Mercy


 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1: 20, 21

If you or I think that God is caught off-guard or unawares by the struggles that we have in life, then we have missed comprehending the heart of the Father. Should we ever face the issues that lie before us and see no opportunity for redemption in them, we lack a fuller appreciation of God’s commitment to His people. When we feel as if the challenges that those we care about most deeply are insurmountable, whether they are caused by willful disobedience or by situations and actions outside of their control, we need to open our eyes and truly see Christ’s love, grace, and power in their fullness. This world is a harsh and a difficult place to live. There are many traps and pitfalls that we can stumble into, and the landscape is littered with the debris that is the product of broken lives and failed dreams. Yet, God knew all of this before He did anything.

The Father sent His Son as our redeemer. Christ came into the world as a baby, and He left it as a fully formed man, whose life portrayed the intent, will, and power that God continues to pour out into the lives of people that accept His gifts. Christ now leads us into seeking after what has been promised to us from those times before the creation of the world. That is, we are to recognize that all goodness and mercy in our world come from God, and these unworldly qualities are granted to us in full measure through our faith in Christ and by the working of His Spirit in us and in our world. When we face trials, we are to call upon Christ in that faith and expectantly wait upon His understanding and wisdom to provide clarity and direction for any actions that we are to take. These times of prayer and contemplation can seem long when all that we desire is resolution or relief; yet, they serve the purpose of focusing our hearts and minds upon the Lord and taking them out of the naturally self-oriented place where people tend to go in challenging times.

Turning our deepest fears, concerns, and apprehensions over to God can be hard to do. People are generally formed up and function in a manner that is self-reliant and that utilizes our own resources to provide answers to all of the challenges that we face. There is nothing wrong with any of this; however, if we enter into the storms of life with our own skill and capacity as the complete and full set of resources that we have at our disposal, we are missing out on the greatest of all sources for gaining wisdom that overcomes all adversity and for the endurance that we will need to continue a hard journey to its conclusion. Christ can grant us the vision to see beyond the moment and into the glory of God’s redemption and restoration of all that is holy, good, and just in this world. As we place out faith and trust in Christ, He grants us a form of hope that is greater than all adversity, and He fills our weary hearts with a form of peace that id based upon His unfailing and eternal love. 

The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty;

   the Lord is robed; He has put on strength as His belt;

Yes the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Your throne is established from of old;

   You are from everlasting.

Psalm 93: 1, 2

Many people set out in life with the intent to shake things up. They want to be mighty forces in their world, and their goal is to become powerful, influential, and to make the important decisions. Almost no one actually gets there. Frustration and discouragement become the mile stones along the way. The map that was viewed from that high perspective of youth actually contains roads that twist and turn and that have large dips and many detours to negotiate. Travel along this path, from the inception of the journey until we get there, always takes too long, and arrival at “there” is never certain or ever all that fulfilling. Yet, it may be that in this frustrating process that most of us are missing the most vital element of orientation when we start planning this trip. Our map just might be lacking its true North.

Unfortunately, youth with its zeal and its physical strength tends to look at itself as the primary source for all wisdom, guidance, and understanding when life’s journey is mapped out. Although the young person has probably seen people that have started out strong and then crashed along the way, they tend to discount the experience of others as being caused by that person’s lack of skill, fortitude, or good luck. Yet, there is another reality to consider. For there is one and only one true and valid source of wisdom in the universe, and there is a singular place to go to look for what is needed for planning life and in its execution. God designed this world, and in the process He created us humans as the final summation of all of that design work. God poured His nature and character into the world that He fabricated. Now He remains engaged with His creation and in our lives in a manner that makes all of His wisdom, understanding, justice, and righteousness available for us to engage as we plan life and carry it out.

