CHOSEN WHEN WE WERE NOTHING

Ps.136:23 – TPT – He’s the God who chose us when we were nothing!His tender love for us continues on forever!

Ps.136:23 NKJ – Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy endures forever;

This verse gives us an incredible look into the mercy of the Lord. The two characteristics that stand out to me in this verse about the mercy of the Lord is how He lavishes His mercy on us when we are nothing or as the NKJ says in our lowly state and how His mercy is everlasting. First look at His mercy on the undeserving. There is nothing I could have done to warrant mercy, actually the opposite was true, I did everything to offend God but instead of judgement I got mercy. His mercy reached into the depths of my depravity and poured out grace that opened my eyes to His love and broke the chains of sin that had enslaved me. As the Passion Bible says, “He chose me when I was nothing”.

Next, His mercy or tender love lasts forever and ever. He loved me before I was born, He loved me when I was rebellious, and He will love me beyond the end of time. Here is how Dick Mills defines this word eternity.

“Eternity; the ages; infinity; the universe, the world. Derived from the verb ‘alam (“veil from sight” or “conceal”), ‘olam refers to that infinite and everlasting expanse God has created. It is both an unending expanse of space (universe) and time (eternity), indicating the limitless dimensions in which God’s sovereignty is displayed. The word sometimes refers to the remotely distant past and sometimes to the remotely distant future. God is called ’El ‘Olam, “the Everlasting God”. As God is eternal, so is His mercy le ‘olam, that is, “unto the forever.”

The universe is intended to give us a glimpse into the eternal nature of our God. It reaches further than our computer generated telescopes can see and it reaches farther than our thoughts can imagine. His tender love for us is like that, it is deeper than the ocean, wider than the horizon, and higher than the heavens. There is no end to His tender love and mercy. My life began by His mercy, it is sustained by His mercy, and will continue forever by His mercy. He chose us when we were nothing and His tender love for us continues forever!

DROPS OF MERCY

Eph.3:18,19 – Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!

This is one of the most amazing prayers in the Bible. Paul is praying that each one of us would have a revelation of God’s unending love. In tasting His love for ourselves we are filled to overflowing with His presence. This is the Expositor’s Commentary on these two verses.

“That love, exemplified in Christ’s magnanimity to the Gentiles, is too large to be confined by any geometrical measurements. It is “wide” enough to reach the whole world and beyond. It is “long” enough to stretch from eternity to eternity. It is “high” enough to raise both Gentiles and Jews to heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It is “deep” enough to rescue people from sin’s degradation and even from the grip of Satan himself. The love of Christ is the love he has for the church as a united body and for those who trust in him as individuals.”

I love this explanation of Paul’s prayer. God’s love is wide enough to reach the whole world. There is no culture or ethnic group that is excluded. The Father’s love embraces everyone. His love is long enough to reach from eternity to eternity. His love was there for us when we were born, carries us through all of our challenges and adventures in this life, and will be with us on our final day to usher us into our heavenly reward. It is high enough to raise all of us into heavenly places. His love takes us into heavenly realms now, not just when we die. His presence, the manifestation of His love, carries us away into places of heavenly encounter. His love is the fountain of all visions and dreams, the unfolding of His plan of love for our lives. His love is deep enough to reach into the depths of depravity that sin could take you to. There is no sin too great or hole too deep to keep you from the love of our Heavenly Father. Today His love is falling on all of us, it is fall like great drops of mercy on all who call on His name.

CROWNED WITH MERCY

Ps.103:4 – who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.

Redemption is not the end of the story, it is where everything begins. God’s plan for you is not just to fix you so you can be a better version of you in this life. His plans are far more aggressive. His plan includes crowns and glory and other such things. He lifts us out of our hopeless condition and loads us with His benefits. Mercy crowns our life and our story brings glory to the Lord. Whatever pit you were wallowing in just becomes a crown of mercy on your head. Your life is filled with the fruit of mercy, the joy of the Lord. Your story declares and displays the glory of the Lord. Here is how Spurgeon describes it.

