Mercy / Memory

July 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, Two Sides to Every Comfort | 4 Comments
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Mercy

Mercy is an attribute of God. From our point of view – when we are thinking correctly – it is one of His most glorious attributes. We love mercy. Throughout the ages, God’s people – when they were thinking correctly – have loved mercy. It is the withholding of what we deserve when we deserve punishment. It is a concept that is very prevalent in the sections of the Bible that contain poems and Psalms of praise to God. One of my favorite Psalms is built on the theme of God’s mercy: Psalm 136.

However, there is a flip side to mercy that we need to remember.

Memory

As Christians, the memory of who we were before Jesus saved us reminds us why mercy is so comforting.

Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Psalm 136:23

Our estate was that of a sinner – an enemy of God. God justifies sinners who trust Christ, and erases their sins, but we have the comfort of remembering why we needed mercy.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis added)

The memory of what I’ve been forgiven is comforting because it reminds me how much God loves me. He who is forgiven much, loves much.

The Stones of Condemnation

January 18, 2013 at 11:01 am | Posted in John, The Stones that Don't Cry Out | 3 Comments
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One day Jesus was up early in the morning, teaching in the temple. The scribes and the Pharisees came bursting in, dragging a woman with them. “Look here, Master,” they said, “we’ve got this woman – caught in adultery – caught red-handed in the act! The Law says we should stone her and kill her. What do You say…?”

hand throwing stone

 

When you read the Gospel accounts, it seems like Jesus never did what the self-righteous hypocrites expected Him to do. Now He stooped down, and started writing with His finger in the dirt. This must have frustrated the Pharisees and scribes. He seemed to be ignoring them. They just kept asking and asking, and it was like He couldn’t even hear them!

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

John 8:7-8

I wonder what He wrote on the ground? There has been much speculation about this. Perhaps He wrote out the Ten Commandments? After all, His finger had written the originals. Perhaps He traced out a verse from one of the books of the prophets?

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.

Jeremiah 17:13

What if Jesus was quietly writing out the names of some of the Pharisees’ mistresses or girlfriends – women with whom they themselves were committing adultery? Whatever it was He was writing, it convicted their consciences.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

John 8:9

I can just see them… They are clutching stones in their fists – ready to hand one to Jesus in case He gave the word – or ready to start throwing themselves to show their hypocritical judgment against this woman’s sin… and then… one by one… with downcast eyes and slumped shoulders… they begin to drop their rocks in the dust and slink away…

https://i1.wp.com/us.cdn4.123rf.com/168nwm/lovleah/lovleah0801/lovleah080100039/2378770-symbolic-concept-of-man-dropping-a-stone-from-his-hand--concept-peace-mercy-pardon-forgiveness-compa.jpg

In this series of lessons we are using Jesus’s words from Luke 19:40 as a starting point to discuss how the silence of rocks can actually be quiet loud. I don’t know if rocks thudding in the dust around a frightened woman would actually make all that much noise, but, if you ever played little league or high school baseball, you may be able to draw something of an analogy. There you are in center field, glove wavering unsteadily as you wait for a high arcing fly ball to come down toward your face. The game is on the line. Tragically, though, it is a bright day in the mid-afternoon and the sun is right in your eyes. Temporarily blinded, you hear the baseball hit the dirt in front of your feet as the winning run rounds third and heads for home. If you have ever been in that situation, you know that sound – the thudding sound of condemnation.

The rocks that the scribes and Pharisees would have brought to the stoning did not end up “crying out” in the way they supposed when they arranged this challenge to tempt Jesus. Instead, the ones who sought to condemn were the ones who held their peace when Jesus reminded them of their own sin. As Christians we need to see to it that the stones of condemnation never cry out in hypocritical judgment. Instead, we should cry out in forgiving love. Jesus Himself is truly the only one with the right to condemn, and, to those for whom He shed His blood, He offers instead the same loving admonition: “Go… and sin no more.

