October 18, 2015 Speaker: Chris Hall Series: What HE Said: A Guide for Living in the Kingdom of God
Topic: Default Passage: Matthew 5:7–5:7
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
1. BE "MERCIFUL"?
IN GENERAL: MERCY IS BENEVOLENCE, KINDNESS, FORGIVENESS--ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE IN GREAT NEED.
WHAT JESUS MEANS BY "MERCY": Jesus' talks a lot about mercy. When you look at the totality of scripture you see 3 sides to mercy:
A. MERCY SEES: Matthew 23:23-24
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
You can hear echoes of Micah 6:8 ,"Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly".
They were so consumed with the letter of the law that they were ignorning the "weightier matters" of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Those three are the point of the law and they missed the point.
Imagine being so busy counting mint leaves while ignoring the need around them. They were majoring in the minors!
Mercy requires us to actually SEE the need around us.
B. MERCY FEELS: Luke 10:25-37
"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
When the lawyer asked "who is my neighbor" he reveals something important: He had to be TOLD who is neighbor is. His heart wasn't in it. And Jesus knew it.
A citizen of God's Kingdom feels something when those around him want: Heartbreak.
In short: If you have to ask "who's my neighbor" then you probably don't feel it.
Then note the last line where Jesus tells him to "go, and do..."
C. MERCY DOES: Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mercy goes TO those in need. Religious activities that end with you acting from a broken heart for those in need are in line with Christ's idea of mercy--it's what He desires. Feeding the hungry (who probably make really poor financial decisions), caring for the widow and orphan (who often make poor life choices), and befriending the outsider (who can lack the fruit of the spirit-love-joy-peace and can be downright messy).
Religious activity that does NOT result in greater affection for other people miss the entire point of Christ coming to us. We desperately needed Him to act. We could never erase the debt that we owe due to sin. It required God the Son to stand in our place.
That means our hearts ought to break for those in great need (food, shelter, friendship) but even more for those who need the gospel--their ULTIMATE need. Mercy shares and demonstrates the gospel to those who need it most.
2. HOW WE GET IT WRONG
A. We don't have to see it
We are more mobile and secluded from people who are different than us than ever before in history. We drive into our suburban cul de sacs, open the garage door, drive in then close the garage door. Our social circles look a lot like us. When the neighborhood starts to change, we move a few more exits down the highway. When the schools begin to struggle we write them off.
We have achieved what we want: We don't have to see the brokenness that makes us uncomfortable. We can ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist.
And since some of us are surrounded by people who have money, education and options, we don't see their brokenness thanks to the "masks" they can use to cover it up.
B. We don't feel it
"They" do make poor choices. Their finances are a mess. Their personal lives are all over the place. We don't like pouring money, time or energy into an endless pit that will only be repeated with the next generation.
We like to help the people who are trying to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps". We like to help those in other continents who are simply victims of famine, warlords and things way outside their control. Those are the "deserving poor". But the rest, their politics are wrong, their morals are lacking and they are just waiting for a handout. Unacceptable.
No, we don't feel heartbreak for those in need. Nope. If we're honest, we look down our noses at them in judgement.
C. We don't act on it
Our hearts don't break for them. We offer crumbs from our table. Empty charity. But aint NO WAY we move into THEIR neighborhood, befriend them, give them a seat at our table, give them the shirt of our back, and then live a life of sacrificial love among them.
That would be crazy. Even crazier? Think we're going to stand in their place when they get arrested? Oh, they did the crime. But are YOU gonna do the time? In their place? "Officer, yeah, they did it. But please arrest me instead. Punish me for their crimes." You're probably looking at me now like I have a chive stuck in my tooth.
3. HOW JESUS DID IT
Jesus did all that. So we know He's not asking us to do anything HE wouldn't do.
A. HE MOVED INTO OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: He left the perfect home. No pain, no lies, no sin, no divorce, no abortion, no murder. Only love, peace, joy. Then He moved into our neighborhood.
Imagine, the perfect, Holy, SON OF GOD never had a conversation with someone who wasn't a liar. Never taught someone who deserved His friendship. He never ate a meal with someone who didn't have the blood-red stain of sin on their hands.
They didn't have suburbs. Everyone lived in the city. They were on top of each other, no secrets, no real sense of privacy. HE COULD SEE, HEAR AND SMELL EVERY ONE OF OUR FILTHY SINS. And yet...
B. HE WEPT OVER HIS CITY: He had genuine affection for us. Every one guitly of cosmic treason against God (very BAD behavior). And He loved us. He really loved us. And we responded by telling Him essentially to leave us alone (they rejected help when it was offered). When His own people, the Hebrew people of His lineage, turned their back on Him he actually wept over them. They rejected Him (a very bad decision) and yet He still loved them! These were not the "deserving poor". We deserved nothing but condemnation. And still He loved us.
But His love didn't end with a feeling...
C. HE ACTED ON IT: He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He befriended the outcast. He defended the prostitute. He sought out the most unloveable. He stood in their place. He lived the perfect life we failed to live. He died the death we deserved. He forgave the guitly. He shared His inheritance with us. He charged us with the privilege of being His body on earth, to bring Him glory and to be MERCIFUL. He did all that out of love. Mercy. He showed great mercy. Do you believe this?
Jesus Christ IS the mercy of God.
4. HOW DO WE RESPOND?
The only reason we are even able to sit on church on a Sunday morning is because Jesus acted out of great love. When He sees you He loves. He doesn't say "who?" Don't know them. He didn't look down His nose and say "too bad they make such poor decisions."
But He doesn't stop with feeling. He moves to action. He saw our ultimate need was to be reconciled to the Father and He did what was necessary for that to happen.
He moved into our neighborhood, He suffered, and He died for you and for me. Do you believe this?
If you do believe this, then act on it. Arturo Azurdia says it like this: "You haven't experienced MERCY if you don't display MERCY!"
"The evidence of God's mercy in your life isn't determined by how much theology you know By how many books you read but by your active goodness to people in misery and in need!"