Sunday, November 18, 2007

God is Merciful

Do you believe that your life is your own, or do you believe that it is a gift from God? How we answer this question will determine how we receive the attributes of God that God has for us. Many people believe that (and live like) their lives are their own. They might say that they believe in God, but they don’t give ownership of their lives to God. We are told by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

It is clear in the Bible that God has given us life, and by Jesus dying on the cross has bought back our lives. So the challenge for us is whether or not we can give up ownership, and accept God as the merciful, gracious, faithful, sovereign God over our lives.

In life, we have many encounters with others that cause us to be hurt, or angry, or disillusioned. In essence, it creates a hole in our hearts. For some, the wound of the heart has been there a long time. For others, it might be a new wound. There are many things that can cause us hurt.

Maybe a friend borrowed money, and hasn’t returned it, but has since purchased new things. And you are angry. Or, maybe you told a friend a secret, and that friend told someone else. And you are angry. Or, maybe there was a gathering of friends, and you weren’t invited. And you are angry. Maybe a child you have raised doesn’t acknowledge you or love you, as they should. And you are hurt.

Have you ever experienced any of these emotions? I’m sure we all have. The problem is, that if we let resentment gain life, it turns from hurt to hate. It begins to take on a life of its own, until it consumes you. But resentment can never have a positive outcome. Resentment will lead you down a dark path.

Bitterness can only be removed in one way, and God gives us an example of how this can happen: it comes through forgiveness and showing mercy. As we are told in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” The mercy we receive is in direct proportion with the mercy we give.

What if you had to list all the times you were selfish? What if you had to list all the times you hurt another? The point is, that your list of wrongs would be far greater than the list of things you have done for God.

EX. There is a story of a man who died and found himself at the gates of heaven. He was told that he would be asked some questions, and that he would receive a certain amount of points for each answer. Then he was told that he would need 100 points at the end of the exam to earn his way into heaven. So the questions began:

“What have you done with the life God gave you?” The man stammered for a moment, “Well….I…” Then he thought of something, “I was an elder in my church.” “Good,” said the angel, “that is worth 1 point.” The angel continued, “How have you served others?” The man thought, and then smiled as he remembered some of what he had done: “I volunteered at the Rescue Mission once, and I helped to build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Then there was the time when I volunteered in the youth program for a year.” “Very good,” the angel replied. “That will be worth another point.” ……. At this the man was surprised, and responded: “At this rate, I’ll never be able to get into heaven.” ….The angel looked at the man for a moment, and then said: “That is exactly right. I’m afraid to tell you that you will never be able to get into heaven on your own. However, the good news is that all who believe in Jesus Christ, will receive eternal life.” The man’s expression changed as he shouted out: “Oh, I do believe; I do believe.” And the angel smiled and said, “I know you do. Your name is written in the book of life. Come, enter into heaven for all eternity!”

We understand God to be a God of mercy. We ask God for mercy on Sunday, but on Monday we cry out for justice against another. When we do not know how to give mercy, then we will not know how to receive mercy. God, through Christ, will give us mercy. But we must humble our hearts to find it. God is merciful in that He does not count our sins against us when we put our trust in Jesus Christ.
How has God been merciful to you? How do you need to better receive God's mercy?