I was listening to a lecture from a professor of theological studies and he made a point that resonated with me. It’s always amusing when a side note gets your attention. He was talking about the faithful characters in the Bible and how even in their failures God was pleased with their faithfulness. He reminded the audience that salvation comes through faith, not through success or results. We can thank Jeremiah for that example. Poor guy professed God for a lifetime and was repaid with rejection and failure, if you measure through results. The professors example was of two Christ following people who disagreed about the meaning of a piece of scripture. He explained that their faith in what the derived from the scripture was pleasing to God. This is a good example of the failure of Christian legalism in growing spiritual maturity and a stronger relationship with Jesus.
I thought of an analogy that made me smile so I wanted to share. God gives us direction through His Word and even an example in His Son, but we fail continuously. Many people get discouraged, but that should not be the case. Imagine as a parent you tell your child to get dressed. They run off and come back mismatched, different shoes and buttons done out of order. Are you angry at the lack of perfection or happy that they followed your direction the best they could? It’s probably a proud moment that they put so much effort into following your instruction and trying to make you happy. I feel God has a similar mindset for His children at times. He doesn’t give exact direction for all situations but allows you to honor Him in your actions and decisions. Then just like the parent of the mismatched child, He is more than willing to help add correctness and completeness to your faithfulness. Your Heavenly Father will rebutton the shirt and find the other shoe. Follow His Word and stay in communication with Him. God never asks for perfection, He only ask for your heart.
David made many mistakes and the Lord still blessed Him and allowed his line to bring about the Savior of the world. He was a man after God’s own heart even though he was far from perfect. We can also look at Joseph who was amazing in his faith because he was guided by a God honoring heart as opposed to directions from God. He trusted in God and honored him with his actions and the Lord prospered him and his family. A follower’s walk in faith is more loved by God than a perfection we can never achieve.
God has already given victory and completeness to His children through their faith. He sent Jesus to make a way for us to reach Him. We should never count on our ability to do everything right. We should be thankful that the grace and mercy of God are ours as His children through our faith in His Son.
Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, Mercy doesn’t give us what we do.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…. (Isaiah 30:15)
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)
the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted (Isaiah 30:26b)
Many times, we’ve heard that we are to take the yoke of Christ for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). A yoke is meant for two animals to be bound together so that the weaker can find grow in strength from the stronger, more experienced animal. Christ died to carry our burdens and to allow us to take His yoke as opposed to struggle with our own. The Old Testament passages above speak of the same God willing to unload us of our troubles. We are called to rest in our salvation because our trust in Him is our strength. God strength is shown in our weakness. Sometimes that weakness is simply found in the submission of rest. When we stop trying to fight the hand of God as He guides us we can we can find the grace His steadfast love offers, and the compassion found in His justice.
I was thinking about the quality of meekness as this passage opened up to me. As a fruit of the Spirit we are called to meekness which make the Lord our vindicator. The definition of meek is humbly patient or submissive. We are not to vindicate ourselves against the things that come against us as we walk submitted to the Lord. Any battle we fight will have to be continually fought with small no real victory. As believers our victory is in submission to God who wins all battles and brings them to completion. Once God is fighting for us the battle will be over and our peace and joy will continue in Him.
Then we come to the last passage above. God allows the trials in life to come against us so that we can draw closer to Him, our Refuge. It also allows us to submit to His yoke and grow in patience and meekness. What a blessing to see above that God intends to bind up the wounds caused by His affliction. Anything God takes away He does for our good, binds our wounds and draws us into His peace and the closer relationship with Him. Take up the yoke of Christ God has provided in His love. Let God be your Vindicator, Provider, Counselor, and Strength. He wins all battles and heals all wounds, but only if your faith will rise up to allow it.
