Sit Down with Mercy

Romans 3: 25                 (God’s Word Translation)

God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God’s approval is given through faith in Christ’s blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past.

 There is a new mercy seat and his name is Jesus. In the Old Testament we read about the mercy seat which was the top of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark held, among other things, the tablets of law which were given to Moses. God in His great love and compassion for His people covered the law with the Mercy Seat. Now He has done it a second time in the person and sacrifice of Jesus.

 We are seated in the heavens with Jesus (Ephesians 2: 6). That is what it means to abide in Christ. We are in Him and He is in us. We abide together. We are again covered by mercy. God has given us His approval because of our faith in the victory of Jesus’ shed blood. It does require our confidence in Jesus’ victory however, but once we have faith in the blood of the perfect lamb then we are seated with him in the mercy seat. No longer does our sin condemn us. God withheld judgment until He could get the perfect sacrifice into place. Now the blood of Jesus speaks for us and completely washes away our sin. God has covered us with His overflowing mercy.

Order your personal theology so that you do not perceive yourself as a sinner but rather as the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5: 21). We are saved by grace. When we embrace the truth of our righteousness in Jesus we will not be drawn to sin. We are humbled by his magnanimity and though we may make mistakes we sure don’t seek out sin. Righteousness makes you righteous. Sit down in mercy and arise in His righteousness.

Throne of Grace

Hebrews 4: 16

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

Did you know that God’s throne is called the throne of grace? That’s right. He sits in grace. But what about the throne of judgment; where is that? Well, I don’t know. I searched the Bible and it turns out its not there. Curious! We have heard about the judgment seat and the throne of judgment for so long that most of us expect it to be real but it turns out that it is just the figment of religion. It is a good device, like the boogey man, to get us to do what religious minds thinks we ought. You know, “Be good or you will fare poorly when you face the throne of judgment. How interesting, though, that God says come before me where I sit on the throne of grace dispensing, well, grace. He isn’t dispensing judgment; He is giving away grace. 

In the Old Testament God had an ark made which was kept in the Holy of Holies and that is where He would meet mankind. The seat of the ark, God called the Mercy seat. It is there in the place of mercy that God chose to meet with people. And what do you suppose is dispensed from the seat of mercy? Yes, mercy. People have this crazy notion of God being an angry, vengeful, judgment dealing God but that is stuff and non-sense. Others believe He is a benevolent God now but maintain that He was mean in the Old Testament. Well, then why did He name His seat, His throne “Mercy”? He chose where He would meet humans and He chose to meet them over mercy.

That is pretty good, but it wasn’t good enough. You see, He had to be the dispenser of mercy because there was no other answer for the sin of man. Aahhh, but we have a new covenant made on better promises by a better mediator (Hebrew 8: 6). So God was able to get a new throne. Hallelujah! He now sits in grace, on the throne of grace, dispensing grace. 

This is where God always wanted to be and thanks to Jesus He is the King of Grace, the God of Grace. Grace, the calling card of our dear Father, is your birthright vis- a-vis the new birth. God invites us into His throne room to receive grace, mercy and help, not judgment. 

Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It cannot be earned but rather is a gift from a loving father. It is the power for things to simply go well for you. It is the invitation for you to hang out with God. Because of grace, because of God’s favor upon you, where once you were an orphan and an outcast, now you abide in the actual presence of the Almighty free from stain or blemish. You are the perfect, redeemed, restored child of the Most High. Grace does all this for you and more. Unmerited favor, mercy, help in time of need, these are all yours through the blood of Christ. They are all pouring out from the Throne of Grace where your beloved is seated.

Get a new image of your father today, the father of grace. Let the idea of grace fill you. Our father has promoted us from mercy to grace and mercy was pretty good. You have been invited into the throne room. Go with the confidence that your father is awaiting you with a smile. But don’t look for the throne of judgment. You won’t find it in Dad’s throne room.

Grace and Power

Acts 6: 8

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.

If you don’t know Stephen’s story you might like to read the rest of this chapter and chapter 7. He was remarkable in his faith.

