The Law of Freedom and Living in Mercy

Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

-James 2:12-13
5 or 6 years ago, I got a revelation from God that in the future, we would live in mercy.  I posted this on facebook, got a little bit of positive feedback; and went on.  But I thought about mercy.  It is an important word in the Bible.
Mercy occurs 112 times in my CSB translation.  56 times in both the OT and NT.
I looked up Mercy in the Theopedia:

The term mercy may designate both character and actions that emerge as a consequence of that character. As a part of character, mercy is demonstrated most clearly by such qualities as compassion and forbearance. With respect to action an act of mercy issues from compassion and forbearance; in a legal sense mercy may involve such acts as pardon, forgiveness, or the mitigation of penalties.^ [1]^ In each case mercy is experienced and exercised by a person who has another person in his power, or under his authority, or from whom no kindness can be claimed. Thus God may show mercy toward human beings, who are all ultimately within his power, even though they have no direct claim, in terms of their behavior, to attitudes or actions of mercy. And a human being may be merciful another, to whom neither compassion nor forbearance is due, by free act of though toward that person.^ [2]^

From a theological perspective the characteristic of mercy is rooted in God and experienced in relation to God, from whom it may be acquired as a Christian virtue and exercised in relation to fellow human beings.^[3]^ In the Bible a variety of Hebrew and Greek words are used which fall within the general semantic range of the English word “mercy.” They include such terms as “lovingkindness” (Heb. ?esed), “to be merciful” (Heb. ??nan), “to have compassion” (Heb. ri?am), and “grace” (Gr. charis).^[4]^

In the OT, mercy (in the sense of lovingkindness) is a central theme; the very existence of the covenant between God and Israel was an example of mercy, being granted to Israel freely and without prior obligation on the part of God (Ps. 79:8-9; Isa. 63:7). Insofar as the covenant was rooted in divine love, mercy was an ever-present quality of the relationship it expressed; the law, which formed a central part of the covenant relationship, cam with the promise of forgiveness and mercy, contingent upon repentance, for the breaking of that law.^[5]^ Yet the divine mercy extended beyond the obligations of the covenant, so that even when Israel’s sin had exhausted the covenantal category of mercy, still the loving mercy of God reached beyond the broken covenant in its promise and compassion to Israel.^[6]^

With the new covenant the mercy of God is seen in the death of Jesus Christ; the sacrificial death is in itself a merciful act, demonstrating the divine compassion and making possible the forgiveness of sins. From this fundamental gospel there follows the requirement for all Christians, who are by definition the recipients of mercy, to exercise mercy and compassion toward fellow human beings (Matt. 5:7; James 2:13).^[7]^

Throughout Christian history the awareness of the continuing human need for divine mercy has remained as a central part of Christian worship. The kyrie eleison of the ancient church has continued to be used in many liturgical forms of worship: “Lord, have mercy upon us; Christ, have mercy upon us; Lord have mercy upon us.” And from the prayer emploed in worship for God’s mercy, there must follow the practice of mercy in life.^[8]^

Footnotes

  1. Rudolf Bultmann, “Mercy” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1964), 2:477-87.
  2. Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961).
  3. Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1975), 2:593-601.
  4.  Ibid.
  5. H. Köster, “Compassion” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1964), 7:548-59.
  6. Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible, (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1967).
  7. W. L. Reed, Journal of Biblical Literature, (Chico, Calif.: Scholar’s Press, 1881), 23:35-41.
  8. Norman H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, (New York: Schocken Books, 1964).

Yesterday, I came across a sermon that Mike Bickle preached right after Donald Trump won the election, two years ago, titled, Responding after the election of Donald Trump.