“Redemption will ever constitute one of the sweetest notes in the believer’s grateful song…. Our Lord does nothing by halves, he will not stay his hand till he has gone to the uttermost with his people. Cleansing, healing, redemption, are not enough, he must needs make them kings and crown them, and the crown must be far more precious than if it were made of corruptible things, such as silver and gold; it is studded with gems of grace and lined with the velvet of lovingkindness; it is decked with the jewels of mercy, but made soft for the head to wear by a lining of tenderness. Who is like unto thee, O Lord! God himself crowns the princes of his family, for their best things come from him directly and distinctly; they do not earn the crown, for it is of mercy not of merit; they feel their own unworthiness of it, therefore he deals with tenderness; but he is resolved to bless them, and, therefore, he is ever crowning them, always surrounding their brows with coronets of mercy and compassion. He always crowns the edifice which he commences, and where he gives pardon he gives acceptance too.”

We started in a pit, we end up on a throne. Paul said we are seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. What started as a nightmare ends up in a fairy tale. I had no hope, Christ found me, extended His hand of mercy, He then crowned my life with His endless love. Everyone who sees what happened to me is struck by the magnificence of His glory on display in my life.

THE REWARD ON THE MERCIFUL

Ps.41:1-3 – Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble. The LORD protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The LORD nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.

This passage is loaded with promises for those who are generous to the poor. The Hebrew word for poor is filled with meaning. It refers to the helpless, those who are dangling by a rope or hanging on for dear life. It’s much easier to shut our ears to the cries of the hurting, it is more beneficial for us to hear and respond. Who exactly are the poor referred to in this verse? This is speaking of the sick, the addicted, and those hurting financially. This is a description of what ministry is about. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this verse.

“The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive. It is worthy of remark, that benevolent persons, who “consider the poor, “and especially the sick poor; who search cellars, garrets, back lanes, and such abodes of misery, to find them out (even in the places where contagion keeps its seat), very seldom fall a prey to their own benevolence. The Lord, in an especial manner, keeps them alive, and preserves them; while many, who endeavor to keep far from the contagion, are assailed by it, and fall victims to it. God loves the merciful man.”

If you read on in this Psalm you can see the blessings of the generous piling up. First, He says He will protect us. He will surround us with His favor like a shield and no weapon formed against us will prosper. Next, He says He will keep us alive. Death itself will have to back off because we are being kept by the Lord. He also promises us prosperity in the land. The land itself will respond to us. This is speaking of harvest in whatever our hand finds to do. He then says He will keep us from our enemies, nothing that is planned against us will prosper. Wicked plans will turn around to bring favor into our lives. David also says that the Lord Himself will nurse us in our sickness. He will bring us back into total health and recovery. There is a reward for the merciful, this is what our lives and church are all about.

TACKLED BY LOVE

Lk.15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

This has to be one of the most moving passages in the Bible, the Father embracing His prodigal son. It’s hard to grasp the power of the story with just a casual reading, it has to be pondered. It starts with the rebellious son demanding his portion of his inheritance. Can you imagine the awkwardness of the moment? Inheritances are for when somebody dies. The son was so blinded by his sin that he would rather see his Father die, if that isn’t possible just give me mine now anyway. Of course we all know where that would go; one party and buying spree after another until every cent is gone. From there he becomes a hired laborer at the point of fighting the pigs for pig food. Anything familiar about this story? Maybe you didn’t act out the drama (or maybe you did) but we all have the nature of prodigals deep within us.

Finally the young man returned to his senses, turned toward home, and began to rehearse his lines of repentance. That’s when the story gets good. The Father was watching down the road, hoping to see His son. How many hours the Father must have spent, looking down that road until the day came when He saw His son. The Father ran to meet His son, tears in His eyes and compassion pounding in His chest. Without a lecture or even a moment for the son to explain the Father ‘fell on’ him in the middle of the road.

We need to stop here for a moment, the KJV Bible says the Father fell on the son’s neck. The word in greek is epipipto. It means to seize or fall upon with an embrace. The Father literally tackled His son. This word is used one other time in the New Testament. It was when Peter was trying to explain to the Jewish elders in Jerusalem what had happened when he preached to the gentiles. Peter said the Holy Spirit fell upon (epipipto) the gentiles just like He had fallen on them in the upper room. The gentiles had been tackled by the love of God, the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them too.

So maybe you feel a little stinky today. Maybe you got mixed up fighting with the pigs for their food. Take a turn toward home and you too will be tackled by love.

