The Transforming Power of Feeling Mercy

What a difference it makes in everything, if we feel like we have just been rescued from torment and death! Picture your attitude on a Navy ship after being plucked from the ocean where you spent weeks adrift on a life raft. Or picture yourself rescued from a deep, collapsing mine in Pennsylvania. Or think of a nine-month battle with malignant cancer, only to hear the doctor say, "I can't explain it, but it's gone." Think about your powers of patience and kindness and forgiveness in those early hours of relief and rejoicing.

Now add this to your imagination (though it shouldn't take imagination, only Biblical revelation), that you don't deserve to be rescued. Let it sink in - pray right now that God would make it sink in - that you and I deserve nothing but trouble and persecution and sickness and death and hell. We are, the Bible says, "by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:3). "All . . . are under sin . . . and every mouth [is] stopped, and the whole world . . . accountable to God" (Romans 3:9, 19). The "wages" of our sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). We are under the curse of God's law, because "cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them" (Deuteronomy 27:26). Our natural mind is "hostile to God" (Romans 8:7). We are "strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). We are destined to be cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12; 25:30). If something doesn't intervene, our lot will be in the lake of fire where "the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest" (Revelation 14:11).

Therefore, all you Christians - all you believers rescued by the blood of Christ, who has become a curse for us - add to the relief and happiness of your rescue the bewildering wonder and the brokenhearted joy that you deserve none of this, but are lavished with unceasing mercy.

Then look upon your afflictions in this light. Think with Jonathan Edwards on your condition:

How far less [are] the greatest afflictions that we meet with in this world...than we have deserved.... The greatest outward troubles and calamities that we meet with...must needs appear very little things to the misery which we have deserved.... A man may meet with very great losses...his cattle may die, his corn may be blasted, his barn may be burnt down and all the goods consumed, and he may be brought from a comfortable living to a poor, low, stricken state. This is very hard to bear, but alas, how little reason have such to complain if they do but consider how little this is, compared with that eternal destruction that we have been informed of. (Jonathan Edwards, Works [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997], p. 321)

Is it any wonder that Paul said to such people, "Do all things without grumbling" (Philippians 2:14). Ponder how you would react to things if you lived hour by hour in the heartfelt awareness that you are rescued from horrible death and eternal suffering, and that, in spite of deserving no help, you are lavished with mercy every day (even in the hard things) and will be made perfectly and eternally happy in the age to come.

Then add one more thing to your thinking. The one who rescued you had to die to do it, and he is the one Person in the universe who did NOT deserve to die. "Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

O Christian, know your condition - the misery and the mercy. And let the horror from which you have been rescued, and the mercy in which you live, and the price that Christ paid, make you humble and thankful and patient and kind and forgiving. You have never been treated by God worse than you deserve. And in Christ you are treated ten million times better. Feel this. Live this.

Tremblingly happy,

Pastor John

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