Mercy has often been defined as not getting what we truly deserve. I find this to be a helpful definition. But it only paints a part of the picture.
The Christian life calls us to look at the world around us through new eyes. It is an intentional effort to re-program our thinking to be more consistent with the character of God. But this can be challenging. Oftentimes in more ways than one. Our past histories and our present struggles can cloud our ability to see what God was doing and may still be at work doing.
This is why we must be a people marked by mercy. We have been the beneficiaries of God’s mercy. We have received that which we did not deserve. And more to the point that which we could never have earned.
It is an intentional effort to re-program our thinking to be more consistent with the character of God.Tweet
The grace of God gives us what we do not deserve. And that is only one side of the story. The second side, the side that we are discussing today, is what God has kept away from us. It can be easy to think at times that what God kept from us was not as bad as what we have been experiencing. But the problem is this is not true.
The penalty of sin upon us is eternal separation from God. To be completely and totally outside of the presence of God. And while there are some who would reject that hell exists, they would misunderstand what hell is in doing so. The imagery of the New Testament can be graphic and describe things that are quite horrifying. But the physical imagery of fire and of rotted flesh truly pale in comparison to the idea of being separated from God.
This permanent state of separation is the result of a complete and utter rejection of the salvation God has provided through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. To speak of God as imposing upon us for all eternity a will, a love, a grace, a mercy that we have rejected would be an indictment against God’s character.
God does not desire to force upon us what we do not desire for ourselves. But to then claim that it would be unjust for God to not allow those who chose this separation to have it is somewhat odd. Those who have stepped out of this world and into the next rejecting God are not being denied access into his presence. They are entering into the next life getting what they wanted. To regret that decision once there could be described as suffering from a form of spiritual “buyer’s remorse.”
God has given us ample time and sufficient testimony in the creation and within our own hearts to make a choice as to where we will be. If we heed the call of the gospel in repentance from sin we will not only have God’s grace applied to us but we will experience the mercy of God over us.
The relationship between God’s mercy and the subject of hell has too often been detached and even dismissed. But the reason we need not only God’s grace, which makes us ready for heaven, and God’s mercy, which changes the trajectory of our eternal destiny, is that we could address neither of these predicaments without God. When we receive God’s grace we are redeemed from the effects of sin. When we receive God’s mercy we are restored to a relationship with God from the penalty of sin.
When we understand these fundamental differences and yet related realities we will grow in our appreciation for what God has done to bring us into a closer relationship with him.
In this season may we learn to rejoice for what God has not only promised but what God has accomplished.
For this God who has been rich in mercy has rained it upon us not only generously but beyond our ability to comprehend.
4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Ephesian 2:4-7 NKJV