along the way.

When I co-founded Cruciform Press, Greg was the very first author I pursued and I was thrilled to have him accept and to have him prepare a book with us. That book is now available.

Way back in episode 4 David and I spoke to Justin Reimer, founder of The Elisha Foundation, and Paul Martin. Interestingly, both of those men show up in Greg’s story.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here.

You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

And tell you what—I’ll give away a few copies of Wrestling with an Angel for those who give the show a listen (or who don’t, I suppose). Simply leave a comment here and I’ll randomly choose a few of you to win a free copy.

January 11, 2010

I think it’s safe to assume that most of the people who read this site do not read the content of the “Reading Classics Together” posts. While I don’t blame you for that (it’s difficult to be interested in a project in which you are not participating), you are missing out on some great content. I can say that with confidence and with some humility because I am not the one creating the content. I am simply providing a summary of what older, wiser, more godly men have said in days gone by.

I want to share with you just one quote that jumped out at me last week as we read a chapter of John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied. This week’s subject was justification and, really, if you are going to discuss justification, there are few better guides than Murray. While he said many great things (see my summary post for some of them) this is the one that will remain with me this week and beyond:

“No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin.”

Pause just briefly to ponder that. If you have been saved by the blood of Christ, he has not delivered you not only from the guilt of sin, though that itself is an infinite expression of grace. He has also delivered you also from the power of sin. Consider for a moment what that means.

Before Christ saved you, you were necessarily mastered by your sin. Sin owned you; it controlled you. You may have been able to put aside or escape certain sins for a time, but you were never truly able to master them or to put them to death. You could not put sin to death because sin still owned and controlled you. You had a sin nature and no ability to do anything about it. You were enslaved.

But then God did his work of sovereign grace within you. He saved you from the guilt of your sin, reconciling you to himself. He accepted Christ’s work on your behalf and gave you the sure promise of eternity in his presence. But he has done more than even that. He has also given you the Holy Spirit to indwell you so, for the first time, you can overcome sin. You have been given mastery over it.

Have you ever stopped to consider what a gift this is? Do you understand that you are now able to defeat sin? The same power that saved you is now available for you to put sin to death, not just suppressing it or hiding it or masking it, but rooting it out, destroying it, killing it. What an amazing thing God has done. I am no longer a slave to sin but am now a slave to Christ.

That thought was resounding in my heart this weekend and it resounds in my heart as I begin a new week. Because of the work of Christ, because of the grace of God, because of the power of the Holy Spirit, I can defeat sin. “No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin.”

December 13, 2009

You know that every now and again I like to post a prayer here. Sometimes it is a prayer from long ago, sometimes it is a prayer that is much more recent. This week I was looking at pastor Scotty Smith’s blog and came across a great prayer—one I could fully identify with and one I so badly needed to pray, too. Smith based it on this passage: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:16-19).

Here is his prayer:

*****

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you—the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.

May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

April 20, 2009

Like all Christians, I love my quiet time. I am always thrilled at the prospect of sitting down for a few quiet moments before a busy day to spend some time alone with God—a few moments one-on-one with my Creator. I love to open the Bible and to carefully and systematically read the Word of God, allowing it to penetrate my heart. I love to sit and think deeply and meditatively about the Scriptures and to seek ways that I can apply God’s word to my heart. I love to pray to God, pouring out my heart in confession, praise, thanksgiving and petition. It is always the best and greatest part of my day. I couldn’t live without my quiet time.

But that’s not reality, is it?

I sometimes love my quiet time. I am sometimes thrilled at the prospect of sitting down to spend some time with God; too often, though, I dread it. I’d rather catch up on the news or spend some time writing or reading a good book or find out how badly the Blue Jays beat the A’s the day before. My quiet time is often invaded by little children, demanding my time and attention. Too often I hate to make my way through a difficult book of the Bible and dread spending another day reading through the prophecies of Isaiah. Thinking requires more time and effort than I am willing to give and it usually seems that a quick, cursory prayer is enough to make me feel that I’ve done my duty and asked God to bless my day and to forgive me for being a jerk with my kids the night before. I skim Scripture, breathe a prayer, and settle down to my breakfast.

That’s a little closer to reality, right?

