Month: May 2019

Mercy changes entire lives

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I invite you to give thought to how the Lord’s mercy changes lives. You see, at the very least, it was His mercy which compelled Jesus to the cross of Calvary in place of sinners. His love moved Him to give; not simply to give from the things He possessed, but to give Himself entirely.

Mercy changes entire livesConsider for a moment, how God, who is “rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Put simply, God’s compassion for we sinners motivated Him to act outside of time and space. He did this by placing us in Christ while we were still dead in our sin awaiting regeneration by the Holy Spirit. This enormous act was done by grace because, we were not yet repentant, we were so overwhelmed by sin that we had no spiritual life within us which would enable us to repent.

God is mercy perfect. His mercy shows unrelenting compassion. It’s not soft thinking, but it is soft hearted. It’s not gullible, but it’s wise in assessing situations and people. It’s not unforgiving, but it is thoughtful as to how it works forgiveness out. God’s mercy constantly looks for the best way to express itself in order to maximise the Lord’s glory. For us, this means God initiates all the required changes in our lives, beginning before salvation, even before He created the world (Eph 1:4).

So, our entire relationship with God, from beginning to eternity, is totally dependent upon God and His mercy. All the necessary changes in our lives are compassionately and invisibly orchestrated by the Lord; motivated and governed by mercy.

When David was given the option of being disciplined by man or God for his sin, David said; “let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” (1 Chronicles 21:13). David’s attitude had changed and grown in understanding of the nature of God. This enabled him to make a decision that best honoured the Lord. He understood that at the heart of Yahweh’s holiness is mercy, compassion that calculates and synchronises justice with love.

Mercy is never stagnant or stationary, standing off at a distance. Rather, it moves, it draws near so it can do something. We see this best in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

The difference between God and us is this; God’s intrinsic nature and desire is merciful. However, for us, mercy does not come naturally. Humans require mercy to be introduced from an source; and that source God the Holy Spirit. This change begins for us at the cross of Calvary with salvation.

Celebrate your merciful God

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When the Lord passed before Moses on Mount Sinai, He declared the very essence of His character to Moses with unmistakable clarity. Listen as the Almighty speaks; “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6). This is who God is, what He is like, and how He defines His own nature.

Celebrate your merciful GodNow, listen as the Lord continues in the same sentence to reveal how He expresses His character to mankind. This is holy character in action; “…keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…” (Exodus 34:7a). This is how God behaves flowing out of  who He is.

You and I would not have the ability to appreciate how merciful God is if it were not for three things; our sinfulness, God’s holy wrath, and the gracious intervention by the Holy Spirit to bring us conviction of sin, faith and salvation.

Sin, which is rebellion against God’s holiness, takes you as far away from the Lord as needed in the hope that you will forget Him. Whereas God’s holy wrath reminds you of His sinless perfections which demand justice of sinners. To which sin responds by getting the sinner to wish God out of existence as He is irrelevant to sins purposes for your life.

When Israel confessed their sin in Nehemiah chapter 9, Nehemiah made some amazing statements concerning how the Lord treated Israel. Even in times of divine discipline, Nehemiah says of God; “in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God” (Nehemiah 9:31).

Nehemiah recognised life sparing mercy.  By nature, God is a Saviour. He is incredibly patient with rebellious sinners who think that by ignoring the Lord, this makes Him go away – WRONG! On this occasion, Israel rightly confessed of the Lord; “you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly” (Nehemiah 9:33).

As many of us can testify, mercy steps in to draw sinners to repentant faith in the Saviour, resulting in obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord.

As mankind has no ability to break the vicious cycle of sin within, God mercifully steps in to take over the life of a sinner. This begins at the cross of Calvary, where “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

For those of us who have walked with the Lord for a while, remember the Lord’s mercy. Should you stumble in sin, remember that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Christ is our security, our only hope, and our only joy in the dark times of life.

I encourage you to celebrate your merciful God; speak well of your Saviour today. Introduce the mercy of God to someone today and allow them to taste the sweetness of Jesus Christ and His love. Walk them to the Cross and help them to look up at their Saviour. Introduce them to Jesus Christ who is their substitute on that cross.

Be people who live God’s mercy

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Mercy tends to be one of the less understood character qualities in Christian living. The world sometimes portrays mercy as weak, defenceless, and undesirable. Yet Jesus qualifies it as integral to salvation; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Be people who live God’s mercyFollowing his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s work of growing holiness within the believer (2Co 3:17-18), Paul speaks of the essential mercy God dispences. “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1). God’s compassionate interaction in life grows Christ-like holy character. Christians are to recognise His training (Heb 12:6-11) through both the pleasant and unpleasant events of life which are all under the Lord’s sovereign control. In this understanding we find comfort and motivation to persevere.

Consequentially, as Paul continues, a correct response to this working of mercy says; “we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways” (2 Corinthians 4:2a). The child of God responds to mercy discipline by taking away more of the old ways so Christ’s new ways can develop. Paul chose to abandon his sin influenced attitudes, behaviours, habits, and bad speech, in response to God’s mercy.

As you would expect, God’s Word is central to this whole mercy development. Scripture is the Lord’s compassionate investment in your mind and heart so truth can conquer your behaviour. Therefore; “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…” (2 Corinthians 4:2b). Spiritual integrity holds God’s written Word above all else. It’ not to be altered, misrepresented, distorted, or even rationalised away in any way. All of Scripture is God’s mouthpiece of mercy.

