Grace Greater Than All Our Sin

By Scott Wilder

I think most people who have lived long enough have regrets. For most of us, hopefully, they are about the small things, but for some they are not.

There is a sadness that settles on the soul that regrets. Grace can absolve and forgive, but in the deepest recesses of the heart, the person knows what they’ve done.

Like a body heals from an injury, but a scar remains, the soul remembers. It’s a scar that reminds a person of the grace that has been offered and received, but it also reminds a person of the ongoing need of grace.

I recently met a man who knows this well. We sat in a little church in Cambodia with other members of our mission team. His story evidenced the scars of a life that knows the grace of forgiveness. We were there to hear about this grace and about our continual need for it.

The church was a simple building on a dirt road. Every time I meet Christians in other parts of the world it’s the same. In America we like to get down to business quickly—to cut to the chase. But in other cultures, that would be deemed rude. So things take longer, and we’re better for it.

A scarred soul needs “breathing room” to tell its story. We often miss the stories because we don’t give the time. We want what we want and we want it now. But this is not the land of drive-thru’s and microwaves. This is a place where a scarred soul can breathe.

In 1975 Pol Pot led the bloody Khmer Rouge. He was a murderous thug and killed millions of people. He forced many men and boys into his army to kill his enemies. To resist was essentially siding with the enemy, and that meant death for you and your family.

Some who fought for Pol Pot fought to save themselves and their families. But fighting in the Khmer Rouge also meant killing—in some cases your own countrymen. Such was the case for Sukah, the man sitting before us in this little cement church on a dirt road in Southeast Asia.

Sukah had done unspeakable things. He’d killed men, women and children.

“Many of the people we killed were Christians,” he said. “We always looked forward to getting their Bibles because the pages were thin and good for rolling our cigarettes.”

After killing Pol Pot’s enemies, they would gather the Bibles, rip the pages out, roll their cigarettes, and enjoy a relaxing smoke. That killing can come so easy and without remorse is an awful window into the human heart.

But during this killing spree an amazing thing happened: Sukah began reading portions of the pages he ripped out of Bibles. Moreover, even though Sukah knew what he was doing was in part to save his family, he also began to realize what he’d done was evil and wrong. So evil, he thought, that even if there was a God, he could never be forgiven; he could never be clean again.

One day as he got ready to roll a cigarette using a page from a Bible that had belonged to a man he’d killed, he stopped to read the words from Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Scarlet ... Red ... Rouge ... Khmer Rouge. Crimson like the blood he’d spilled, like the blood on his hands.

At that moment Sukah knew that even after all he’d done, God could still love him; he could be clean again. Even Sukah could be redeemed.

As Sukah told us his story, tears were streaming down his cheeks. Even in the hands of killers the Bible makes a difference around the world.

The next time we read Isaiah 1:18 perhaps we’ll pause for a moment and let those words breathe and remember the grace offered to us in that text. This is no cheap grace. Our sins are worthy of death and deserving of the wrath of an infinitely Holy God. But this is a grace greater than all our sin.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

God’s grace is able to save the worst killer, to pardon and cleanse even a man like Sukah. This is what we learned from one scarred soul in a little cement church on a dirt road in Southeast Asia.

Scott Wilder is host of “The Scott Wilder Show,” recognized by the National Religious Broadcasters as Talk Show Host of the Year in 2004. His program is heard weekday afternoons in Dallas/Ft. Worth on The WORD 100.7FM. Contact Scott at column@wildershow.com. To join Scott sending Bibles to people around the world, go to www.wildershow.com/sendbibles.


All About Repentance & Forgiveness

Asking For Forgiveness

Satan was complaining to the Lord. "You're unfair! So many sinners do wrong and you take them back. In fact, some come back half a dozen times and you always welcome them. I make one big mistake and you condemn me forever; it is unfair."

The Lord replied, "Did you ever repented and asked for forgiveness?"

