For weeks now, we’ve been examining who God is and what He does in order to better deal with uncertainty. As Christians, our relationship with others and God are almost exclusively impacted by our knowledge of God. In other words, the more we understand and apply the God of Scriptures to our life, the more our relationships are transformed. This is the life and journey of a Christian.
You’ll recall, within the doctrine of God, there is a large “bucket” known as His goodness. God is goodness and He transfers goodness. We’ve looked at God’s goodness and how it drives our love for Him, and we gotten a glimpse of God’s goodness in providence. This week, we’ll deal with God’s mercy as part of His goodness.
Most Christians think about mercy in terms of being needy or broken. The Christian faith has a long history of serving the needy and dedicating itself to the underprivileged. It is a clear call upon the Christian and a central feature of the great commandment. Christians are called to model mercy, to give mercy, and in common language, take pity towards others. There are all sorts of real tensions and difficulties within mercy. When should I apply mercy over justice? When does mercy bleed into enabling? How can I be merciful when I’ve been done wrong? All of these questions are real, complex, and something we’re going to sit to the side for now. The aim of this discussion is to examine God’s mercy and reflect upon it as part of His goodness.
Scripture is replete with references to the mercy of God in the Old and New Testaments. Grace and mercy are very closely linked, and both are remedies to God’s justice. George Swinnock (1627–1673) is helpful with his simplicity: “God’s justice seeks a worthy object, God’s grace seeks an unworthy object, but God’s mercy seeks a needy object.” Moreover, and of central importance, God is said to be the Father of mercies (2 Corin 1:3). How is he the Father of mercy? The answer is in found in the gospel.
The grace of God is rightly highlighted in discussion of the gospel. However, God’s mercy is equally as present in the act of salvation. Even further, God reveals His mercy in Christ. This mercy is part of God’s uninterrupted goodness that began after the fall of mankind in Genesis. God’s mercy appears early in the narrative of gospel history by way of His covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:7). This covenant gives us the earliest indications of how God “fathers” mercy into our lives. In other words, God orchestrates, defines, and reveals mercy to us by way of salvation. A salvation history that began immediately after the fall through Abraham and culminated in the person and work of Jesus Christ. One of the most infamous passages in all the Bible, Ephesians 2:4, tells us that the gospel is a product of God’s richness in mercy. And, sometimes it should be enough to stop and simply reflect upon the overwhelming goodness of God’s mercy in salvation. Have you ever thought about what it took for mercy, through the gospel, to even arrive to us? How incredible it is?
There are untold amounts of complexities in the lives of everyone in the world. The sum total of need in the world is staggering. I suspect every person reading these words right now could create a substantial list of all their present needs—health, financial, mental, family, etc. Coronavirus has only proven to lengthen the depth and severity of these needs. The desire for temporal relief, via God’s mercy, has been on the uptick for weeks now. These things are very real and shouldn’t be diminished. I’ve prayed for God’s mercy numerous times since March. I’ve prayed for it with respect to the economy, our missionaries all over the world, the government officials at all levels, and the local church.
However, sometimes what we really need to reminisce about is God’s mercy in salvation. Sometimes we overcomplicate things in the heat of the moment and we forget just how good God has been in the gospel. I need copious amounts of mercy in my everyday life, but I’ve never needed it more than when God, by His own good pleasure and kindness, extended mercy to me in salvation. It’s enough mercy to create satisfaction, to give an inner peace, and to lead a full life with purpose and dignity. And, it’s enough to anchor my soul in times of uncertainty.
Our Response to Mercy
One of the incredible things about the gospel is that it continually produces “something” in the Christian. In other words, we never let what God has done for us in the gospel become remote. For example, when the act of mercy is inspected within the gospel (as we’ve done above), it creates a response in our hearts and mind. Even if you came to faith decades ago, if you stop and think about God’s mercy in salvation, it does something for you. It creates a response in your heart and mind and it is more than just a tingly feeling. There are two primary responses that occur when we reflect upon God’s mercy.
First, joy is a real response to God’s mercy. Joy will ambush your current situation when you think about God’s mercy in salvation. God saw your neediness, took pity on you, and extended grace to you by faith. That leads to continual and renewed joy, regardless of your circumstances. Do not lose sight of the source of joy and how to reach back and grab it. Joy is always there for the Christian; sometimes you have to be intentional about going and getting it. Joy can be dormant, but the gospel awakens it.
Second, worship is another preeminent response to God’s mercy. God does not take pleasure in issuing justice and wrath. Rather, it is the sin of mankind that forces God’s hand because He must remain consistent to His nature. This is precisely when and where mercy in the gospel shines. There is no doubt that God glories in His mercy through Jesus Christ. AND, it is His greatest joy and pleasure to be merciful through the gospel. The longer I’ve studied the act of worship, the more I’m convinced of its centrality in the purposes of God. The Bible is steeped in commands for God’s people to worship Him in order to avoid idolatry. I’ll go a step further. I’d be willing to suggest that God is primarily merciful in order to create a people that will worship Him. Worship might be the reason God is merciful. To worship God means to give yourself over to Him, inwardly and outwardly, with no strings attached. Furthermore, worship is linked to God’s worthiness. We worship what we consider worthy. God is not only worthy of worship, He’s worthy of your life as the ultimate form of worship. All because of the richness of His mercy in the salvation by grace through faith.
Thanks be to God for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the richness of His mercy in salvation. May we be people that live with joy, through continual worship, as a result of God’s goodness in mercy.