In his sermon, he makes two big points:

  1. The transforming power of God’s mercy
  2. Above all things, express love, grace, and mercy
Mike’s first verse, to support his message, is James 2:13, “Mercy triumphs over judgement”.
Mike says this means, “Mercy triumphs over judgement  -spiritually, emotionally, relationally, economically, physically, etc.”, and that, “In this verse, judgement speaks of unhelpful criticism, accusation, uncovering faults, whispering, etc.”
Mike addressed the anger and hate on both sides and said that what we need is mercy.  Mike said (I am paraphrasing) that while Trump was not ideal, for many Christians, that it was God’s mercy that Hillary Clinton was not elected.
The point Mike made, when preaching on James 2:13, in the first part of his sermon, is that, in this time,  showing mercy, instead of judgmentalism, is what is called for.
“Mercy triumphs over judgement”, does not mean some sort of universalism, where God forgives sinners, without their repentance.  What it does mean is that believers choose to live in mercy, rather than judgement.
The Bible says, “Judge not”, which means “Don’t condemn”.  When you step on my toes or steal something from me, or when someone hurts people, or does terrible things to children, we definitely judge them, want them to stop, to be judged, as in have authorities deal with them.
When someone runs a red light and puts other cars and pedestrians in jeopardy, we can judge them as not only foolish, but wrong.  And there are many things people do, that we can say, “That’s evil”, and not be judgemental.
But when that person runs the red light and we think or say, “Jackass!”, of something worse, we are judging wrongly.
My dad’s best friend, Gus Solomon, wrote and recorded a song, called “Weeping for the mugger”, in the 1970’s or early 80’s, that no one was interested in.
The chorus goes like this:

Oh they’re weeping for the mugger. with sympathy profound
They say that he’s the only victim, not the fellow on on the ground  

There is something called “Unsanctified mercy”, where our mercy extends beyond God’s and it is wrong.  This is how someone defined it, on a Bible forum board:

The way I understand it, ‘unsanctified mercy’ refers to dealing out ‘mercy’ when discipline or judgement is required by God.

For example, in 1 Samuel 15, King Saul is commanded by God to attack the Amalekites and completely destroy them, sparing no one, man or beast (v.3). God says to do it because he is going to ‘punish them for what they to Israel when they waylaid them as they were coming up from Egypt’ (v3)

However, Saul spares the king, Agag, and the best of his cattle – the unsanctified mercy. For his sin, God rejects Saul as King of Israel. Saul confesses his sin, and then carries out the Lord’s judgement on Agag.

So ‘undeserved’ has nothing to do with it – no one deserves mercy. It is when an unrepentant individual who has willfully sinned is shown mercy when God has said that they must be disciplined.

So say Hitler was pardoned for his war crimes, even though he was given many chances to back down. That would be unsanctified mercy. Or say a brother in the church willfully continues in an adulterous relationship and refuses to repent. Biblically, he should be asked to leave the church. Unsanctified mercy would be to pardon him, though he does not repent.

Charlie Shelf wrote an article, in which he gives examples of unsanctified mercy, that some Christians embrace today:

Unsanctified mercy leads the church down pathways of compromise, irrelevance and ineffective witness. Here are some of the ways compassion is fogging the vision of well-meaning believers:

Sexual ethics and identity: …we must promote celibacy for singles and fidelity for heterosexual, monogamous marriage, even when it is hard and unpopular.

Economic justice: So many well-meaning believers fall into soft socialist and redistributionist ideologies in the name of fairness, ignoring the factors that lead to human flourishing. …(See the new award-winning Acton Institute feature presentation, “Poverty Inc.” as well as the video series)… Personal virtue and private property, the rule of law and access to markets are the structural changes that will liberate the creativity and prosperity God’s intends for his creation. Crony capitalism is the great weakness of both conservative and progressive political powers, with local business owners and workers left in the dust. Reparations are just a slogan without accountability and stewardship. Welfare without work dehumanizes recipients. 

Climate change and ecological policies: The science is not settled and thoughtful believers should “follow the money and power” as globalists attempt to extract more wealth from the West for the rest with no participation from the Chinese, Indian and Russian empires.  …Somewhere between unbridled exploitation and elitist global governance is true stewardship. The Body of Christ must point the way.

Racial Reconciliation: …We must exchange suspicion for openness and anger for humility. When someone speaks about morality, work ethics and personal responsibility, it is not always “code” for racism. Conversely, those in power must understand the institutional injustices and social barriers keeping many from flourishing. I commend the irenic works of Anthony Bradley and Chris Brooks for ways forward that get past the polemics.