- Christopher Notes

Rehabilitation, Forgiveness

A young man secretly misappropriated several hundred dollars from the business where he was employed. When the shortage was discovered, the senior partner called the young man into his office.

Immediately he knew he would be fired and sent to prison.

His employer asked the worried man if he was guilty. He replied that he was. Then the executive surprised him.

"If I keep you in your present capacity, can I trust you in the future?", he asked.

"Yes, sir, you surely can. I've learned my lesson," replied the astonished employee.

His boss must have detected the repentant man's sincerity. "I'm not going to press charges and you can continue in your present responsibility," he said. Then he added, "I think you ought to know, however, that you are the second man in this firm who succumbed to temptation but was shown leniency. I was the first. What you have done, I did. The mercy you are receiving, I received. It is only the grace of God that can keep us both."

Isn't it true that those who love best are those who know best that they are loved? Those who forgive best are those who are forgiven. Our best efforts only reflect the deep, deep love of God. But how they reflect!

- Steve Goodier in QUOTE

Rise Again

A young preacher was supposed to preach in the prison. Day after day he tried to find some message or formula that would move hard hearts.

As he entered the room, he shuddered under the gaze and stares of the crime-hardened faces. He said a silent prayer for light as he walked up to the pulpit. He stumbled on the second last step and rolled down the steps head over heels right to the floor. The audience broke out into loud laughter.

For a brief minute the young preacher felt himself hindered by pain and shame. The light he prayed for came upon him, and then suddenly he got an inspiring idea amidst the whole embarrassment.

He jumped up, moved up to the pulpit taking the steps two at a time and laughed right back at his captive audience, telling them, "Men, that's exactly why I came here today: I wanted to show you that a man can stand up again after he has fallen flat on his face."

- Willi Hoffsuemmer

False Repentance

Two neighbors had a lifelong quarrel. One of them took seriously sick. His wife called the pastor and explained to him, "Sir, my husband Pat has been fighting with our neighbor Mike for years. Pat's going to die. Can you patch up their quarrel?"

After much persuasion the pastor induced the dying Pat to call in Mike for a reconciliation. In a few minutes Mike was at the bedside. He suggested, "Let's make up, Pat. Let bygones be bygones."

Pat agreed rather reluctantly. Mike prepared to leave. As he approached the door, Pat raised himself on one elbow in bed, and shaking his other fist at Mike he shouted, "Remember, Mike, this counts only in case I die."

- Tonne

[Luke 15:2-32]

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man [Jesus] receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he [Jesus] spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

The Parable of the Two Sons: One Prodigal, the Other Unforgiving

And he [Jesus] said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

Change Self First

By De Mello

A great Indian mystic says this about himself: "I was a revolutionary when I was young, and all my prayer to God was: 'Lord, give me the energy to change the world.'

"As I approached middle age and realized that half my life was gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: 'Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come into contact with me. Just my family and friends, and I shall b satisfied.'

"Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: 'Lord, give me the grace to change myself.' If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life."


The Trial Of Faith

Author Unknown

A number of years ago, my wife and I were taken on a tour of the Rand Refinery in South Africa. There we saw gold that was 88 percent pure being heated in crucibles to 1100 degrees centigrade. It was at this extreme temperature that this gold became 99.996 percent pure, which is the purest form of gold possible. To our amazement, we learned that the last metal to be purified from gold is silver. Silver is very valuable in itself. However, it must be refined from the gold if the gold is to be totally pure.

Even in our lives, quite often the last things the Lord purifies and removes from us are those things that are very precious and good in themselves. He removes from lives those things that may be good and yet are not part of God's perfect will for us. Therefore, He asks us to lay them upon the altar before Him and to allow Him to consume them. God wants to purify our hearts so all that is left in us is His character and His faith.

