As we drive down the freeway, street or road, we see signs which tell us the speed limit is 65, 55, 45, or 35 miles per hour, or whatever those who seem to know have determined is the maximum safe speed for that roadway. It's a law that should be obeyed.
Most of us, however, take it for granted that the officer whose duty it is to help us obey that law will give us 4 or 5 over that limit before stopping us and writing a speeding ticket. We are assuming, and counting on, a certain amount of grace before the penalty is given. If the truth were known, we would be somewhat disturbed if he or she didn’t give us the grace, or forgiveness, we have come to believe we are entitled to.
The 4 or 5 miles per hour the officer gives us free could be given because he realizes we might not have noticed the signs, or don't realize our speed, or perhaps our speedometer might be in error. Or perhaps the officer realizes we could be intentionally talking advantage of the grace we naturally expect. Whatever the officer’s thoughts, in many such cases we aren’t stopped and given a ticket. Grace, whatever the reason for giving it, lets us break the law with impunity; so, we reason, why not take advantage of it.
Taking Advantage of God’s Grace
Could it be that some of us have a similar attitude regarding the laws God has determined are safe limits for our road of life—safe limits to ensure we will arrive safely at our much anticipated destination?
As the roadway's speed limits are everywhere and plainly visible, so God's road-of-life speed limits are everywhere: nature, Scripture, the Ten Commandments. If we are watching, which we should be, we cannot miss seeing them or not knowing what they say.
We may innocently exceed God's speed limits a bit, and God does extend His grace. However, we are often tempted to take advantage of God's grace, as we do the officer's grace on the freeway. We know it is there, we have been the recipient of it before, so we presume there is no harm in taking advantage of it again.
The officer on the freeway doesn't know if we’re exceeding the speed limit innocently or deliberately, so he extends his over-the-limit grace to all alike, and we do not receive a speeding ticket for exceeding 4 or 5 over what the law says. Like the officer on the freeway, God will extend His promised grace, but there are conditions to our receiving it. "God's promises are all made upon conditions" (FW 47). God does know which offence is innocent and which is deliberate. The innocent offenders receive His grace, and the ticket which should be theirs is redeemed by Jesus; the deliberate offenders do not receive the grace they presumed they were going to receive.
Those who offend deliberately, presuming to receive the same grace as the innocent, will be disappointed and given the deserved ticket, marked guilty, for speeding on God's highway to eternity.
Thankfully, God's grace is still promised, on condition, to those deliberate speeders who will admit their guilt and express their desire to stay within the speed limits. The ticket is redeemed and the recipients of grace resume their journey, empowered by that same grace to fulfill their desire.
Let us not presume on God’s grace. Presuming becomes a bad habit that we forget we have. Therefore, never realizing and admitting we have it, we never confess and give it up, and thus are ineligible either for God’s forgiving or His empowering grace.
What apparently little presumption am I practicing as I travel God's road to eternity? Something I drink or eat that hurts my body. But only occasionally? Something I read or watch, but not very often? Something I think about, but not often? (Phil.4:8). Is it one of these, or perhaps some other thing I do quite regularly? After all God does forgive, doesn't He?
Ellen White writes that presumption is one of the "three great leading allurements by which men are most frequently overcome" (4T 576). We would do well, on our roadway travels, not to presume on the traffic officer, and on our journey to heaven we would do well to not presume upon God.
Ray Hickman, Sr. is a former taxi driver, truck driver, Literature Evangelist, LE-Pastor, and lay preacher. He is a third generation Seventh-day Adventist with a couple outs and back ins during his life. He was married for nearly 50 years to Betty, who died of cancer. He has had 4 children, raised 4 foster children, and was married to Joan for 26 years (she died recently). He lives with his daughter Cynthia at 3415 Hillside St., Lincoln, NE 68506.