My dad was a proud man, not arrogant but never wanting to not seem be in control. When in his mid-70’s, I persuaded him to attended Bible Study Fellowship along with me. As my elderly mother’s caregiver and reluctant to leave her alone, my daughters stepped up to stay with her on his evenings away, effectively eliminating any reason not to attend. To my knowledge this was his first ever organized bible study, other than a mandatory class in college years before.

At BSF, if unable to complete the lesson beforehand you were not allowed to talk within your group. Fearing the guys might know he was new to studying the bible, he worked hard on the lessons, answering every question as best he could. As the oldest guy in the group, he felt he knew the least. I assured him nobody looked at him that way and enjoyed having him there. Still, he was careful with his words and rarely asked questions for fear of looking like the new guy.

One night, several weeks into the study while driving home, Dad asked me; “I keep hearing the word “Grace” used and don’t know what it means.”Wow- what a great question to ask me! I explained it was like having your debts paid by someone else for free- like unearned favor. In my father’s typical fashion, he stated he understood, then changed the topic. Having to ask me in the first place was embarrassing for him but I know he pondered my answer.

The reality that salvation is a gift does not go well with some people, especially if you’ve attempted to earn it all your life. It seems the older we get, the more set in our ways we become. To be told the good works you’ve been piling up over the years won’t count when you stand before the Lord can be a hard pill to swallow, and to learn they are as filthy rags almost insulting. We have the natural desire to earn it ourselves and take credit in doing so. But God’s plan is different than ours- to place our faith in the grace of Christ’s death in our place to be saved.

As a salesman years ago, I met an elderly man at his simple rural home. We sat together at his kitchen table while he told me of his terminal illness, not having long to live. He told me of his life, his work done for God, his church affiliation and being a good person. Laying out his resume for acceptance to heaven, he would trust in his good works. I explained the gospel, that by placing his trust in Christ’s death for his sins and receiving Him as Savior, he could know for certain of his eternity. His reply was sobering but honest- he believed God would be fare and he would accept whatever God gave him. When his widow called to tell me of his death a few months later, I was sad but knew God was fare, but finds no pleasure in the death of a man who has not placed his trust in Christ.

When Christ was crucified, two condemned men hung on either side. While one mocked and cursed Him, the other asked Christ to remember him when He came into to His kingdom. Jesus’ reply was straightforward: “Truly truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”As a convicted man, guilty and accepting of punishment, he acknowledged the innocence of Christ and trusted Him for his salvation. Jesus paid the price for his sins, and the reward of eternal life for believing on Him. That very day the thief saw paradise with Christ.

So, did my dad place his trust in Christ? After 20 years of prayer and sometimes frustration, I had pretty much decided to quit asking and to just give it to God. Then one morning while eating breakfast together at McDonalds, out of the blue dad confesses his understanding of grace, that we are save by unearned favor, and that our works play no part in our salvation. He got it, and in God’s perfect timing.

We are called to tell of Christ’s love to a lost world, while it is the Holy Spirit who changes their hearts. Don’t stop praying for those people in your lives. Pride may get in the way, but the Lord can soften the heart. God is patient, not wishing for any to perish apart from His son. Be patient, God has it handled.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  

Scott Longstreet

10/05/18

 

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{TIME | More Than Missions – Short Term Missions!}

http://www.timeministries.org

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