Grace test


Let’s take a test.

I stumbled upon a grace test yesterday. I say “grace test” because it’s a hypothetical question that indicates a lot about what a person understands about grace depending on how they answer it. Just by thinking about the question, I believe you can find out something about yourself.

The question arose from a study I was doing with my friend, Arnold, on 1 John chapter 2:1-2, which reads, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins — and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”

If Jesus has atoned for the sins of the whole world, then hypothetically, the whole world could be saved if everybody believed, repented and accepted God’s sacrificial offering for sin by Jesus Christ. And this raises an interesting question: What would we feel about that? I decided to ask Arnold how he would feel if God ended up saving everybody? He said immediately, without question, that he’d feel good about that. I think that’s the way it should be.

But then I thought about abusers, rapists, drug dealers, murderers, mass shooters, and a long list of undesirables that I wondered if I would be very happy seeing in heaven. Well, then, the key to this would be how I see myself. If I match up well with these folks in relationship to my own sin, then there shouldn’t be any problem. I am among fellow saved sinners, and it doesn’t matter what we’ve done; God’s grace is the same for all of us. But if I think of some people as worse sinners than myself and less desirable to have in heaven, then something is going to be askew in my knowledge of God’s grace.

The apostle Paul believed he was the worst of sinners and least desirable of God’s favor and a place in heaven. Does that mean Paul was an exceptionally bad sinner? I don’t think so. I think it means that Paul was so aware of his own sin and so overwhelmed by God’s grace, that he was convinced that no one was more undeserving of God’s kindness than he was, and I believe that this should be a universal feeling for all of us when we truly see our sinfulness and God’s grace.

The other side of this would be the Pharisees whom Jesus derided for standing by the gates of heaven, keeping people out. “For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either” (Matthew 23:13). Self-righteousness is just what it says it is … you keep it to yourself. What a tragedy.

If you think you are the worst of sinners and least deserving of heaven, then if you get in, you will most likely throw the door open to everybody. This is the essence of grace turned outward. Once you have it, you want everyone to have it.

So go ahead, take the grace test. How would you feel if God ended up saving everybody? Your answer might tell you something about how much you understand about God’s grace and grace turned outward.

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22 Responses to Grace test

  1. Markus says:

    Yes, with some sinners I would be extremely surprised to see them in heaven, but if God decides to let them in then so be it. We can trust God there, or is anybody really worried that a former sinner who made it into heaven will spoil it for the rest of us? God would never allow for this to happen. So yes, I would trust them because I trust God.

    And yet, as I said, with some I would be surprised, but I don’t think that this surprise would be a sin in and of itself. It is just a feeling that occurs when we have to deal with something (or somebody) entirely unexpected. There is nothing bad about that.

  2. Gary says:

    Great answer Markus, I totally agree with you. Bota Bing Bota Boom !!

  3. Mark D Seguin says:

    From Today’s Catch: “This is the essence of grace turned outward. Once you have it, you want everyone to have it.” I’ll add an Amen

  4. John A Fagliano says:

    Heaven’s Surprise

    I was shocked, confused, bewildered as I entered Heaven’s door,
    Not by the beauty of it all, nor the lights or its decor.
    But it was the folks in Heaven who made me sputter and gasp–
    The thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics and the trash.
    There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice.
    Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.
    Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell,
    Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.
    I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal? I would love to hear your take.
    How’d all these sinners get up here? God must’ve made a mistake.
    ‘And why’s everyone so quiet, so somber – give me a clue.’
    ‘Child,’ He said, ‘they’re all in shock. They never thought they’d be seeing you!’

    -Author unknown.

    • John A Fagliano says:

      A little late but I found the author: Rod Hemphill

      • Judi Ludwig says:

        I am the author of this poem. It’s titled “Folks in Heaven” by J Taylor Ludwig. Rod Hemphill wrote a commentary on my poem but put his name after the poem instead of after the commentary. If you search the correct title and my name, you should be able to determine that I’m the author. Thank you.

    • jwfisch says:

      I love this!

