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COMMENTARY

A life-changing gift

05:06 AM March 27, 2018

No matter how bad a person is, deep within one’s soul lies a subconscious desire for an assurance that there is God, a Powerful Being one can call upon to rescue one in times of great need and danger.

There are “gods” around us, however, who can blind us to this innate yearning and even convince us that things about faith and spirituality are only for the weaklings, the naive, the self-righteous, and the religiose. They can also prod us to make fun of them.

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They foist on us what appear to be easy and exciting ways of escaping from life’s drudgery, hardships, and frustrations —vices, prodigality, and what has now become an obsession among many: social media bullying, bashing, mudslinging, and shaming.

A person’s inordinate pride in one’s material possessions, achievements, fame, and powerful position in life can trap one in the mire of self and bloat one with feelings of self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, arrogance, and insensitivity to God’s prompting. The common result is bankruptcy of the spirit.

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There is a good news, however: God has the gift of grace in store for each and everyone of us.

“Because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions; it is by grace you have been saved,” the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:4, “Men’s Devotional Bible”).

Grace is undeserved favor meant for our regeneration and redemption. Unique to our spiritual condition and need, it is granted to us when we repent for our sins and seek God’s forgiveness and salvation.

Although grace is offered to everyone, God gives us the freedom to either accept it or reject it.

The Biblical story of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus on Calvary tells us about the crucial choices that they made. One thief mocked Jesus and rejected his saving grace. The other acknowledged him as Savior and asked for his forgiveness. Jesus assured the latter of life in Paradise.

Tax collectors during Jesus’ time were notorious for extorting money from the people. When Matthew, a tax collector, met Jesus, he made a life-changing decision to follow him.

The Pharisees who saw Jesus dining with Matthew and other tax collectors asked his disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick … For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew became the author of one of the Four Gospels.

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Shon Hopwood came from a good family, but some frustrations in life drove him into drug addiction and involvement in an armed bank robbery. Although he knew it was wrong, he participated in four more bank heists to sustain what he called his “party lifestyle.” When he was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison, he realized that doing things his way had led him to “nothing but disaster and destruction.”

Hopwood was also quoted as saying, “After I surrendered to the FBI, I surrendered to the Holy Spirit.”

In jail, he felt that God had been pursuing him for a long time so he would abandon his stubbornness and selfishness, hand everything to Him, and find redemption.

Assigned to work in the prison library, he read law books voraciously and developed a nascent interest in law. He learned to draft sentence-reduction petitions for his fellow inmates, eventually earning the title “the greatest jailhouse lawyer in American history.”

Upon his release, Hopwood landed a job in a legal printing firm, enrolled in the University of Washington law school, passed the bar exam, and became a lawyer and professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.

A book titled “Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption” documents Hopwood’s transformation story. He reveals that he has found his purpose in life through repentance and by accepting God’s gift of grace and sharing it with others, loving his family, and using his law profession in helping others.

“Grace is the primary reason for my success,” he declares.

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Prosy Badiola Torrechante is married to a retired mathematics professor.

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