In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges provides two scenarios and then a question. In the first, he describes a good day. “You get up promptly when your alarm goes off and have a refreshing and profitable quiet time as you read your Bible and pray. Your plans for the day generally fall into place, and you somehow sense that presence of God with you. To top it off, you unexpectedly have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone who is truly searching. As you talk with the person, you silently pray for the Holy Spirit to help you and to also work in your friend’s heart.” We’ve all had days like that. But we’ve also all had days like this: “You don’t arise at the first ring of your alarm. Instead, you shut it off and go back to sleep. When you awaken, it’s too late to have a quiet time. You hurriedly gulp down some breakfast and rush off to the day’s activities. You feel guilty about oversleeping and missing your quiet time, and things just generally go wrong all day. You become more and more irritable as the day wears on, and you certainly don’t sense God’s presence in your life. That evening, however, you unexpectedly have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone who is really interested in receiving Christ as Savior.” Bridges then asks if you would enter into those two witnessing opportunities with a different degree of confidence. Think about it for a moment. If you’re like most Christians, I suspect you would feel less confident about witnessing on a bad day then on a good day. You would feel less confidence that God would speak in and through you and that you would be able to share your faith forcefully and with conviction.

Why is it that we tend to think this way? According to Bridges, we’ve come to believe that God’s blessing on our lives is somehow conditional upon our spiritual performance. In other words, if we’ve performed well and done our quiet time as we ought to have done, we have put ourselves in a place where God can bless us. We may not consciously articulate this, but we prove that we believe it when we have a bad day and are certain that on this day we are absolutely unworthy of God’s blessings. This attitude “reveals an all-too-common misconception of the Christian life: the thinking that, although we are saved by grace, we earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives by our performance.”

Perhaps you, like me, have too often turned quiet time into a performance. If you perform well for God, you enter your day filled with confidence that God will bless you, and that He will have to bless you. You feel that your performance has earned you the right to have a day filled with His presence, filled with blessings, and filled with confidence. And, of course, when you turn in a poor performance, you feel that God is in heaven booing you and heaving proverbial rotten vegetables in the form of removing His presence and, in the words of a friend, “dishing out bummers.”

Quiet time becomes tyrannical when you understand it as a performance. Bridges provides a pearl of wisdom. “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” Whether you are having a good day or a bad day, the basis of your relationship with is not your performance, for even your best efforts are but filthy rags. Instead, your relationship is based on grace. Grace does not just save you and then leave you alone. No, grace saves you and then sustains you and equips you and motivates you. You are saved by grace and you then live by grace. Whether in the midst of a good day or bad, God does not base His relationship with you on performance, but on whether or not you are trusting in His Son.

Greg Johnson of St. Louis Center for Christian Study wrote an interesting tract entitled “Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt.” Johnson wrote about something I had only recently realized myself. “That half hour every morning of Scriptural study and prayer is not actually commanded in the Bible.” Imagine that. He goes on to say, “As a theologian, I can remind us that to bind the conscience where Scripture leaves freedom is a very, very serious crime. It’s legalism rearing its ugly little head again. We’ve become legalistic about a legalistic command. This is serious.” We have somehow allowed our quiet time, in its length, depth or consistency, to become the measure of our relationship with God. But “your relationship with God—or, as I prefer to say, God’s relationship with you—is your whole life: your job, your family, your sleep, your play, your relationships, your driving, your everything. The real irony here is that we’ve become accustomed to pigeonholing our entire relationship with God into a brief devotional exercise that is not even commanded in the Bible.” So what, then, does Scripture command? It commands that the Word of God be constantly upon your heart. You are to pray, to read the Scripture and to meditate upon it, but you are to do so from a joyful desire, and not mere performance-based duty. You are to do so throughout your whole life, and not merely for a few minutes each morning. Like Johnson, you will come to realize that the “goal isn’t that we pray and read the Bible less, but that we do so more—and with a free and needy heart.”

So do not allow quiet time to become performance. View it as a chance to grow in grace. Begin with an expression of your dependency upon God’s grace, and end with an affirmation of His grace. Acknowledge that you have no right to approach God directly, but can approach Him only through the work of His Son. Focus on the gospel as the message of grace that both saves and sustains. And allow quiet time to become a gift of worship you present to God, and a gift of grace you receive from Him.

January 02, 2008

The longer I live and the longer I walk through this Christian life, the more I come to understand what a gift it is to see the world through a Christian lens—through a Christian worldview. A worldview is simply the way we look at the world and the way we understand how life works. The predominant worldview in our day and our society is foundationally Darwinian. Built around an evolutionary framework, it teaches that we are all the result of an evolutionary process that allowed us, through chance and mutation, to evolve above the slime. We’ve come from nothing and have no idea where we’re going. We are in process—not the deliberate creation of a loving craftsman, but merely one result of chance mutations. This is, at heart, a hopeless worldview. It’s an awful worldview, really. I am thankful that, in granting me new life, God saved me from it.