  5. This weekend, a shelter rescue won the “World’s Ugliest Dog Contest”.
    The 9-year old English Bulldog (named Zsa Zsa) has a severe underbite, crooked teeth, an enormous slobbering tongue, and rounded front legs. But despite Zsa Zsa’s outward appearance her owner, Megan Brainard, says, “She is so beautiful in my eyes.”
    Many of the other “ugly dogs” receive the same devotion from their owners, too.
    Unfortunately, many others of us (people) would rather look down our noses at these “freaks” of the canine world and not even waste our time or efforts trying to love such malformed beasts with temperaments that could be docile or aggressive.

    Aren’t we all just ugly dogs in varying degrees, either outwardly or inwardly?
    Oh, we may have titles and labels and pedigrees and behaviors that are either tame, domesticated, feral, or in-training… but how many of us try to groom our own appearance by looking down our snouts at others? How many of us form packs with similar breeds and exclude others we deem too ugly or wild or who (heaven forbid!) like cats? How many times have we concluded that other animals, whether within or outside our own “species”, do not deserve the same comforts of the Masters lap that we enjoy… and, if we had our choice, prefer to have them tied to a stake outside and/or destroyed?

    Internally at least, we’re all ugly dogs in one form or another, whether mongrel or purebred: some are murderers, or molesters, or abusers, or thieves, haters, liars, manipulators, undisciplined, self-indulgent, arrogant, prideful, pharisaical, you know the list…

    Yet, despite all of this, we have a Master who looks at each of us lovingly and, with tender grace, tells us that, “we are so beautiful in His eyes”.
    He may need to get out the newspaper for us to piddle on or to clean up our mess, or He may need to roll it up to swat us on the nose and teach us a lesson.
    He may need to keep a tight leash on us for a while, but He also knows when we can be trusted to roam the dog park with unfettered freedom. Should a fight break out, He’ll step in, settle things down, and bandage our wounds.
    Sometimes, though, some of us may need to be put down and I am certain that it breaks our Masters heart to make that final decision – especially as it applies to those who became unteachable and turned out to be “a bad dog”.

    I hope to prove myself loyal to my Master and trust Him to provide all I need.
    Hopefully, all of us listen for our Master’s voice knowing He knows what is best.
    The sights, the scents, and the sounds He introduces us to every day makes my tail wag excitedly and I am looking forward to sharing all of these experiences with many others at that “Great Garden”!

    Everything our Master does is done out of love for each and every one of us.
    We are so beautiful in his eyes.

    • Sandie says:

      I have a sticker on my motorcycle helmet that reads: “Lord, please help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.”

      • AMEN, Sandie, thank you!
        How many of us struggle daily with such a dilemma (ala Romans 7)?

        On the topics of grace and dogs, here’s an excerpt from Philip McLarty’s sermon: “The Faith of a Dog” (2009):

        ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,’ Jesus tells the Canaanite woman. ‘Yes, Lord,’ she answers, ‘yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’

        That is exactly the answer Jesus wants to hear. In a single place in all Scripture where Jesus seems to have changed His mind, he says, ‘Woman, great is your faith. Be it done for you as you desire.’

        The Canaanite woman’s great faith had nothing to do with how good she was, or how much she was devoted to God, or whether she’d done good deeds for others; it had to do with her need for a power greater than herself and her willingness to confess it.

        If this passage tells us anything, it’s that there’s a place in God’s kingdom for the least, the last and the lost. In other words, there’s a place for you and me.
        It also tells us there’s a place for others, as well … for those we might least expect to be included in God’s great family. Next time we run across someone we think is beyond God’s grasp, think again. God has a special place in His heart for those we’d never, ever expect to curry God’s favor.

        Frederick Faber put it this way:

        There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
        like the wideness of the sea;
        There’s a kindness in His justice,
        which is more than liberty.

        For the love of God is broader
        than the measure of our mind;
        And the heart of the Eternal
        is most wonderfully kind.

        But we make His love too narrow
        by false limits of our own;
        And we magnify His strictness
        with a zeal He will not own.

        Was there ever a kinder Shepherd,
        half so gentle, half so sweet,
        As the Savior who would have us
        come and gather at His feet?

