Thursday, January 21, 2016

Love: The Wellspring of Mercy and Grace

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" 
-Ephesians 2:4-6

Have you ever wondered how the love, mercy and grace of God fit together? The Christian life should be marked by "joy inexpressible and full of glory" and probably would be if we meditated continually on this question. His love for us is simply His disposition, inclination, habit, desire, and tendency to do good to us. Mercy is a demonstration of love toward one who is an adversary, something we certainly qualified for with God. Scripture declares that God's mercy abounded toward us. One would expect that from a heart full of love. Now self-focused human hearts can be stingy in extending mercy. This looks ugly, somewhat like tolerance of one who is undesirablenot exactly an enemy anymore, but certainly not a friend either. Grace goes beyond mercy because it is favor. While mercy is related to the alleviating in part or in full punishment that is deserved, grace is a change in the relationship to one of favor and blessing. Humans can give grace only in degrees because we are all flawed and weak. But God's glory shines because His heart is wide open toward sinners and His limitless love overflows in perfect righteousness through the sacrifice His dear Son.

John declares that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). He is eager to do good to uscontinually! Because of this, mercy has flowed like a river from His heart. There is absolutely no stinginess with Him. The depths of His love could not be contained in mere mercy. His love filled up the measure of mercy and overflowed into grace (favor and blessing). This favor and blessing is beyond anything we see in human relationships. There is almost always some sense merit or hesitation in human relationships. Look again at Paul's words. Do you notice any hesitation on God's part for intimacy with sinners? We do NOT read that He gave us new life alone at a safe distance from Him so that He could maintain His holiness. Rather we read that His love for us is so great that when we were dead in our sins He made us alive together with Christ, raised us up together, and made us to sit together in Christ in the heavenly places. This is a done deal for all who know Him, or rather are known by Him (Gal 4:9). Do you see His heart of favor for you? There was absolutely no hesitation on His part to reach down into filthiness and lift you up and give you every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenlies (1:3).

The question is: do you trust His declaration of His unwavering love, even when trials buffet you, or do you heed the voices of the world that judge God by human desires for comfort or rules of fairness? This is the spiritual battle line. On page two of my Bible the serpent slandered God's favor toward Adam and Eve. They heeded Satan and their souls were thrown into darkness. They hid from God, who had only favored them. But God continued to favor them . . . He sought them out, moved into their darkness and declared what He had already planned, that one day the woman's Son would crush the serpent's head. The rest of the Bible is the unfolding of God's lavish grace (favor and blessing) on rebellious mankind.

Have you tended to rejoice that you are out from under God's wrath by simple faith without any works? Of course that is wonderfully true. But that is really just mercy. Favor is far more than that. God's grace is so lavish that we can doubt it, misunderstand it, and even forget it and it still remains all of our life and hope and glory. He has favored us with a life of intimacy with Himthe one who first loved us. So even if we only see His mercy we still have His grace. This is an amazing grace from the heart of love beyond our understanding.

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