Sentenced to Life in Grace, Without Parole

October 19, 2012 | 20 comments

Hi, I am a Sinner.

I wanted to make sure you knew that. I put the letters in bold, just in case you missed it. Just in case I did.

You don’t always see the way I mess up on this side of the computer screen. But let me be frank: I am a Sinner.

The King called a Banquet; someone told me it was potluck. So I looked all over the house for something to bring, but the only thing I had to bring to the table was my own sin.

And the Host said that’s all He ever required. I knocked at the door, and He let me in, with my steaming sin in a covered-casserole dish. And He took it away.


Hi, I am a Saint.

Those are harder words to write. I mean, who is holy enough to say something like that? A missionary in Uganda? The local preacher? The Pope?

Dare I call myself a saint? 

But I am. Sainthood does not rely on the merits of the individual, but on the identity found in Christ. I did nothing to earn it. I only showed up at the door with fresh sin.


Hi, I am Saint and Sinner.

I am living securely on this side of the Light, saint-side. Trouble is, I tend to dip my toes on the dark side of the line, assuring my identity as sinner. My old nature rises up, and I have to battle her, every day.

What do we make of this? This internal warring of the good and bad?

Simul iustus et peccator.” Those were the words Martin Luther wrote to identify human beings who are, at once, both saint and sinner.

Both wretched and loved.
Both ruined and re-created.
Both wrecked and received.
Broken, and bought back.

And how can I do anything but just weep the deepest gratitude toward the King? I don’t deserve to step one wretched toe in the door of the Banquet Hall, but He ushers me to a seat at the table. His banner over me is not shame, but love.

I’m like a common criminal, guilty. But how have I been sentenced?  To life in grace, without parole. 

There is no greater gift than this. No. Not one gift greater. Christ came to rescue sinners. He loves the whole messed-up lot of us. Stunning, isn’t it?

What do we do with a gift like that?

By Thanking the King of Kings who takes us as we are, but promises never to leave us that way.

“Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.”

— 1 Timothy 1:15 (The Message)



(“Life in grace without parole” … A phrase borrowed from our wise friend, Jason Wiersma, who serves as pastor of Living Stone Prison Church)

Helpful Resources:What Must Someone Believe in Order to be Saved?” A video by John Piper.

Grace Always Comes as a Contradiction.” A few thoughts from Tullian Tchividjian.

But my sin is too great, you might be saying right now. My past too ugly, my failures too horrific. And you wonder: Am I too lost? God has answers for you here and here.



by | October 19, 2012 | 20 comments


  1. HisFireFly

    Yes. Just yes. Breathing deep.

    • dukeslee

      Me, too. His grace still amazes me.

  2. Jillie

    Oh, Jennifer…
    Beautifully written. The simple message. So hope and pray that someone ‘out there’ who needs to grasp hold of His amazing grace, will do so today. Their life will never be the same.

    • dukeslee

      I pray the same. I’m utterly floored over the ways that we’re loved by our Maker.

  3. Angie Vik

    A big hearty amen. I love the lines, Both wretched and loved. Both ruined and re-created.
    Both wrecked and received. Broken, and bought back.

    • dukeslee

      They are words I come back to almost daily. His grace astounds me. Really. Can’t wrap my puny brain around it…

  4. Linda Stoll

    … new to your blog, but offering a healthy amen to add to the table.

    • dukeslee

      Welcome, Linda. We’re so glad you’re here.

  5. Sandra Heska King

    He took my steaming dish of sin–and gave me hot cross buns…

    • dukeslee

      Oh. That’s good. So good.

  6. Lyla Lindquist

    Beautiful reflection, my friend. 🙂

    The way you point to the cross.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Lyla. It feels right, to stay close to the cross. And it’s nice to know that good friends are kneeling there, next to you…

  7. ro.ellott

    beautiful..beautiful…I too lean toward dipping in the dark side…oh but the beauty of grace…I love this thought…living in grace without parole. Yes His sheer mercy. blessings and have a wonderful weekend~

  8. Megan Willome

    One interesting thing about my denominational transition is that I finally came to peace about being a sinner. For the first several months, I’d just kneel and cry and think, “I can’t believe they even let me in the door.” I don’t think I understood the cross until I had to stare at that huge thing.

  9. kelliwoodford

    Oh, Jennifer.
    Just what I’ve been thinking about.
    You worded it so well . . . I’m just going to ponder what you’ve already typed, rather than writing it myself.
    And I might just need to come back to this
    Thanks you for this post!

  10. floyd

    And here I thought I was Public Sinner Number One! Thanks for sharing the real side of life. It’s easy concealed by time and space to look a certain way, present the best part of who we are. I try to keep it real, for in real life we find His real grace…

  11. Michelle Eichner

    What wonderful words and such a good reminder. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us. I’m always blessed to read your writing! Hugs to you,

  12. Lauren

    So glad I came across your blog today. I was really blessed reading this post, thanks 🙂

  13. Donna

    “By Thanking the King of Kings who takes us as we are, but promises never to leave us that way.”

    Where would I *be* without those truths?!! Thanks for the reminder!

  14. Eyvonne Sharp

    I’m coming to this one late but I just have to say:

    Sunday two different men stood in front of our church with chins quivering as they talked about what Jesus has done in their hearts. It was beautiful. And part of their sharing was saying, “I wish I’d come sooner,” and “I wasted so much time.” And I wondered if just maybe they felt shame over the past.

    Then my man stands in front of them all and reminds them that shame has no place in the life of a Christian. None.

    And so, we come to the cross sinners and leave saints but not because of what we’ve done but because of what he’s already done on our behalf and who can’t weep with the truth of it all.

    Your words inspire me.


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