Mercy and Me
In all honesty, there are times when I have read the book of Hebrews and have been stopped in my tracks, perplexed and troubled. Several years back in seminary, I remember studying the "warning passages" of Hebrews, where the people of God are warned about falling away. After "tasting the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, and tasting the goodness of the word of God" (Hebrews 6:4-5) they apparently turn their back on the grace of God.
I remember serving on staff at a church where we walked through Hebrews and somehow conveniently managed to navigate around these warnings.
I get it. I really do.
It's hard to wrap your mind around what happens to those who reject the mercy of God.
It doesn't fit into the neat little narrative of: "Junior walked an aisle, prayed the prayer and got saved at 5". But I'm pretty sure Paul said something about not shrinking from declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). I also believe we can rest in John 10, Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:13-14, and a plethora of other passages that point to God's preserving work in his children, in those who are "in Christ". But the reality remains: People reject the mercy of God. Every day.
This past Sunday I preached from Matthew 8:28-34 and we said this: The path of your rescue runs through his mercy. We took a hard look at some things that happen when the people don't want mercy. As we unpacked a story of restoration, of Jesus' power fully demonstrated over evil and sin (a picture of the gospel), we also saw the first glimpse of opposition to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. We saw a people who, after experiencing firsthand the presence and power of Jesus, the Scripture says: "They BEGGED him to leave...". They rejected his mercy.
That seems like such a strong statement: Reject the mercy of God.
What does that look like and how does it happen?
For many, like the herdsman in Matthew 8, though they are exposed to the message and ministry of Jesus, with hardened hearts they continue in a pattern of unbelief and rebellion. Like the seed along the path (Matthew 13) that is snatched away before it can even take root, they are unreceptive to the grace of God even when it slaps them in the face. Many will spend an eternity in hell because the "foolishness of the cross" was too much of a stumbling block. The path of their rescue runs through the mercy of God, but they are unable to receive the gift.
But what about the Christian? What about you?
What does rejecting the mercy of God look like?
It could manifest itself in many ways, but here are a few to consider:
You look at others and think: He/she is too far gone. (What does that say about your view of the gospel?)
You never weep over other's sin, you never grieve over the lost.
You don't rejoice over other's transformation, you don't delight in their deliverance.
You are unable to move past the perpetual strongholds of sin in your life, because you can't understand receiving a gift you can't earn...so you continue to labor in vain.
You think God is holding out on you, you don't trust that he is good.
You can't forgive yourself.
You can't just be still and sit at Jesus' feet.
You think the path to God is through what you're doing, not what Christ has already done.
The truth is this: God's mercy is good.
But there is mystery with our God. You're never going to fully understand what angels long to comprehend (1 Peter 1:12). God is not holding out on us. The path of our rescue runs through his mercy. Can we embrace the fact that God forgives with no strings attached? There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Amen!?
What will you do with the mercy of God?