Mercy


And I said, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seem the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6: 5-7

 

It is not hard for Christians to find sin in our world. It is all around us. Unrighteous thoughts and actions fill out news and impact our lives on a continual basis. Inside of our halls of faith gathering we talk with our friends and acquaintances about the sad and disturbing direction that our world, our government, and our culture are headed. The trajectory of society seems to be pointed straight toward hell, or so we would say. This is exactly what Isaiah encountered as well. Perhaps we should listen to what he tells us God said and did to him.

 

As the prophet became increasingly aware of the evil that was filling his world, God turned his focus inward. There Isaiah saw something that was even more disturbing than what was going on in his land. For inside his own heart Isaiah encountered anger, lust, greed, stubborn pride, and all of the rest of creation’s fallen condition. These were the very things that were bringing him to tears for his nation and were raising up his anger at the injustice in his world. Yet, now he was seeing it all dwelling in himself, and now, in his Spirit led introspection, Isaiah saw just how far removed he was from the holiness and the righteousness of God. This was a sobering and a humbling truth to face for him, and it should be the same for us.

 

As we look at our world and seek to enter into its chaotic lostness for the sake of Christ and His gospel, we need to start our quest on our knees in repentance for our own sinful thoughts and deeds. I am not pure, and no one else is, either. We are sinners who rely on the same grace that granted acceptance to Isaiah. Like him we need the atonement for those sins that comes from God through Jesus Christ. Yet this is God’s gift to all who will turn to Him. We are cleansed, our lips and our hearts are seared clean by the work of Christ on the cross and we are called to draw near to that altar of grace so that the holy fragrance of God will surround us as we follow Christ into serving Him in our world.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philippians 4: 23

 

There are times when we need grace. There are also many times when it is important for us to extend it to others, and all of the grace that we have in us, whether coming to us or flowing out of us, is present because of Christ. He brought the love, care, concern, and forgiveness that are characteristic of God into our world in a direct manner so that everyone could know God and have the opportunity to enter in to His redemption and salvation from sin. This is no small thing, for all people come into life with a nature and a character that is bent upon living outside of God’s blessing; therefore, we are all in need of that saving grace.

 

When Christ enters into us, we are truly changed in ways that are profound and deep. One of the things that comes about as life is lived out in following the Lord, is that Christ’s Spirit works within us to smooth away the rough edges and the harsh elements of our personalities. As the grace that God empties out upon our undeserving lives begins to saturate the deepest recesses of our beings, His Spirit does this transformative work within us so that we become ever more like Christ in our ability to love others, to enter into their lives, and to extend God’s grace to them. This all happens as we also grow in our capability to accept the same begraced gifts from God for ourselves.

 

Granting grace to others requires us to accept it from God ourselves. People do not have the capacity or the capability to manufacture this sort of true and deep-seated forgiving acceptance from the resources of our natural beings. God pours it into our spirits through the presence of Christ within us. He grants to us the ability to live with a form of peace that settles the edgy uncertainties of life and that grants to us the strength and the resolve that are required to face into hard situations and challenging relationships with redemption on our minds and truth as our guide. It is this grace of God that Christ plants deep within us in our spirits that helps to make the chaos of this world bearable and that provides us with all that is required for us to join with Christ in bringing this same grace into the lives of others.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10: 10

 

There might have been another way for the Creator to become reconciled with the creation. Yet, God chose to do it in the way that He did by descending out of the eternal and engaging personally and directly with our lives here on earth. In so doing, Jesus brought a renewed definition of what it means to be alive into humanity’s vocabulary. In Christ, we are alive in the fullest sense of that concept, and with all of the implications that being vital, functional, and valuable carry along with them. The blood coursing through our veins has a revived force and power within it that has nothing to do with a literal cardio strength or conditioning and is compelled by the state of our souls and the renewal of our minds by Christ. In this new life, we travel through our days in the power of the Holy Spirit and by the guidance of God’s eternal wisdom.

 

This places God’s people in direct opposition to the rest of this world, which is owned by those forces that are committed fully to the forces of evil that bring about the theft of life, the death of spirit and of body, and the destruction of all that is holy, good, and loving in our world. That idea of ownership by evil may sound harsh and too absolute, but according to Jesus, that is the way that it is here in creation. There are certainly a wide range of degrees of involvement in living out and promotion of the destructiveness that Satan, himself, is determined to bring about. Many people do good things and live kindly, caring lives. However, all people are faced with a choice of only two ultimate masters who will rule over our lives and who will determine the eternal outcome of our time beyond this world. We either choose to follow Christ into relationship with God, or we determine to exist now and forevermore apart from Him.