        Friends, be as faithful as you can. Be religious, if you will. Just be careful and not let your righteousness stand in the way of God’s infinite mercy, grace and love. Dare to have the faith of a dog, eager to please and willing to take your place at the Master’s feet.

  6. Sandie says:

    The book, The Shack, deals with this concept. Not an easy read, but without a doubt brings home the truth that God’s grace leaves no one out…”whosoever will;” “God is not willing that any should perish.” If we don’t come to grips with that, bitterness takes root and kills the life of The Spirit in us and poisons everything we touch.

    • John A Fagliano says:

      I never read the book but I’ve seen the movie “The Shack”. In my opinion it’s the best movie about God ever made. I can’t watch it enough times.

  7. thesonsarefree says:

    I kinda hope heaven works like Facebook – well – at least the “block” user feature ‘cuz there’s a person or two I really don’t want to see in my corner of heaven. Seriously, there’s a few people I’ll need G-d sized help with forgiving if the Father expects me to share heaven with ’em.

    • Sandie says:

      When we have so eagerly accepted the gift of grace from the Lord’s hand, we cannot refuse to extend that same grace toward everyone in our lives.
      Ask Jesus to let you see these persons through His eyes, to accept them as they are with His heart…the same as He does for you and me. “Pray for your enemies,” Jesus said. It’s hard to hate someone you are honestly praying for.
      We will all need help in this area; we all know someone we’d rather not know at all, here or in heaven. He will help you with this. “By this shall men know that you belong to me; that you have love for one another.” Jesus’ words – not a suggestion, an imperative.
      The Lord brought to my mind that there are people I hurt, people who hope I won’t be in heaven with them – sobering when you turn it around.
      But thank you Jesus for your grace and forgiveness that covers us all – thank you that you are re-creating us in Your image.Blessings.
      1 John 1:9

      • thesonsarefree says:

        “Ask Jesus to let you see these persons through His eyes …”

        Careful – looking through Yeshua’s eyes can be harmful to a person’s theology! ;^) I believe you are suggesting if I look through Yeshua’s eyes, I would forgive everyone. And that is certainly my aim; the labor of countless prayers, travail, fasting and weeping, and putting this flesh that demands vengeance on the cross where it belongs. Metaphorically speaking however, some of us have been given real monsters to deal with in this life – Goliaths – who don’t die easy – not without divine intervention anyway.

        I have to ask though, does Yeshua forgive everyone? For everything? In Revelation 22, when all is said and done, there are still the “evildoer” and the “filthy” (v11) who have their “reward” (v12) which is to be banished from the city (v15) and from the tree of life. The right to enter the city and eat from the tree of life is only for the righteous who obey the Father’s commandments (v14).

        Revelation 22 begs some difficult questions for me, and I hope for you too. Are those filthy evildoers, dogs, sorcerers, adulterers, idolators, liars, et al, forgiven but because they loved sin more, are forever shut out of the city? Clearly Revelation 22 paints the picture of a people who are “forgiven yet banished” from the city because they did not wash their robes (v14). And where the tree of life is IN the city, they are cut off from life, while at the same they can not die because death was previously destroyed (Revelation 20:14).

        It’s “forgiven yet banished” that I was jesting about with my Facebook ‘ban user’ comment. And that stems from observation and personal experience of having worked long and hard to forgive someone who is not the least bit repentant, much less sorry for their murderous sin. So as long as they remain unwashed, I want nothing to do with them – the same as Christ in Revelation 22.

        Of course, Revelation 22 could be entirely allegorical – pertaining to the kingdom of G-d unfolding within me and how “entering in” to fellowship with the Holy Spirit who abides within me is an ongoing internal process that separates my sin and stinking flesh from the regenerate spirit / new creation growing within me; until finally comes the day that my flesh and sin die for good and at last I am made wholly one with my Creator. No longer is there flesh/sin left alive to keep us separated (in part) from Him.

      • Sandie says:

        I was going to try and answer your statements, but then I read John’s Catch for today – GRACE FREES US. He said it all, using Jesus’ own words.
        What you have not received, you cannot share.

        Let it go, and leave it to Christ to judge, and let Him ease your hurting soul. Blessings.

