Blessed Are The Merciful

Could I Be Happier?  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We are continuing our / / Could I Be Happier? series where we are going through Matthew 5:3-12, looking at the nine statements Jesus makes that we call the / / Beatitudes. If you’ve missed any of the weeks we’ve been in this series you can catch up on all of them online on our website, youtube or facebook.
Before we read this scripture let’s remind ourselves that this is part of a greater portion of scripture called the / / Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is basically outlining what it will look like to have Him be the leader. You could call this passage of scripture, “If you want to be a Christian, this is what life should look like.” And that is both from our perspective, what we do, and from His perspective, what he does.
I’ve read this quote from St Augustine a few times in this series, / / “Without God we can’t, and without us God won’t.” And the more I think about that statement the more I see the value and importance of it. Scripture is clear, John 15:5, Jesus says, / / “…I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
That’s basically what Augustine was encouraging us in, wasn’t it? Being connected to Jesus, who is God, right? We believe God is represented in the three persons of what we call the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. We believe that there is more than enough evidence in the bible that shows God is both a singular entity, yet expressed and experienced through three very distinct persons. When we read scripture like Genesis 1, the very beginning of the bible, / / In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… In the beginning God…one God.
Also Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:6 says, / / But for us, There is one God...
Ok, we get that.
But in both of those statements, Both in Genesis 1:2, after saying in vs 1, / / In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, vs 2 says, / / And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. And John writes in his book in John 1:1-18, he says that Jesus is the very word of God, and John 1:3 says, / / God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. So, God was at creation, the Spirit of God was at creation, and Jesus, the Word of God was there as well.
And then 1 Corinthians after saying, / / But for us, there is one God… he continues to say that the one God he’s talking about is, / / the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.
Is he crazy? Is he not all there? God the Father created all things....Jesus Christ created all things… No, there is just simply one God who is expressed through three wonderful entities.
And he clarifies that even further in Ephesians 4:4-6, he says, / / For there is... one Spirit…There is one Lord… one God and Father of all...
The baptism of Jesus is another beautiful expression of this. John Baptizes Jesus and as Jesus comes out of the water scripture says he sees the heavens open and the spirit of God descending like a dove onto Jesus the son AND the voice of the Father says, This is my Son...
So God the Father, God the Son & God the Holy Spirit, all present at these moments throughout scripture.
And let’s be honest, that can be a difficult thing to grasp, but I have found the more I place my faith in this truth the more I connect with these aspects of God. To live in denial or unbelief simply closes us off to receiving. When Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit and promises that him and the Father will send the Spirit to the disciples after he’s ascended to heaven, he says in John 14:7, / / The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him.
Choosing to believe opens us up to looking for him, recognizing him and receiving him. But if you turn a blind eye to the truth, you can not receive the fullness of God And again, read through what we just read, there’s sufficient evidence in scripture, even if our brain says, “ya, but that’s impossible.”
I have the same conversations with Kaylee. There are things that we have to choose to believe though they seem to be impossible. That doesn’t mean we have to just accept anything or everything. Definitely not. Don’t ever just believe something because someone told you, let someone telling you something be a starting point for you to pursue the truth. What I say here on this stage, whatever podcasts or sermons you’re listening to through the week, the greatest preachers and teachers in the world. That is all good, but it should inspire you to seek out the Word, who is Jesus Christ and the Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth, and the Father, who the bible says on multiple occasions, God is not a man that he lies… So you know he will lead you to the truth. And Jesus said the spirit would lead us into truth, and so we get to be a part of that journey for each other as we share our own experiences with God, but we all know the saying, You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
So, be open to your world being challenged, even by things that you may think are impossible. Kaylee says to me of the story of Lazarus, where Jesus raises him from the dead. She still has a tough time with that one. “But daddy, that’s impossible...” You betcha kiddo. The disciples asked Jesus the same thing. Not specifically of Lazarus, but in Matthew 19:24-26 Jesus has just met with a rich person who can’t handle giving up his riches to follow him, and he says to his disciples, / / “It is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
Giving hope to both the rich man and the rest of us who may have things other than money that stop us from following God fully. And this isn’t just a rabbit trail this morning, but look at how that challenged the disciples thinking. Why would they think that if it’s hard for a rich person to enter heaven, that it would be hard for anyone? Because they still didn’t get the concept of being truly blessed.