 

It is in this decision point for us that God’s determination to bring about reconciliation to Himself by the blood of Jesus and through the process of dwelling intimately and personally with His people in life on this earth holds its greatest impact upon that new existence in Christ. For Jesus demonstrated for us what it means to belong to the renewed kingdom of God come out of heaven in order to reclaim creation from the works of destruction that have enveloped it. In this new life, we join with Christ in loving others and in pouring out His redemptive grace into the profound chaos that has been created by the work of that great thief that Jesus is describing. Christ restores His people to the abundance of God’s intent for our lives. He gives us back the peace, the deep joy, and the confidence that have been robbed out of our souls, and our Lord sends us into this world to live out this renewal of heart and of mind in a manner that brings the abundance of Christ into direct contact with a world that is oppressed under the destitution that has been caused by Satan’s rule.

For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 25: 16

 

This verse comes at the end of a long string of recitations of a code for living in a civil and a just society. Although it is connected directly to an ordinance about using fair and proper weights and measures in the acts of buying and of selling goods, it is really a comment about the way that God views all forms of social interaction. The Lord wants to make it very clear that He pays close attention to the way that we interact with each other. God desires that people would all live in a form of harmony and with a sense of justice that is universal. When we cheat each other and steal from others it is an affront to God’s character. He is justice, and He is truth and honesty. These qualities are formed and defined in and by the Father.

 

I believe that we no longer live in countries that are under the same sort of national moral mandate as did the Israelites in these early times. Then the nation, itself, was charged with living in a relationship with God that then flowed out to the people through leaders such as Moses and through the priests and prophets as God’s ordained servants and spokespersons. Our world is different in many ways. Most profoundly, we live in a time when we enter into a relationship with God individually and personally though Christ. Each person is charged with understanding God’s truth and with applying it to our lives. Although we are still under a mandate to grant due respect to our governmental leaders and to honor our country, each of us is directed by God to understand His righteousness and to apply it to the way that we conduct our lives whether private, personal, or public. Christ also requires His people to seek justice and to show mercy to those who are not in positions of power and easy acceptance, and this mandate exists even when those leaders and governments disagree with God’s concept of justice and peacemaking.

 

This is why God’s code of social conduct matters so much to Him and why it should be highly significant to each of us in Christ. The way that we transact life with others speaks loudly about the relationship that we have with God. When we set aside gain for the good of others, we are living as Christ demonstrated to us. When we speak up for the disadvantaged and the voiceless, we are doing as God desires for us to do. As children of the Living God we are not granted any margin of comfort or of safety in this area. Christ calls upon us to live on that ragged edge of our culture where there is no net of security to catch us and no path of easy acquiescence to the direction that those in power may have taken when that path runs in opposition to God’s ways. However, this counter cultural path is the place from which the view that our eyes will see is of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the image that we demonstrate to our world is the face of Christ.

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

2 Peter 1: 2

 

This town, set in the state where it is with its place in a nation that is established in this harsh and broken world, can bring on some really hard days. There is just too much coming my way to actually understand it all; in fact, there is so much pain, suffering, and brokenness on a continual basis that my heart and my mind can’t hold any more. Yet, when I consider what Jesus saw, knew, and felt, I know that there is One who truly grasps the place where I am. Christ sees the devastated lives and feels the raw edge of loss. He walks the halls of the hospital and understands the fear. Jesus comes to the place where sadness and sorrow rule, and He brings love and comfort for oppressed and troubled spirits.

 

One of God’s greatest desires is to give people a deep and a true understanding of His grace. He wants us to realize that there is nothing that we have done and nothing that we are doing now that will keep Him from loving and from accepting us totally. We are people who have chosen to separate ourselves from His presence by our own actions; yet, God continually reaches out with His hand of healing and restoration. The grace that flows from the center of eternity enfolds our wounded hearts and protects us from further harm. The grace that our Savior, Jesus, gave His life to perfect brings understanding and comfort to these days of hard reality.

 

As I look on the face of Jesus, I see the heart of love that is the very center of God’s nature. He wants us to accept His grace and to live in the peace that such unrestricted acceptance brings. In Christ there is calm and there is clarity of thought. He tells me to stop trying to understand all of the whys and to just trust Him with the outcome. Christ wants to hear everything that my heart feels and all that is racing through my mind, and He tells me to trust Him with it all. He takes this churning sea of troubled and confused thoughts and feelings, and His Spirit provides the sort of deep peace that makes it possible to face another day knowing that God’s grace will enfold me into His love so that all of the emotional and mental clutter of this world are made orderly, and I am granted an eternal perspective on all that life will send my way.

