Have Mercy? Have Mercy!!

The word mercy often brings to mind the image of an imposing figure dressed in black robes standing (or seated) before us waiting to pass judgment.  Because that decision can be either for us or against us, we often hear of individuals “throwing themselves on the mercy of the court.”  When we face the wrath of justice, we naturally have the tendency to hope for mercy or leniency, even those who know and accept their guilt. 

So far, we have seen there are certain elements associated with mercy.  They include law, guilt, justice, and punishment.  Mercy can only be extended by those who have the authority or in a position to grant it.  In the realm of spiritual matters, we need to realize that according to God’s standards we stand guilty.  We have rebelled against His will and violated many (if not all) of the precepts He has set before us.  As a result of that we face the wrath of God, His justice and our punishment. 

Those who are aware of this often seek God’s mercy, and that is a good thing.  That’s because God is merciful.  In fact, His desire is that all be like Him in His mercy.  In Matthew chapter five, verse seven we read “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”  What a wonderful promise!  God, the merciful judge of all mankind is telling us that there are those who will receive His mercy, and they will be those who extend mercy to others.  It seems to be very clear that if we want God’s mercy, we need to be willing to give it to others. 

God’s mercy is so great that He withholds nothing from us in order to receive it.  His Son, Jesus Christ, came to this earth and lived perfectly and sinless, and was punished for us on the cross of Calvary, in order that we might hope for God’s mercy.  It can only come through faith in Him!  If you were before the Judgment seat of God today expecting or hoping for mercy, how would you fare?  Knowing now what He desires, can you expect the mercy of God, or His wrath? 

Copyright © 2002, Nolan P. Rutter

Making Peace

Recently I ran across a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and I asked “What have you been up to?  He replied, “Spreading hate and dissension.”  He then added, “I believe a man ought to do what he does best!”  That kind of response kind of took me back a bit.  In a way, I could see the humor in it, knowing that my friend really didn’t mean it, but all too often in the world we will run into people whose sole purpose seems to be that of dissident or one to disrupt the peace.

In Matthew, chapter 5, verse 9, Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”  Once again Jesus gives us insight into those qualities demonstrated in God-fearing and God-seeking individuals.  The blessing in this statement, as in the others is not in the action (peacemaking), but in the fact that the action is taken (resulting in being called God’s children). 

Peacemakers will be called the “children of God.”  Why is this?  I believe it is because our God is a God of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).  Even references to His Son Jesus include “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and because we seek (as His disciples) to be like Him we should also have the characteristic of peacemaker.  Remember, in James chapter 4, verse 4 we read that when “we are friends with the world we are enemies of God.”  In Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Calvary we have reconciliation with God made available to us.  In that sense, Jesus makes peace for us with God the Father.  In looking at this viewpoint we can better understand Jesus’ words when He said, “No one can come to the Father except through the Son.” (John 14:6)  Our peace with God comes from the cleansing of our sins, a result of our obedient faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

Peacemaking is not restricted to the relationship we have with God, but also our own relationships.  There are many references and examples of seeking or maintaining peace within the body of God’s people, and until we can truly say that we are seeking and living at peace with one another, we may very well be fooling ourselves into thinking we are God’s children.  That blessing is available only to those who “are” peacemakers.

Copyright © 2002, Nolan P. Rutter

The Example of the Magi

It has been said that wisdom is the proper application of knowledge.  I suppose in a generic sense that could be true, if we knew the basis for “proper”.  Solomon is considered the wisest man who ever was but if you study his life you will note that he was influenced by his wives to introduce idolatry into the lives of God’s children.  While this doesn’t bring about the picture of wisdom, we can see a picture of wisdom in Matthew chapter two, with the actions of the Magi.

In the text of this story we see four distinct activities that demonstrate wisdom, both for them and for those who would follow their example.  The Magi were from the east, probably from what is now known as Iran and the first thing they did was to come.  Too many believe that we need only sit still and eventually God will find us.  This is not true! There are many indicators in scripture that show the need for man to “come to God.”  The next thing we see them doing is worship.  They realized that they were in the presence of Greatness and responded accordingly.  Those who would come to God will naturally do the same. 

