God Desires Mercy

 There is a tension in our lives born of the Law, in relation to the freedom offered and received in Christ by faith. The Law encourages us to do many things that can be called good, but they are always done for selfish reasons. This alone explains why our flesh, that old Adam in each of us delights in the Law. Not as a reflection of the truth of who God is, and what His will is for His creation, but as a list of things to do. So we let ourselves off the hook so to speak for our sinful desires, and selfish motivations if we simply check of the to do list of the Law. Like the fig leaves used by Adam and Eve, the bare letter of the Law is used to cover the inner reality of sin in each of our hearts.

Christ Jesus came, not to hand us a list of what to do, but rather to set us free from the death born of sin, uncovered in the Law. This is the Gospel of God, that our Lord, because of His great love and mercy for us, took upon Himself to save us. He faced the full reality of sin. He climbed upon the wooded beams of our own destruction, and on the cross Jesus shed His blood, that we may have life in His Name. God is a God of mercy, who desires mercy from His people.

This tension of Gospel freedom by the forgiveness of God and the delight of the sinful flesh for the Law is on full display as Jesus comes to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. On the Sabbath day no less, these religious leaders, exemplars of legal piety test the mercy of Jesus by purposely hiring a sick man to serve our Lord his meal. Would Jesus have mercy and heal this man, or would He follow the letter of the Sabbath laws, and refrain from doing any work, even a work of love toward the neighbor in favor of the law?

Of course, Jesus heals the man, then, by His Word shows that mercy is greater than the selfish works of following man made regulations of the law. Faith in this Jesus always leads to acts of mercy. Acts of compassion by which you share the mercy you received with the neighbor you have been given.

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Resurrection and Life

In John chapter 11 we have recorded for us the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus, friend to Jesus, and brother to Martha and Mary. Jesus purposely waited to return to Lazarus when word of his illness reached Him because Jesus was demonstrating for us His love and power.

When Jesus was met by Mary, He spoke to her sorrow and disappointment over her brother’s death, reminding her that He alone is “The resurrection and the Life.”

Jesus is the giver of life. This is seen in the beginning when Jesus breaths into the nostrils of Adam, making Him a living creature. This is known by the widow at Zarephath when the prophet Elijah calls to God for mercy, and the Lord gives life back to her son. This is known by the empty tomb of Christ, who conquered death by His cross, and rose victorious three days later.

As the giver of life then, Jesus is also the bringer of death. This is hard for us to understand, that He who loves us to death, would also be the one who brings to us earthly death. That He who gives life also takes it. The reason for this difficulty lies in the lies of the devil. He wants you o believe that He is the author of your death. That He has the power to take away the gift that Jesus gives. Therefore, believing that it is the devil who brings death, it follows that the devil has more power than God Himself. Taking what He did not make, thus overpowering the giver of life.

Death, however is not the power of the devil. Death is the just punishment for sin. Those who fail to perfectly follow the will of God as contained in His law rightly deserve death, for ultimately death is separation from the giver of life. A separation brought about by sin.

As Jesus is the giver of life, He is also the resurrection and the life. Sin, which kills is made clean by the blood of the sacrifice Jesus made for you. By Jesus blood are you free. Free to live in resurrection life. Free to know that He who gave you life, will keep you and restore you in the resurrection of the body, to give to His faithful life everlasting.

All That is Needed

After rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt, and leading them in the wilderness, God promised, and delivered daily, rich provision. Each day, (With the exception of the Sabbath day), manna, a fine, flake like thing fell from heaven and the people ate their fill of bread. God told His people to gather enough for each person daily, and not to keep any overnight. Not because they didn’t have refrigerators, but that they may live by faith in the God who rescues His people by His grace and mercy.

They didn’t listen, or were overcome with worry. Many left some of the manna over and it bread worms and stank. Trust in the Lord with all their heart was not a thing they could achieve.

Of the many promises we have from God in Jesus, we really have a hard time believing that the Lord will daily and richly provide all that we need to support this body and life. Anxiety and worry creep in on us, and so we worry about what we will eat, or what we will put on. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees. If you want to eat, you have to work. This is mostly true of all of us. So our lives reflect the curse God placed on Adam in the garden, “By the sweat of your brow shall you eat the bread of anxious toil.”  The effect of this is that we are robed of the promise of God, robbed of the joy of work, and robbed of our opportunity to serve and love our neighbor as ourselves.

In a beautify way, Jesus draws our attention to the beauty of His creation. Birds and flowers to not toil nor fret, for they know by nature that God will provide all that is needed to support this body and life. If these things of small value are so cared for by God, how much more will the Lord daily and richly provide for you?

The answer is immeasurably so. This promise of rich provision is centered on Jesus, whose death and resurrection brings us hope in forgiveness. This promise of daily, rich provision frees us in hope to enjoy contentment, and find joy in our work, and joy in our generosity. God has promised, and He will do it!

Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us

Mercy from God means that we do not get what we deserve. For many, this may translate as being unfair. We all like to believe that we deserve good things. A trouble free, pain free blessed life. After all, we are good people.

Scripture paints a different picture of humanity. God’s perfect will lays us bare and uncovers the truth of our sinfulness. God’s Law shows not how good we are, rather, it shows how bad we are. At least, how bad we are according to our flesh. In Galatians 5 Paul puts it this way, “the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” Not a pleasant picture.

