Grace That is Greater Than Our Inexcusable Sin
By Shawn Thomas
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” That is a great statement, and very convicting regarding our attitude and practice towards others — but it all depends on whether we really understand what it means that “God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
We see an example of that in Mark 14, where Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him to pray in Gethsemane. These three men were brought into the “inner ring” of Jesus’ fellowship, to go in where no one else would ever have the opportunity to go: into one of the most crucial moments in all of history: with Jesus as He would wrestle with the horrors of the cross, and bear in His body the sins of all the world.
There was no invitation like the one they had been given.
There is no opportunity like that which had been presented to them.
There is perhaps no bigger moment in all of history to be a part of, than this. But what did they DO with this incomparable invitation? Verse 40 says: “He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.” These guys had been given this amazing opportunity to go into the “inner ring” with Jesus, but they fell asleep — not only once, but again and again. What could be their excuse? And it even says: “they did not know what to answer Him.”
That says SO much, doesn’t it? “They did not know what to answer Him.” What they had done was so embarrassing; it was SUCH a letdown in light of the amazing privilege Jesus had extended to them; it was SO shameful — that they just didn’t have anything to say!
It’s like after Job had complained against God, and was confronted by the Lord, all he could say was: “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to you? I lay my hand on my mouth.” (40:4) Job was basically like Jesus’ disciples here in Mark 10: all he could do was I cover his mouth with his hand. There were no excuses. He had nothing left to say.
There are times like that, aren’t there, when it’s so bad, there’s nothing left to say:
— when you can’t say you didn’t know, because you did.
— when you can’t say you weren’t warned, because you were.
— when you’ve used up all your “chances”
— when you’ve used up all your “excuses”
— when there is literally nothing left to say but just to stand there in your total shame and humiliation. What you’ve done is inexcusable.
I once pastored a guy who was caught in a certain sin. He knew better; he had been warned about it; he didn’t have any excuse. And when he was caught in it, there was just nothing he could say. He just hung his head in shame. Like these disciples, he just “did not know what to answer.” What he had done was inexcusable.
And maybe at some point, you’ve felt that way yourself:
— How many times have you told the Lord you wouldn’t do that sin anymore — but you did it yet again?
— How many times have you said, “Now THIS week I am really going to read my Bible,” but you didn’t do it again?
— How many times have you said, “I am really going to be a bold witness for the Lord now” but another week went by and just like Peter, you denied the Lord three times — or maybe even more?
How many times can you bring that same sin back to Him?
How many times is He going to forgive you for that?
How many “second chances” is He really going to give you?
There comes a time when you don’t have any excuses anymore, and just like His disciples you “just don’t know what to answer Him.” It is just an inexcusable sin.
The fact is, we’ve all been there.
So what do we do with our “inexcusable sins”? Give up in despair?
No, for in the very next verse Jesus says: “The hour has come; behold the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going …”. Where were they going? Jesus was going to the cross, where He would die for these very “inexcusable failures” of Peter, James, and John — and OURS!
See, this is exactly why Jesus came: to die on the cross and pay for our “inexcusable failures.”
— Romans 5:8 says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet SINNERS Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t come to die for us because we were good; He came to die for us precisely because we were hopeless sinners.
— Paul said in I Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
— In Mark 2:17 “Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
God’s word makes it very clear: Jesus came just because we ARE such inexcusable sinners, but thank God His grace is infinitely greater than our sin. His disciples were “inexcusable failures” — but that is just why He was here! Because although we are “inexcusable sinners,” He has “immeasurable grace” which is far greater than all our sins!
Most of us — even of God’s people — have far too small a conception of just how immeasurable the grace and mercy of God really is.
Psalm 103:11-14 says: “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a Father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” God is SO understanding; SO compassionate; SO gracious towards us. His grace towards us is higher than the heavens are above the earth!
The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 5:20: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” In other words, however “big” your sin is — God’s grace is BIGGER!
Think of it like this: how big do you picture your sin as being?
— You might say, “Oh man, pastor, my sin is great. I feel like my sin is like this 2-story big brick building standing right in front of me, just keeping me from God.”
— Or maybe you’d say, “No, MY sin is worse than that; my sin is like a whole warehouse; a whole Wal-Mart wouldn’t hold it all.” It’s huge!
— Or maybe there’s someone here who would say, “Pastor, you don’t know what all I’ve done; if you heard it, you’d be shocked. MY sin would be like the Empire State building; it’s too big; there’s no getting over it.”
Now listen: I am not minimizing your sin. ALL of our sins are great because our sins are committed against a holy God, who is a consuming fire. Do not downplay your sin. It IS great. But the good news is: that although your sin is great — the grace of God is greater!
— The grace of God is higher than the heavens are above the earth
— The grace of God is wider than the biggest canyon that divides you and God
— The grace of God is deeper than the deepest, darkest, sin you ever committed
The grace of God is so great, the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3, I pray that your eyes may be opened and that you may be able to understand the height and the depth and the length and the breadth — he says, I pray that you will understand how great God’s love and grace towards you are:
His grace is higher than the heavens! His grace is deeper than the ocean! I don’t think most of us really understand just how deep the ocean is. The Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean, is so deep we can’t even explore it all. Its KNOWN depth is over 36,000 feet — that’s about SEVEN MILES! You can literally take anything on the surface of the earth, and cast it into the Mariana Trench, and it would be totally immersed in miles of water: you can throw a house in there, and it would be swallowed up; you could throw a Wal-Mart in there (if you could throw one!) and it wouldn’t make a dent in it. You could stand the Empire State Building up at the bottom of it and it would be entirely covered up. You could take the largest thing on the face of the whole earth: Mount Everest, and cast it into the Mariana Trench, and it would be covered up by over a mile of ocean. It is vast; it is beyond what most of us can even begin to comprehend.
And the vastness of that ocean is a picture of God’s grace! His grace is immeasurable. It is higher than the heavens. It is deeper than the ocean. Picture your greatest sin — that one you feel so bad about: as big as a house; as big as a Walmart; as big as Mt. Everest — a picture that sin cast into the depths of God’s grace, where it will be swallowed up, and covered over, and seen no more!
I pray for all of us the prayer of Paul in Ephesian 3, that our eyes would be opened to begin to fathom the immeasurable grace of God. Whatever your sin is, realize His grace is higher; His grace is wider; His grace is deeper; His grace is stronger. His grace is immeasurably greater than any of your sins.
A wise, old pastor friend of mine once wrote: “A young Christian needs to be wary of judging the failures of other Christians too harshly. An older Christian needs to be careful not to judge his many failures too harshly; both minimize the grace of God.”
I love that statement: don’t minimize the grace of God. Don’t think you’re beyond His forgiveness and grace. And don’t fear that someone you know is beyond His forgiveness and grace. His grace is greater than you’ll ever understand. “Where sin abounds, grace more than abounds.” However deep that sin is, God’s grace is deeper. It is immeasurable.
When we are like those hapless disciples in Mark 14, and we “have no answer” for our “inexcusable failures” — then we need to remember what God’s word says here. When we are at our worst, when we are “inexcusable failures” — that is exactly why He got up to go to the cross. When our mouths are closed in shame, and we “have no answer” for our “inexcusable failures” — then HE HIMSELF IS THE ANSWER. His “grace that is greater than all our sin.”
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
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