This eighth verse really struck me today. I am always interested in hearing about the great signs and wonders being performed because I am passionate about us interacting with the world in such a fashion. We are disciples of Jesus every bit as much as Stephen so we should walk in and exhibit the same power and anointing that he did.

The reason this verse arrested me is because of the word grace. Stephen was full of power. We know that because of the many signs and wonders he performed. But what of grace? Why is grace mentioned in conjunction with a declaration about signs and wonders? Could it be that grace is a critical component of miracles? We know that Jesus was full of grace and compassion and we also know that the miraculous was common with him. 

I believe that the miracles are simply the release of God’s power into the earth through the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus worked hand in hand with the Holy Spirit and as you read about Stephen you will conclude that he did too. So, is it by the grace of God, then that we all are able to not only receive the Spirit of Jesus to live within us but also to release the love and compassion that is in His heart? And you see, if grace is a key element then that takes our cleverness, creativity and holiness out of the picture entirely. It is only by grace that we are saved and by grace we can walk in this awesome power. Because God’s grace is the fuel then we do not have to be anything other than willing. We only need be vessels of grace. However, being vessels of grace means that we cannot be instruments of judgment and condemnation. That stands to reason doesn’t it? Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It is unearned; willingly given by a loving God. Therefore if we wish to flow in God’s power as did Stephen, then we must learn to flow in grace. We cannot be critical and judgmental while letting love flow. A critical, judgmental nature will cut off the flow completely.

Let us abound in this grace that so empowered Stephen. Let love honestly have a place in our hearts and thoughts. And, let us extend the precious love of God first to ourselves. Be not critical of who you are but rather revel in who Christ has made you. You are hidden in Christ and a glorious creature. Now let that glory flow to others.

The Power to Change

Romans 12: 2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

I was driving today when this verse popped in my mind. The thought that came with it was that we are not to transform ourselves but rather to allow ourselves to be transformed. Look at this verse from the Good News Bible: “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.” You see, we are not in charge of changing ourselves. We can’t. We haven’t the power to change but God can transform us into the beautiful image of us that He sees when He looks at us. 

Did you know that when God looks at you He sees the butterfly rather than the caterpillar? He sees you beautiful, glorious and when we spend time with Him His perception of us begins to rub off on us. Jesus is truth and God, our Father, has sent truth into the world to free us from every bondage, even the one of having to change ourselves into something worthy of love or of acceptance. You are already perfect. Jesus made you so. Okay, so sometimes the old man inhibits the full expression of that perfect creation within us but that outward expression does not change truth.

I tried for years and years to change myself and I was never successful but then the hand of Jesus touched me and through his love and acceptance I began to manifest the new person that he created within me. Okay, sure, I am far from the perfect expression of his love inside of me but if you knew the old me you would see the miracle of his grace at work. 

We can have the very best intentions and us the force of our will but the truth is that we just do not have the power to change ourselves. Without Jesus I can do no thing but with him all things are possible. That is why this verse does not tell us to transform ourselves or to change but rather to “be transformed.” This is the state of being rather than doing. In other words, allow yourself to be changed which is done through the renewing of your mind. Renew your mind with God’s thoughts, with His wisdom and that will transform you. Allow Him to shine the light of His love on you and you will change. God’s love, His truth are the forces which created the earth and everything in it. So, when we allow that love and the truth to touch our hearts and minds we, then, are just naturally and comfortably transformed into the lovely person we were created to be. It is a matter of allowing Him to be God, allowing Him to minister His love and acceptance to you.

The hard part of this is that you have to open your heart and allow God in. You also have to give your mind the food of renewal. What is that? It is the Word of God. The Word has transformative power in it because it is truth. The easy part is that God does all of the transformative work and it is painless because His transformation tool is love. When you really discover that you are not damaged goods, then you will no longer fear God seeing the real you. You won’t feel the need to hide anymore. He knows you better than you know yourself and He loves you. He even knows the person inside of you that you have not allowed to manifest yet. 

Won’t you let Jesus touch your heart and allow God to minister His great love to you? If you will open your heart and mind you will find that you never again need worry about changing. His touch will bring out the beautiful you that everyone else knows is in there. Allow yourself to “be” transformed. Renew your mind and allow love to have its perfect work.