 

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3: 27-29

 

There is one and only one point of convergence for all that truly matters in this world. No one and nothing other than Jesus Christ brings us together in ways that are valid and lasting. Yet people who claim Christ are not unified. We argue and disagree, and sadly, we too frequently do so over trivia, minutiae, and about third-rate issues of our understanding of Scripture and faith practice. Yet, there are other issues that are not unimportant and that should work to bring those of us who know Christ closer together rather than drive a wedge into our unity. Paul is identifying a major set of division creators from his days, and these would appear to be rather universal in that even after these two thousand years they and related issues continue to break apart people who claim faith in Christ.

 

Too many of these divisions are based upon worldly issues such as nationalism, protection of human institutions, the acquisition of wealth and power, care for the powerless, inclusion of the oppressed, and gender or racial equality and right treatment. The resolution of these long-standing issues should be found in our Lord’s presence and through the safety of spirit that comes in knowing Him to the degree that God is trusted to provide all. In the light of this eternal truth, we can all be people who give up our sense of protection and self-defense, and we can become people and therefore nations of people who operate out of a first-fruits giving state of heart that fears for nothing and that embraces all others without regard to their differences from us. Unfortunately for many of us this is not a quiet and passive sort of sit back and watch for the Lord to work form of commission from Christ.

 

When we move toward Christ, we also step ever more fully toward His cross. We step into the painful encounters and the hard decisions that He was forced to make in order to right the effects of the world’s sinful brokenness. Christ’s church has always been gathered together on that hill of suffering and pain where the cross is planted; yet, as we so gather we are also entering into our Lord’s victory over every power and all of the evil that operates in this world. In our days with their violence, oppression, and divisive currents of arrogant speech and legislation, we need to stand as the church of Christ in open and fearless opposition to all that is ungodly in our midst. Even the thought or the suggestion that racial superiority exists is wrong, the concept of protecting one’s nation at the cost of the lives of the oppressed is anti-God, failing to care for the poor and the weak regardless of the cost fails to recognize the Lord as our true provider, and the list goes on. We can choose to step out of our fears and our selfish concerns and journey together through our days as the church of Jesus Christ united in His Spirit and pouring out His grace, love, and mercy upon this desperate world. Or we can remain separated and apart.

 

This is a choice that we get to make. I believe that Christ does call upon His people to make it. These are defining days for each of us who know Christ as we make decisions about the way that we will conduct our lives. If we remain silent on the issues that are confronting our world today, we are saying that we accept the rhetoric, the actions, and the course that those in power at this moment dictate. This is not an acceptable course for Christ’s people or for His church. We should not fear the outcome of our actions when they are dictated by the truth of God’s Word, and we cannot continue to hold onto thoughts and concepts that stand in opposition to that same Word. We, Christ’s people and His church, must repent of our sinful acceptance of the world’s standards and views, turn to the Holy Scriptures and the Spirit for guidance, and step onto the common ground of the cross from which we will work under Christ’s direction and in His power to bring redemption and healing to this world.

When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.

Deuteronomy 18: 9

 

Even when God grants us possession of a part of this world there is still danger in the hills that surround us; it’s also in the valleys and in the towns. Like the children of the exodus, God gives us territory. It seldom has the definite borders that enclosed Canaan, but it is just as real. The Lord desires for all of His people to live in a manner that is distinctly different from those who do not know Him. Christ calls upon us to have an impact on our neighbors, our communities, and our world that will bring about a hunger and a thirst for His righteousness.

 

Unfortunately, I know that I am not alone in my too frequently experienced chameleon-like adaptation to the culture that surrounds me. When I look at my words and deeds, I confess that there is not necessarily enough of a distinction in them for the outside observer to discern that Christ is in me and that I serve a different master than the one that has falsely assumed the role of king of this world. This thought is troubling and disturbing. This self assessment is condemning, too. Yet, into my troubled heart and mind comes Christ with His grace, love, and forgiveness. It doesn’t stop there, either. God doesn’t just tell us to stop sinning and to live differently, He gives us His living word for comfort and for instruction, and He has come to dwell with us. He personally leads the occupation forces in this land of conquest. Christ dwells in this world with us.

 

Christ brings into this world the light that drives back the dark shadows of sin, and He calls upon His people to carry those torches of righteousness. He also desires for us to bring the warmth of His comfort to those who have been damaged and dispossessed by life in this earthly war zone. Often the difference that we can demonstrate is shown through compassion and mercy. Christ is made real to people by our patience with their situations and acceptance of them as valuable. God is warning us that when we stop caring about and for the weak, the homeless, and the broken people of our world and start seeking to protect ourselves by building fortresses of safety and security around our homes and our possessions, we are truly adopting those abominable practices of the land. Christ calls upon His people to set aside safety, comfort, and security as we trust Him and follow His lead in loving people as He does and in seeking to be active agents for restoration in our world.

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