The Miracle of Mercy!

My most common topic in this blog is salvation. The whole concept simply fascinates me. I’m not alone. These are “things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:12) Let’s put this in perspective. Angels are in heaven, or at least that is their home base. All of them have been around since the creation. They have all been in the presence of God. They have seen far more than we can imagine.

Yet, the angels long to look into salvation. They want to understand it. It puzzles them, I suppose. No doubt, lots of scholars have studied 1 Peter 1:12 and have a whole lot to say about it. My guess is that the angels are amazed at the whole idea that God would have mercy on anyone who sins. The way I read things, a third of the angels rebelled against God, and all those will end up in the lake of fire. There is no hope of pardon. Yet ALL of mankind rebelled yet God has mercy on some of them. In fact, he gives opportunity for all to make things right.

It’s quite fascinating. Especially when you consider that God hasn’t condemned us for that first infraction that we might have committed. He didn’t zap me at my first boo-boo. No, he offers everyone an opportunity to repent and fly right. Yet no one does – of his own accord. In fact, we are bombarded with pleas from God to change our ways. Some, like the Hebrews and us who follow their tradition, have the bible to see God begging people to soften their hearts toward him, but we won’t.

Oh, sure, we may have all sorts of religious ceremonies and rituals, many which God himself instituted, but there is always something wrong about the way we do it. Here’s what God said through the prophet Hosea about all that:

Hosea 6:6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

It’s incredible the warnings we receive, yet we keep on railing against him. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

We fool ourselves into thinking we can’t uphold the standard of God. If that’s the case, then how can he find blame? No, the reality is that we won’t fly right. We refuse. Sure, at some point we cannot escape the snare of sin, but we are the ones that put our head into it – all the while God was warning us not to and begging us to change our ways.

For the most part, Christians think that the reason we need Jesus is because we can’t stop sinning, that there is something inherently wrong with the way we were made or that Satan is way too powerful for us to overcome – in other words, that we are incapable. We feel the bottom line is that we cannot live up to God’s standards. Is this the way it really is, or are we just fooling ourselves?

Take a couple verses for example:

1 Peter 1:15-16 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Matthew 5:48 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

John 8:11 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

John 5:14 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Would God command this if he knew we were INCAPABLE of doing it? To condemn for that is like punishing an infant for not tying her shoes. No, there simply has to be more to the story than that. Besides, if this is our tenet, then the rest of the business about Jesus doesn’t make any sense.

Could it be that we would rather blame God for our sin than accept full responsibility for our own actions? Next time you are faced with sin, which likely may be yet this morning, conduct a little experiment. Instead of giving into temptation, simply don’t sin. You have a choice, right? Then don’t. I’ll bet you if you are honest, you will find out that you are making an informed decision TO sin. Your decision is willful.

Don’t fool yourself on this. If you know something is wrong, yet you do it anyway, you have committed a willful violation of God’s law. Why do you do that? Because you are willing to ignore the consequences of sin in favor of immediate gratification through it. Now, you may pretend there are no consequences or you may not have truly thought the whole thing through or you may even be flat-out lying to yourself, but the fact remains that if you know something is wrong but do it anyway, you sin.

You may claim that you are powerless against your sin, at least some of it. Gambling is a sin I have no problem avoiding; however, gluttony is another story altogether. We all have easy sin and sin that’s hard, but it’s all a choice. Now, there is merit to the idea that some sin is simply too difficult for us. Even then, we have a choice.

1 Corinthians 10:13 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

So, you see, we have a choice. To ignore God’s faithfulness, or, worse yet, to refuse to believe it, is a sin of itself. Wow, how often do I commit THIS one?

You see, all this boils down to the fact that I need God far more than I am willing to admit. Even though I am saved, I am still pushing God away from me. Incredible! What a wretched man I am! Seriously! That’s not just a figure of speech.

Now, here is the part that the angels long to understand and that we humans don’t grasp, either. Yes, God punishes us for all our sin, our willful sin that we can blame no one else for but ourselves. If we allow ourselves to accept this fact, we will understand the concept of punishment, even eternal punishment. What is not understandable is how God could excuse any of us from this. Yet, sometimes he does.

Romans 9:14-23 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

And this, it would seem to me, is what the angels are trying to figure out. And, frankly, so am I. Why, Lord, have you had mercy on me?

Father, what can I say? Thank you. Amen.

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