Now back to the book of James.   Remember that the two broad themes of James are (1):

  • Now that you are a Christian, you have a lot of problems.
  • How to live as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The context of the text. “Mercy triumphs over justice.”, is the previous verse: “Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy.”.
The verse 13 (Mercy triumphs…”) is a comment on the previous verse.
These two verses, that end a section of James letter, convey two thoughts:
  1. The Christian lives under the law of freedom, and it is by this law of freedom that he will be judged.
  2. The Christian must always live, by the rule that, only as mercy is given, will mercy be had.

Now, what does this mean?  Unlike pre-Christian Jews, who seek to please God, we are not governed by an external law, imposed on us.  We instead are governed by the love of Christ, which leads us to love God and then to love people.  We are not governed externally, by fear of punishment or failure.  But we are governed by the love of Christ in our hearts that compels us. 

This leads us to point 2, which echoes Jesus words in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).  Jesus further says that if we forgive others, our Father will forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15), and on judgments Jesus says not to judge and if we do, we will be judged under the same scrutiny (Matthew 7:1-2).
In the context of the harsh Roman Empire and Herodian political environment, and added to that the persecution of Christ’s followers by fellow Jews, Jesus says to his followers, “Have mercy”, and “Don’t judge”.  And James is echoing that and building upon it here.
And recall Jesus parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18.  Jesus says that the person who refuses to forgive gets handed over to the torturers.  To say, “That is unforgivable”, is not in the Christian’s vocabulary.
When people are arrested, for crimes, it is mercy; because it gives them another chance at redemption.
When soldiers are on the battlefield, they have to kill those who are trying to kill them.  But capture is an option when the enemy is disarmed or surrenders.  Then, redemption or rehabilitation can occur.
Incarceration or penalties, including death, are not the final judgement, but opportunities for redemption, before the final judgement.
James echoes what Jesus said, “be merciful and find mercy”.  In other words, if you don’t show mercy, you won’t get mercy.  So to live in mercy, you must be merciful.
People, Christians, who don’t live by mercy and don’t give mercy, will not get mercy.  They are ruining their own salvation, ruining their lives, their living.
If you are not merciful, if you don’t show or give mercy; you are saying you are not a Christian.  If you are not merciful, all of you or a part of you needs salvation, mercy, forgiveness, and transformation.
Revival is when dead comes to life.  Dead believers are unmerciful.  We will rediscover mercy, be merciful.
And mercy is the gospel of the kingdom and the kingdom of the Christ.
Mercy is in the Bible 112 times.  It’s important to God.  Mercy is part of God’s character.  God’s children are merciful.  We live under mercy, by mercy, and in mercy.
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Footnote:
1. God’s Epic Adventure, Winn Griffin

Bibliography:
James, William Barclay

Photo above taken from here.

Grace, Favor, and Mercy Bestowed

For the music director; to be accompanied by stringed instruments; a psalm, a song. May God show us his favor and bless us! May he smile on us!

-Psalm 67:1 (NET)
Psalm 67 is an invitation to partake of God’s favor.
The song is a priestly blessing.  We can say this to each other.
“May the Lord bless you!”, and we answer back, “May the Lord bless you!”
Where did this gracious blessing start?  It started with Abraham.  God said to Abe that he would be blessed and the whole world would be blessed through him.

The Lord told Abram, “You are to leave your land, your relatives, and your father’s house and go to the land that I’m going to show you. I’ll make a great nation of your descendants, I’ll bless you, and I’ll make your reputation great, so that you will be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you, but I’ll curse the one who curses you, and through you all the people of the earth will be blessed.”

Abraham was as good as dead, yet from this one man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
-Genesis 12:1-3 and Hebrews 11:12 (ISV)

It is a good guess that this is what Psalm 67 has in mind.

Psalm 67 is a missionary Psalm.  It is about God’s mission to save all people.  The blessing of God on our lives is for saving the world.
Each of us are not saved in a vacuum, but through God’s blessing on other people.  That is what the blessing of God on your life is for.  And the more we realize this and let the blessing work for others, the more we will be blessed.
May God show us favor and bless us.  Other translations say, ‘show mercy’ or, ‘be gracious’.  The Hebrew  carries with it the idea of grace, mercy, favor, and kindness.  And to be blessed by God encapsulates all four of these.

