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Justice, Mercy, or Grace?

(The following is the September 21 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read 2 Thessalonians 1 and pay close attention to verses 5-12.)

Jesus’ first coming was about salvation; his second coming will be one of judgment. Our attitude toward judgment may depend upon who is being judged. If we wrong someone, we are more interested in receiving mercy than justice. However, when others harm us, we are likelier to wish for swift justice or judgment upon them.

Consider these simple definitions of three related terms:

  • Justice is getting what we deserve.

  • Mercy is not getting what we deserve.

  • Grace is getting more than we deserve.

All humans have sinned. Because the penalty for sin is eternal death, everyone deserves Hell. God has every right as the just and holy Judge of his universe to condemn everyone for eternity. But he is also merciful and has provided a way to reconcile us to himself in Christ. God chooses not to give us the justice we deserve when we turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Instead, he shows mercy. And not only that, but he gives us far more than we deserve through his grace.

For unbelievers, though, countless souls will suffer the just consequences of their sins when Jesus returns. They will receive his justice “when he takes vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). There will be no more chances to repent.

The need to share the gospel is urgent. God’s judgment is sure, but the time remaining to turn to him is unknown. It is an act of love to warn others of danger, and we should do so faithfully and regularly.

Next Step:

When did you last grieve with someone over a tragedy they faced? Does your heart ache in the same way for unbelievers to know Christ?

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