Why do we find it so hard to forgive, after all the things for which He’s forgiven us? I know that someone will say, “But you don’t know my enemy. You don’t know what he’s done to me.” No one has done worse to us than we’ve done to Jesus. Yet He loves and forgives.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Matthew 5:43-44

I’m Just Sayin’ 9

October 24, 2012 at 9:00 am | Posted in I'm Just Sayin' | 5 Comments
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Christians are not perfect, but, I’m just sayin’, it’s not always wise to advertise that fact. You know the type of person I’m talking about, right? They really love to publicize their shortcomings (often through social media outlets). “I know it’s wrong for me to hate people who accept welfare when they are really just lazy,” they say (or something similar), “but I always say what’s on my mind, and I just can’t help it! So go ahead and judge me if you think you’re perfect!”

What they’re hoping for here is for someone to dare to point out that Biblically it’s not okay for us Christians to hate people. Then they can throw out the Pharisee card, play the victim, and accuse someone of “judging” them.

Here’s the deal. As a Christian, of course you are “not perfect.” No one thinks you are! But I’m just sayin’, if you feel that gives you carte blanche to show off your sinfulness and demand that others ratify it, then you have a bad case of what the Puritan theologians used to call “false piety.” It’s sort of “reverse legalism.” So, the next time you feel the need to express how woefully short you’re coming in your sanctification, take a hint from the Bible and keep it to yourself.

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

Proverbs 17:28

An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.

Proverbs 11:9

Perhaps you grew up feeling judged and mistreated by people with a “holier-than-thou” attitude. If so, forgive them and get over it. The Bible tells us to confess our faults one to another and to bear one another’s burdens, but that is far cry from bragging about our faults under the guise of a challenging demand to “accept me for me.” I’m just sayin’.

Innocent Bystanders

August 20, 2012 at 11:48 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 5 Comments
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And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

Acts 22:17-21

The Apostle Paul was almost killed in a riot, but he was rescued by Roman centurions and allowed to address the crowd. Not only did Paul see Jesus alive, but Jesus spoke to him and told him what to do. Paul wanted to go back there very badly, and he even tried to talk Jesus out of sending him somewhere else, stating that when Stephen, the martyr, was killed, Paul had been a bystander. Paul called himself a bystander, but he did not consider himself to be an innocent bystander.

By doing nothing – just safeguarding the coats of those who stoned Stephen – Paul had consented to his death. The Apostle Paul knew that he was guilty, and he did not pretend that just standing by and watching absolves one from sin or guilt. Now that he had been born again, and had been appointed as God’s missionary to the gentiles, he was saying, in effect, “I can’t go where You want me to go, Lord, and I can’t do the things You want me to do, because I have to go back and make amends for my sins. I have to make up for what I did in the past.” Paul never wanted to go back to the role of a “bystander.”

Are you a bystanding Christian? Do you believe you can’t do anything for the Lord because of what you’ve done in the past? Jesus told Paul to “depart,” to stop being on “stand-by.” Jesus reminded Paul of exactly Who it was Who was sending him. Do you think God doesn’t know about your past? Your sins? Your failures? Do you think He’s making a mistake by calling you to get involved in ministry? To do His work?

Among Christians, there are no “innocent” bystanders. We’re all guilty before the sinless Savior, but our sins are forgiven. Our past is (not “will be“) forgiven. It’s time to stop being a “bystander” and to start departing.

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

II Timothy 1:9

We weren’t called because of what we did or didn’t do before we were saved – or because of any works God thought we might be able to impress Him with afterward. We were called according to His purpose and grace – before the world began.

How Much Is Enough?

January 23, 2012 at 10:13 am | Posted in Luke, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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The Lord Jesus was well-known during His earthly ministry for spending time with the “wrong crowd:” He was, at times, in the company of prostitutes, publicans, and outcasts. However, in addition to ministering to “open sinners,” there were some occasions when He also fellowshipped with “secret sinners.” One such occasion is recorded in Luke 7, where Jesus had been invited to a meal at the home of Simon the Pharisee.

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.

Luke 7:36

In those days and in that culture, hosts and guests dined together in somewhat of an “open-air” setting, where passers-by could observe and even barge in unannounced.