I learned from a faith leader, to sign notes with ‘blessings’.  Blessings means, ‘grace, mercy, favor, and kindness to you’.

May God show us his favor and bless us! May he smile on us!

Do Not Forget The Poor

Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.

-Psalm 82:3

God’s heart is for the poor.  Whatever emphasis that we have or our ministries have, we must never forget the poor.  Benevolence is something that all believers should have in common.

If you do not care about the poor, you have no connection to God.  God’s heart is for the poor.  The worst form of injustice is when the weakest people are not helped by those who have the power and resources to help them.

Your calling or your ministry could be any of a thousand things, but do not forget the poor.

You may be in any of the thousands of the different denominations, non-denominations, tribes or movements in Christianity.  But remember to not forget the poor.  God’s heart is for the poor.

You yourself may have a lot or have a little.  You may have many friends or a few.  You may be famous or unknown.

Just do not forget the poor.

Defend, vindicate, stand up for, be fair to, do right by and give justice to:

  • The needy, the poor, the weak ones, the helpless, the lowly and the defenseless ones.
  • The fatherless and the orphans.
  • The forgotten, destitute, the afflicted, the wretched and the oppressed people.
  • The disenfranchised, suffering and powerless children. 
God’s heart is for the poor.  Our hearts in God’s will be for the poor.  This is a marker of the authentic people of God.
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Notes:
A few New Testament passages and verses on serving the poor:

Luke 10:25-37; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 10:1-8; Gal. 2:10; 1 Tim 5:3-16; Jas 1:27; 2:15-16

Mercy People

Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

-Matthew 5:7 (CEB, NLT)
Are you a merciful person?  I don’t mean how you see yourself, but I mean what you do.  Merciful means compassionate and kind.
Have you thought about kindness?  God is kind to us and we are kind to others.  The Bible says that God’s kindness is what gets people saved.
I became acquainted with ‘the kindness guy’, Steve Sjogren, a number of years ago.  Steve has a couple of books all about God’s kindness.  I will never forget when my friend Mike and I knocked on doors of businesses, on Valentine’s Day, and gave flowers to ladies, in Jesus name.
Years ago, I also learned about how God heals people because of his mercy and compassion.  In Matthew nine, there is a story of the two blind men, who call out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” (9:27)  And that is the mercy that Matthew has in mind, when he writes down, what Jesus spoke in his beatitudes.

And I also like how The Passion Translation gives this verse:

How satisfied you are when you demonstrate tender mercy!  For tender mercy will be demonstrated unto you.

To review what a ‘beatitude’ is:

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10, are a list of blessed facets of the followers of Jesus. But “blessed” is a word that we have to make sure we understand. Jesus is not talking about the person whom God blesses, but is describing a happy person, a fortunate person: “someone who is to be congratulated, someone who’s place in life is an enviable one” (RT France, Matthew, p. 108, 1985).

The beatitudes are given in a particular order.  The happiness of a person who shows others mercy follows on the heels of that person’s experience of craving righteousness and justice fulfilled by God.  It starts with a personal reckoning that I am hopeless and utterly impoverished without God.

Personal poverty and hopelessness is the soil from which the life of kingdom of heaven can grow in me.  It is a blessing and I am highly fortunate, if I become aware of this about my self.  The message to me, in personal poverty and hopelessness is, “You are now blessed, because the kingdom of heaven is yours.”

The blessed person who sees themselves as poor and hopeless outside of God begins a life of mourning, that is paradoxically also a happy life.  We continually mourn, but we are continually made happy.  Christ’s followers are happy mourners.

This life of walking with God and following Christ teaches us or trains us to be humble.  Our pride is shifted off of our selves and on to God.  Personal pride just does not work or grow out of an authentic walk with God and a life desiring to follow Christ.

When we follow Christ, our whole life shifts towards God being great, rather than our selves.  But this does not mean that we take on or walk in low self-esteem or being like a worm.  It means that I begin to esteem myself through God’s eyes: “He loves me and God has an inheritance for me that I will offer back to God, The King.”

Then, from the living space of humbly walking with God and receiving an inheritance to give back to the king, believers develop and cultivate a craving for the righteousness and justice of God.  This has nothing to do with and is diametrically opposed  to self-righteousness or works-righteousness.

