Love Mercy

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Love Mercy

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 24th January, 2021

I want to start this morning with a personal story.  I’m not going to say straight away what the moral of the story is.  You’ll work it out eventually.

In my previous life – I worked for the Australian airline – Ansett.  I was mainly based in the office in Lismore, but also worked at the airports in Casino and Ballina.  

For those under 20, Ansett has probably never been on your radar, because it went bust a long time ago.

But as part of my daily routine, I sold airline tickets to people travelling across Australia and later on, around the world.

At the end of my shift, I had to balance my cash drawer.  It would usually contain quite a few thousand dollars. 

My first experience of being out of balance with my cash was when I was down about $160.  I can’t remember the exact amount.  But my boss at the time told me I had to personally make up the amount – and our State manager said the same thing.  It was a fair bit of money back then.  Anyway, I did what I was told.  But it was a significant cost for us at the time.

Normally I was really good with handling money.

But a couple of years later I did something really stupid.  An old lady – like really old – bought a flight ticket for $1,000.  She handed me ten $50.00 notes and I counted each one as if it was $100.  It was a really dumb thing to do. 

I didn’t realise until I got to the end of the shift, and I was $500 down in my drawer.  I panicked.  After I tried to recall every transaction I did, going through all the tickets, the penny finally dropped – so to speak.

With my tail between my legs, I went into the bosses office and told him what had happened.  But this was a different boss to the first one.  By the way, the nick name for the first boss was “Angry.” I hope no one is listening to this that I used to work with.

But this new boss could see I was distressed about what had happened – and he said, let’s try and contact this lady.  We phoned the number we had and spoke to the son.  He was really wary about it which was understandable.  But he agreed for us to come and visit.  My boss personally drove me to her house.  

After I explained what had happened, the son still wasn’t convinced – so my boss suggested that the old lady just check her purse – so she went and got her purse from her handbag, and sure enough, another $500 was still sitting in it. 

She hadn’t deliberately tried to keep it.  She was confused – and I was stupid.

She handed it over, and my boss drive me back to the office, and nothing was ever said about it again.

Just let that little story sit at the back of your mind for a moment. 

So this is my introduction number two.

There is a rich history and culture that is firmly embedded into the lives and practices of the people of Israel.   The Jewish people have an incredibly rich story.  And it has become part of our story as well.  

Or probably more accurately – we have become part of their story.  And their story is far from over.  

Every now and then I get a glimpse into the lives of the Jewish people and it opens my eyes to understanding God’s heart in a fresh way.

Some things however are not just nice surprises.  Some aspects of our religious history are imperative and vital that we understand and appreciate.

We need to know about the righteousness of God throughout the Old Testament world.  We need to understand the wrath of Almighty God.  That’s a whole sermon in itself – but know this – God’s wrath or anger is against sin and evil – because he is holy.  He loves people – so His wrath is also tied up in grief and sadness.  

We need to understand both the cries of the people of Israel for their God – but also the times where their rebellious hearts were exposed.

We need to know about the prophesies of the Messiah that are weaved throughout the books written by the Old Testament prophets..   

I say these things because this morning I believe there is an aspect of our faith that we should overlay onto all the things we’ve been speaking about over the past few weeks.  It’s part of what connects the Old Testament to the New.

Those things we’ve been looking at include:

  • Having a love for the lost
  • Enlarging the place of our influence
  • Knowing we carry resurrection power within
  • Knowing who we are in Christ
  • Understanding that we all have spiritual gifts – and using them
  • That we are earthen vessels that carry God’s power
  • This world is eagerly waiting for the sons of God (that’s you and I) to be revealed
  • We are Kingdom people – a people who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven and we are to live out of that knowledge and revelation
  • We are positioned with Jesus Christ in heavenly places

So all these things are incredibly powerful and they speak of not only who God is – but who we are.

But there is a call to us that is a thread that carries through all of these truths.  It’s a thread that runs right through the Old Testament and the New.

It’s to do with one of the most powerful demonstrations of God’s love towards us – and that is – His Mercy.

The Mercy of God is a gift that I felt we should spend some time contemplating.  It’s really important – because not only is God merciful – He calls us also to be merciful with one another.

If we don’t get mercy right – we won’t get any of our expressions as a church right either.  

And this is particularly relevant to us at Seacoast at the moment because we are seriously looking at how we can make a difference in the life of our community – and if it’s not based on mercy, then it will just be a religious act of duty.

That’s not God’s heart – and I don’t really think it’s ours.

So I want to start with this:

Back in the Old Testament days, Israel had a system of animal sacrifice where the blood of animals atoned for their sins.