The director of this refinery told us that when they boil gold at 1100 degrees, it is a very crucial moment. Refiners have to be extremely careful not to overheat gold at this temperature because gold cannot hold up under any higher temperature. That is why the refiner must sit and watch the gold while in process. He cannot just walk by and casually monitor this refining process. He must concentrate on the gold. The director went on to tell us that when the refiner can see his own image reflected in the melted shining gold, then he knows the work is finished.

This is similarly how the Lord Jesus deals with His people. He tries our faith through many fiery trials. Yet He is sitting in the heavenlies watching us ever so carefully to make sure that our crucible is not overheated, for we can be ruined if the heat of our pressures becomes too hot. Many times we think we are at our breaking point where we cannot take any more. However, the Lord says to us, "Yes, you can take a little more."

All of our trials and pressures are working for our eternal good. The Lord's image is being produced in us, and faith is being created in our hearts so that we do not trust in ourselves, but only in Him.

Another very important aspect of the trial of our faith is that there is a specific time for our trial to begin and specific time for it to come to an end. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Some preachers say: "You can be healed anytime -- just have faith!" Yet the Lord spoke through Solomon and said that there is a specific "time to heal" (Eccl.3:3).

God has appointed time for everything in our lives to happen. Remember that trials have a beginning, but they also have an ending. God never leads His people into caves, He always leads them through tunnels. The reason for this is that there is always light at the end of a tunnel. All tunnels come to an opening of light at the end, whereas caves do not.

Like the surgeon's knife that cuts and removes the part of the flesh that is corrupted, so is God's purifying fire. While it may be very painful, yet it brings healing to the whole of your being. No one can escape the chastening of the Lord, therefore do not resist but be humble instead, and submit to His refining heat.


Who Can Plant the Seeds?

By Paul Wharton

A man once stole a piece of food and was ordered by the king to be hanged. When asked if he had any last words, the thief replied, "Know, o king, that I kept some seeds which when planted in the ground will grow and become mature plants overnight. It is a secret that my grandfather gave me and I thought it would be a pity if it died with me."

A time was appointed the following day for planting the seeds. The thief dug a hole and said, "These seeds can only be planted by someone who has never stolen or taken anything which did not belong to him. But since I had stolen some food, I cannot, of course, do it."

The king asked his prime minister to plant the seeds, but he hesitated and said, "Your majesty, when I was young, I recall keeping an article that did not belong to me. I cannot plant the seeds."

The treasurer, when told to plant the seeds, begged the king's pardon, saying that he may have cheated someone out of some money. The king, in his turn, recalled that once he took and kept a precious object belonging to his father.

The thief turned to them and said, "You are all mighty and powerful persons. You are not in want of anything, yet you cannot plant the seeds. Yet I, who stole a little food to stay alive, am to be hanged."

The king, pleased with the wisdom, spared the man's life.


The Legend of the Candle

By Purnell Bailey

One evening a man took a small candle from a box and began to climb a long winding stairway.

"Where are we going?" asked the candle.

"We are going up higher than the house to show ships the way to the harbour."

"But no ship in the harbour could ever see my light," said the candle. "it is so very small."

"If your light is small," the man said, "just keep burning brightly and leave the rest to me."

When they reached the top of the long steps, they came to a larbe lamp. Then he took the little candle and lit the lamp. Soon the great polished reflectors behind the lamp sent beams of light out across miles of sea.

We are God's taper! Our job is to keep on shining, and our effectiveness is in His hands.

The Lord your God will light your candle: He will enlighten your darkness. (Psalms 18:28)

The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore when your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light; but when it is evil, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore see whether the light that is in you isn't darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle do give you light. (Luke 11:34-36)


No Sudden Results

By Jacob Riis

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at a hundredth and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it -- but all that had gone before.

Rejoice in your hardships, knowing that hardship works perseverance; and perseverance, experience; and experience, hope. (Romans 5:4)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.

[Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]

Notice that it is only in the last line that "of" is used instead of "to". It didn't say, "A time to war, and a time to make peace." Why so, and what does it imply?