The basis for the craving for righteous and justice from God, is a broken, hopeless heart, that grieves and mourns, and is humble.

That person becomes a demonstrator of mercy.  They live from mercy and practice mercy with those they meet.  The person who has been through the process that I described has seen the kindness of God and become a kind person.

God is kind.  When we experience God, we experience his kindness.  It is not a one time event, but a relationship.

Is God the kindest person you have ever met?

When we experience his kindness, we become kind people: mercy people.  We have been shown mercy and become demonstrators of mercy, in our lives.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a story to illustrate that we ought to demonstrate mercy to others because mercy has been given so greatly to us.  Jesus illustrates how we ought to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven.  The hard word in the story is, that if we refuse to demonstrate mercy on others, then we forfeit the benefit of God’s mercy in our own lives and become tortured in the prison of insanely trying to pay God for our own sins.

Mercy comes from the inside out.  Mercifulness is reciprocal in that we will not receive it if we do not demonstrate it.

Mercy or kindness, like humility, is a disposition that is a state of being, brought on through encountering God in Christ.  The attitude or the measure of our lives becomes mercifulness or kindness.  Jesus creates character in us first that will act right later.

Christianity is about Christ being in my life and living God’s life.  It is not something I do, but is something I am being.  Having Christ is the first thing and how I act and live comes out of my being in Christ.

I do not take Christianity and master it or make it work for me.  Christianity is where I become controlled and animated, driven or compelled by Christ in me.  To be a Christian is not just to take up Christ’s teachings and live them out, but to take my whole life and give it to Christ to live out.

Christianity that leaves this out, where the man or the woman seeks to follow Christ and his teachings, but never surrenders their whole lives, dying while living, taking up their crosses; is something other than Christian.

Being a mercy person is something you are.  How you treat others in the smallest settings is always the test of your Christlikeness.  To find yourself as having become and now being a mercy person is a blessed and highly fortunate place, says Jesus.

He says that when you are kind to others, you release kindness from others upon you.

What is mercy?  Mercy is different than love, peace, or grace.  Mercy sees misery and wants to relieve it.

Mercy wants to relieve suffering.  Mercy is when someone is suffering, in misery, and you desire to, you want to and you do something to help them.  Mercy is also when someone who has been your foe, who has opposed you, has been rendered powerless or is out of ammunition or sustenance, surrounded or cornered; and rather than destroy them, you have mercy on them.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus illustrates what a mercy person is like.  The shocking part of the story, is that a priest and a Levite each saw the man who had been robbed and beaten, half dead; and they each avoided him.  But the Samaritan man had mercy and stopped and took care of the suffering man. (Luke 10:25-37)

Jesus says that having mercy on people is what the Old Testament command to “love your neighbor” means.  Jesus said that the greatest command in the Law is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor.  And he said that the whole Law and the Prophets hang, depend or are based on these two. (Matt. 22:36)

We always have a merciful stance towards God.  We are in need of mercy and we go about receiving it.  At the same time, we have been transformed into mercy people who are kind.  Kindness is our calling card, what people notice and remember about us; what people experience when we come into contact with them.

Jesus people are mercy people.  Christ-followers are merciful.  To be a Christian is to be kind.

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Notes, Bibliography:

Worm Theology, by Paul Coughlin
Me, Myself and I, by Archibald Hart
Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, D.M. Lloyd-Jones (1959), pp. 95-105
Conspiracy of Kindness: A Unique Approach to Sharing the Love of Jesus, by Steve Sjogren

Only In Christ Are Walls of Hostility Torn Down and Peoples Made One

So then, remember that at one time,
You were Gentiles in the flesh
—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,”
 Which is done in the flesh by human hands. 