Paul continues; “…by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2c). Paul’s statement here should be the statement of every person who claims Christ. It’s only upon the foundation of God’s written Word of truth that any believer has anything of divine value to offer others. The absolute truth of God’s Word was Paul’s primary instrument for influencing others consciences.

This is heavenly mercy at work. Our words fail miserably. Our actions of love are wonderfully necessary, but fail to bring transforming regeneration to another person. Only the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, can bring repentance leading to spiritual rebirth and growing sanctification.

Its here we see God’s mercy at work. You see, God’s love is never stagnant; it’s never dormant, even though we often fail to recognise it. His love is always expressed through action, through taking His resources and pouring them into our lives – that’s mercy.

I want to encourage you; God’s Word empowers your ability to recognise His mercy. Make no mistake; “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). There is absolutely no substitute for the written Word of God. The Bible is like no other book. It alone has the pen-print of the Holy Spirit (2Pe 1:20-21), and is therefore able to accomplish in your life what nothing and no-one else can.

God’s Word reaches deep within, to places no human can reach. The Psalmist made the connection when he wrote; “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart” (Psalms 119:34). The target of heavenly mercy is your mind and heart. That is the part of us requiring regeneration and constant renewal in Christ. Today, determine to be a person who lives God’s mercy. The Lord will be honoured, others will be blessed, and you will be joyful.

 

Live as those who are spiritually alive in Christ

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I wish to encourage you to live as those who are spiritually alive in Christ, not as those who are spiritually dead in sin. While the body of Christ is by design an ingenious living organise, made up of believers from all walks of life, it still requires guarding. Peter urges us to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Members should always be alert to dangers energised by the arch enemy of both God and believers.

Live as those who are spiritually alive in ChristThe Church is never exempt from its fleshly vulnerability to sin. Regardless of how you may hate it, sin is ready to hatch a bad attitude into a bad thought, and then grow it to an even worse behaviour. Recognise Satan’s strategy; “resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Your battle with sin is not unique to you. Feeling tired from the relentless onslaught of temptation is common. So, stubbornly dig your faith toes in, and stand determined in your faithfulness to Christ.

The fact is, sometimes the Lord will walk you through prolonged periods of struggle. You may not like to think of it as being approved by God, and obviously you don’t enjoy it, but it’s true. God is training you for holiness, and it almost always involves discomfort (Heb 12:10-11). There will be struggles, pains, temptations, fears, and even stumblings. However, realise that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

For the child of God, no suffering lasts forever without the Saviour’s intervention. Therefore, “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). Keep your eyes open for what the Lord is doing in and around you. As you observe His activity, pause to be thankful, then, come back to Him with modified prayer in response to what you have noticed.

Should you find yourself ensnared by sin, seek the help of a stronger believer who will help restore you to a healthy and stronger walk with Christ as Lord (Gal 6:1). Invite a more steadfast believer to stand by your side as you call for the Almighty to do what seems impossible. Genuinely, in full surrender, plead as David did; “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10).

Don’t allow yourself to wallow in the mud of discouragement. The devil loves self-pity and a defeated attitude. Ask the Lord as David did; “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalms 51:12). Plead with God to make you as stubborn for living a righteous life as He is. Rejoice in God’s patient perseverance with you. Express gratitude for the certainty of your salvation, for His forgiveness, and for the security you have in Christ which is sealed by His Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).

Be encouraged; live as those who are spiritually alive in Christ. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).

Live as members of Christ’s body

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I want to encourage you today in appreciating the privilege of being adopted in as members of God’s family. Through personal faith in Jesus as Lord, you are placed by God into “the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Live as members of Christ’s bodyJust as the human body has been masterfully designed; so also, the body of Christ is an ingenious work of God. Here, there are no clones, no robots, and no stereotypes. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function…” (Romans 12:4). In God’s grace, you are His unique handiwork adopted into Christ’s body and gifted with unique spiritual abilities ready for service. Paul continues to say that collectively “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). In Christ, believers are integrated into Christ and to each other equally, thus forming the Church in all its variableness, yet bonded together.

Paul explained to the Corinthians that the “body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV). The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in designing each of you into your place within this spectacular multicultural spiritual body of believers.

So, membership in such a diverse yet functional grouping of Christians should grow appreciation to the point where you only want to encourage, build up and protect these valued people. It’s as Paul reminded Timothy, this is “how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NIV). God’s truth is not only the foundation of your relationship with God, but also of your relationships with other believers in your Church. Unitedly the Church stands upon and speaks the truth of God for His glory and each other’s blessing.

While this sounds wonderful, we all know what can happen when someone fails to live a Spirit filled life. When a hard hearted attitude takes control, the whole body feels the pain of their agitation. It only takes one self-centred heart to spoil any relationship. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25). Realising who the Holy Spirit has made you, and how he has placed you in Christ’s body, heightens your sense of worth and the value of others. Compassionate truthfulness, soft honesty, and affectionate integrity give evidence to this reality.

In the Church, quality relationships matter. Jesus said that it is through relationships with each other that all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Notice Jesus did not say that the world only would recognise your love as evidence of being His disciples. No, “all people” shall recognise love as being of Christ. This includes your fellow brother and sister in the Lord. One of Christ’s strongest testimonies to every person in your life is the way in which you express love on Christ’s behalf with your fellow Christian.

What a privilege we have as believer’s to live Christ by living His selfless love toward one another. This universally powerful testimony is unmistakably the evidence of Jesus Christ at work. This is what it means to live as members of Christ’s body.

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