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory (Romans 9:22-23)
Just because we see sinful people prosper doesn’t mean that God has looked away from their sinfulness. We are told not to envy wicked people in their prosperity, for that prosperity will lead to their ruin. Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong (Psalm 37:1) The scripture above tells us about God and the great patience He shows toward the “objects of His wrath.” It then ask us to consider what purpose He has in showing them patience. He looks to show His children the “riches of His glory.” What could that mean? The Hebrew word for glory originally means “weight” or “heaviness.” The same word is then used to express importance, honor, and majesty. Take a moment and consider that definition in this context.
How many people that the world views as prosperous are dead and empty on the inside? They have sought and gained the best the world has to offer at the expense of their peace and are now left with nothing to fill the void in their heart. Our sovereign Father gives us the opportunity to see what gaining the world and losing your soul looks like in the flesh. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) These people who have chosen to ignore God are without the most fulfilling thing available to us, a relationship with the Father.
As the “objects of His mercy” we can live with the joy of knowing the riches of His glory. We know that the presence and provision found in relationship to God outweigh the lesser things of this world. God’s provision is designed for us by our Creator, not our sinful desire. Believers can live with the peace of knowing God and the assurance that we have more than enough to walk the path He has called us to. Gaining more might drive us into worldly assurance. God loves us too much to let us wonder from what is best for us. We can let His light guide us on our walk with Jesus and be an example to those God has “prepared for destruction.” God desires that none shall parish.
Let God’s glory shine through you. You might be the reason His patience benefits someone who is looking to fill the place in their heart where God is meant to dwell. Let others know what it means to see the riches of God’s glory and what it is to grow in His mercy. Show the world that God’s great power can also be shown in the grace and mercy of His patience toward all of us.
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. (2 Peter 3:9)
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. (Matthew 8:14-15)
In the passage that inspired this message we see Jesus heal Peter’s mother-in-law from her illness. Taken in a larger and God revealing context we see our Lord healing her from the effects of her illness in the same we Jesus, as our Savior, heals us from the effects of our sin. He takes away her fever in the same way He takes away our death from sin. In the same way she was raised, we are also raised to eternal life through Jesus.
When she was raised her first reaction was to serve her healer. This is a message to believers that we are called into servanthood when we accept that Jesus gave His life to redeem ours. We are not called to serve out of obligation but out of love. When we can truly understand what we have been saved from, and experience the life that we have access to, we should look to serve the purpose God created us for. We should seek the purpose that Christ’s sacrifice has called us to.
God’s grace has called us out of the darkness of this world, not because we deserve it, but because His love and mercy have been bestowed upon us. Only through God’s grace and the sacrifice of His Son have you been called to Him and redeemed from your sin. You have been called for a purpose. That purpose is found in submission to your Heavenly Father. As we submit to God we are called to serve His kingdom. We are called to serve others.
Develop a spirit of gratitude as you seek true appreciation of what you have been given from a gracious and faithful God. Let your love grow along with your relationship to the Father. Share the love God has for you with others through selfless servanthood.
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
O LORD, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds (Psalm 116:16)
Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them— let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’— then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. (Job 33:23-26)
Reading the passage above I am confronted with the extent of God’s mercy. This wonder scripture tells us about “one of a thousand” angels send to guide us in how to walk with God. That’s God’s one thousand plus attempts to guide us back to Him. Imagine the love involved in that kind of persistence. Would you have the love to try a thousand times to walk with someone who rejected every previous attempt? God allows people who turn from Him to walk into trouble repeatedly in the hope that the next angel sent to them will be the messenger of joy to Heaven.
Then it’s revealed that the angel may find a ransom for that lost soul, that they might be renewed in the eyes of their Lord. All of Heaven knows that there is in fact a ransom which will reconcile us with God. He sent His Son so that He might be a ransom for all who believe in His name. the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5-6a)
Praise God for the mercy, grace and love that led Him to seek His children a thousand times. Praise God for the gift of Jesus and His rescue from a death we all deserve in our sinful turning away. Although the events of Job take place well before the laws given to Moses or the birth of Jesus, we see the heart of God for His people. We can fall in love with a God who seeks us in our rebellion with a tenacity that has no bounds. Let this love for God lead you to share it with the lost as He sends to share the Gospel. Know that you are one of God’s thousands of attempts to make His love known in all the earth.