At that time,
You were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 
But now in Christ Jesus,
You who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. 
For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. 
In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations,
So that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 
He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. 
When the Messiah came,
He proclaimed the good news of peace,
To you who were far away,
And peace to those who were near. 
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 
So then,
You are no longer foreigners and strangers,
But fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
With Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. 
The whole building,
Being put together by Him,
Grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. 
You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

-Ephesians 2:11-22
The issue of walls is in the news.  One side says, “build the wall”, while the other side says, “no walls”.  And Christians are on both sides of this debate.
The side that wants the wall says, “security”, while the side that does not want the wall cries, “compassion”.  This wall issue goes with the idea of a physical wall towards Mexico as well as ‘the wall’ of laws and orders, to keep people out, from particular countries.  
The compassion side sees the security side as not only uncompassionate, but also racist.  And the security side sees the compassion side as blind and lawless.  But both sides are right, because security and compassion are both good.
Both having boundaries and mercy is righteous.  And these only come together and stay as one, in Christ.
We can not be blinded to danger by our compassion nor can we become blinded to the need of mercy by hurting people, through our fears.  
As Christians, we have to ask, what is the right way and even God’s will?  
Various sides of the body of Christ are having a hard time recognizing one another and coming to the table to talk to each other.  It is tempting to name people who we think are wrong.  But the truth is that we are all wrong, but Jesus is right.  Jesus is the person who is the only answer the the problems in the world today.
And the wisest thing any Christian leaders have said in regards to Trump, it to pray for the man.  Many Christians refused to pray for the two recent democrat presidents and that was wrong, because the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders.
Jesus was the only solution to our troubles, micro and macro; when Obama was president, and likewise now, during the season of Trump as president.  If Hillary had been elected, you guessed it: Jesus would still be our only real answer.
And the point is not to water down Jesus, to make him fit our political predilections, but to die to ourselves and surrender to Jesus as Lord.
My point is that in a world that does not recognize Jesus and what he has done, things are hopeless.  But for whoever recognizes Jesus, as Lord; there is hope.  And we who are in Christ, carry his works into this world, for him and to the glory of God.
Jesus has already removed the wall that separated us, as Jew and Gentile.  He has already destroyed all the ‘isms’.  If we take up any of the ‘ism’s’ either as a solution to the world’s problems or as controlling principle, we are in trouble.
The gospel is unconditional love through grace alone.  But the only way to have the broken down walls life is through and in Christ.  Gentiles were always welcome and there were always Jewish people who were not true Jews.  Both real Jews and fake Jews put up a wall to keep Gentiles out of God’s house of people.
But Jesus came to destroy that wall that would keep anyone out of the house of God’s people.  Does that mean that the house or the land (metaphorically speaking) of God’s people, now has no wall, no fence or no boundaries?  No it does not.
Jesus is now the door in the wall or fence that separates his people from not his people.  Are you in or out?  The answer to that is all about Jesus in your life.  Jesus is Lord.

This song below, “No Matter What”, resonated with me, about this topic.  Oftentimes, love songs are a reflection of God’s dealings with mankind.

We live in the paradox, of, “He has done it”, and, It is finished”; and/but/while, we must do something.  We must break down the walls and break out of something, because of what Jesus has done and because Jesus is Lord.

Happy Mourners

Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
-Matthew 5:4 (CEB, NLT)

Have you wept lately?  Have you wept over your sin?  Have you wept over the sins of others?

That is a mark of an authentic Christian.  If you are not mourning over your spiritual bankruptcy then do not claim to be a Christian.  Grieving your hopelessness is the path of Christ that we walk on.

Being grieved over the sin around us is also the way of life for the disciple of Jesus.  The message of Jesus Christ to the world dying in sin has always been, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”.  This is the message that Christ followers carry into the world today and we carry it and communicate it from broken hearts.

God is not angry at the world, but grieved and broken hearted for a people trapped in sin.  We have the privilege of sharing God’s heart of mercy and compassion for the lost.  Our lives are filled with immense joy and sorrow.  Joy over the found and sorrow over the lost.

Anger is not the path to God.  Anger is not the path to righteousness.  But we get very angry at our own sins and the sins of others and are grieved by the hopelessness of lives without God’s intervention.

Have you wept over you sinfulness lately?  Mourning yourself is not a bout of self-pity.  Mourning yourself is the cry of your heart for God’s salvation to change you.

Imagine that I cry for myself over a failure in my life, saying, “You can do better than that!”  And then I promise myself I will not do that again.  That is not the way of Christ.

Imagine that I weep and testify about how others hurt me or slighted be.  I am entitled to be offended and tell anyone who will listen about my story of aggrievement.  That is not the way of Christ.