  8. thesonsarefree says:

    Greetings Sandie,

    My “statements” were scripture references so there’s really nothing to be answered. In John’s OP he wrote “But then I thought about abusers, rapists, drug dealers, murderers, mass shooters, and a long list of undesirables that I wondered if I would be very happy seeing in heaven.”

    I think John wrote it that way only because he’s trying to view/imagine heaven from this side of the veil where things aren’t always clear (1 Cor. 13). If he were viewing it from heaven’s side, I don’t think he’d see, much less even think about “abusers, rapists, drug dealers, murderers, mass shooters”, for all would be brothers and sisters to him there. Everything and everyone is wholly (holy) clean on the other side.

    Anyway – hoping to clear the air – It was that statement which triggered my initial reply. Admittedly it was a bit muddled but no less muddled than John’s statement above. The essential message of Revelation 22 cited previously appears to be that If people remain “abusers, rapists, drug dealers, murderers, mass shooters”, etc., then they are banished from the City and from the tree of life. That suggests to me at least that there is a distinct difference between grace given and grace received. To test that, IF all that is required is the grace of Christ, why does Revelation 22 mention those who remain sinners and are therefore banished from the city and the tree of life?

    I think the truth is, Christ has forgiven all for all. But He won’t make anyone receive it. We gotta cooperate with grace to wash up. What I’ve written before simply recognizes that there are people whom I have given grace, who do not receive it, who don’t even think they need it, who thought I deserved the hurt they laid on me, etc. I still forgive them, but, since they have not repented (changed their ways), I don’t want anything to do with them. And that’s no different than Christ who in Revelation 22 forgave all for all, but still banishes those who refuse to repent (wash up).

    And now I need to pray; there’s someone I need to forgive for falsely accusing me of having a grace problem. Smile.

    • Sandie says:

      My intent is never to demean or degrade or falsely accuse anyone – if that has occurred please accept my sincere apology. That’s one of the things I hate about not being able to speak one-on-one. You can’t ask the questions to clarify, hear the voices, look into the eyes.Thank you for overlooking my shortcomings – God knows they are many.

      • Sandie says:

        Regarding all those banished from Heaven – it is solely because they did not come to Christ for His forgiveness – as you said, they did not repent. But once we repent, we are under His blood and the slate is washed clean – we have a new beginning. And we continually need new beginnings, not to be saved again, but to deal with the old nature at war with our new nature in Christ – never-ending until we see Him face-to-face.
        I’m sorry about those that have hurt you deeply. But you have to accept the fact that if they become a believer in Christ, He no longer sees them as a sinner, but calls them “friend.” Leaving them to Him allows Him to work in their lives and point the way to salvation.
        If you have forgiven them, let them go and let Jesus have free rein. The love He expects us to show is not the sappy excuse for the word we use today. Rather it is a respect that they too, are created in His image and for the fact that He loves them unconditionally. I struggle with that concept with those who have hurt me and mine, but obedience and gratitude have gone a long way toward reshaping how I view people and situations. I hope I somewhat clarified where I’m coming from.
        Again, apologies to you.

  9. thesonsarefree says:

    Thank you, Sandie. I meant no harm, but probably wasn’t smart of me to be joking in one of my first posts here. The grace subject is difficult, if only because we are on this side of the veil where our eyes are treated to all kinds of evil even from birth – so it’s difficult to imagine what life is like in the next life. How do we translate from this life where sin abounds to a life of holiness on the other side where sin is eradicated completely?

    It’s written that our sins are blotted out – and we are made ‘white as snow’ … there’s also 1 Cor. 13 which speaks of everything fading away, until only faith, hope and love remain … so I’m hoping that includes the memory of every unloving act that has ever harmed us. Paul speaks of his flesh doing what he does not want it to do and it’s out of the flesh that we sin and hurt each other – so in crossing over, are we imbued with the mind and maturity of Christ whereby we acknowledge that we were all slaves to sin in this life? Brute beasts, every one of us?