Along with the New Covenant found in Jesus Christ came new ways of understanding God. Describing the infinite God already proves impossible. So why shouldn’t Him becoming man cause us to have to repurpose or create whole new words to describe a reality unique to Him? Two words I’d like to focus on form the basis of God and our relationship with Him through Jesus.
The words are agápe (love) and charis (grace). The word agape which means love in Greek is unique to Christianity. It refers to God’s quality of love. This kind of love is not known to man outside the presence of God. Agápe love is different because it is unconditional and not based on merit. You cannot earn or deserve a Godly love. Loving like God is a choice and not based on emotions which drive man. The writers of the New Testament had to create this word to describe a concept foreign to man before Christ came to be an example of such an amazing thing. There are many words for love in the Greek language including éros(sexual), philía(friendship), storgē(parental),and ludus(playful). None of them had the power to describe a love that cannot fade or change.
Charis (grace) is a word that had to be reconditioned. When the writers of the New Testament began to use it to describe the gift of God to His adopted children it gained a power it never had before. The word originally described kindness or favor (Hebrew ‘hen’) in the Old Testament (as in God’s favor toward Noah or Moses), but took on a meaning much larger and powerful with the coming of the prophesied Messiah. Where the law of the Old Testament fell short and drove man away from God, the grace found through faith in Jesus brings glory to God and a new meaning to a word that also fell short of the undeserved gift of our Lord.
Something occurred to me as I thought about the people I meet in my Christian walk who see God as a rule enforcer. They ridicule people don’t follow a written code or set of rules. Most of those rules were never of God. To be perfectly blunt, after Jesus, none of them are. Jesus came as a fulfillment of the law to bring a new covenant of love through His blood. The love developed through a walk with Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make the law obsolete and unnecessary. The absence of The Spirit requires people to seek laws that they have not allowed God to write on their hearts.
After seeing the rejection of all those who do not meet their legalistic standard, I had thought. If they reject those who are unworthy of God’s favor, do due lack of adherence to His impossible standard of holiness, or their man-made version of pleasing God; how could they accept God’s chosen of the past either? Wouldn’t they, based on their un-Godly behavior, have to reject the teachings and wisdom of those who fail according to the law? They would certainly reject a man who committed adultery and then had the husband killed to cover up the resulting pregnancy (1). They would certainly reject a polygamist who worshiped other gods (2). They would reject a murderer (3), a persecutor of Christians (4), a person who denied Jesus (5), people who would sell a family member into slavery out of jealousy (6). They would certainly reject these people and absolutely reject any advice/ wisdom from those same people. Agreed? Now let’s see what this looks like.
- (1) King David (A man after God’s own heart)à His Wisdom/Influence: Psalms, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles [ 989 times mentioned in 28 books of the bible]
- (2) Solomon (God made wisest to ever live) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [283 times mentioned in 15 books of the bible]
- (3) Moses (Chosen to lead God’s people to the Promised Land) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers [796 times mentioned in 31 books of the bible]
- (4) Paul (Spread the Gospel to the gentiles) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Gospel of Luke, Acts, All (11) of the letters to the churches, (3) pastoral epistles [195 times mentioned in 15 books of the bible]
- (5) Peter (Cornerstone of Christ’s Church) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Gospel of Mark, Acts, 1&2 Peter [162 times mentioned in 8 books of the bible]
- (6) The Sons of Jacob (The heads of the 12 tribes of Israel) à Honored and protected as God’s chosen through-out all time
Add to this that the Gospel of Matthew was written by a tax collector, the fallibility of the Judges like Samson, and the sin of Adam/Eve/Noah/Abraham; we are left with a list of minor prophets and some writings by John (none of whom were sinless either). I only make this point to show the absurdity of legalism and that true redemption is found in God’s grace and the blood of Christ. Don’t let rules cloud the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Don’t let the legalism of others draw you away from the truth, and your identity as a forgiven child of God in Jesus Christ.