Getting stung by unrighteousness in myself or from others and living in the grief of the hopelessness, with my face towards God: that is the way of Christ.

When we seek to cover up our sin, that dressing is our reward.  When we blame or shame we stay the same.  But when we grieve it and leave it to God, we are his children.

God’s children rely on God.  God is the only hope for God’s children.  God’s children look to and receive comfort in their sadness over the hopeless wreck of sin.

Children of God live lives of repentance and rest in Father and are saved.  Children of Father always know that God is good.  We know that Christ has made us his disciples to know his father.

The only way to be saved is to let go of saving myself and turn to God to save me.  The only way to deal with my sin and the sin of others is to turn to God.  The only way of happiness or comfort from sin, poverty of spirit and sheer hopelessness, is God.

The way has been made and it is the way that Christ calls his followers to live in and walk in.  We live our lives in grief and the happiness of the comfort of God.  And we share that life and invite others into that life of comfort and happiness from the grief and hopelessness that sin brings.

We are all beggars showing other beggars where to find the bread.  We are carriers of happiness in sad times.  We carry God’s comfort to the grieving.

Mourning and comfort, grieving and being made glad go together.  We are not comforted or made comfortable apart from our mourning.  And we are not made glad or truly happy apart from our grief.

We are neither just happy all the time and never sad, nor are we in permanent gloom mode.  But we are continually having our mourning turned into dancing, through the transformational work of God.  This is the inheritance of the people of God.

We are designed to mourn and grieve when things go wrong, when there is death, dying, hopelessness or rot.  We do not avoid the experience of grieving or mourning.  We do not at all ‘glide above it’, or, ‘steer away from it’.  But believers mourn and grieve often.

Have you wept lately, over your sin or the sins of others?  Have you mourned the lack of righteousness in yourself and the ones around you?  Have you met with God in your grief?

When we are no longer babes in Christ, who only drink milk and need diapers, we walk in the school of Christ, with Christ, as his learners.  And life with others is the class room.  Along the way and even immediately, we will suffer.

There is a saying that says, ‘suffering will make you either bitter or better’.  We know that the better way is the way of God, where we look to God in our suffering and God comforts us or makes us glad.

Something bad happens.  A loss, a death, a sin; and you turn to God in what is hopeless and God comforts you.  This is not a ‘dashboard Jesus’, or, ‘I said these affirmations and felt better’, sort of thing; but a touch from Father.

I have learned to call it being, ‘strangely comforted’.  It does not make sense.  I don’t think I am in denial about what just happened.  But I am comforted and even happy, while still sad about the loss.

The highest walk that the road of discipleship leads to is the fellowship in sufferings with Christ that are his.  The shortest verse in the New Testament is one of the most meaningful ones: ‘Jesus wept’.  His tears were not out of control, but they also were not just wet eyes.  He burst forth in tears.

Jesus also wept for Jerusalem, about the sinful blindness of missing their day of visitation.  He wept over what he saw coming for Jerusalem.  We would do well to follow Jesus example in mourning for the lost and being sad about the fruits of sin.

The same people called to the mission of spreading the good news about Jesus, all Christians, are a broken hearted people.  We both carry the good news and proclaim it to a lost world and we weep and mourn and live in grief over our sinful state of hopelessness.

We never look down on sinners, ourselves or others.  But love is the name of the game.  The life of Christ is not a life of trying to do the right thing and then feeling ashamed I didn’t cut it and then shaming all those out there and in here, who also aren’t cutting it.

Shame is when you feel bad and identify yourself as bad.  Shameful Christians feel bad for their sins and try to make others feel bad for theirs.  The shame game is not at all the way of Christ.

The difference is that we do feel bad for our sin and we do feel hopeless about the sinful condition, but we do not identify or take on the identity of being bad.  And while we do realize and sometimes say that what others do is bad, we do not identify them as bad.

But we see people as loved and in need of redemption, salvation and transformation that all comes through God’s love in Christ.  In seeing people beginning with our own selves, through love, God’s love; we are always vulnerable to being broken hearted over unrighteousness and spiritual poverty or sinfulness.

