‘Mercy’ and ‘Grace’ are great sounding church words. Hymns and songs and poems and prose are always thanking God for His Nature and Gifts of Mercy and Grace. But I’m afraid many Christians sing along not fully understanding what on earth these things are– they’re church things, and that is all… like pews and altars and pulpits and prayers.
Some Christians understand about Grace. Grace is good stuff, like being ‘chosen’ people of God…. Part of the ‘elect’ … free ticket to Heaven and all. Grace is about blessings, prosperity, answered prayers just the way we like. These people tend to lump ‘Mercy and Grace’ together as if they were all one thing, and when they think of that ‘one thing,’ they think only of the good stuff.
Israel kind of fell into that thinking – in an Old Testament sort of way. They had known themselves to be ‘Jehovah’s chosen people.’ They had gotten smug about it… began to grant concessions to the commands He had given them. They soon thought themselves entitled… they began worshipping other gods, allowing more sinister sins…
“Have you seen what faithless Israel has done?” God asks Jeremiah (Jer. 3:6). Then Judah joined in, but granting a tad more smugness, a few further concessions, almost as if in competition with Israel. “Return, faithless people… for I am your husband,” pleads Jehovah (v.14).
You see we should all be condemned – Israel… Judah… you… me… We are not holy people. We are guilty people. We’ve earned the death penalty. You know, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Your death… my death. Separation forever from a God Who is and will remain Holy. He cannot compromise Himself. Therefore He cannot contaminate Himself.
“Be holy, because I am holy.” reiterated Christ (1 Peter 1:16; Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2). “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14).
We can make no plea to innocence. We are guilty. We are stained. We must be condemned.
Herein is our desperate need for Mercy!
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13).
Grace happens when God sees that sincerity of heart, that loathing of sin, that longing for Him… and God replies.
Mercy is not getting what we deserve!
Grace is getting what we do not deserve!
The wisest man ever has said “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10). This fear will drive us to plead for Mercy… to surrender all… for by it we see the reality of the flames, the brevity of a lifetime, and the never-endingness of eternity.
O Christian, fear sin. Run from it. Keep short accounts with your Creator! Do not grow lax in these latter days.
Thank God evermore for His ‘Mercy’ and ‘Grace.’
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