Mercy, Not Law

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Jam. 2:13

I looked at the lady seated in front of me. I had prepared some hard words for her and I was ready to let fly. I had all the reasons in the world to do so. Then, all of a sudden, God’s Word knocked on my heart.

“… mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

Mercy. That’s a word that ought to be always on our lips… and in our hearts. Unfortunately, much of the time our hearts are, literally, hearts of stone. Remember, under the Old Covenant, Moses carved the law into tablets of stone. But, under the new covenant, God’s law is written onto our hearts; hearts, not of stone, but of flesh. Now, we all know that there is a big difference between stone and flesh. One is hard and unbreakable; the other is soft and malleable.

Do we know how merciful God is towards us? He is incredibly merciful towards us. In the first place, He provides us with food, clothing, protection, and everything else that we need in this life. Yes, it is God who provides us with these things, despite our inclination to think otherwise. Some even attribute it to luck! You are not lucky to be alive; God’s hand of protection has been upon your life throughout. And have you ever thought of all the free things of nature that God has given us to enjoy?

Secondly, and this is the most amazing of all, He forgives us of our sins. The Psalmist wrote:

“8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (Ps. 103:8-10)

I don’t know whether you have ever stopped to think about this, but God forgives us of our sins more times every day than we can even think of. And I am not talking about the cases where we ask Him to forgive us. Much of the forgiveness is for sins that we are not even aware we have committed – just as much, unsurprisingly, as we are not aware of His forgiveness! He forgives us silently, without creating a fuss, or even making us aware of what He has done, because He loves us. He does all this out of compassion for us. God is extremely compassionate!

It has come to my notice that nearly, or all, of the people we interact with need mercy, and not judgment, from us. And more so those who have sinned or wronged us. But it is only when we are taking up our cross that we can carry this heart in us and be able to have mercy upon others. When we are men and women of law, it is so much easier to throw the book at someone. We don’t mind too much whether it will hurt, maim or kill them; as long as the law in our hearts is fulfilled.

But the Bible even says to feed our enemies! Not with that heart, of course. But here the Bible is talking about being compassionate even to our enemies.

We need to realize that people are as weak and prone to fall just as much as we ourselves are. That is why we need that heart of compassion, for that is the nature of God Himself.

Finally, the Apostle Paul tells us, when it comes to confronting a brother or sister who has sinned,

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)

That talks of grace and mercy, not law.

[John Starnes reminds us of God’s merciful providence upon our lives]

The Liberality of God

Have you ever paused to think how lavishly, extravagantly, excessively generous God is? You probably haven’t; but allow me to put this into perspective.

Have you ever noticed how easily we get dazzled by the night lights? I mean the man-made lights. The city lights dazzle us with their shimmer and people actually go out to see them.

Indeed, anything with lights on it at night appears exquisitely bright.

But any man-made light costs money. Man therefore pays heavily to enjoy any light or warmth at night. The world pays a lot for their nights. That is why they tell you to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

But, come day-break, and the world has more light and warmth than it needs! All the lighting companies in the world combined could not produce the light and heat that the sun gives. But the sun is not of any man; it is of God. The light and warmth that the sun provides come from God and it gives life to everything in the world.

There are two strange aspects about God and His sun. One is that God does not give His light in “candlefuls” or “torchfuls”. He is not stingy. On the contrary, God gives us light and warmth without measure.

During the daytime, I can see as far as my eyesight will allow. If I could see all the way to New York I would.

I am surprised that we can be wowed by the world’s night lights and yet all their brilliance combined is no match for the sun.

The other interesting thing is that God does not charge a dime for the sun. It is free. I have never seen a monthly bill for the sun I enjoy daily. And yet the sun is involved in probably 99% of my physical life! That’s incredible! All of it absolutely free.

The fact that God’s strange benovelence is showered on everyone provides us with another aspect of God’s nature: that God’s love is all-encomapssing. God does not shine the sun on a choice clique of “friends” or His obedient children only. He shines His light and gives warmth to everyone – the good as well as the bad.

There is no doubt as to what I would do if God gave me the controls to the sun. I probably would shine it on everyone the first day – no, make that the first minute, because by the second minute I would be so infuriated at all the evil people are doing in the world that I would turn off the sun in all the wicked people’s homes immediately.

If we go out to be dazzled by the night lights, I wonder how much more appreciative we should be of God’s sun? I am surprised that the world does not wake up every morning and ululate with wonder and joy at this unutterable gift.

Now, let us come to water. Water is life, they say. Have you ever been awed with how, with the coming of the rainy season, God just pours hundreds of millions of gallons of water over the earth? God is so liberal! He pours so much rain until we say, “Enough, Lord!”