Another of their responses was to give gifts.  We have received much if we are God’s children and will probably desire to share that which we have received.  Whether it be the Gospel message of salvation or helping to meet the physical needs of our neighbors, we will be wise to be a giving people.  Scriptures teach to give and it will be given you, and the same standard by which you give shall be used in return to you. (Luke 6:38)

Last, and certainly not least we see the Magi listening to God.  When warned not to return to Herod, they heeded God.  We are wise if we will heed Him as well.  David said “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11).  Our hearts dictate who and what we are, and if we hide God’s word there we can “listen” to it and heed it in our every day lives.  The Magi are known as the Wise Men.  Won’t you imitate their wisdom in your life by doing as they did?  Be wise and come, worship, give and listen to God.

Copyright © 2002, Nolan P. Rutter

Character

How long has it been since you heard someone say “That doesn’t sound like Susie” or “That certainly couldn’t have been Sam involved in that!”  These statements indicate that something wasn’t right or consistent with an individual’s past behavior and are much like the character Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic “A Christmas Carol”.  Scrooge, who had been miserly throughout the entire story, was found to be entirely out of character at the end.  He was a giving, kind and generous man to the point that most everyone were probably asking themselves, “That couldn’t have been Ebenezer Scrooge, could it?” 

        Much of the same sentiments could have been said of Saul, in Acts chapter nine when he attempted to join with the Christians at Jerusalem shortly after his conversion.  His reputation as one who persecuted the church with imprisonment and murder were well known and his attempts to join with the church now had him out of character.  It just didn’t seem right.

        Friend, character is defined by the pattern of behavior or the sum of the qualities or features that identify us.  Christians are especially noted by clear characteristics and Jesus identified them in His sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter five.  Jesus proclaimed earlier in His ministry that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and the message of the Sermon on the Mount presented much about those who would be members or subjects of that kingdom. 

        In the first twelve verses of Matthew chapter five we find that the subjects of the kingdom would be “blessed” and also be recipients of things as a result of their “character”.  Being blessed means that they “are happy” or “are fortunate”.  It seems that both cases would apply here.  Fortunate to have found the grace of God, and having it extended to us as a result of our “character” would indeed make us very happy!

Copyright © 2002, Nolan P. Rutter

Visibly Loving Jesus

At a recent Gospel meeting, one sermon made a particular point on family relationships and the importance of children seeing that their parents love Jesus.  As the lesson continued, a nagging question begged for an answer. “How does one let their children ‘see’ that their parents love Jesus?”  I don’t think anyone will argue that our children, for the most part, adopt much of who and what they are and will become, from their parents.  Mind you, I said “much”, not “all”, and that being said, if we want our children to love Jesus, it stands to reason that if we do, they will be more likely to as well.

Again with the question, “How do we show our children we love Jesus?”  I hope that we don’t assume it will come about solely by our attendance in worship on Sunday morning.  As always, the best source of guidance is God’s word, so let’s search the scriptures.  Jesus tells His disciples that if they “love Him” they will keep His commandments. (John 14:15)  Compare that to, “Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say.” (Luke 6:46) Even the most basic review of Gospel accounts result in a number of Jesus’ sayings that are to be ‘done’…  Evaluating our lives by these, can our children conclude that we love Jesus?  Let your light shine… that God may be glorified; love one another, as I have loved you; love your enemies and do good to those who hate you; go and show mercy (compassion) to your neighbor; lay up for yourself treasures in heaven; do not judge; render unto Caesar what is his and to God what is His…  These are but a few things Jesus said for us to do.  Are they evident in our lives as result of our love for Jesus?   If so, perhaps our children will follow our lead and love Him as well.  If not, realize we have the ability to shape the future.  Allow the love “of Christ” to become our “love for Christ” and watch it become visible in our lives and the lives of our children.

Copyright © 2008, Nolan P. Rutter