Bring us back to Matthew 5:3-12 where Jesus is making these nine statements about being blessed that have nothing to do with financial gain but a true sense of contentment and happiness and connectedness with God. And there you have 14 chapters later the disciples are still asking, “Wait, but we’ve grown up believing that the rich are the ones who are blessed by God, and they are rich because they are blessed and they are blessed because they’re favored, clearly those are the ones who would get into heaven first. Obviously they’ve done something right to be blessed… Look at their lives.”
Both in the Old Testament, and unfortunately in the New Testament church and straight through to today there’s been a bad theology that if you’re physically blessed in this earth it is because you did it right, and if you are going through it, having a hard time, struggling or experiencing difficulty, it is because you did something wrong, like God is punishing you.
Just not the case. Jesus actually guaranteed hard times for the closest of his followers. In John 16, and remember we looked last week at John 14-17 which are all between the last supper and the betrayal in the garden of gethsemane before Jesus is crucified. So his last important words to the closest of his followers. The ones who would lead the church. He says in John 16:33, / / “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Again, one more time guys, being blessed isn’t defined by what you have or what you can gain or how good you are. Being blessed is all about being connected to me. Find your blessing and contentment in me.
So, let’s read through Matthew 5:3-12 this morning and then we’ll dig into a few things. Reading this from the ESV:
/ / Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Alright, this morning we’re going to look at just one of these statements - Matthew 5:7
/ / Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
This one is a very outwardly focused instruction, just like vs 9 that we will look at next week, Blessed are the peacemakers. But, both of these scriptures are outwardly focused. This has to do with how we directly treat other people, and how we choose to treat other people is an opportunity for us to be blessed, or be happier, in some way, shape or form.
So, looking at verse 7 and again asking our three questions, Who, Why and How.
/ / Who is blessed, Why are they blessed, and How are they blessed?
Again, this is an invitation. We are seeing that over and over again. Jesus says, / / Blessed are the merciful, and in essence he is saying, Blessed are those who choose to show mercy.
Merciful is the way this is translated through most of the english translations. I’ve been reading the Message a lot lately through this series and it’s because there really is such a beautiful poetic flow to how it’s written.
/ / “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourself cared for.”
And the TPT says, / / “How satisfied you are when you demonstrate tender mercy! For tender mercy will be demonstrated to you.”
That invitation to show or demonstrate mercy. And when we look at all of these statements we are seeing over and over again that this is about choices. I find it funny. As I was praying and asking God before we started this series, at first I felt like He was leading me to a series called Choices. And eventually I felt that I landed here on Could I Be Happier? But as we’ve been going through this series I am realizing they are one in the same. / / The invitation from Jesus to encounter a blessing that is supernatural, is because of the choices we make in the natural.
The blessing isn’t always something we can explain.
It came up a couple times this week, conversations I had about Kelley and I purchasing our home last year. I have a hard time explaining how it happened, except that I know we have made the very physical, very real, very tangible and not always easy choice over and over again to honor God with our finances to the best of our ability. I do not believe in the command of a tithe. Let me explain. Tithing is an instruction God gave Israel to give 10% of their increase or income to God. For the church that translated too and is usually expressed through giving to the local church that you consider your community. The reason I say I don’t believe in the command of it is because Jesus set us free from the burden of the law, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still an available invitation to see God bless you through it. But, I also don’t believe we are cursed if we don’t do it, because Galatians 3:13 says, / / …Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written, in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
But here’s the thing, and with overwhelming evidence in my life, I 100% believe in the blessing found when I make the choice to honor God in our finances, as hard as it is sometimes.
And it is a very real, physical choice, every month, when I sit down to look at our budget, Kelley and I have made the choice to honor God with 10% of our income. And so in the last week when this conversation came up twice about us buying our house I could not deny the reality that our choices over time have made a direct impact in what we have experienced in our lives.