There is no situation or circumstance that we will encounter in life in which God does not have the resources that are truly necessary to guide us through. We can never go so far into the world’s darkness that Christ’s radiant light cannot penetrate, and even the running of time and our deliberate efforts to separate ourselves from God will never take us too far away from Him for His love, grace, and mercy to reach us. The God that is the sovereign king of the universe knows me and the most intimate and personal aspects of my life in a manner that makes Him the perfect counselor and guide for me in all of the small and great situations and events in my life. So, if you are young and starting to plan out the course of the days and the years to come, Christ is here ready to help you design the plan that is best for you to follow throughout each of those days to come. On the other hand, if you have already traversed most of the days that will be allotted to your life, there is still time and opportunity to turn to Christ for that same guidance, counsel, and support in all that you have left to do. There is a King, and He is sovereign in each of our lives. His love is there to be poured out over us, and His wisdom will lead us to place our feet upon the eternal certainty of God’s unfailing word as we venture forth into life.  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1: 3-5

Jesus has come into the world in order to redeem people from our natural state of spiritual death. He will come again in order to do that same work of redemption for a final time, and at that time He will complete the redemption from the corruption of sin for all of creation as well. Yet, until that final work is done, we can live as new beings in Christ, for God desires for us to exist in a close, an intimate, relationship with Him. So, He sent Christ into this world to provide each person upon it with the way and the means of departure from that certain death that was ours from birth. Thus, it is as if we were literally born anew into this world, for we are granted a new beginning and a restart for our journey through life. Although the past is not erased, we are born into a form of grace and forgiveness that provides us with a new perspective on how we are to live and what we need to do in order to repair the damage that we may have done to our relationships during the conduct of our former lives.

In this rebirth comes a great hope for the future. This is certainly an eternal future that, in Christ, we are promised by God to spend in Heaven. It is also a hope that spreads across the remaining days of our lives here on earth. We will live out our days here in the presence of the Spirit, and we are granted God’s grace, love, and mercy as underpinning for the way that we think, speak, and act during those remaining days. This is a journey of faith, for it is not something that is fully fleshed out and completed in that instance of acceptance of Christ. Rather, it is a work that is carried out within each of us by the Spirit, and it grows and develops as we yield up our lives to Christ and surrender our wills to His far greater purposes for us. In a real sense, we are called upon by God to seek after Heaven during our lives on earth, but that seeking is not oriented toward an escape from this world so much as it is intended to have us work toward bringing the righteousness and the justice of Heaven into the place where we dwell.

This does not mean that life here will be easy or that all of our days of troubles, trials, and pain will be behind us after we turn to Christ. What it does mean is that we will go through these times with Christ in us and with the companionship of His Spirit to provide us with the wisdom and strength that we require to stay true to our faith regardless of what we encounter. Thus, God’s mercy is granted to us. It comes in a form that does not remove us from the reality of life, but, instead, it grants to us a perspective on living that comes from beyond this world and that demonstrates to us the great hope that is ours in Jesus Christ, for in Christ we can see and understand the value of pain in this world as a common reality that is endured through Christ’s strength and that directs us into the presence of God as our source of comfort and of peace in the midst of the trial. So, God the Father sent Jesus Christ to redeem us from the certainty of death, and Christ now takes us out of our former lives, and through a new birth into a life that extends beyond the grave into eternity, He works through us to redeem the balance of creation.  

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.

Ephesians 6: 16-19

As Paul is closing this great letter to the churches that he has poured so much of himself into, he asks them to be praying for him in a very specific way. Paul wants to be bold in the manner with which he proclaims that great eternal mystery that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. At first glance, it does not seem as if Paul is asking for much, for he has been a very bold person for a great many years now. In fact, one might say that the Paul that we see and know from the bible was always bold. Even before Christ forced Himself into the trajectory of his life, no one would have mistaken the young man Paul for a shy and retiring personality. Yet, now, at this final juncture of his life, Paul wants to be held up by others before the Lord as he desires to be bold one last time. 