For Christmas my wife gave me Ken Burns’ excellent documentary The War (a great series if you’re at all a World War II enthusiast) and, obviously, the series deals in part with the Holocaust. No matter how many times a person sees images of Jewish people being herded into train cars and sees German soldiers standing guard over emaciated, dying children, he cannot help but be affected. I have read about the war countless times and spent much of my time in college studying it. But those pictures still hit hard; they still hurt. A though that always occurs to me is this: those soldiers and I are not so different. I somehow like to think that, as part of a rational, ordered society like this one, we have developed far beyond such barbarity. Yet it was only sixty years ago and in a society not a lot unlike this one that men, who at any other time could have been authors and web designers, were happily shooting Jewish men, women and children and shamelessly plundering their homes. What happened? How did men sink so low?

As I watch this documentary and as I see Adolph Hitler, who for so many represents pure evil incarnate, I thank God that there is such a thing as justice. It would be easy to think that Hitler largely escaped justice. A person who utterly dominated and destroyed a nation while setting the world on fire, Hitler lived a life that was difficult in some ways, I suppose. But for many years he led Germany and was able to do nearly whatever he wanted. He was the cause of untold death and suffering. Not only did he orchestrate the systematic deaths of millions of Jews, but his actions also led to the deaths of millions (and probably tens of millions) of people from around the world as nations rallied to the cause of freedom and fought to curtail his power. Eventually, when his kingdom crumbled, he took his own life, suffering nothing as ended his life on his own terms. Justice was not served. It hardly seems that the self-inflicted death of an increasingly crazed and decrepit old man can serve as justice for so much death, destruction and suffering.

Without a Christian worldview, we would have no hope that justice would or could be served. If we deny that existence of God, or at least deny the existence of an active, present God, we deny that justice will ever be served to this man or to any other. What a distressing, depressing thought it would be that a man could live a life in which he caused so much death and then escape any meaningful consequences.

But when we look at the world through a biblical worldview, we see that justice will be served. Indeed, it must be served. And we want it to be served. Somehow God has built into us the desire to see justice served. This may be a natural desire some men suppress, but always it is there. We know that evil must be punished. We know that those who commit evil must be punished. Justice is “the quality of being just or fair;” it is “judgment involved in the determination of rights and the assignment of rewards and punishments.” But it is more. A Christian definition of justice goes further. Justice is the due reward or punishment for an act. God must punish evil. We know this. We tremble at this thought. Or we ought to.

God must punish evil. When we come to know Jesus Christ, we are shocked at the reality that He willingly paid the penalty for the sins of all who would believe in Him. When I believed in Him I saw that He suffered for me. I deserve to be punished for all those things I’ve done to forsake Him. But Jesus, through His great mercy, accepted this punishment on my behalf.

But those who do not turn to Him must be punished for their own sin. And it is here that we see how justice will be served. The sin of even a man as blatantly evil as Adolph Hitler differs from mine only in degree. He and I are both sinners through and through. We are both sinners in thought, word and deed. But, praise be to God, He has extended grace to restrain me from doing all of the evil I’d otherwise so love to do. And He has accepted Jesus’ work on the cross on my behalf. Justice has already been served on my behalf. But for those who do not turn to Christ, justice is still in the future. Justice hovers just over the horizon.

We do not look forward to the punishment of another person with a sick glee. We do not rejoice in what they must suffer. But we do look forward to the fact that justice will finally be served. God will not and cannot allow sin to be unpunished. And while we are humbled by the grace that is ours through Christ, we still thank God that there will be justice. We do not have unlimited license to sin knowing that death allows us to escape just punishment. Instead we see that death is just the beginning, just the entrance, to the courtroom where justice will be served.

December 16, 2007

A couple of days ago I posted a short reflection on grace and how foreign a concept this is to sinful humans. I wrote about my son and how, at a time he had received a gift he valued a great deal, he attempted to repay this gift with all the money he had (which was, it turns out, only one dollar). His offer was a kind one and even a generous one, but one that showed a misunderstanding and a misappreciation of a gift. Gifts, after all, are not repaid. They are given in grace.

My wife runs a small eBay-based business where she sells storage products (CD racks, DVD towers, and so on) along with fireplaces—electric and gel fuel. The nature of the business is such that all of the these products are drop-shipped and the addition of an extra one or two cogs to the wheel leads to the occasional difficult customer service situation. Yesterday she described to me one of these situations. A woman who had purchased some gel fuel from her had received only a partial order. It was the fault of the company that shipped the product but, of course, since my wife was the one it was purchased from, it was her responsibility to deal with. She did her best to make it right, attempting to get the full order sent right away. But this woman wanted more—she felt that she had been inconvenienced and she demanded compensation for this inconvenience. At first she asked for a discount on her purchase and then upped the ante asking for a whole case of this fuel gel to be added to her order. All of this because she only received a partial order.

