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I heard a story that took place in a western town in the late 1800's. It told of a horse that was spooked and then bolted, running away uncontrollably with a small boy in the bed of the wagon. Seeing the child was in grave danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon, thus saving the boy's life.

The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and was finally arrested for killing an unarmed man over a disagreement. He was arrested and eventually stood before the judge. As he looked up at the judge, he recognized him as the young man who had saved him so many years before. Seizing an opportunity that might save him, the killer told the judge that he was the boy who the judge had saved and then he asked the judge for mercy.

The response from the judge left the guilty man stammering for words. The judge said, "Young man, I came to you before as your savior, and I gave you the chance to become something good. You ignored that chance and lived according to your own rules. Today, I come before you as your judge, and I must hold you accountable for what you have done. I sentence you to death."

That story paints the clearest possible picture of the predicament we are in. One day Jesus Christ will say to rebellious sinners, "During that long day of grace, I was the Savior, and I gave you the opportunity to live for me, but you denied me and rejected me because you wanted to live by your own rules. So today, I stand before you as your Judge, and I must hold you accountable for what you have done. I sentence you to death."

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