In the face of this what we need is mercy. Mercy can only come from above. Only the one with the power and authority to judge can give mercy. For example, a child cannot show mercy to a parent, while a parent can show mercy to their child. So it is for us. In Jesus, God has poured out on us abundant mercy. So much so, that what we deserve, punishment and death, is visited upon the perfect, sinless Lamb of God. What we receive in return, by faith in Christ, is His perfect obedience, and perfect forgiveness.

God’s mercy in Jesus doesn’t end in removing punishment and eternal death from us. God’s mercy is truly transformative. It creates in us a new mind, a new spirit, and even a new flesh, made perfect by the mercy of Jesus. Again, in Galatians 5 Paul says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Made new in Christ, we are called to live by these fruits. May the Spirit of Jesus grant us faith to live in such joy and goodness.

Democracy of the Dead

It has been said that there is a democracy of the dead, a way in which those who have gone before us continue to have their say in our lives even after they themselves have died. The collected wisdom and experiences of past generations are a valuable resource that, sadly has been left in moldy boxes in basements and attics since we were told in the 1960’s by Jack Weinberg not to trust anyone over 30. (Jack is now 78….)

This disconnect from our past, and the rich heritage that is ours is a result of a lack of education. We are being taught that the only thing that matters is the here and now. Maybe because the present is our sphere of influence, or maybe because we were duped into thinking we are smarter than those who have come before us, the result is each generation having to reinvent the wheel.

Thankfully, for we who are baptized into our Triune God, we have been joined by faith to the angels, arch angels, and all the company of heaven. In the hymns, songs, and liturgies of the church, the faithful voices of countless Christians are joined to our own as we confess the good news of God’s salvation in Jesus. Our faith, born of the blessed Word of Jesus sets us on the foundation of Christ. We are not slaves to our own understanding, rather, leaning on Jesus we trust in the wisdom of His word.

These blessings of the Lord Jesus – most notably the blessings of eternal life by the forgiveness of our sins, come to us, not because we have made ourselves worthy. Forgiveness is not something you can earn by being good. Rather, blessing comes to the one whose “Transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Jesus’ blessings come to those who repent, who turn from foolish trust in themselves, and return to the collected wisdom of countless saints who confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believed in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead.

This democracy of the dead is a good, and blessed gift from God, for it reminds us that we come from somewhere, and, as believers in Jesus, we are headed to eternity.

Faith comes by Hearing

God’s promises are frankly too much for us to believe, especially when we are faced with the many challenges of this life and world. The Bible clearly speaks to us that god is a God of love, who in Mercy sent Jesus to be our Savior. A God who loves us in all things and in all circumstances. Yet, when we suffer, or are faces with difficult times, it can become hard to believe that we are loved by God.

Sin has a way of closing our ears and hearts to the truth of the loving Words our Savior Jesus brings to us. Over and over again we are told that if we only believe, then all things will work out for our good, for the blessings of those who love God, and are called by water and Word in Baptism. If only you have faith……….

Let’s face it, this is nothing short of more law. The focus is on what we do, or the disposition of our hearts and minds in relation to what God says to us in Scripture. But the Law is not something you can do, not by your own reason or strength. Faith doesn’t come from your will to believe.

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.”

It is here that we find the good news. Jesus will never leave us alone in our weakness. What we cannot do, due to the weakness of our flesh, and our love of sin, God alone does. Jesus takes on our nature, become sour elder brother in the flesh and in the Spirit. He, who by a Word called all things into being, becomes the Word made flesh. Jesus, who dwells among us, sends to us His precious Word that our ears may be opened to these promises, and our hearts brought to know the truth.

You see, it is not about your faith. Rather, it is about the object of your faith. Faith that is born in the hearing of the Word of Jesus crucified for sins, risen for our justification joins us to the power of salvation. Faith never speaks of itself, as though in and of itself it has power. Rather, faith always clings to Jesus, whose love covers us in forgiveness. Who brings us through all trouble and trial by His grace. Who opens our ears that we may believe.

Law or Grace

There are only two ways we humans approach God, wither by Law, or by grace.

The fact is, even those who reject the True God, or any god for that matter do so on the basis of Law. They turn to something else to take God’s place in their lives, be it the state, or “science,” or anything else the self may imagine, in the end, the focus is on human action. Human works become the salvation of the soul.

Our relationship, as baptized children into the Name of our Triune God is one of grace alone. God cannot be manipulated to change his ways toward us, wither by our sinful rebellion, or by our slavish devotion to works of His law – those things by which we would call ourselves good people.

This is good news! This means that no matter how dark you believe your sins to be, God’s enduring desire for you is to show you love, to comfort you by His merciful Word. No sin is so evil, that God in Christ Jesus will refuse to forgive.

This also means that no amount of “good behavior” will earn for yourself a reward before Jesus. He doesn’t desire from your hand sacrifices of blood, nor does He demand acts of good works from you as though you are balancing out your negative karma with positive. We are saved by grace alone.

Grace establishes our relationship to our Savior. What is left for us is to believe. Our relationship to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is passive. God works in us, that we may receive His mercy.

Having this grace of Jesus by faith, the Spirit of God makes us active. Active in love toward others, our neighbors, that our lives may reflect the light of Jesus. Saved by grace alone, we also live by grace alone.