Thursday, January 24, 2013

For Mercy’s Sake

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

In the tenth chapter of the book of Luke, Jesus used an illustration of a man that was beaten by robbers and thieves and left for dead as he was traveling down a very dangerous stretch of road from Jerusalem to Jericho to give His disciples some lessons on mercy. Let’s look into this part of Scripture to find some treasures about how God’s love wants to bring forth a desire in us for a new life that is filled with mercy for those around us because of the mercy we find in Christ.

The Scripture reveals a man traveling but has a terrible fall. Many people in this world occasionally fall down in life. As the Lord’s church, we have an opportunity to reach out to them and try to give them a chance to get back up on their feet. The world in which we live is full of potholes and other obstacles that will cause many to miss out on the stability of a life that is in step with Christ. Paul said there would be people who would be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). This kind of lifestyle will always lead many away from God’s grace. You and I have a great opportunity to display the mercy of Christ by taking the time necessary to reach out to them and teach them about a Savior that wants to lead them out of that desecrating life. We cannot just walk past them and hope something good will come their way. Remember that God sent His children to “seek and to find that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Any soul that has fallen away from God and into the grips of the power of the world needs mercy.

Also, we see that this man who has fallen has also been stripped and beaten by the world. This is a true indicator of how the evil one uses the world to deceive our hearts. He tricks us into believing that the world is our friend and that good things can come to those who put their trust in man. Many of us have seen people that have put all their money into a “no lose” situation only to see their riches be stolen from their fingertips. Or we have seen people in marriage relationships where spousal abuse has replaced what was once portrayed as love. These are just a couple of instances where we can easily see the world leaving our friends and maybe even family stripped and beaten. But this can be an opportunity to teach them about an unchangeable Lord: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Although the world and its elements are in a constant mode of change, our faith is placed in God, Who’s given us His love that never changes. What He reveals to us today is eternal and we can take that to the bank.

Notice also that this man was left for dead which reveals another opportunity for the church. Many in this world have been searching for Christ but instead have found their way to the deception of the false teachers of this world. And although the message of the false teacher may be sincere, since it is not biblical it can only lead one to death. Our opportunity here is to reveal the truth one can only find through faith in God’s word. When Jesus prayed for unity, the source of that unity is God’s word (John 17:17). People who are spreading the disease of false teachings should be held in special regard: “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:9). Paul’s heart was broken to see some Christians being tricked to believe in another way of salvation, although it was similar to what he knew to be truth. The Lord’s church has many opportunities to reveal mercy to those who are being misled and left for dead. Our prayer is that each member of the Lord’s church is taking these opportunities to show mercy to those left for dead by preaching the truth of God’s love being revealed to mankind through His Son’s blood.

In His Grace,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Comeback God

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).

Some of us who were watching football one Monday might this season were privileged to witness one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. The Denver Broncos were down 24points at halftime, but when the final gun sounded the Broncos had orchestrated a complete turnaround and came back to win this contest by a final score of 35 to 24. It wasn’t not only an offensive comeback but even the defense turned their game around to complete the final two quarters with a shutout. But as great as this comeback was, it still was not the “greatest” comeback ever.

Like the Broncos on that Monday night, many souls are headed in the wrong direction. Many in this world live as a servant to sin, which allows them to be led to defeat, aka death. The goal is victory which is found only in life. But life in this case is not just the existence in this world but it is living in God’s grace. Jesus is the only One who can give us the power to live in this fashion: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus came to this world to help us make a comeback: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). God’s love reveals His game plan for victory and any willing soul can find their way to that victory.

One amazing comeback revealed to us in Scripture is in the life of Saul. Saul was a man of great education which gave him amazing power. He was next in line for the office of Pharisee, which came by his knowledge of the Scriptures. But even though he knew the Scriptures, he sorrowfully didn’t know them in the Spirit of God. So, one can assume that there had to be a “halftime” in the life of Saul where adjustments had to be made. This turnaround was such an impact in revealing to us God’s grace that Luke recorded it three times in the book of Acts: “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads’” (Acts 9:14). This same confrontation with Saul and Jesus is revealed in Acts 22 and 26 also. Saul was once on the wrong team headed in the wrong direction. But Jesus came into his life and taught him how to make a comeback (Acts 9:6). Further reading will reveal that Saul was baptized for the forgiveness of his sins and was given a new name, Paul, in which he made a comeback and served the Lord with all his might: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Timothy 4:6). Now that is truly an amazing comeback.

Peter is another great life that revealed a complete comeback. It is easy for us to relate to Peter because we know he spoke from the heart but many times he acted through the flesh. He once told the Christ that he would die before he would allow anything to happen to His Lord which drew out an unexpected response from Jesus: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's’” (Matthew 16:23). The comeback for Peter came in the book of Acts also, in chapter 2, where he delivered one of the most powerful sermons of all time. Peter’s comeback can be attributed to his receiving God’s Spirit (Acts 2:4). Peter went on to do great things for the Lord as an author, a teacher and a preacher. All of us are like Peter and Paul in the sense that we are all heading for defeat but we can make a comeback by repenting and receiving the Lord’s Spirit.

In His Grace,