Does God love people who tithe more? No, that’s ridiculous.
Does God bless people who do not tithe? Absolutely. The bible says God showers blessing on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
But, what we choose to do with the blessing of God in our lives, the job we have, the money we make, the bonuses we receive etc… how we handle that blessing is opportunity to experience something. And that can be hard to reconcile sometimes, “Well, if God wanted to bless me, he would, but he isn’t so I guess he doesn’t want to. I have to figure it out myself. Make it happen for myself.” or “I can’t afford to give 10% of my income...” I’ll be honest. And this is a personal decision that I can’t put on anyone else, but I can’t afford not too.
I mean, let’s go back to what St Augustine said, Without God, we can’t. Without us, God won’t. I believe everything I have is because of God, and in that, I could do nothing without him. I also make the choice constantly to walk with Him, and honor Him, and give him opportunity to help me, bless me, work on my behalf. I need God involved in my life for my life to go well. So every opportunity to honor Him and invite him into the process is going to be a good one.
Great example from this past week. I was at my Drs office this Monday and I mentioned I had gained weight the previous week and I was confused as to why. I didn’t feel like I had done anything that warranted gaining weight, and I was frustrated. But, I also mentioned, “I haven’t been very active lately, and a few weeks ago when I did lose a significant amount of weight I had actually gone for a walk 3 or 4 times that week.”
“Yes,” says the Dr, “you should be going out for walks.” “Ya, I get it.”
So I asked God for some strength and courage to do what I need to do. I went to bed that night, set my alarm for 6am with all determination to get up and go for a walk. That horrible beeping sound came from my alarm, just like I told it to at 6am. It was still dark. No good reason in the world to get yourself out of bed at that time.
I sat up so I wouldn’t fall back to sleep. And then I had this thought… “I should really just lie back down and set my alarm for another 45 minutes… I could get another 45 minutes of sleep.” I had to choose. We went over this a few weeks ago. God knows I’m 100% ok with him MAKING me walk, and yet for some reason that hasn’t happened yet. I still need to make that choice.
The other side of it was that I actually felt a very un-human, supernatural, God inspired amount of grace to be up and get out there. But even with that, I STILL had to choose to do it. It wasn’t going to happen without me.
And I did. I got up and I went for a walk.
But, the real story is what happened when I was at the grocery store a few hours later. And I’m not using this as my confession time, but I think the point is very poignant for this topic. I’ve been doing ok, but I also somehow got myself into a habit of sitting down with some popcorn in the evening. Now, a bit of popcorn isn’t a terrible issue, but what IS the issue is #1 I don’t need it. And #2, I can sit and eat a bag of pre-popped popcorn in one sitting which would be 6 or 7 servings of popcorn. I can. The unfortunate nature of being a food addict is if I allow myself outside of the confines of what I know to be my own personal sobriety or abstinence, it is very very difficult, if not impossible to say no after the first bite. Like an alcoholic taking a drink after months of sobriety. And once that floodgate opens I will end up being back and forth to the kitchen for the rest of the night trying to meet a need that will never be met with the food I am consuming.
God, give me the grace to accept with serenity the things I can not change. BUT, the courage to change the things I can...
I might always be this way. I may never be absent of that struggle. But with the grace of God I can choose.
So I’m in the grocery store a few hours after this historic moment of getting up for a walk at 6am, and lo-and-behold the popcorn I like is on sale. Two bags for one price less than what one bag costs. How could I say no? And I didn’t say no. Two bags of those golden puffs of amazing went into my cart.
As I’m walking through the store picking up the other things I actually needed I could not shake this constant nagging, I mean, inspiration that I needed to put them back. “But, But, But they were the last two of it’s kind, and I’ll be better this time, and I’ll just have a small amount. I know I can do it this time....” says the addiction, not the recovering addict...
The internal struggle was all kinds of real. Back and forth I finally made it back to the chip aisle to put them back on the shelf, I was winning. But I found myself turning around again, determined to get to a cash register. But I have to be quick about it so I don’t change my mind again. Just buy it and get out of here. I must have looked like an absolute fool walking back and forth up and down the aisle.... I know, you’re thinking, “Whoa dude, it was popcorn...”
