Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7
If you have ever run a red light or hit the pedal the metal to exceed the speed limit, then you have a little bit of an understanding of mercy. Especially if you weren't caught. The basic premise is that you have dodged the punishment of the crime. Have you ever done something that you regretted that you knew fell short of God’s glory? The sin may have been as grave as cheating on a spouse, stealing, drug addiction or physically harming another person. And maybe you even came out clean and dodged the bullet so to speak. No proof, no arrest, no public shame, no major consequence. You got away without anybody knowing and unscathed of any consequence. But deep down inside even though there was no earth-shattering consequence, you knew you were wrong, and you disappointed yourself big time and God even more. Regret and shame supplanted the consequence.
Sometimes carrying the weight of guilt can cause so much internal conflict and torment that you wished you had just gotten caught in the first place. The psychological burden of shame and regret weighs heavier and is more tormenting from day to day. Even though you escape the punishment and felt “lucky” at the time to not get caught, but now you are consumed with the feelings of hopelessness, fear and shame. The world feels as if it were caving in all around you, shattered into pieces right before your eyes, and you feel trapped in the situation. Inescapable. Irreparable.
While some people escape getting caught, others do. Red handed. In the public eyes. Those that got caught, the consequence are so grave that you just want to be put out of your misery, and death may seem like an easier option because life seems hopeless. You may find yourself divorced, in prison, bankrupt or facing a judge and jury. Everyone knows that you are a disappointment. The turmoil is too much to bear.
The good news is that we have a God of mercy, compassion and forgiveness that is spiritually deeper than just "dodging a bullet". One of the greatest qualities of God is His willingness to extend mercy. You see grace is receiving something that we don’t deserve, while mercy is kindness shown when a penalty is expected. And the thing about mercy is that it isn’t always within our power to give. For example, God refuses to show mercy to Satan, and he even chose not to show mercy to Jesus when he was calling out on the cross. God has the power to punish us, but when we repent and truly ask for compassion and forgiveness, God offers us mercy, and HOPE.
Let’s circle back around to the repeat traffic offender. Time and time again we repeat the same violation of running stop signs, red lights and speeding. We haven’t been caught so we keep doing it. So why would God let us keep repeating the sin and get away with it? Why would He allow us to run red lights and speed repeatedly? Why did we get away with it so many times before?
Can't you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. Romans 2:4
Think of the Lord's patience as your opportunity to be saved. 2 Peter 3:15
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5
Luckily God offers us a deeper more eternal perspective than just being put out of our misery or dodging a speeding ticket. God is a God of compassion, forbearance, grace and mercy even when we deserve punishment. God’s mercy is nearly incomprehensible. Mercy is a hard thing to understand because often we think of grace and mercy interchangeably. But they are different. God himself can be confusing because he did not extend mercy to His only son Jesus on the cross while he did pour our mercy on those that were guilty. Even though Jesus deserved to be saved from the cross, God did not offer up mercy on that occasion. I can’t think of a more tormenting situation to cry out to God for mercy than to be hanging in pain on a cross.
Let me explain. Christ has never sinned, so, why would a sinless man be suffering God’s wrath? Because he walked into that courtroom, he stood between the judge and the guilty person, and said, “I will serve his sentence.” He took other people’s sin upon himself. He took upon himself sin to such an extent that he became sin. He became vile and detestable in God’s eyes–the most vile and detestable thing that could ever exist–and God poured out the full measure of his wrath upon him. He poured out his wrath upon Christ until that wrath was absorbed and exhausted, until every bit of justice was satisfied.
Christ served the complete sentence of just wrath that I deserved. This is the mercy of the cross, the sinless one serving the sentence of the sinner. Now we see that God has a purpose in his mercy; there is a purpose in his patience. 2 Peter 3:9-10 says it so well: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” God does not wish that any should perish, so he gives time to repent.
And now we see why God has been patient in mercy. God has been patient so that Christ’s work could be accomplished and so we could reach out by faith and become recipients of that work and there receive full forgiveness and full exoneration.
Christ took my sentence upon himself so that I can experience more than patient but temporary mercy. We have seen that mercy is expressed in patience—in wrath delayed—but now we see that mercy may also be expressed in grace, in wrath substituted, wrath transferred to someone else. (http://www.challies.com/articles/gods-mercy-and-gods-wrath-meet-at-the-cross, Tim Challies)
Jesus already paid the price for our biggest crimes. He suffered for our sins. He is perfect. He is just. He is love. He is HOPE. You deserve happiness, gentleness, long-suffering, peace, patience and hope. But if you are not aware of God’s mercy you won’t even receive it. God has something that you do deserve but unless you ask, you will not receive God’s gift of spiritual mercy. Mercy requires asking. Mercy requires repentance. Mercy requires a renewal of the Holy Spirit.
For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9
God promises mercy if we repent. God can be gracious and merciful even when we are disobedient.
For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you. Psalm 86:5
There’s no criteria to qualify for receiving Gods mercy except to call upon Him. God is ready to forgive. It is plenty and available to all.
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. Exodus 34:6-7
In the verses above, God could have wiped Israel off the map, but instead He exhibited steadfast love and grace. He forgave over and over with steadfast love all because He is merciful.
God wants us to reach out to Him and ask for mercy, he wants to give us grace. But first we must humble ourselves, confess our sins, repent of our sins and put ALL our trust in Jesus Christ. It is then that we can be the recipient of God’s long suffering forbearing plenteous mercy. He has plenty to give us if we only ask. It is Gods decision of freewill to be kind and forgiving to those of us under His authority and power. God wants us to be free of distress so that we can extend mercy to others, so that we can show love, so that we can model kindness in hopes of winning more souls to Christ.
Does the Holy Spirit reside in you? Are you moved enough to repent and refine your spiritual life? Who can you pray for that needs mercy, grace and forgiveness? How can you extend love and spread HOPE to others?