Sunday, August 24, 2008

SOTM - Mercy

Lamentations 3:19-26 “19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. 20 Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. 21 This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. 22 The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. 26 It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.”

Jesus told the parable of the unmerciful servant who owed his king 100 thousand dollars. When the king demanded payment of the debt, the man said, "Just give me time and I'll pay." The king not only gave him extra time, he forgave the debt. Then the plot thickens when the same servant found another fellow servant who owed him $10 and demanded repayment. The second servant also asked for a little time, but the first servant had him thrown into prison until he paid the debt. When the matter came to the attention of the king, he said to the unmerciful servant, "You evil-hearted wretch! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to — shouldn't you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you." Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every last penny due. Jesus concluded the story with these stern words: "So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers" (Matthew 18:23-35 LB).

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, because they shall receive mercy.”
Proverbs 11:17 “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.”

The Words:
: The outward manifestation of pity; to feel sympathy with the misery of another manifested in action. Mercy assumes need on the part of the person to whom it is given. Mercy is something God is in the business of. It is being actively compassionate. Remember Jesus looking on Jerusalem and crying? He despaired at the nation Israel and its spiritual state – then He did something about it, dying on the cross.

The Paradox:
One of the paradoxes of life is that many people who love to give, and serve, and practice mercy never allow themselves to receive it. This is usually a result of poor self esteem. People find their worth in giving, and so if they aren’t giving they are not worth anything. The flip side of the same coin is pride. They don’t want to receive because it is beneath them. In both scenarios the people are not being transparent. Their motivation is rooted outside of God, and who they are before God. Even God steps back and allows us the opportunity to give to Him through worship, through tithes and offerings, through ministry and works of compassion. If God, the Creator of the ends of the earth is open to receiving from us, how much should we be open to others giving into our lives. No man is an island. We were created for fellowship. We believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as a church of the Nazarene. That means we believe God is three separate personalities, yet one God. What I understand from that, is that within God Himself there is community. When He created man in His own image, then, He created the capacity and need for community. Part of this need may be fulfilled in marriage, but it goes beyond that. It is about us as a church being a community, about being more than just a social club. That’s why we pray for one another. That’s why we visit. That’s why we have programs where we can serve side by side with one another. The saying is true, that you only get out of something what you are willing to invest in it. Put time and energies into this community, and God will bless you accordingly.
Another paradox of the Christian walk is that in order to receive, we must give. You want mercy? Then give mercy. You want life? Then give your life away. This verse says to receive mercy, first be merciful. There are two different directions here. We are to be merciful to our fellow human beings. When we do that, the promise is that we will receive mercy, and it is understood that it comes from God. Don’t put your trust in man. Don’t extend mercy and then look for repayment from that person. You will be disappointed again and again. Offer mercy freely, then look to God for what you need.

The Application:
First and foremost, understand that God blesses us first spiritually. When God says you shall receive mercy, look for God’s blessings in your life, and seek those blessings. You need money? Pray and ask for it, but pray that you will use what He provides to honour and glorify His name. And beyond that surrender your life to Him so that whether you are raising kids, on your own, or looking after your parents, you are seeking in all you do, in all your relationships to reflect the character of God. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Secondly, be actively compassionate. Let me give you two examples. The first is the forgiveness of offences. Did someone strike your cheek? Turn your cheek and let him smite the other – give him a second chance. Did she take your shirt? Give her your coat as well. Is there discord in your family because one of your siblings is acting like a jerk? Forgive them and take the initiative to mend the rift. Forgiveness of offences. The second way to be actively compassionate is the remission of obligations. Someone owe you something? Write it off. Whether it be money, a favour, an apology. Try to go through life owing no man anything but love, and letting go of the things owed you, trusting in God’s provision instead.

Finally, be transparent in community. You need something, let us know. Someone else expresses a need, reach out with what you have and offer it. Mercy is about needs. If everyone here had no needs, we would have no sharing among us. Who here is without needs? We all have them in one form or another. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Ephesians 4:15-16 “15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Though the majority of our congregation is middle class or better, the people in poverty have as much in Christ as we do. In some ways it is easier to tap into a relationship with God because their needs are facing them every day. Those of us who have nice homes and money in the bank, sometimes struggle to depend on God, because we have a sense we can do it ourselves with what we have. It’s a myth. No one can do it on their own. We all need Jesus, we are all on the same path of holiness, of trying to become like Jesus in all we think, say and do.

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