KISSED BY THE FATHER

LK.15:20 – And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

I think many people get the wrong idea about religious people, especially the Puritans from long, long ago. They were often quite expressive about their love for the Lord and experienced spiritual intimacy rather than just an austere form of legalism. It was their passion for the Lord and their evangelistic zeal that brought seasons of persecution leading many of them to make their way to the New World. Our country is indebted to the legacy of these spiritual pioneers. In the 1600’s there was a member of the parliament in England by the name of Edward Leigh who had an evangelistic zeal and a passion for the Lord. Here are some of his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“Among all the parables of Christ, this is most excellent, full of affection and set forth in lively colors. The old father sees a long way off, for dim eyes can see a long distance when the son is the object. His heart moves within him, and he has compassion on him. “He runs.” It would have been sufficient for him to have stood, because he was old, and a father, and even more so an offended father. But love descends rather than ascends: the son goes to the father; the father runs to the son. Then, he does not stop and embrace him or take him by the hand, but rather he falls on him and incorporates himself into him. He speaks not a single word- his joy was too great to be uttered—but he puts his whole mouth forward and kisses him, giving him the badge of peace, love and reconciliation. Through this example is declared that great goodness of God, who most mercifully pardons the sins of the truly penitent.”

This parable touches on something that is basic to our need as a human. We need forgiveness, acceptance, and real love. Jesus pointed us to the Heavenly Father for all of that. The Heavenly Father has also been painted by many as demanding and harsh. Jesus set the record straight when He shared about the rebellious son smelling of pigs embraced in the Father’s love. There is a place in His arms for you too.

LETS GET THIS PARTY STARTED

Lk.15:22-24 – But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What an amazing description of God’s love for fallen man. We went out and wasted our Father’s gifts on sinful living. Rather than judging us and banishing us from His home, He embraces us, kisses us and showers us with gifts, and throws us a party. Here are some thoughts from the People’s New Testament Commentary on the Father’s response in this parable of the prodigal son.

“Bring forth the best robe. He had returned in rags. The best robe is the white robe of the righteousness of Christ. A ring on his hand. A ring with a seal was a symbol of authority, of sonship. Shoes on his feet. Servants went barefoot, but the shoes were a symbol of freedom. Bring the fatted calf. For a feast of welcome. To make such preparations was common in the simple life of the East. For my son was dead, and is alive. It was a spiritual resurrection. They began to be merry. Gladness should be manifested by all saints at the repentance of sinners.”

What an amazing welcome, He took off our filthy rags marked with the stains of our sins, He put on us a beautiful robe welcoming us back home. The Lord clothes each of His returning prodigals with a beautiful robe, we are clothed in the righteous garments of Christ, justified by grace through faith. Next, He places the family ring on our finger. We are not outcast, we are welcomed into the very privileges and authority of Sonship. We are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ. Then there were the shoes. Our previous shoes were long gone from the hard road we had chosen to walk. Now, our feet are covered with the shoes of the promises of God. We are freed from our life of slavery, God’s promises are now ours. He also killed the fatted calf reserved for the greatest of occasions. This calf also reminds us of the sin offering that made all of this possible, the blood of Jesus has washed away our sin. The joy finally began to break out into singing and dancing, “My son who was lost has now returned home”. Let’s get this party started.

CASUAL CHRISTIAN DESTRUCTION

Jn.3:35,36 – “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Ever hear about the frog in boiling water. You know the story, the water gets hotter and hotter gradually until its too late. I kinda feel like that is where a lot of the so called church is today. They have thrown out the more offensive doctrines so not to be offensive. Guess what? The Bible has always been offensive to the natural mind. The church has shed much of what gives the church its power. What am I talking about? Well, stuff like repentance, the blood of Jesus, the wrath of God, the power of His presence; these topics have been gradually abandoned and weakened the church until it is at the place of being something other than His church. R.C. Sprole speaks powerfully about this tragedy.

“Paul is astonished here with the thinking of his contemporaries, and if he were around today he would say, “Have you people lost your mind, that you have no room in your theology for the wrath of God? Do you think there is no judgment—that everybody gets a free pass?” That is the secret hope of every impenitent person in this world. “I’m fifteen . . . I’m eighteen . . . I’m twenty-five . . . I’m forty-five . . . I’m seventy-five, and I have not been judged thus far. I have not experienced the wrath of God yet. All that stuff about the wrath of God is just scare tactics that the preachers use to keep us in line and manipulate us with guilt. I do not have anything to fear from the judgment of God because a good judge, a loving judge, would never punish anybody. He hates the sin, but he loves the sinner, and he loves him unconditionally.”

