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Posts Tagged ‘mercy’

Scandalous Mercy

I am one small, finite, little-hearted, mortal human being, and my capacity for mercy toward others is really pretty meager.

The God who created all things, and whose language is that of infinitude, is not like that.

Let’s say you embezzled a hundred thousand dollars from an employer – knowingly stealing what wasn’t yours. Or you destroyed the reputation of a co-worker through gossip. Or you regularly lashed out in anger at those around you because of your petty and selfish heart.

Or you commited adultery – repeatedly. Or you curse(d) God on a regular basis. Or you were/are a card-carrying racist. Or you beheaded Christians in Iraq.

The zealous Jewish Pharisee Saul, who became the apostle Paul, was such a Christian persecutor. Yet Jesus Christ reached into his heart and turned him God-ward, forgave his sins, and gave him the commission to carry the gospel to the far reaches of the Gentile nations.

Scandalous mercy, that. How could such a murderous sinner find compassion from an offended and holy God?

Or how could good King David, having experienced all the rich blessings of God, turn around and commit adultery with Bathsheba, and try to cover up his foul deed by having her husband Uriah killed?

“God has taken away your sin,” said the prophet Nathan, once David woke up from his sin-soaked stupor and repented. Oh, David had to live with the consequences of his actions, and he experienced the sting of them for the rest of his days.

But where we might have given up and cried out for only justice, God’s heart swelled with both justice and mercy.

Justice carried out by substitutionary atonement – the death of one to cover the sins of another. The Lamb of God, to take away the sins of the world.

Mercy to receive back the transgressor – even, as the apostle Paul called himself, the chief of sinners. Yes, even your sins and mine. All of them. No matter how foul.

We cannot be severe enough in our assessment of our own scandalous state. We are all sin-infused hypocrites (thank you for the reminder yesterday, Scott Sauls). But God’s mercy is an ocean, not a puddle. Forgiveness even for THAT? Even for ME???

Yes. God is big enough to cover you. He’s got this.

Scandalous mercy for scandalous people. That’s the good news.

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God: Holy Generous

Stewardship: Our Generous God *

I’ve read a number of stories lately about our military warriors, and one of the things that strikes me is the different facets of personality they display.

The same man man can be utterly tender and loving toward his children, and utterly ruthless and violent toward his enemies.

We don’t say that he is two men, nor do we conclude that one facet must (of necessity) cancel out the other. We recognize that, in our complexity, we have very different responses to different classes of people.

Mercy and justice are not contradictory, though their joining in one person is a deep mystery.

When we embrace the truth that God is filled with goodness and generosity, that does not diminish or cancel out His other attributes. He is holy and good. He is kind and righteous.

From Psalm 145:

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Steward5

We need not hesitate to proclaim God’s mercies over all of His creation, and even over his enemies, the rebellious sons and daughters of Adam. But at the same time, God is morally pure. He hates all evil. His goodness and His holiness are fully interwoven, never to be separated.

In the final day of judgment, we will each give an answer for our stewardship of all of God’s gifts. Did we seek to know Him and be faithful (the subject of our studies next week), or did we selfishly squander the riches of His patient mercy?

You cannot have a Bible without the clear division between the righteous and the wicked. And God’s response toward each is morally consistent.

God is near to those who call upon Him in truth. His believing servants experience deep levels of generous goodness that the wicked cannot know, though deniers experience far more of it than they dare to acknowledge.

The psalmist concludes these 21 verses of astonishing goodness by acknowledging that the name of the Lord is holy. When we embrace Him, we embrace all of Him. And because He’s God, we can expect that our minds will struggle to contain His immensity!

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar >

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