He seeks out boldness, not comfort or even salvation from his seemingly certain date with an executioner. Paul wants to live out his days by proclaiming life-saving and eternity-giving truths to anyone that he comes into contact with. He desires to do this even with the probability that his actions will hasten his own demise. These are not foolish or rash actions on the Apostle’s part; rather, he knows that speaking out regarding the only true path to salvation is exactly what God has called him to do. Additionally, it is why he has been placed where he is and with the people with whom he is in contact. All of Paul’s day to day life is the result of God’s plan and is an outworking of the Lord’s will. As Paul looks back over the years of his life and considers the places he has been, the people he has engaged with, and the adventures that he has known, I have no doubt that he can see God working in each twist and turn of the journey. Now he wants to finish it all with the words of the gospel of Christ upon his lips and the realization that he was bold to his last breath as his final earthly thought.

Paul was truly unique. God crafted him with a specific intent in mind, and the Lord used him to fulfill those purposes. Each of us is also specifically created by the Lord with intentional purpose and with a plan in place for the ways that we will serve Christ with our lives. Regardless of where we are in our journey through life, whether just starting out or rounding that final turn, Paul’s request for boldness in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ is fitting and appropriate for each of us. None of us will have Paul’s skill, Spirit directed inspiration, and capability to write out explanations of the gospel for the world to read and consider. A few will be gifted with the ability to preach and to speak of these truths before groups and crowds, and all of us are called into lives of service to Christ and within His kingdom. Each of us can be bold in the way that we conduct our days. That is, we can love without reservation, seek justice for all, care about the needs of those that are powerless, and provide the comfort of grace and hope when life has overwhelmed people. We are to live righteously when our culture implores us to do otherwise, and we can bring the glory of the face of Christ into the dark corners of our world so that eternity touches the wounds of the day with its healing balm of grace, love, and mercy. In short, we can enter into the fulfillment of Paul’s final request and live out the gospel of Christ as our bold proclamation of its wonderous and mysterious truth.  

Evil men do not understand justice,

   but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.

Proverbs 28: 5

Where is justice to be found? This is an individual cry and a corporate plea that rings throughout the world today. There is little justice upon the face of our chaotic planet. Instead, violence and oppression rule the days as they spread their terrors with the wind. People are friends today and enjoy the care, support, and protection of a seemingly benevolent power; then, they are tossed aside to be consumed by others whose favor it becomes convenient to court and whose ego demands the sacrifice of those same former friends. The concept of steadfast friend and faithful ally is not well-known in our times as these are not the characteristics of those who would strive for dominion. Instead, friendships are founded upon convenience and alliances are settled upon the premise of what is most profitable today.

All of this is extraordinarily contradictory to the way that the Lord operates, and it is all contrary to the guidance and direction of God’s Word. In that holy economy, a person’s word is their bond, friendships are intended to last for eternity, and allies are people that are held as closer than blood relations. God’s nature and character is defined by faithfulness and the descriptor of steadfast is applied continuously to the way that the Lord engages with the people of this earth. So, God pours out justice upon the world, and He expects His people to accept what that means for each of us and to then bring that same divine justice into the way that we deal with other people and with the situations that we encounter. Justice is often the most fundamental of Godly attributes that we can provide to those that are the victims of the evil that is running loose in our world.

When our nations are unjust and their leaders deal in treachery and duplicity, we must not stop crying out to them and pointing out the wrong that is being done. We also need to seek to replace any evil people that populate these places of power and authority, for failing to do so is, in fact, agreeing with the evil that they do; so, it is also joining in the destructive mission that the Dark Prince inspires his followers to engage with as they foster violence, confusion, and death across the face of the earth. As we seek the Lord, His sense of what justice means can not be hidden or set aside. The Lord demands that His people live out this fundamental Godly characteristic, and He sends us into our world to bring the truth of His word of reconciliation, peacemaking, and protection to those dark places where others have sown oppression and death. If no one else cares, then, in Christ, we must! Should all others abandon the weak and the voiceless, then, with Christ, we must speak up for them and wrap arms of love around them and clothe them in His grace and mercy. Justice is the Lord’s, and evil will not prevail, for the Lord will rule the day!

