April 06, 2019 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza
This week, two friends pick up their conversation over a cup of cafe au lait and warm croissants. Both of them were just ordinary young women having a heart to heart conversation. The names have been changed. It went somewhere something like this:
ALICIA: You told me once that a person cannot be rightly related to God without Jesus Christ. Do you remember telling me that?
BRITTANY: I sure do.
ALICIA: Why did you tell me that?
BRITTANY: I told you that because its true, and because I care about you.
ALICIA: I know you care, and God cares, but what do I need to do about what you said? Do I need to do something? I guess I could go to church on Easter and stop swearing so much...
BRITTANY: You need to turn from your sins and turn to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
ALICIA: But why? You sound a little judgmental, Britt!
BRITTANY: Alicia, I'm a sinner too! Please don't misunderstand me. But, without Jesus Christ, you are under the wrath of God.
ALICIA: I am not so sure about that, Brittany. When I was a little kid they told me that God loves everyone. So if he loves everyone, I'm okay. I don't need to change a thing.
BRITTANY: Do you believe you are a sinner, Alicia?
ALICIA: Of course I'm a sinner ... just like you! But God loves me.
BRITTANY: God's love for the world is expressed in His giving Jesus Christ to save you from your sins and yourself. The Gospel of John says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)
ALICIA: Bad things happen to everybody, right?
BRITTANY: Yes, that is true. We all know that from being alive.
ALICIA: But good things happen to everyone, too. The same sun that shines on me ---shines on you, too. The same clouds that snow on me --- snow on you, too. God loves us just the same. I am okay. I don't need a thing!
BRITTANY: Alicia, have you ever heard of common grace?
ALICIA: Nope. What is it?
BRITTANY: Common grace consists of the undeserved blessings that God gives to all people alike, whether they believe in God or not. Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45) Every breath we take is of grace, for the wages of sin is death, not life! The psalmist wrote, "The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made." (Psalm 145:9) We all enjoy the beauty of God's creation, even though some attribute God's handiwork to Mother Nature. Like, who is Mother Nature?
ALICIA: Mother Nature must be a mythical character, kind of like the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny at the mall is still kind of creepy to me. No wonder some little kids scream!
BRITTANY: Common grace is also seen in the fact that all people have some sense of the existence of God, although many are frightened of the implications. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (Romans 1:20-23)
ALICIA: That's like knowing enough to know better!
BRITTANY: Yes. Now think about science, for example. There are many atheists and agnostics who have nonetheless been gifted by God's common grace to make incredible scientific discoveries and technological inventions that have benefited humanity in a great way.
ALICIA: Reminds me of my cardiologist. He is a brilliant man. The other day he was describing the intricate wonders of the aortic valve within the human heart. From what he said, he implied the work of a divine designer. I asked him if he believed in God. I almost hit the floor when said, "nope."
BRITTANY: God also restrains people from being as evil as they could be. He gives them a conscience, even though many have seared it. Most have an inner sense of right and wrong. The world is not as bad as it could be as a result.
ALICIA: My father used to say, "There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience."
BRITTANY: Ain't that the truth. God through his common grace blesses us with the police, the military, firefighters, EMT's and the judicial system to keep us safe. Can you imagine the chaos we would have around here without the police?
ALICIA: My parents always taught me to respect the police. The things those officers see, it is unbelievable. I got a little mad when I got pulled over for speeding on Route 2 the other day but, you know, the trooper wasn't wrong. I was.
BRITTANY: God gives extraordinary gifts of his grace to doctors who make amazing discoveries to make us well, artists who can make us cry and athletes who inspire us.
ALICIA: That's why we call them gifted.
BRITTANY: You got it. Gifted by God, even if they don't believe in God. Now, Alicia, we should all be very grateful for God's common grace.
ALICIA: Yeah, common grace ain't so common!
BRITTANY: But please don't get the wrong impression from common grace.
ALICIA: What do you mean?
BRITTANY: Common grace does not mean that God approves of your sin. Common grace does not mean that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross was unnecessary. Common grace does not mean that the salvation offered by God through Christ's death on the cross is optional. It is essential for every human being.
ALICIA: So, I think I'm picking up what you're putting down. It's all business as usual until you breathe your last breath, or until Christ comes back, whichever comes first.
BRITTANY: Yes. Then the whip comes down. "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37-39)
ALICIA: Wow. The Son of Man is Jesus?
BRITTANY: Yes. You dare not become presumptuous or a scoffer. Jesus did not die for nothing. You must become certain of whether Jesus died for you. Without you placing your faith and trust in Him, the benefits of His death will not be applied to you. You cannot be rightly related to God without Jesus Christ.
ALICIA: I almost got the wrong impression about the way things will be from the way things are now.
BRITTANY: Consider carefully what God says: "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the LORD. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.'" (Isaiah 1:18-20)