I thought about this and wondered if I would do things the same way. If someone inconvenienced me by failing to provide the level of service I expected, would I demand to be compensated? Is it my right to have a perfect shopping experience every time? To be honest, I don’t know. But as I thought about this situation, I thought about grace and realized that just as it is foreign to us to accept grace, it is also foreign to us to extend grace. Why couldn’t this woman have simply extended grace? Was this issue so serious that she could not simply generously extend grace, seeking to build bridges rather than grasping for more? Would I have done any differently? What is it about grace that makes it seem strange to us?

I guess this may be the point of the parable of The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). Those who have been forgiven are expected to forgive. Those who have been given grace are expected to extend grace.

But do we?

December 14, 2007

Every year, in the weeks before Christmas, we have my son and daughter compile a list of the gifts they most desired. Topping my son’s list a couple of years ago was a Playmobil castle—a huge, grey castle that looks like the kind of toy every boy dreams about. He asked for this with some hesitation, though, because he knew that it was expensive. We told him several times leading up to Christmas that we did not think we would be able to afford such a toy. Neither Aileen or I were raised in families that celebrated Christmas or birthdays with hundreds of dollars worth of presents, so the price tag of the castle would be quite a stretch for us. In the end, we settled on a smaller castle, still Playmobil, but one that was the “bad guy” castle instead of the “good guy” castle.

When my son opened this gift on Christmas morning we could tell that he was both thrilled and disappointed. He had so badly wanted that big castle but knew it was unlikely that he would receive it. When he saw a big box on Christmas morning he thought that maybe, just maybe, we had splurged and bought it for him. But when he opened it, he saw that it was almost what he had wanted, but not quite. Still, he was happy with the gift and put a brave face on it. If he was exceedingly disappointed, he masked it well for a young boy. We were proud of him.

When his birthday rolled around in March, the Playmobil castle was still at the top of his list. Knowing now that his desire for this castle was not just a passing fancy, we decided that we would break form and buy it for him. We shopped around a little bit, found the best price, and bought it. When the day of his birthday arrived we hid the box and had him open all his other gifts first. When he had opened a couple of gifts from us, and gifts from other family members, he seemed truly pleased. It was then that I went downstairs and returned with that huge box. His eyes went wide and he exclaimed, “You didn’t! No, you didn’t!” We put the box before him and he made short work of the wrapping paper. His eyes lit up and I think I saw a tear in his eye as he saw that long-awaited castle. I think it was made sweeter by the waiting. We built the castle for him that afternoon and it has given him countless hours of pleasure since then. It remains a favored toy.

One little event struck me later that afternoon. The castle had been built and my son had already been playing with it for a few hours. I went downstairs to watch him enjoying his toy. When he saw me watching him, he ran up to his room and returned clutching something in his hand. He walked up to me and handed me a loonie, a one dollar coin. He explained that he knew the castle was very expensive and that we could not really afford it. He wanted to give me a dollar to help with the expense. It was a touching moment, really, and one that showed a sweet innocence, for of course his one dollar coin could hardly repay the castle. I explained to him that it was my privilege to give him the castle as a gift and that he could show me gratitude not by attempting to pay me back, something he could not do despite his best efforts, but by playing with the castle and receiving from it a great deal of joy. That seemed to satisfy him, so he put his money in his pocket and continued to play with his new toys.

I think there is a lesson in my son’s behavior and it’s one I see time and time again. It’s a lesson about grace—free grace. As sinful humans grace is so foreign to us that we so often get it wrong. So often, I realize, I have been just like my son, attempting to repay God for His gifts. I attempt to provide good works as repayment for mercy. God gives us grace as a gift and does not expect us to repay Him for it. As with myself when looking at my son, God’s satisfaction is not in our attempts to repay Him, but in seeing our heartfelt delight as we rejoice in His free gift. The gift is cheapened when we attempt to repay it. In The Great Work of the Gospel John Ensor writes, “His reward as a gift giver is in the gladness of heart that we experience in receiving his gift as a gift.” Ensor points out another reason we cannot pay for our sins by doing good works as a trade off for God’s mercy. “Anything we do with a motive of adding to the work of Christ so as to win the forgiveness of God becomes the ground of self-satisfaction in our own goodness, rather than trust in God’s grace.” In receiving this gift from me, my son was unable to boast. Had he saved his money and paid me back, he could have led his friends to the playroom and said, “Here is a castle I earned.” But with the gift I gave him, all he can boast in is in having a father who loves him and who knows how to give him good gifts.