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

            ‘You shall worship the Lord your God

              And Him only shall you serve.’”

Matthew 4: 10

This is not a thought that I can claim as great and unique revelation from God. In fact, it is almost laughable to even state this idea. But here it is, Jesus got life right all of the time. That is, when He said or did something that was in response to the sorts of issues and struggles that all people face while living out our days on earth, His responses are the model for the rest of us to follow. This scene involving direct, face-to-face temptation by Satan is not one that I have experienced, thankfully! Yet, this is what is occurring to all of God’s people every day of our lives. Satan is active and seeks to entrap and devour people. Often the methods and the means that he uses involve people and situations that on the surface seem safe, attractive, and benign. However, evil surrounds us; it has infiltrated the very structure of our world, and it always leads people away from God and His righteousness.

What does it mean to live righteously? That is a complex question that warrants examination and that each of us should explore prayerfully with God. However, in simple terms it means living in a manner that is fully consistent with God’s Word, that brings glory to His name in our world, and that declares Christ through the sacrificial love, mercy, grace, and truth that we live out regardless of life circumstance or situation. This is not exactly an easy path to follow or one that will guarantee popularity and success in human terms. Yet, anything and everything else is functionally and factually idolatry. It is setting before us a standard for living that comes from a source other than God, Himself. It usually places us as the arbiters of what is right and just so that our personal desires, lusts, and comfort are served while the sacrificial love of Christ is hidden and locked away.

So, on view here we have Jesus’ most direct response to the sort of pressure and temptation that we face. Satan has asked Jesus to bow down to him and offered the world as the reward. When we turn away from thinking, saying, and doing what is loving, gracious, merciful, understanding, just, and truthful; we are agreeing with Satan’s request. For us humans the tension that exists between evil’s continual appeal and God’s will is going to continue throughout our earthly lives. The situations and the power of the temptation will at times be subtle and deceptive and at others it will carry the force of a great waterfall. That is why Jesus’ modeled response matters so much. We certainly can and should invoke Christ and His Spirit’s power in order to resist evil in all of its forms. Yet, there is much more here. The real answer to temptation is found in worship. Righteousness is made real and is understood more fully as we bow down before God. Temptation is defeated as we remain with our hearts and minds focused on Christ and away from ourselves.  

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10: 11-14

The work of human priests was never done. They needed to be continually making sacrifices so that God would forgive the sins of the people and of the nation. Before Jesus, there was no other choice, and without Jesus there is still none to be found. We may attempt to accomplish His work on our own, but that will always be futile. There is simply nothing that we can do and no effort that we can exert that will accomplish forgiveness in the eyes of God. People may seek to follow a righteous and a holy path through life, we might even live with generosity and care for others as our mission, but Christ remains the singular and the sole way to gain access to the presence of God in this life and into eternity.

All of the work of perfecting salvation from sin and redemption from death’s hold upon all people has been completed. The cross was the point of that outworking, and Jesus was the sacrifice that stands in total sufficiency at that moment in time and for all of time to follow. Now time continues onward in its journey to its completion, for a day is coming when there will no more time. Then the ledger of life will be closed and counted and those that are found within it will stand before God in their forgiven and holy state while all others will be duly noted for their rejection of the Savior so that they will be separated from God’s presence and cast off to experience the outworking of that decision to turn away from Christ and His offer of redemption.

In Christ we can now rest from the work of achieving a position of acceptance before God, but that does not mean that the work of this life is done. For, in Christ, we are called to live out to the fullest that grace and forgiveness that we have been granted as the greatest gift that it is possible to receive. Now we are free to act in love without fear, to speak the gospel of Christ without hesitation, and to give all that we have without concern about tomorrow’s provision. The High Priest that we serve may be resting and waiting for the fullness of time in one sense, but He is also very active and involved in this world in many other ways. The Spirit is with and within us, and as we offer up ourselves without hold-back or reservation, He will lead us and implore us into taking actions that can, in God’s will, lead others into that same presence of Christ that has already saved us.

Next Page »