Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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8 Beatitude Blessing – Part 8

Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”

As we look at what it means to be merciful we come not just to the half way mark in the beatitudes, but to a transition point in Jesus teaching. It is here that we see a clear change in direction, as we move from our need, to what we need to do; from belief to behavior. Just as there are two sides to every coin so there should also be two sides to mercy, receiving mercy and responding in mercy. The first four beatitudes focused on our need, we are bankrupt in spirit and broken with grief, which leads to meekness and a healthy hunger for righteousness. This should cause us to move from receiving to responsibility, from getting to giving. But many of us never make the move from getting to giving, we get stuck like children, consuming but never contributing. Like selfish sponges we soak up the blessing, absorbing the Masters mercy without ever pouring it out on other people. Mercy is a mark of maturity in a believer’s life, revealing that we have moved from just being consumers to compassionate contributors. As we look at what it means to be merciful, we have to first look at the meaning of mercy. Mery focuses on the hurts of others and seeks to bring healing. Mercy is outward focus, it’s not caught in the gravity of greedy selfishness. As long  as we cling to self-centered desires we will never be driven by mercy. Are you looking outward to see the hurt in others because of a heart of care? Mercy is motivated by the needs of others, it not only feels others pain but is compelled to care and do something about it. William Barclay defines mercy this way: “To get inside someone’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings; to move in and act on behalf of those who are hurting.” Mercy is active good will toward the afflicted, coupled with an earnest desire to relieve them. This is most clearly captured in the life of Christ, who continually cared for others. In Matthew 14:14 it says: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” The word compassion means that Jesus was moved to minister to them. Jesus didn’t just see their pain he proceeded to do something about it. Mercy without action is meaningless, at its core mercy must move us. This is not just an occasional act of mercy but a lifestyle of mercy. Chuck Swindoll calls mercy, “God’s ministry to the miserable.” We often use the words grace and mercy interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings. Grace is undeserved and unmerited favor, mercy is compassionate care in action. Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, where mercy withholds what we do deserve. The opposite of mercy is meanness, it’s a heart of hostility that expresses itself in an unforgiving and faultfinding spirit. God is not only the master of mercy, who sent Christ to conquer our sin and set us free from the misery of slavery, but He is our model for mercy. Scripture is filled with references to His mercy:

Deuteronomy 4:31: “For the LORD your God is a merciful God…”

Nehemiah 9:31: “But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.”

Psalm 119:132: “Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.”

Daniel 9:18: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”

Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Romans 9:16: “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Ephesians 2:4: “…God, who is rich in mercy.”

James 5:11: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

We have a Merciful master, One who not only withholds what we deserve, but who turns toward us in our time of desperation, desiring to meet our deepest needs. While others may let us down we can always count on the mercy of God. David understood this truth and in 2 Samuel 24 after calling for a census, a deliberate act of disobedience, David became conscience-stricken, and confessed his sin before God. After repenting God gave him three choices for his consequences, David didn’t have to think about which he would chose, for he knew that it would be much better to throw himself on the mercy of the God rather than on men. In verse 14 he says: “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” Not only do we all need the mercy of the Master, but we need to model His mercy to others.  Luke 6:36 links our mandate to extend mercy with the model that God sets for us: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Yet in Matthew 18:21-35 we see the miser of mercy. One who called for compassion for himself yet refused to reciprocate it. He asked for the Masters mercy and after receiving it himself, refused to extend it to another who was just as in need of mercy as he had been. At some point in our lives we all require mercy the question is after receiving it will we relinquish it. We want mercy but will we model it? Most of us like mercy in principle more than in practice because choosing compassion costs. Mercy is probable the virtue we most enjoy and the least we employ. Being merciful means modeling the Fathers forgiveness, which may be one of the hardest things we do, because forgiveness is not fair. Most of us are more obligated to fairness than we are obedient to the Father. Our sense of justice wants to be vindicated, but before God we are all guilty and the last thing you really want is justice before Jesus. Many of us are crying out for the Masters mercy yet we have no intention of modeling it. For those who receive mercy but refuse to give it the end of the story in Matthew 18 has a stern warning: “31 When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. 35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” That is where many are at today because they refuse to model mercy. They are stuck in the prison of their pain, taken captive by the torturers who come when we refuse to extend mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. What are the torturers that take us captive? The hidden torturers of anger and the bile of bitterness that eat you from the inside out. The torturers of frustration and resentment that give you ulcers, high blood pressure, and headaches. The hidden torturers that keep you from sweet sleep as you lie awake night after night stewing over every wrong others have done. The torturers of an unforgiving heart who stalk and suck every ounce of joy out of your life. Why, because you refuse to model mercy and forgive from the heart just as your heavenly Father has done for you. But here is the crazy part, while you are trying to punish and put those who hurt you in prison the reverse actually happens. When we don’t forgive we end up imprisoned and the worst prison we can ever know is the prison of an unforgiving heart. Many of us lock ourselves away in lonely isolation chambers built by bricks of bitterness, walled off by the choosing of our own wills. When we chose unforgiveness, we become imprisoned in the past, forfeiting our present and locked out of all potential for change. Many of the most miserable people are those who are unwilling to show mercy. How desperate are you for the Masters mercy? Are you going to be motivated by His mercy and moved to meet the needs of others or are you going to be a mercy miser, always calling for mercy but never caring, always grabbing but never giving?