BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

Advertisements

GOD IS WITH US

A few weeks ago I had to face a medical procedure that I knew would be painful.  The normal way I handle a difficulty like this is to draw into myself and face it in my own strength.  Of course there is considerable anxiety that comes with this method of facing a difficulty, and I am usually stressed out.  But by God’s mercy this time was different.

I am finding it difficult to explain what caused it to be different, so I’ll just tell you what happened.  I found myself aware of God’s presence.  The more I focused on his presence the more relaxed I became.  While the procedure was going on, I looked to God.  When my focus began to shift, I reminded myself to keep my focus on God.  For the first time in my life, I walked through a difficulty not thinking that I was alone but recognizing that God was with me.  I tell you it made the procedure almost pleasant.

I am not alone!  I know this, but now I’ve experienced it.  I am thankful for my family and friends who prayed diligently for me.  They helped me break through to this new awareness.

Later that day, my daughter Ruth gave me a greeting card, and in the text was this line, “You rush to help when in faith we draw near.”  Yes, that’s it.  God’s presence is always with me.  I experience him when in faith I draw near.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

CRYING OUT TO GOD

Psalm 34:17&18

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I have prayed and ask the Lord for many things.  I have sought his wisdom and direction.  Still there have been times of despair when I was emotionally distraught, and I have cried out to the Lord.

In my recollection, every time I’ve reached the point of crying out God has immediately answered, and the answer has always brought me comfort.  Often the answer does not resolve the difficulty or even bring a positive outcome, but there was always a warm comforting touch from my Father.

I believe God answered my cry because in my crying out there was surrender and recognition of my need for him.  I went to him in my time of trouble since I needed him, and only he would do.

When I come to the end of myself, and I’m at the place of despair, unpretentiously I stand before the Lord.   Then my words flow from a humbled heart, and he draws near to me.  He hears and he answers.

When you come to the point of despair, God will be there to hear you.  He will answer.

LOVE = RESTRAINT

Last week I wrote about restraint.  Continuing to contemplate this topic I have found an interesting connection.  Restraint is a companion to love.  If I love my neighbor as myself it stands to reason that I will restrain myself and defer to my neighbor’s wants and needs.  If I do not love then why restrain myself.  I will simply pursue whatever I want without regard for others.  Therefore love provides a motivation for restraint.

When love motivates us to restrain ourselves we find those virtues rising up in us like the ones Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7,

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love produces restraint.  In love I restrain myself and become a better person, more God like.  I feel better about myself when I am patient and kind.  I feel bad when I trample over others because I’m in a hurry.  The people I push past and disregard don’t feel very well either.  Wouldn’t it be great if I restrained myself because I love others as myself?  Help me Lord!

God loves us.  He restrains himself from judging us because he loves us.  As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago God loves us all (see Another Perspective).  Every human is God’s creation and he desires the best for us.  The all-powerful God of the universe restrains himself because he loves.

Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to protect him from the humiliation, the brutal beating, and the horrible death of the cross?  He restrained himself because he loves us.  He carried through the Father’s plan for our salvation because he loves.

WWJD

The WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement was to encourage Christian to look to Jesus in our decision making.  I always felt that since Jesus is God, I was going to fall very short of what he would do.   In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus gives his disciples clear directions as to what they should do.  It is quite a challenge for us mere mortals.

Let’s take a look at verse 25, “If you decide for God, living a life of God worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether clothes in your closet are in fashion.  There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body (The Message).”  I find this quite challenging.  Living in materialistic America, these words cut to the quick.   The quick being where life happens.  But this is not a concern just for Americans.  Evidently, those in ancient Israel needed to hear these words.

In this whole section, from verse 19-24, Jesus is giving his disciples a new view of their life.  He wants them to refocus.  As followers of Jesus, we need to look at life differently; step outside of the social norms, and focus on what God is doing.  Jesus doesn’t want us to worry about the things of this world; he wants us to trust our Father in Heaven with them.  Jesus came to set us free.  This refocusing is a part of that freedom.

This sounds great doesn’t it?  So how are you doing with this?  I’m struggling.  My struggle is within and against my sinful nature.  That’s why WWJD bothered me.  I knew I couldn’t do what Jesus would do.  The Apostle Paul gives quite a dissertation on this struggle in Romans 7:14-25.

I am battling to refocus my life, but I am always relying on God’s grace and mercy.  Grace is not an excuse for sin, but it is God’s answer to our failings.  Jesus is in the battle with us every day.  He is our strength in times of weakness.  We are not alone in our struggles.

GRACE

Grace – unmerited divine assistance given to man

This is a dictionary definition of grace.  I like this definition because of the word unmerited.  Grace is a gift of God that we did not merit.  Out of his love for us he gave us life giving assistance when we were dead in our sins.  I believe that grace is poorly understood by Christians because we are always talking about what we are doing for God, but our testimony should be about what God has done and is doing for us.  Our good works are inspired by the grace he has given us.

This passage from Ephesians 2:1-9 provides insight for us:

            As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But 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.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

I stop before sharing the last verse of this section because we need to stop.  The explanation of our salvation is finished.

 

Then we read about what happens in response to this salvation by grace.

            For we are God’s workmanship, created in Chris Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Now that our salvation is finished, God has works for us to do.  We don’t have to come up with these works.  He has already prepared them for us.  In humble gratitude, we seek his direction for what to do.  Remember: “…it is by grace you have been saved.”  “Have been” indicates that it has already happened, and it is ongoing.  Relax and enjoy the unmerited assistance that God has given you.