Then I had the thought, in my own super spiritual, pastoral, amazingly connected to the Spirit of God, in my super disciplined following of Jesus as a disciple, and I said to God, “I know I am making the choice right now to do what I know I am not supposed to do.” I mean, I’m in the chip aisle, just standing there having this conversation in my heart to God… And this is what I hear, clearer than clear. “How am I supposed to bless the journey you are on if you choose to turn your back on my instruction?”
Oh man. How many times have I had this conversation with my daughter? “IF you will just listen to what I am telling you, I’m trying to help you...”
And I was flooded with this realization. I’m constantly asking God to bless me in this. I asked him the night before to help me wake up. I actually felt His grace at 6am. I felt encouraged and empowered to make the right decision.
So why would I then make the wrong one in the face of clear direction?
This is about the choices we make. If you’re thinking we’ve somehow drifted very far from Matthew 5, we haven’t.... This is what Jesus is saying. You are blessed when you choose to do this, or act this way, or respond this way, or treat someone this way.
God won that little argument in the chip aisle. I put the popcorn back.
Does that mean the rest of the week was perfect. No. But there’s something to be said about habit. The more choices we make in the right direction the easier those choices are to make. And often times what we are up against in our lives is the habits we have allowed ourselves to get stuck in. Paul says in Romans 6:16, / / Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.
So, / / Blessed are the merciful, or those who are full of mercy, or choose to show mercy.
Again, mercy is the word used through most of the translations. It’s the word / / eleemon and it means compassionate (actively) - merciful.
This is an active word. It is the act of showing mercy / compassion. And at the end of the verse, when Jesus says, / / “for they shall receive mercy.” that is the root word of eleemon, eleeo.
Our english definition of / / mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
And the definition of / / compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
So, the sense we get from this word, Blessed are the merciful, is / / those who choose to see past the action that may have been done against them, to the person in front of them, and exhibit the same attitude that Jesus would have toward us in the same situation.
Let me explain by using a story that Jesus tells.
In Matthew 18:21-35 there’s a story that Jesus tells. Peter comes to Jesus and says, / / “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
The story Jesus tells to answer Peter’s question is pretty heavy.
He tells a story of a king who decides he’s going to collect on all of the debts owed to him. So everyone in his kingdom is brought before him to pay back what they owe him. A servant comes who owes him a very significant amount. The NLT says millions of dollars. The ESV says it’s ten talents. A talent was worth more than 15 years’ wages of a person working physical labor. So, they estimate 1 talent to be $1 Million, and Jesus just goes all out in this story and says this guy owes the king Ten Talents…so, $10 million. Well, First of all, He can’t pay that, so the king decides that he should be sold, along with his wife, and his children, and everything he owned, just to pay the debt.
He begs him, have patience with me, he says and I will pay back what I owe you. Really? 15 years of labor times 10?!?, give you 150 years to pay this back?
But, the king decides to honor the request and forgives him of every bit of the debt that was owed.
Can you imagine? This is not claiming bankruptcy, he’s been forgiven millions of dollars of debt. We can’t even fathom.
Well, as he’s walking out of that meeting with the king, he runs into a guy, same line of work as him, who owes him some money, the NLT says “a few thousand dollars.” That word is denarii and it is what would be paid for one DAY of labor. And the ESV says he owes him 100 denarii - so, 100 days of labor. Well, if you’re making $15 an hour working an 8 hr day you’re making $120 a day, so he owes him $12,000. Not a small amount, but certainly not $10 million. Let’s pick up the story there. Seeing the servant who owed him a few thousand...
/ / “He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
That last line gets pretty intense.
Now there are two words for mercy used in these scriptures. We have these words eleeo and eleemon, which are straight forward words that simply mean to have mercy, compassion, to forgive. That’s what is used when the king says to the servant, / / And should not you have had mercy [eleeo] on your fellow servant, as I had mercy [eleeo] on you.