He does not pour His water in cupfuls or panfuls. He has so much of it and He is extremely liberal with it. He wants us to see His glory.

(We are so graceless we do not even have the grace to say, “Thank you, Lord.” Instead, the minute we get home wet, or our car breaks down in the rain, we begin to complain about how “these rains have become too much!” And God is so merciful: instead of blasting us with a bolt of lightning, He simply forgives us and shines the sun on us the next day.)

And just imagine how much oxygen there is in the air. There is so much oxygen that God does not need a mechanism to recycle the air (which we would, if He left us to our devices).

Have you ever wondered about someone who murders another person. That person actually uses a lot of oxygen to commit his crime, and the oxygen he uses is freely provided to him by God.

Imagine what you would do if you controlled the oxygen supply in the world and you found someone doing a thing like that. I am sure you would cut off his oxygen supply immediately.

But God does not do that. He gives the man all the oxygen he needs even as he wantonly kills off his fellow man. God then waits on the killer to repent. If he repents, God forgets that he ever killed another man!

God is rich on so many fronts, and His liberality equals His richness.

Actually, none of us deserves the things that God freely gives to us – and which we take too much for granted. But God is so magnanimous He continuously gives us them – over and over, even when we are not walking in His perfect will – and without measure. And these things are just the tip of the iceberg. There are no words sufficient to tell of God’s mercy and provision for us.

Oh, depth of the riches of the grace of God! How good and gracious and compassionate and forgiving and merciful and tender-hearted is our God! Were everyone in the world a scribe, still they would not suffice to tell of the goodness and kindness of God. His richness is indescribable. And His praises are beyond words.

[Below: God gives us so many things to enjoy – and He gives us liberally!]

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Knowing God… Food for Thought

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…

It is a fact that the men of old who knew God did not recognize him in the miracles He performed, important as these were in announcing His presence and power. The clearest example of this is Elijah who, as we saw in 2 of my earlier posts (“Take Up Your Cross And Follow Christ” and “We Are Dead Men!”), the wind, the earthquake and the fire came but he did not move from his position. No manifestation of God’s power would budge Elijah from seeking to know God for who He truly was. Praise God for that! That is the mark of a truly spiritual person.

When finally Elijah heard God’s “still small voice”, then it was that he went out to meet Him.

Remember many of these prophets were men through whom God worked many mighty miracles. But, apparently, in their spirits they saw something much, much bigger than the miracles they were performing!

What was it that these men saw that was a far greater wonder than the mighty miracles that God did in their day? They saw Jesus. But they did not see any Jesus. (Right here let me say that it is sad how today’s Christians seem not to know the Bible: the Apostle Paul warns us of “another Jesus”, “another spirit” and “another gospel” (2 Cor.11:4); and yet God’s children swallow anything as long as it has the name ‘Jesus’ attached to it. The church needs to be able to discern! There are ‘Jesus’s’ galore in the world today, and spirits and gospels, and they are deceiving God’s people).

But these men of old saw a suffering Jesus, and from this suffering Jesus they saw an indescribable glory that awed them in their visions and dreams. 1 Peter 1:10-11 says: “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”

And for them, if the indescribable glory they had seen was in a suffering Christ, then that was where God was, too! In a hazy understanding of the glory that would be there in the New Covenant, they came to an understanding that God was not anywhere else except in His Son Jesus, whom He would give to suffer and die as a propitiation for the sins of the world.

We too – indeed, more so – cannot, and should not attempt know God except through a relationship with Christ “and him crucified”. The Apostle Paul makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 2:2. That “him crucified” means identifying our lives with His suffering and death. Anything else is “another Jesus”.

In light of Hebrews 1:2, the voice that Elijah heard was the voice of Jesus. In other words, Elijah received a revelation of Jesus just as we too have received. And in waiting until he had heard God’s “still small voice” before he went out to meet Him, Elijah was not only displaying his maturity in his understanding of God, but he was also foreshadowing what would happen under the New Covenant: “God… hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”.

Both what Elijah saw and what the writer of Hebrews is speaking of there are one and the same thing: it was a revelation of the crucified Christ.

Do you know that Jesus came to earth and spoke? Yes, He did, and He spoke many things. You can find His words, verbatim, in the gospels of Matthew through John. God made it is so much easier for us to know exactly what Jesus had spoken to the Old Testament prophets by writing Jesus’ words down right there in the Bible.

It wasn’t so easy for the Old Testament prophets. What a grace we have today, and are we aware of it?

God spoke through the apostles in the early church, men who had come to know Christ through identifying their lives with His sufferings and death; and He is still speaking today through the apostleship ministry of such men. These are the men whom God has given the responsibility to reveal Christ to the church. These are men who talk of the cross of Christ, because Jesus talked of the cross above everything else.