    The older I get, the more I come to view Revelation, esp. chapter 22 that I’ve been droning on about, as symbolic – that the book is to be taken individually not corporately, spiritually not literally. That it speaks of the internal kingdom and the Holy Spirit within us, who quietly (and sometimes not so quietly ;^) goes about cleaning us up on the inside as He advances His kingdom within us. I can imagine that the separation Revelation 22 talks about, describes the process going on within me – that within this “tabernacle” that is my body, I can abide with Him and partake of His life, but those elements of sinful flesh that remain alive in me, can not abide and are cut off from spiritual life. Then when the process is done as far as it is possible in this life, comes physical death – the lingering remnant of my flesh and sin dies -and I am with Him completely.

    The contrast between the old and new testaments is one of external and internal … the Jews made pilgrimages to Jerusalem to worship God in a man-made temple – physically and externally worshiping God who (prior to Pentecost) was external to men. Then comes Jesus and the first miracle at the wedding – turning the wine Jews used to wash their bodies in ceremonial cleansing, into wine taken internally. That first miracle was symbolic of the external to internal transition from the old to new covenant / testament. About that there’s Jesus talking about all the internal things that make a man unclean – and no amount of ceremonial washing could cleanse the soul of a man. So I can certainly see the whole of the NT being meant for spiritual for individual and internal application – not literally and physically as so often men are prone to do.

    What I’m leading up to say is that with age I am less inclined to be absolutist about judgement and hell / destruction of whole men by fire. Rather, I’m more inclined to believe that the Son is about cleansing the elements of my being / character – conforming me to him. A kind of “out with the bad and in with the good” type of process. What that means is while not absolutely convinced yet, I find myself leaning more in a belief of (eventual) ultimate reconciliation between God and men. For several reasons – among them being me trying to imagine the score board at the end of time … I like to think it’s going to say God EVERYONE Satan ZERO. I like to think God is going to pitch a shut out where the devil is concerned. The alternative is that if only the Judeo-Christian peoples of the world are saved, where they represent just 1/3 of the world population, Satan will come out on top of that scoreboard by a 2:1 margin. And I just can’t wrap my head around that.

    There’s also the passage where Paul wrote “a man … is the image and glory of God” (1 Cor. 11:7) and the prophet Isaiah writes of God saying “I will not give my glory to another” (Isaiah 42:8). It certainly doesn’t sound to me like God is going to let the enemy steal anyone away from Him.

    There’s also a passage where it says Death and Hell are made to give up all that they hold, and then Death and Hell are thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed. The scriptures seem to indicate that Death and Hell are EMPTY when they are thrown into the LOF. As for everyone called out of Death and Hell to stand judgement, their names are checked against the book of life. That’s Revelation 20:13-15. The detail and sequence of that passage leaves me scratching my head and questioning a lifetime of mainline religious teaching. Specifically, if as Christians are commonly taught some will “burn in hell forever”, why is hell vacated then destroyed in the LOF? Why not just leave the people in hell and throw them lock, stock and barrel into the LOF and be done with them? And why check the book of life for the names of people who were held by death and hell? Might it be they were always intended to have life? That kind of goes to the scripture someone quoted above where God is NOT willing that any should perish. Anyway – what John suggests about the largess of grace, has been a subject of my pondering for years.

    There really doesn’t seem to be any point nor anything to gain by withholding grace from someone, when the One who made us both has already forgiven. Perhaps it’s really just about all of us waking up to that truth.

    And IF as suggested Revelation 22 is spiritually symbolic, individual and internal, then what I really meant above (metaphorically), is that I look forward to the day when the Lord completes the process of separating the new me from the old me – when the new me lives in the kingdom with Him – and the old me – the murderous, idolatrous, filthy and evil me – is shut out forever. Because I really can’t stand that guy and I want NO part of him in the kingdom where I’m bound.

  10. John A Fagliano says:

    thesonsarefree, I would like to encourage your belief in ultimate reconciliation. I hope the link to the article helps. First though, I’d like to say that only the King James reads “Death and Hell” in Rev 20. All others read “Death and Hades”. Hades is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Sheol”. It means the land of the dead regardless of punishment or peace one experiences there.

    • thesonsarefree says:

      Thanks, John. I’ve read a number of things from Tentmaker over the years and referred more than a few recovering pharisees to Amirault’s articles about hell myself. But I haven’t read that one. Will do!

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