Why am I pointing this out? I’m not trying to get us all to be greek scholars here, but, the other word that is used is when Jesus says that the king took pity, or sometimes translated mercy or compassion on the servant when he begged him to give him more time. / / And out of pity for him, the master of the servant released him and forgave him the debt.
That word is / / splagchnizomai and that also means to have or be moved with compassion, but it is a very intense word. Strongs dictionary says - to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion.
The reason they say moved as to one’s bowels was because they believed the bowels were the seat or the central point of where we feel love and pity.
This is the word most often used when scripture says over and over again that Jesus was moved with compassion. It is like this yearning, this unstoppable compassion. You can’t help but help someone when you feel this. Jesus couldn’t help but heal a person when this type of compassion kicked in.
I need you to hear this, this morning - that’s what Jesus has for us. That’s what Jesus has shown us. But why not use that word when he says, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy?
There’s something important to take note of here. 1 John 4:19 says, / / We love because he first loved us.
There’s also a story about Jesus in Luke 7, Jesus goes with his disciples to a Pharisees house for dinner. And a woman comes in to the house carrying this beautiful jar filled with an expensive perfume. And she goes over to Jesus and breaks open the jar, pours the perfume on his feet and wipes it with her hair and kisses his feet while wiping this expensive perfume on them.
Problem is, everyone in the room knows this woman has a very bad reputation. She’s gotten herself into trouble with the men in the town. And they even say, “If Jesus was a prophet, he would know what kind of woman she is...” Now, what she’s doing in the moment, there’s nothing sensual about it. She’s honoring Jesus. She’s anointing him. She’s showing great gratitude.
And there’s some great points in the story, but for us this morning one of the last lines Jesus says is what’s important. He says, / / “I tell you, her sins - and they are many - have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The point is this. The Kingdom of Heaven is upside down. Jesus rarely, if ever, asks us to do anything he’s not willing to do himself.
He loves us before we are even able to love.
We love him because he’s already forgiven us.
We can be merciful, show compassion, the eleeo type, where it’s not all that intense, just being good people to each other, BECAUSE Jesus has already had the gut wrenching, yearning, deep down, give his life for us compassion that drew him to the cross.
The word splagchnizomai is ONLY used in relation to Jesus. There are a couple times people ask to have that kind of compassion from him, and every other time the word is used it is in reference to the compassion that Jesus has for the people.
No one else in scripture has that kind of compassion or mercy.
It’s almost like He’s saying, “I don’t expect you to have this level of compassion. Just go and love each other, be good to each other, forgive each other. Treat each other with the same love I’ve shown you.
John 13:34, / / So no I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Meaning, Don’t try to do these things on your own.
Don’t try to be merciful without understanding the mercy he’s had for you.
Don’t try to be loving without understanding the love he has for you.
And when it comes time to choose to be merciful, remember the level of mercy God has shown us in forgiving our millions, in comparison to the thousands someone might owe us.
My question for you this morning would be this. Can you truly have compassion? Can you truly show mercy? Can you learn to forgive? Ultimately that’s what Jesus is saying here.
Jesus will continue to teach in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:5-18 where he teaches on prayer, he says in vs 12, in how we should pray, / / “…forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” and vs 14-15, / / “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Why so hardcore?
Because I think most of us would rather pray, “Forgive us our sins regardless of whether we’ve done it right or not. And most definitely whether we have forgiven everyone else or not...”
Everyone wants God to be just, until it has to deal with their own sin and character flaws. And in God’s choice to give us free will we are given the choice in what we should receive for the same actions done against us. Because He is a just God. Remember, the definition of mercy is to be able to forgive or let someone go of something that you have the power to actually hold them responsible for. BUT, That becomes a question of Mercy vs. Judgement.
IF you remember in our series on King David, when Nathan the prophet comes to him to tell him God knows what He’s done and is not ok with it, he tells David a story. He says, what would you do if there was a man who had many sheep, and another man who just had 1 sheep. And the man with many sheep went over to the man with one sheep, stole his one sheep and fed it to some guests he had over for dinner, so he wouldn’t have to kill any of his many sheep. What should be done to him?