Once a year the High Priest would enter into the most Holy place of the temple – the Holy of Holies – beyond the veil that separated the people from the ark of the covenant, where the presence of God dwelt.

God’s presence dwelt on the mercy seat – between two gold cherubim with outstretched wings – which sat upon the top the covenant box.

And the High Priest would sprinkle the blood of an animal over the mercy seat for the atonement of sins – once every year.

I know that many of you already know how this works – but it’s an important introduction to todays message.  All of us need to get it – just what the sprinkling of blood on this mercy seat means.

It’s interesting that the Ark contained, amongst other things, the two stone tablets with the ten commandments written on them.  God’s Divine Law which ultimately the people weren’t able keep.

Those tablets were hidden and covered by the mercy seat.  They were covered by God’s Mercy – and the blood of sacrifice covered them at the appointed time every year.

But we know that God implemented a new covenant – a better covenant.

And that was through His merciful gift of His own Son – who died on a cross for the sins of all mankind throughout all generations – and His Blood that was shed was done once – and for all – because He was the only perfect Man – without spot of blemish – untainted by sin.

And so it says in Hebrews 9:12

Hebrews 9:12

New King James Version

Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

Jesus shed His own Blood so that the mercy of God would be established over us forever.  His Blood covers our sin.  His Blood paid the price for mankind not being able to keep the law.

No longer would the blood of animals be sprinkled on the mercy seat.  Jesus Christ and His own shed blood became our covering of mercy.

I know we talk a lot about grace.  I love the grace of God.  Where would we be without it.

Grace is God’s undeserved favour upon our lives.  Every good gift comes from the grace of God’s hand.

But mercy is something we don’t talk about as much – probably because we don’t talk as much as we should about sin.

Because mercy is God’s act of withholding the punishment we deserve for our sin.

So you see – God’s mercy is what was expressed through Jesus dying on our behalf.  And for those who repent of their sin, and turn to Christ for salvation, we are saved from hell.

And this is where it gets even more meaningful for us.

If we can grasp the understanding and revelation of what mercy means, then we can extend that same mercy to others – because that’s what we are called to do.

Mercy and love are described as two sides of the same coin.  The coin is called love.  But love is not all grace.  Love is mercy too.

Mercy has a lot to do with compassion.  It has a lot to do with forgiveness.  It has a lot to do with redemption.

This is why I started by sharing my experience with the old lady back in my Ansett days.  My first experience with having my cash drawer out of balance was judgement. There was no mercy.  And I had to personally rectify my mistake – and pay my own debt. 

I thought it was pretty lousy for a company that made millions – but I think I’m over it…. Just.

The second time, my boss showed me unwavering mercy.  He walked with me.  He helped me to redeem the money that was missing. He had the wisdom to ask the lady to check her purse.  And my mistake and my debt was forgiven.

That’s what mercy does.  That’s what mercy is!

The link for us and our part in this whole deal, is described really well in the parable of the unmerciful servant.

The servant owed his Master a huge debt.  We were like that with God.  We owed the debt of sin.  And that debt could only be paid with the price of death.

So this is what happens.

Matthew 18:26-27

New King James Version

The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”

That is a straight out act of mercy. A huge debt was forgiven.

But then we find the same servant chasing after one of his own fellow servants who only owed him a very small amount.  And when his fellow servant cried out for mercy, he refused him.

So when the master hears about it – this is what he says:

Matthew 18:33-35

New King James Version

Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

(So Jesus then says to those listening)

35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

The point is – our hearts need to be aligned with God’s heart of mercy.

We need to show mercy to one another just as God has shown mercy to us.  

We give each other plenty of opportunity to put mercy into action.

Because we all deserve slap every now and then.

But this is our training ground right here – within the church family.  This should be where we get sorted out.  If we can’t be merciful to one another, how on earth will we be merciful to those that are without Christ in the world?

These are the very ones we are trying to reach.  And yet they are also the very ones that we find easiest to judge.

Why do we feel we have to judge?  Is it because we feel they deserve to be where they are?

Do those with addictions who struggle to feed and provide a roof for their families to live under, deserve to stay in that place and to suffer it out?  

Do those that try and manipulate the welfare system and make it a lifestyle deserve to be written off as bludgers?

Do those who wander the streets in filthy clothes – who struggle with mental health issues – do they deserve to stay like that?

People often end up in these places because of ungodly life choices.  But some end up there through no real fault of their own.

Regardless of that – What is our response?

There are no easy answers.  When need to have healthy boundaries in place.  Resources are limited.

But I have no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit is saying to us – in the midst of all these needs – you must be a people of mercy.

