Do you truly grasp the profound nature of God’s mercy? As a pastor, I’m often struck by how mercy is frequently conflated with grace. While both these virtues flow from the same boundless love of God, they offer distinctly different blessings.
Grace vs. Mercy
Understanding these differences is essential to fully embrace and position ourselves to actively receive God’s mercy and grace.
We should be well acquainted with grace in our new covenant, Gospel church. It is God’s undeserved, unmerited favor, and by grace we are saved. It’s the divine acquittal from guilt, pronounced “not guilty,” not because of what we have done but because of what Jesus has accomplished for us.
Grace blesses us with gifts we do not naturally deserve, like forgiveness, healing, prosperity, and intimacy with the Lord. Now, consider mercy – a divine intervention that saves us from the judgment we naturally deserve for our mistakes. When we stumble or make unwise decisions – be they financial, work-related, or simply human lapses – it’s God’s mercy that shields us from the natural consequences of those actions.
Reflecting on a little-mentioned exchange between Jesus and Peter before the crucifixion, we’re given a unique insight into the ongoing role of Satan, the accuser, who constantly points out our shortcomings to God. Jesus didn’t merely assure Peter of His ultimate victory over Satan, but importantly, prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail. This illustrates how Jesus’s ultimate victory becomes meaningful only when we have faith to receive it.
So, while we strive to navigate life with grace, we can’t forget to claim God’s mercy, praying for faith to withstand the accusations and trials, for in faith we receive the fullness of God’s mercy and grace.
An Invitation To Come Boldly
Do we truly understand the audacity and boldness God invites us to have in approaching His throne of grace and mercy?
Hebrews 4:16 instructs us to “come boldly” before Him. But boldness is not bragging or pride; it’s an awareness of who you are in Christ, forgiven and washed in His blood.
When we say we’re approaching God in the name of Jesus, it isn’t merely a formulaic prayer. It signifies that we’re coming to the Holy Abode of God not in our own righteousness but through the righteousness of Jesus. We’re received by the Father just as He would receive Jesus Himself.
This is our bold approach, especially when we’ve faltered, for it’s in these moments that faith becomes real.
John’s revelation presents us with a poignant image of the divine mercy seat covered in the blood of Jesus. This mercy does not come cheaply; when mistakes are made, there must be a death. Yet, thankfully, it’s not your spiritual, financial, or social demise but Jesus’s sacrificial death that has covered the mercy seat. This understanding encourages us to approach God’s throne to find His active pity, the aversion of divine judgment, and grace in our times of need.
Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in mercy.”
God’s delight is in showing us mercy – it’s His nature, His character, unchanged from Old to New Testament. This revelation should give us confidence as we embrace and understand the depth of His mercy. It is truly a joy for God to extend His tender mercies towards us. And recognizing this should fill us with awe and gratitude as we are encouraged to boldly seek His divine mercy and grace, whatever our trials or tribulations may be.
Mercy Is God’s Pattern
From the dawn of mankind, God’s nature of mercy has been evident. Genesis 3:21 displays this when Adam and Eve, despite their rebellion, are shown mercy by God as He makes tunics of skin to clothe their nakedness.
This act, more than being a simple act of compassion, is one of the earliest pointers towards the sacrifice of Jesus. As the animal skins would have been wet with blood, it symbolized the blood of Christ that would later be shed to cover humanity’s sins. God’s act in this moment is not just about covering their physical nakedness but a foreshadowing of the spiritual covering provided by Jesus’ sacrifice.
In the story of the adulterous woman found in John 8, Jesus echoes God’s desire for mercy over sacrifice, paraphrasing Hosea 6:6. This woman, caught in sin and thrust before Christ, is instead shown mercy by Him. In doing so, Jesus rebuffs the Pharisees’ call for legalistic judgment, reminding them of God’s greater value on mercy than on ritualistic sacrifice.
As God prefers it over burnt offerings, this mercy underscores the dual application in the old and new covenants. It suggests God’s preference for humanity to accept His mercy and extend it to others rather than clinging to the rituals of animal sacrifices.
This call for mercy over sacrifice also reflects how we ought to respond to our own mistakes and failures. Instead of being buried under the weight of guilt, shame, and self-condemnation, which ultimately sacrifices our joy, hope, and confidence, we should instead embrace God’s mercy.
It isn’t about carrying the guilt and anticipating judgment; instead, it is about understanding that we serve a God who delights in showing mercy. And while none of us are perfect, this divine mercy is something we all need and should be willing to accept with gratitude and humility.
Five Ways To Receive The Mercy of God
This is not if you do A; God will do B. Everything has already been bought and paid for with the blood of Jesus. But, some things are empowered by the Holy Spirit. When we do them, we position ourselves to be under the spout from which the mercy flows out.
1. Be Merciful
Luke 6:35 reveals a core principle of Christianity, highlighting God’s call for mercy over judgment. This principle, often associated with offerings, extends beyond the monetary domain. It encapsulates the practice of sowing and reaping, implying that our acts of mercy towards others open the doors for us to receive God’s mercy.
The principle is clear: to be merciful is to stand on the side of truth, to engage others without disgust or a sense of superiority. It is understanding that we are all fallible and capable of any sin given the right circumstances. It is a humbling recognition of our human fragility that breeds empathy and grace towards others.
Jesus’ teachings in this passage show us that mercy is not about compromising our stand on the truth or ignoring wrongdoings. It’s about compassionately engaging with others while upholding our values and standards. It is about practicing mercy in the same way God does – being kind to both the thankful and the unthankful, loving even to those who may oppose us. Contrary to the contemporary ‘woke’ culture, which advocates for non-judgment to the point of compromising one’s principles, Jesus calls for righteous judgment infused with mercy and love.