My son’s motives were pure, I’m sure. He felt some measure of guilt in receiving a gift he felt we could not afford. And so he tried to repay me, but in a way that was inadequate, impossible and in denial of the very fact that what I gave him was intended to be a gift. I expected no repayment and took my joy in my son’s delight. His delight was my reward. And there is the lesson for me. God wants me to receive mercy and grace as a gift. Even my best efforts at repaying Him merit me nothing. What God desires is that I receive His gift as a gift and that I return to Him all the praise and the glory through enjoying what He has so graciously given me. He delights in my delight.

March 10, 2004

Every believer carries a measure of the guilt for Jesus’ death. If it were not for our willful disobedience to God’s perfect Law, we would have no need of a Savior. We acknowledge in song that it was our hands that drove the spikes into His’ and sometimes speak about driving the nails into Jesus’ hands every time we sin. We speak figuratively, of course, knowing that although we were not present at the time of His death, we bear the guilt of providing the need for His death.

In the Bible we are given a brief glimpse of a man who was present while Jesus was nailed to the tree. This man was a Roman centurion, a commander over 100 soldiers of the Roman army. We know little about the man except that he was probably a hardened solider and commanded a detachment of what were most likely Syrian-born soldiers. He had, in all likelihood, presided over the crucifixion of hundreds or even thousands of men and must have become hardened to the agony these men endured.

It is likely that this man was present from the time Jesus was brought before Pilate right until the Lord’s body was lowered from the cross and given to Joseph of Arimathea. He may even have been present with the detachment of soldiers that aided in Jesus’ arrest the night before His crucifixion. This man would have accompanied Jesus from the time the Jewish leaders brought him to the Praetorium. He would have ordered his men to beat Him, caring little for who He was, knowing Him only to be another in a long line of people he was commanded to execute. He would have been nearby when his men dressed Jesus in a robe, pressed a crown of thorns onto His head and walked Him to Golgotha. He would have given the order to proceed with the crucifixion.

The centurion is mentioned in three of the four gospel accounts. He is mentioned not for his cruelty, ruthlessness or ability as a soldier. He is mentioned for something far more important, for a marvelous transformation that occurred immediately after the death of one of his prisoners.

Having seen so many crucifixions, the centurion knew what to expect from prisoners. Most people who were sentenced to be crucified were criminals, brigands, thieves and murderers. He had heard countless men scream in agony while being whipped and plead for their lives before Pilate. From their crosses he had heard them shout curses to men below and blasphemies to God above. The behavior of the thieves on either side of Jesus was all too common, as they mocked and ridiculed Jesus as he hung between them.

Perhaps it was during this time that the centurion began to notice that there was something different about Jesus. Where most men cursed and swore, Jesus, as His hands were nailed to the wood, cried out for God to forgive those who were causing His suffering. Or maybe He noticed the tender mercy in Jesus’ voice when He spoke to the penitent thief beside Him, promising that the same day he would be with Jesus in paradise. Perhaps he was amazed that during such suffering Jesus could look down at His mother and ensure that her future was secure by telling John to take care of her. Certainly three three hours of darkness that accompanied Jesus’ suffering would have marked this as an execution unlike any other.

We can only guess when the centurion began to realize that perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be. What we do know is exactly when He knew with full certainty.

Just before He died, Jesus cried out “It is finished.” Immediately after that He said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” At that very moment Jesus died. At that same moment a violent earthquake shook the land with such ferocity that rocks were split. Matthew tells us “when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Luke expands on this saying “when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”

And just like that, the man who presided over Jesus’ execution, the man who ordered the nails to be driven into His hands and feet, became the first person to become a believer after Jesus’ death.

What an awesome, exciting testament this is to God’s divine grace! God was willing and eager to save one of those primarily responsible for the murder of His Son. A man who watched Jesus be scourged, who watched his soldiers mock and abuse Him and who probably enjoyed every minute of it, suddenly cries out in terror, realizing that He has killed an innocent man. His cry of terror is also an expression of faith as he confesses his new-found knowledge that Jesus was the Son of God.

I am certain that this story served as a great encouragement to many people in the early church. Though many of them carried the guilt for having killed the Lord, the realization that God could save even those who held the nails, would have proven that He is a God of love and forgiveness. It would have reassured them that, like this centurion, they could gain God’s favor through Jesus’ sacrifice.

This centurion’s miraculous conversion continues to serve as an encouragement today. Just as we share the centurion’s guilt for driving the nails into Jesus, so we can share the victory He won that day. As with this soldier who lived and died almost 2000 years ago, we need only have faith to believe that “truly this was the Son of God” and we, too, can be forgiven for the part we played in this terrible, unjust execution.