And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

Luke 7:37-38

Simon was shocked and offended by this behavior. He was offended that an obviously sinful woman would intrude on his time with the well-known Prophet of Nazareth, and even more shocked that Jesus would not rebuke her. What Simon was willfully ignoring, however, was that this woman was not the only sinner present. Simon – just like the woman, and just like everyone else present except for Jesus, and just like you and me and everyone you ever have known and ever will know – was a sinner, too. Here is how Jesus responded to the woman’s egregious and shameless show of love and worship toward her Savior:

Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

Luke 7:47-48

The key difference between the woman and Simon was not that one was a sinner and one was not. The difference was that one recognized the magnitude of her sin and one did not. Do you realize how great and terrible and inexcusable your sins against your loving and patient and giving God have been? Those who realize how much they have been forgiven will love much. Those who minimize their sin will love the Forgiver of those sins but little. Give yourself a quick test: Going to church is one of the easiest ways to show your love to God for what He has done for you in Christ. How do you feel about doing it? Is going to church something that you do if you don’t have some other obligation, if the weather is nice, and if your back doesn’t hurt too much?

Appreciation for forgiveness = greater love and grateful service.

Minimization of sin, or forgiveness taken for granted = little love and begrudging service.

How much have you been forgiven, and how much did it cost your Forgiver?

Jesus the Great

April 20, 2010 at 10:03 am | Posted in Biblical Greats, Zechariah | 2 Comments
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Lord, help us to be focused, to keep our mind on You. Help us not to separate what we learn from what we do. Help us to remember Your ways and Your Person. Help us to remember Your people, Your church, and the lost. Help us to remember that our afflictions are light considering our blessings, and definitely light compared to what You suffered for us.

Zechariah 9:1-8 describes the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.

Zechariah 9:5

And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.

Zechariah 9:8

Alexander the Great paved the way for Greek civilization and the Roman empire, which in turn brought about a united language, the spread of roads and information, and some stability in government. Due in part to the achievements of Alexander the Great, Christ Jesus was not crucified in private.

Zechariah prophesied that Jerusalem would be spared – and it was. The high priest had a dream, and the priests and the people dressed in white, and opened the city gates. Alexander was impressed, and he even offered sacrifices to God in the temple.

Notice these contrasts between Alexander and Christ:

a. Alexander wept because there were no more lands to conquer. (He couldn’t conquer any more people.) Christ wept because the people rejected Him. (He couldn’t set them free.)

b. Alexander rode a mighty steed. Christ rode a donkey.

c. Alexander received great fanfare. Christ’s chief moment of public acclaim involved peasants, children singing, and palm branches.

d. Alexander brought judgment. Christ brought grace and forgiveness.

e. Alexander threatened death if a city wouldn’t surrender. Christ died for the people who wouldn’t surrender.

In Zechariah Chapter 10 we see images of the flock which is victimized by an evil shepherd.

For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

Zechariah 10:2-3

The Consequences of Forgiven Sins

January 18, 2010 at 9:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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David’s sins had been great. Looking with lust upon Bathsheba, he soon found himself involved in adultery, murder, and lying. David repented, and the Lord was faithful to forgive, but David was learning the harsh realities of the consequences of forgiven sins.

Bathsheba had given birth to a child who had no name, but the child was due to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. David spent six days in fasting and prayer, asking God to suspend His principle of sowing and reaping. But on the seventh day the child died.

And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.

II Samuel 12:18-19

This was not to be the end of David’s chastening, but it was a key moment in David’s walk of faith. Rather than turning from the Lord, he continued to turn to the Lord. Bathsheba also received forgiveness from God, for we find her in the genealogical line of Christ. In II Samuel 12:15 she is called “Uriah’s wife.” Uriah was the man whose death David had arranged so he could have Bathsheba for himself. However, in Verse 25 Bathsheba is referred to as David’s wife.

When God chastens His children, the chastening can seem harsh and severe. But we know He chastens in love. Christians who have stumbled, and then have sought and received the Lord’s forgiveness, must not be discouraged if there are consequences to their sins which still must be dealt with. God does not always deliver tidy explanations, but He does give dependable promises.


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