Listen to David’s response from 2 Samuel 12:5-7, / / David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!”
So, Jesus bringing that back, yes, the law should be very strict, if you can not forgive, then you cannot be forgiven. If you want justice for your life, then everyone else should also receive justice when you’ve hurt them, right?
“But that’s no fair. God gives us grace!” Actually, that’s the MOST fair.
But again, here is where the kingdom of heaven is not like the kingdoms of this world. The King in Jesus story who takes pity on the servant has splagchnizomai… that deep, heart wrenching compassion that changes lives.
And we are in that position today, to be able to rely on that mercy from God.
Jesus says, / / You will be happier if you learn to show mercy, because you yourself will receive mercy. That’s the justice system of God, choose to show mercy and receive mercy. But here’s the thing, he’s not telling you that you need to figure that out on your own. Through story after story and moment after moment Jesus expressed the deep, heartfelt yearning of compassion toward us, FIRST.
If you know the story or the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, and I encourage you to read it this week, it’s such a great expression of the compassion and mercy that Jesus shows toward us, that His Father shows toward us, that is available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The story is a son takes his inheritance leaves home and spends the whole thing on terrible decisions. And when he comes to his senses, he figures he might as well go back to his father who at least pays his servants better than what has become of him. So he prepares this big speech to apologize, and he heads home and Luke 15:20 says, / / But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion [splagchnizomai], and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
And that story was about our heavenly Father receiving us with open arms regardless of what we’ve done. Whether you have ever wondered if God can forgive you for the things you’ve done. Or maybe you just don’t want to really even approach the subject. It does not matter what you have done, through the stories Jesus tells, Jesus gives us a clear indication of what God feels toward us, through the king in Matthew 18, who had pity and forgave 150 years of debt, or the father in Luke 15 who didn’t even give his son the opportunity to get into his speech and ask forgiveness - he embraced him in the deepest sense of compassion and mercy and love.
So, Jesus says in Matthew 5:7, / / Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
But I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t always want to be merciful. Sometimes I want judgement. Sometimes I want someone to be punished. Have you ever heard the words come out of your mouth, “ya, well they just got what they deserved...” Oh if we got what we deserved we’d all be in a heap of trouble.
And this isn’t something to be afraid of. When Jesus says that if we don’t forgive God won’t forgive us, that’s not a guarantee of punishment, it’s an invitation to embrace HIS mercy. If we read that as punishment we will run and hide. “Oh no, I’ve not been merciful. I’m going to get the judgement of God thrown at me...” “Oh man, I haven’t been able to forgive that person, will God be able to forgive me?”
Ya, great question. I want to do something this morning that I really felt yesterday God wanted to do here in this service - and that is to invite God to meet us with splagchnizomai… with HIS deep, beautiful, yearning compassion. That comes out of the very center and person of Jesus Christ. And I want to make the invitation this morning for us to receive that mercy and compassion, SO THAT we can better make those choices to give mercy and show compassion.
It’s in the experience of the compassion of Jesus that we’ll be able to show compassion for others. When we remember that God has forgiven us, we will in turn have the capacity to forgive others. Because the other way is called punishment. You did something wrong, so you are treated wrong. You did not forgive, so you will not be forgiven. But John reminds us in 1 John 4:18, / / [God’s love] has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
If you are still afraid of being punished because you haven’t done it all right, then the solution is to experience the love and mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, allow it to be perfected in you!
So, I want to make that invitation to you this morning. Maybe you aren’t feeling super judgmental, but you know you’re not the most gracious person either. Maybe you simply realize that in your life you could be more merciful, and if you can be more merciful you will experience even more mercy from those around you and be happier because of it.
Or maybe you are really judgmental. Maybe you find yourself having very little to say in the way of nice things. Maybe you recognize you like to hold on to a grudge. You have a hard time letting things go. You're happy to let karma sort them out, they’ll get what they deserve. On every one of those levels, from the smallest to the biggest, the solution is the felt expression of the mercy of Jesus Christ.
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