The call is not to tolerate everything uncritically nor to judge others harshly but to judge with righteous judgment while showing mercy. It’s about acknowledging that we are all flawed and capable of erring while upholding God’s standards.
Psalm 86.5 teaches us that God is abundant in mercy, ever ready to forgive those who call upon Him, an act of faith that is especially necessary when we stumble and stray from the right path. Despite their frequent failures and subsequent judgments, the Old Testament often portrays the people of Israel crying out to God in faith for His mercy. Similarly, we, too, must learn to lean on faith in times of strife and, in doing so, cry out to God.
This act of faith, calling out to God when we’re at our lowest, brings us to a crossroads where we can either cower in shame or embrace the belief that God is merciful. It allows us to believe that, despite our mistakes, God will withhold the negative consequences we may deserve and change our circumstances for the better.
Hezekiah, faced with imminent death, cried out in faith for mercy, and God granted him more years. This faith underscores the need to invoke God’s mercy, even when facing dire consequences. Like Hezekiah, we must not be afraid to call out to God humbly and earnestly, seeking His mercy and delighting in His grace.
When we encounter God’s mercy, we find strength to weather life’s storms, knowing that God gives freely, without any strings attached.
Humility is not about one’s appearance, the volume of one’s voice, the wealth one possesses, or how flamboyant one’s lifestyle is. Instead, humility is defined as one’s dependence and need for God.
This perspective often contradicts the belief that wealth and success are incompatible with humility. Unfortunately, this misconception leads to a poverty mindset, where individuals shun prosperity for fear of being seen as not humble. There’s a difference between poverty and humility. Many less fortunate people are consumed by pride, preventing them from accepting help or learning. Many affluent people demonstrate a continuous eagerness to learn and grow.
In Revelation and Luke chapter 18, the Bible shares essential teachings about humility. In Revelation, the prosperous were rebuked not for their wealth but for their belief that they did not need anything, including God. In Luke, two men who went up to the temple to pray provide a stark contrast. The Pharisee, proud and self-righteous, gave thanks that he wasn’t like the ‘lesser’ individuals around him. Conversely, in his humility, the tax collector asked for God’s mercy, acknowledging his faults and dependence on divine mercy.
This shows that true humility lies not in our resumes or worldly accomplishments but in recognizing our continual need for God’s grace and mercy.
As we ascend in success, it’s crucial to remember to stay grounded in humility. As we experience breakthroughs and move from glory to glory, let’s make sure to give credit where it’s due, acknowledging that it’s not us but God working through us.
4. Praise & Worship
Receiving the mercy of God involves praising and worshiping Him, as outlined in 2 Chronicles 20:19-22. In the face of judgment and a powerful enemy army, the children of Israel chose to praise the Lord loudly and earnestly.
This powerful act of faith is something we should emulate, not only during church services but also in our personal lives. Even if it’s just 30 seconds a day, embracing worship and praise can dramatically shift our spiritual lives and put us directly in the overflow of God’s mercy. It can be a simple singing to God in a quiet room, a walk in the park, or any situation where you can express your devotion.
When faced with an adversarial army, the Israelites chose to sing about the Lord’s mercy, illustrating the power of acknowledging His merciful nature even in times of hardship. Just like the children of Israel, you too can sing about God’s mercy through existing songs or by creating your own. Singing, even when you feel silly or awkward, is a sincere expression of your faith and a manifestation of your reliance on God’s mercy. Expressing your regret, seeking forgiveness, and acknowledging His mercy through song allows God’s grace to flow through your life.
Embrace your faith, remember God’s mercy, and praise Him regardless of the circumstances.
There is no transaction in generosity. You cannot buy God’s mercy. However, the heart of a giver stands out. Giving does not imply that God loves you more or you will gain heaven faster than a less generous believer. However, it signifies living a life of difference on earth, marked by grace and abundance.
A familiar chapter from the Bible, Malachi 3, forms the foundation. It reflects on tithes and offerings. A tithe is the first tenth of our income, whereas an offering is an additional contribution. This act of tithing is deeply rooted in faith and love for God, not out of a sense of fear or compulsion.
However, while we are blessed under the new covenant, our finances aren’t necessarily blessed. This is where tithing comes into play, as tithers believe in the blessing of their finances.
If you don’t tithe, it’s an act of immaturity in your faith journey, indicative of a lack of trust in God’s providence. It encourages believers to grow and trust God, not just with their eternal soul but also with their finances.
It is vital to hold material things loosely and see oneself as a vessel through which God’s provisions pass. In doing so, God ‘spoils’ you with blessings, akin to a father pampering his only son. Such a person trusts in the abundance of God, lives responsibly, works hard, and does not limit their expectations.
We don’t give out of guilt or manipulation, but we give with joy, according to 2 Corinthians 9-7.
Embrace God’s Mercy
God’s mercy is incredible. It’s like this never-ending well of kindness and love that doesn’t quit, no matter what. You mess up, and it’s there. You face hard times, and it’s there. It’s like a friend who sticks by you when everyone else has left.
This isn’t some far-off concept. It’s real, and it’s present in our day-to-day lives.
Lord Jesus, you are God. You delight in mercy. I have made mistakes. I’ve committed sins. Some consequences may come my way, but I trust you, Lord. Number one, because of your grace, I’m forgiven. Because of your grace, I receive undeserved favor, but also thank you for your mercy. Because of your mercy, I don’t receive deserved judgment, so thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.