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Surprised by Grace!

Read: Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:6-11


This week, I learned a bit about grace notes. Notes that are added to a song. Not because they are necessary as part of the melody or harmony, but because they enhance the sweetness of what is heard. Wherever grace pops up, a burden has the chance of being lightened or a day has the opportunity of being brightened. That was exactly what happened to 98-year-old Richard Remp earlier this month. Mr. Remp who lived in Poolesville, Pennsylvania had served in World War II, Vietnam and Korea. When he was 17 in 1944, he quit school in order to enlist. He never did get his high school diploma, but he always longed to do so. That's where we pick up Mr. Remp's story. In Pennsylvania, a person who served in World War II, Korea or Vietnam and was honorably discharged can receive an honorary diploma. That was a good start, and this year, his friends from the American Legion wanted to make that dream come true. That was why they contacted Superintendent Chasti Glaros of the Sharon School District, and she began to get the ball rolling in order to make that happen. Perhaps Remp could even walk with the graduating seniors. That was until it was discovered that he had Stage IV cancer. His friends thought he wouldn't live long enough for the surprise to come together. However, Chasti Glaros got to work. She called and quickly got things arranged, cut through red tape and printed out the diploma. After that, she drove the five hours and joined in the hastily put together graduation ceremony. Richard Remp was surrounded by family members and friends when he joyfully held up his diploma. One of his friends described the joy he, and no doubt others including Richard Remp felt:


“A total stranger, owes Gunny nothing, but wanted him to have this on his deathbed,” Singh said. “So, he could have a high school diploma. And she drove down there, and it was above and beyond what really anybody could do. And I’m like, you know, maybe there is hope for humanity.”


What a picture of grace. Mr. Remp received a gift he couldn't have earned, and he received that gift with great joy, and yes! There is Hope for humanity because of another gift. Jesus! The sweetest offer of grace is held out by Him. It was true concerning Richard Remp. He didn't do anything to deserve the gift he received, and we can do nothing to deserve the Savior's gift of grace that leads to salvation, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Remp's friend is correct. Chasti Glaros went beyond what would ever be expected. That is laudable, but how much more wondrous is it that the Creator and King of Kings humbled Himself by being born into our world. Not to mention that He willingly gave His life to pay the debt that we as human beings each owed, Romans 3:10; Philippians 2:5-8. Though He was rich, for our sake, He became poor, 2 Corinthians 8:9. Why would Almighty God lower Himself to reach out to us? Love. Love for each one of us. The people He watched over in the womb and knows personally, Psalm 139.


Yes, the special gift given to Richard Remp brought him great joy. A gracious surprise for him when he was close to death. Very true, but how much more amazing is the grace that God planned to pour out even before He created the world! What a Savior we have Whose birth, death and mission were foretold hundreds of years before He was born, Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53:5-7. So, here we have two pictures of grace that have been held out. The first one was held out to a dying man and those he loved. They received this gracious gift with joy and thankfulness. They knew that it was offered with no strings attached. The second one has continued to be held out to all people, John 3:16. It is also offered with no strings attached. It cannot be earned or paid for since it is wholly a gift from first to last, Ephesians 2:8-9.


Right here, may I respectfully ask a question? Why is it that almost universally people will be excited about Mr. Remp's good gift when so many will be put off by Jesus'? Perhaps it is at least partially due to the fact that Mr. Remp was dying and could do nothing to help secure his diploma. He needed the help that someone else could supply.

Perhaps some do not know that each of us is in the same boat as Richard Remp. No, most of us are not as far as we know, physically dying, but the Bible clearly says that we are dead towards God, Ephesians 2:1-3. Romans 5:6-11 calls us helpless before God and even His enemies. Many people would disagree with that statement. Surely, they might say that they have some good things they could present to Jesus on their own behalf. After all, they aren't going around shaking their fists at Him.

However, the Bible says that if there were good things we could do to earn what Jesus freely holds out, the Savior wouldn't have needed to die, Galatians 2:21.


That's why we need God's undeserved and unearned gift of grace so much more than Richard Remp needed the gift of a graduation ceremony. The gift we need effects not merely the here and now but also where we will spend eternity. For those of us who choose to receive Jesus' gift of grace, there are beautiful unimaginable surprises we will enjoy without end, 1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 35. We will continually be surprised by grace.

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