You see the problem is reinventing of God in our own image. We envision a God with all mercy and no hatred of sin. If God is merciful yet also holy and just, sin demands punishment. The judgement of God was the whole purpose of the cross. The Son of God became a man to take God’s righteous anger against sin on our behalf. That is the ultimate good news, Jesus took my place, He suffered the just penalty of my sin. What do I receive? I receive the mercy of God.

FOOTSTEPS OF GOD

Eph 3:8 – To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

Paul seemed to live in a state of “stunned”. How could you blame him? In one moment a Pharisee was turned into a disciple, a murderer was turned into gentle man, and and a man breathing out profanity was turned into a man spilling out words of grace. Paul himself stayed shocked at the change in his life until the day he died. We see the tension in today’s verse, he considered himself the chief of sinners, the least of the saints, and yet he became the chosen mouthpiece of the gospel message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. He said the revelation he had of Christ was unfathomable. Stop for a moment and think about what Paul is saying, he is saying the mercy of God is too great to comprehend. We see the edges of it as we drink of the cup of grace but it will take eternity to explore the depth of His love for us. Adam Clarke had seen the results of this message of grace in the revival in England in the 1700’s. Here are his comments on today’s verse.

“The word ανεξιχνιαστος, to trace out, from ιχνος, a step, is exceedingly well chosen here: it refers to the footsteps of God, the plans he had formed, the dispensations which he had published, and the innumerable providences which he had combined, to prepare, mature, and bring to full effect and view his gracious designs in the salvation of a ruined world, by the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of his Son. There were in these schemes and providences such riches — such an abundance, such a variety, as could not be comprehended even by the naturally vast, and, through the Divine inspiration, unparalleledly capacious mind of the apostle.”

The implications of this apparent conflict in the life of Paul tells the story of our Christian faith. Paul clearly recognized his personal sinfulness and the amazing depths of God’s love that chose and appointed him for his mission. So it is with us, our sinfulness is exposed by His love and we become aware of our sins. We too are saved by grace as a gift which we receive by faith. What is our response? To join our voice together with Paul’s to shout the glory of His grace from the rooftops.

UNTHINKABLE MERCY

Rom. 11:36 ¶ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

The book of Romans is a theological masterpiece. For the first eleven chapters Paul unveils the great foundational doctrines of our Christian faith. He covers the power of the gospel, the unveiling of God in creation, man’s failure to follow the law of God, the fall and sinfulness of man, the wages of sin, justification by faith alone, redemption, propitiation, sanctification, election, predestination, the power of the Spirit, and God’s ability to work out everything for the good for His sons and daughters. By the time Paul gets to chapter eleven he is totally undone. Gazing into God’s eternal plan of redemption had totally overwhelmed the apostle. Here are some thoughts from Adam Clarke on today’s amazing verse.

“The apostle considers the designs of God inscrutable, and his mode of governing the world incomprehensible. His designs, schemes, and ends are all infinite, and consequently unfathomable. It is impossible to account for the dispensations either of his justice or mercy. He does things under both these characters which far surpass the comprehension of men. But though his dispensations are a great deep, yet they are never self-contradictory: though they far surpass our reason, yet they never contradict reason; nor are they ever opposite to those ideas which God has implanted in man, of goodness, justice, mercy, and truth. But it is worthy of remark, that we can more easily account for the dispensations of his justice than we can for the dispensations of his mercy. We can every where see ten thousand reasons why he should display his justice; but scarcely can we find one reason why he should display his mercy. And yet, these displays of mercy for which we can scarcely find a reason, are infinitely greater and more numerous than his displays of justice, for which the reasons are, in a vast variety of cases, as obvious as they are multiplied.”
The mercy of God is unthinkable. All of us have sinned and sinned again against our God. What has been His response? Mercy. Now don’t think mercy is just overlooking sin; never. All sin has to be judged by a holy God. Here is where justice meets mercy. Christ became a man to accept the judgement of God on our sins. That is God’s plan. Mercy is not cheap, no it cost God His only Son. Justice has been fulfilled at the cross, mercy is extended to whosoever will. Unthinkable.