When we lack the revelation of what Jesus said, we run after the miracles and everything else!

Talking of miracles, you see, God is the God of the entire universe. He is Lord over all and He is capable of doing anything. We cannot therefore confine Him to miracles and signs and wonders. He can perform these all right, but He is beyond these. He is more than these – infinitely so.

And God is concerned that we should know Him as He IS, in His fullness. Shouldn’t we be grateful for that? I believe we should.

Just as the men (and women) of old saw God in the cross of Christ, so should we. The greatest miracle that can happen in any man’s life is for the cross to work in their lives, to change them and perfect them. All heaven eagerly anticipates the glory that will be found in such a life!

Knowing God is a work – a daily working of the cross in our lives. A daily crucifixion of our character, our carnal desires and our lives.

Knowing God is not a one-touch thing.

Some years back, someone excitedly came back from a meeting he had attended in a neighboring country and told me: “Something happened to me! When the preacher placed his hands on me I fell down!”

That’s all right, and I did not want to doubt that something had happened to him. God’s power could have been involved in whatever happened to him. But God is more than that. After the excitement is over we need to move on. Even after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he still needed to take up his cross and follow Christ.

Do you want to know who God is? Don’t look for Him in the miracles, in the healings, nor in the provision. All these are of God all right, and they are for His children. But remember Jesus gave these to the Jews but when He began to show them where the real glory lay, “they forsook him”!

If you are serious about wanting to know God, look for Him where the men of old – the Old Testament prophets, and the New Testament apostles – looked for Him. They sought and found God in identifying their lives with the sufferings of Christ.

Desire to catch the revelation of the cross in your life.

[Below: Birds on the shores of Lake Victoria, Mwanza]

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Gaius – A Rich Man

The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 John 1:1,2

Someone said to me recently, “Mwita, I pray that you may get a car!” and I laughed, sort of the way Sarah laughed, because truly nothing is too hard for the Lord. Now, if you live in Africa you might understand how sometimes owning something as simple as a car might need a miracle equivalent to Sarah’s!

The person who told me this was troubled by the fact that I travelled too much by bus.

I laughed all right, but as I was thinking over the words of this loving friend, I remembered John’s letter to Gaius. In 3 John 1:1-2, the Apostle John writes these words: “The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

The proponents of the prosperity gospel have worn out this scripture trying to prove that God wants all of His children to prosper materially. They claim that Gaius was one of the people that God had made rich; but all they have to stand on is John’s “wish”, or prayer!

Has it ever occurred to you that Gaius might have been a poor, needy brother, but one with a generous heart? It is not mentioned if Gaius was a rich man or a poor man. What is clear, however, is that Gaius was a generous man.

As a matter of fact, we could say with some conviction that in order for John to make such a prayer on behalf of Gaius, the latter most likely needed that prayer!

The Macedonians were not rich either, but they were generous. Presumably, the same situation applied to Gaius. There is no other reason for John to “wish” for Gaius to prosper and be in good health if Gaius was a rich man. It would be like stating the obvious.

Besides, there is no guarantee that simply by John “wishing” (or praying) for Gaius to prosper, that he would. God might have needed to keep Gaius a poor man for other purposes. The church today has been erroneously taught to believe many things concerning God’s provision, but we cannot limit God to what we think. We must be scriptural.

What the above scripture states, and which is of far greater significance to us, is the fact that Gaius was a spiritually prospering man. The Bible says clearly, “…even as thy soul prospereth.”

But it is not just that the Bible states that Gaius was prospering in his spirit; but the fruits of this prosperity are evident in the generosity he showed in ministering to God’s people. This heart that Gaius had – those are the true riches.

The Apostle John must have felt the heavy burden that Gaius was bearing in ministering to the saints, hence his prayer for Gaius to prosper materially. He knew many saints would benefit from Gaius’ ministry.

It is highly unlikely that when Gaius was going about his labor of love that he would have been looking for material returns for his kindness. Being the righteous man that he was, he was content with his physical state and would most likely have been beseeching God for a spiritual blessing.

A man who expects to “reap” in the natural is a carnal Christian. There is nowhere in the Bible where we are encouraged to have such a mindset. That is a carnal mentality, not a spiritual one.

A spiritual mindset is one that looks to the future, into the things of the Spirit. That is why the Bible says, And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13). You don’t see a car mentioned there, do you? Nor a 3-storied house. There is nothing of this world in that scripture. Notice that Paul is talking of things that will abide. These are the things that the Bible encourages us to seek after.

I must end by asking my readers to not think that by using the above example I was in some way trying to compare myself with Gaius. Not by the longest shot! These were men against whom I couldn’t come up close to, spiritually speaking. I am grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to so much as put the soles of my feet on the same road that such men walked.