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JOHN PEARRELL: God offers anyone who will accept it a full pardon

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

Last week, I wrote a column dealing with the basics of the Christian message. Here are the simple facts of the biblical message. God made us, we rebelled, God loves us and paid the penalty for our rebellion offering us forgiveness and life.

We have a choice. We can accept God's gift or we can reject it. Let me illustrate the concept.

The War of 1812 and the Battle for New Orleans launched Andrew Jackson into the national limelight, which resulted in his election into the office of president of the United States.

Following a different course, another hero of that war, James Wilson, moved westward where he became an outlaw stage coach robber. Eventually, Wilson was apprehended and sentenced to death. News of his arrest and scheduled execution reached the president, who sent a pardon to this fallen hero.

On the day of the scheduled execution, the warden of the prison that housed Wilson entered his jail cell. However, instead of being there to lead him to his death, he offered him freedom instead. Presidential pardon in hand, he said, "Jim, this is your lucky day. President Jackson has given you a full pardon. You are free to go."

Wilson's response shocked the warden, "I refuse the pardon." Uncertain on how to proceed next, the refusal went to the Supreme Court for a decision on what to do. Their verdict was clear, "A pardon is only a pardon if received, James Wilson must die." (United States v. Wilson 32 U.S. 150 {1833}). James Wilson was duly executed.

The central message of the Christian gospel is that God offers anyone who will accept it a full pardon. He doesn't have to. No one deserves it in the sense that, contrary to the illustration above, we've done nothing to deserve it (no heroic wars fought and won).

But it is there and available for the taking. Accept it and you walk out a free person; reject it and receive the full consequences of your rebellious behavior.

If you accept it, you can thank God for His wonderful gift. In fact, the Bible tells us that those who have accepted that gift should live the rest of our lives in gratitude for it. Good works done by the Christian are not because we are trying to earn our way into heaven, but because we have received the wonderful pardon that leads us to heaven. We live the rest of our lives saying "thank you" to the God who gave us the pardon.

If, however, you decide to reject it, you have no one to blame but yourself when you receive the full and final sentence for your actions.

Many today have all sorts of reasons for rejecting God's pardon. Many, realizing that to accept the pardon and go about business as usual is to show ourselves as ungrateful, live with the idea that before they die, sometime later in life, they'll give the message consideration.

The problem is, none of us know when the end will come. I recall speaking to one young man about the gift of God. He told me that he wanted to live his life first, and then, when he was older, he would accept God's pardon. He died the next day in an automobile accident. You never know.

Others bare a grudge toward God and His pardon. They feel they don't need a pardon, and when they stand before God they'll boldly make their case as to why they didn't need or believe in him.

But the Bible says that in that final judgment a unique circumstance will prevail. We will stand before Him and for the first time realize that we have no excuse (Romans 1:20) and we will stand silent as the verdict is read, "Pardon rejected, this individual will die for their own sin."

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.