And we are learning to feel it.  We are learning to experience the sadness in our hearts, from God’s heart.  We are living lives where we often weep and mourn and continually turn to God for consolation.  Our lives are full of sadness, as Jesus’ life was; but we are also truly happy, like him, because of the love of our Father.

The Generous Life Lived in Mercy

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

-Luke 6:34-38
Three or four years ago, I asked the Lord where we would live in the future, and I heard ‘Merced’.  I know that the Lord often speaks to me in ‘dark speech’, parables or symbolic language and sometimes plainly.  In this instance, I looked up what ‘Merced’ means and it means mercy.
I want to tell a story from my recent life that illustrates ‘living in mercy’.  This story also links generosity with forgiveness, not judging nor condemning and living in a mercy life.  This passage in Luke 6, of Jesus words is an illustration of living in mercy and I would say that, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful’, is the key point here that everything else illustrates.
My story is that I have an old friend who took something from me, last year.  He told me, “I took it”, and I was surprised he took it and a little offended that he took it, but glad he told me, sort of.  I told him that the item actually belonged to someone else.
It was like I left a plate of cookies out for someone in particular and before they got there another person happened by and took them: a plastic container with baked delights inside.  The next day, my friend said, “Those cookies you left out were good!”  And I said, “Those weren’t for you, but I was leaving them out for someone else!”  Then I said, “Please give me the plastic tray back”, and they said “OK”, but they never gave it back.
And in a little bit of time, I forgave him and released him from any judgement and laughed about it.  I laughed at myself for making a fuss about it.  I began to live in a mercy place towards my friend.
Fast forward to this week.  I was struggling all week, with a problem I was trying to solve.  I was doing something to solve my problem and that same friend dropped by.
We had a re-do of what happened last year, except this time, the ‘cookies’ had just come out of the oven.  He boldly said, “Can I have those?”  I said, “Yes”, and coordinated with him where to leave the ‘plate of cookies’ when they were ready, because he had to go run some errands.  I saw later, that he had picked up the plate.
Later that day, in the evening, another situation presented itself where another friend of mine needed a favor actually for him and two of his friends, that I could do for them, only if I freely wanted to, but it would take some valuable time for me to do it.  I got a nudge that this would be a generous thing to do, and I did it.  He was very grateful, and thankfully received the gift.
That problem that I was working on earlier in the day was not solved,  and I was disappointed and vexed, but was persevering and planning out my next step, the next thing to try.  After the encounter with my second friend, I tested my problem again, and it had gone away.  And that is when I put this whole picture together.
This particular problem could come back although I hope is does not.  But I can pretty much count on the fact that I will have other problems.  Sometimes life seems like one problem after another.  Every problem is an opportunity to grow in our relationships with God.
When life gives us a negative, God always gives us a positive, like a compensation.  Every problem or challenge has a gift, a grace package attached to it.  We sometimes do not receive it, see it or open it; and instead, wallow in the negative, playing the victim, judging others and even judging God.
Living in mercy is a life of generosity.  And there is a principle that when we are generous, more comes back to us.  It is a matter of the heart and a merciful hearted person is a lender to those who can not repay, a lover of their enemies, who treats them well; and someone who does not at all live, ‘tit for tat’.  Merciful people live in the heart of Father who is merciful and kind.
I want to share with you how Brian Simmons translates this passage:

   “If you lend money only to those you know will repay you, what credit is that to your character?  Even those who don’t know God do that.  But love your enemies and continue to treat them well.  When you lend money, don’t despair if you are never paid back, for it is not lost.  You will receive a rich reward and you as true children of the Most High God, having his same nature.  For your Father is famous for his kindness to heal even the thankless and cruel.  Show mercy and compassion for others, just as your heavenly Father overflows with mercy and compassion for all.”

  Jesus said, “Forsake the habit of judging and criticizing others, and then you will not be criticized and judged in return.  Don’t look at others and pronounce them guilty, and you will not experience guilty accusations yourself.  Forgive over and over and you will be forgiven over and over.  Give generously and generous gifts will be given back to you, shaken down to make room for more.  Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top!  Your measurement of generosity becomes the measurement of your return.”  -Luke 6:34-38 (TPT)

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