James 2:13

New King James Version

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Judgement speaks of the law.  The law is represented by those two stone tablets that are covered by the mercy seat – and covered by the Blood of Jesus Christ.

So God has made this covenant with us.  That His mercy towards us will always win when it comes to our sin and judgment.

What right do we then have to sit in judgment of the sin of those in the world?

Matthew 7:1

New King James Version

“Judge[a] not, that you be not judged.”

And also in Matthew:

Matthew 5:7

New King James Version

“Blessed are the merciful,

For they shall obtain mercy.”

You see – it’s a two way street.  

Don’t judge –  and you won’t be judged.

Be merciful and you will obtain mercy.

I find it fascinating how Jesus would attract sinners to Himself – when He was the most righteous and Holy Person who ever lived.

I think about the time when Jesus went into a house to have lunch, and it says:

Matthew 9:10-11

New King James Version

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

I hope that never happens here at Seacoast.  I really hope that we see people of all backgrounds being attracted to this place – to us.  

We’ll have healthy boundaries.  We will uphold who we are as people of God.

But when sinners desire to come and sit here with us – we’ll know that we must be doing something right.

Matthew 9:12-13

New King James Version

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

There’s no sacrifice that anyone can bring to God that is worthy.  The only sacrifice is the one that Jesus has already accomplished.

And as He said, He didn’t come to restore the righteous.  He came to save sinners.

There are many examples in Scripture of how mercy is outworked.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is told by Jesus in response to the question:  Who is my neighbour?  Because we are called to love our neighbour.

A man is attacked and left for dead on the road to Jericho.  He was most likely a Jew.

A couple of religious men walked past at separate times –  one a priest and one a Levite.   They both walk past on the other side of the road and don’t get involved.

But a Samaritan man came by.  Samaritans were generally hated by the Jews.  But the Samaritan did everything within his power to help the man.

He saw Him in his distress.

He responded with a compassionate and merciful heart.

He expressed that mercy by practically helping the man.  Bound up his wounds.  Took him to an Inn.  Paid for his care there.

And what’s more – he totally overlooked the fact that the man he was helping would have regarded him as an enemy.

The point is –  our neighbour doesn’t always come wrapped up in a nice and pretty little bow.  They are sometimes bleeding and wounded.  They often need our help.  And helping them might cost us something – our time – our money – our energy.

The religious men didn’t help.  Religion rarely helps.  Mercy helps.

Psalm 85:10

New King James Version

“Mercy and truth have met together;

Righteousness and peace have kissed.”

The Passion Translation actually says – “Mercy and Truth have married each other.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

New King James Version

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,

Because His compassions fail not.

23 

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.”

Aren’t you glad that the mercies of God are new every morning?

There’s something new and fresh about God’s mercy every new day.

And that’s how it should be for us.  Don’t harbour judgement.  Don’t hang on to unforgiveness.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for healthy boundaries in relationships and life.  You don’t tolerate ongoing abuse.  You need to be merciful towards yourself as well.

I’d like to finish by reading Ps. 103 from The Passion Translation.

This is God’s heart of mercy towards us.

Psalm 103:1-12

The Passion Translation

With my whole heart, with my whole life,

and with my innermost being,

I bow in wonder and love before you, the holy God!

Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration.

How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness

you’ve done for me?

You kissed my heart with forgiveness, in spite of all I’ve done.[a]

You’ve healed me inside and out from every disease.

You’ve rescued me from hell[b] and saved my life.

You’ve crowned me with love and mercy.

You satisfy my every desire with good things.[c]

You’ve supercharged my life so that I soar again[d]

like a flying eagle in the sky!

You’re a God who makes things right,

giving justice to the defenseless.

You unveiled to Moses your plans

and showed Israel’s sons what you could do.

Lord, you’re so kind and tenderhearted

to those who don’t deserve it[e]

and so patient with people who fail you!

Your love is like a flooding river

overflowing its banks with kindness.[f]

You don’t look at us only to find our faults,[g]

just so that you can hold a grudge against us.

10 

You may discipline us for our many sins,

but never as much as we really deserve.

Nor do you get even with us for what we’ve done.

11 

Higher than the highest heavens—

that’s how high your tender mercy extends!

Greater than the grandeur of heaven above

is the greatness of your loyal love, towering over all

who fear you and bow down before you!

12 

Farther than from a sunrise to a sunset—

that’s how far you’ve removed our guilt from us.”

This Psalm goes on to speak about God’s mercy and blessing over children, grandchildren and beyond.  Mercy is a generational blessing.

Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to realign ourselves with the mercy of God as we move into this new year.


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