Grace, Love and Fellowship

2 Corinthians 13: 14

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This is Paul’s closing in his second letter to the Corinthians. He is sending his best wishes, hopes and prayers to them just as many of us do in the closings of our letters. The best that Paul can come up with is what he includes in his prayer for them. I find it interesting which gift he associates with each part of God. Paul would have known each part of God intimately and would have been very aware of the gifts of each of them. He would have known what flows from each of them and by and through this we can know what personifies each of them and what we can expect from each of them. 

God is love. We’ve heard it over and over again but so many times we fail to really appreciate that love is God’s substance; his very nature. He is made up; constructed of love and it overflows him. He has love in abundance to give each of us.

Grace flows from Jesus. His sacrifice has bathed us in grace. His grace covers us. His pardoning grace has saved us and made the way for us to bask in the love of the Father.

What of the Holy Spirit? What can we expect of him? We can expect to fellowship with him. We can hang out with him, talk with him, receive instruction and inspiration from him. Paul would not have prayed that the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with the church at Corinth unless it was attainable. We are living in a new age. We are living in the age of the Holy Spirit. He is here for us in ways that were not possible in any previous age. Because of the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has been sent to us to make his abode with us. He has come to lead us, guide us, and teach us.

May the grace of the Lord, the love of the Father and the intimate presence of the Spirit of God fill your day and your life.

The Glory of Grace

1 Corinthians 15: 9 – 10

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of the them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

Paul enters the story of the Christian church as one of the preeminent weapons that Satan had in play, perhaps even the most valuable tool in Satan’s arsenal. He was zealous in his persecution of Christians. It is perhaps a bit difficult for us to fully appreciate what a bad guy Paul, then Saul, really was. Imagine today someone who goes throughout the country, fully authorized, beating, stoning and imprisoning Christians simply because of their faith. In happens in other countries even today but this is not something that occurs in most of our experiences. Then imagine that the guy who is the most zealous and dangerous persecutor of all becomes a minister of the gospel. It really is difficult to wrap your head around.  

How was Paul ever able to stand in the presence of God? How could he even pray to the one whom he persecuted? He tells us in this passage. Only the grace of God could repair a relationship which was so badly broken. Only grace could cover Paul’s sin and the harm that he did to so many people. Grace does what nothing else can. Only God’s grace can take our damage and turn it around for good. 

Humility is a good thing in a person because, as was the case with Paul, it allows the grace of God to wipe away our idiocy so that in God’s eyes we are as pure and innocent as Jesus himself. Paul describes himself as the least of all of the apostles. He is humble as to his own stature and merit. None the less, he boasts in the work that God was able to do through him but he says it is because of the grace.

Some people use the message of grace as a way to excuse their sin or continue in it but, you see, that isn’t grace. Grace reaches out to your brokenness and creates a saint. Grace doesn’t just cover your mistakes. It eradicates them. But … if you have truly been touched by grace, then you have a deep, deep desire to never sin in any form ever again. Grace repairs a person’s heart and reforms them into the very image of the Christ. No one who understands grace, or even fathoms a smidgen about grace, will intentionally keep sinning. A person who would use the blood of Jesus to continue to sin is a fool and I don’t want to even stand near them. That is an insult to the blood of Jesus and blasphemes the Holy Spirit. My point is, do not let an idiot teach you the meaning of grace. Don’t even give that kind of person your ear for a moment for there is nothing they can say that would enlighten even one hair of your head. 

Grace turned the biggest sinner of the age into the greatest apostle of the time. Grace takes people like you and me and makes us giants because grace requires nothing of us except humble surrender. When we understand that grace is not about us but is only about the goodness of God then we can experience a new level of freedom. And by the grace of God, we can do all things. Whatever God has put in your heart, you can do because His grace will do for you what it did for Paul. You can be the greatest apostle of this age. He who surrenders best will win the race. The more we let go of ourselves and rely solely on the grace of God, the stronger and more effective we become. Isn’t that great news? Even if you are the biggest mess on the block, the dunce of the family, tomorrow could be a whole different story. Even if you have been out persecuting and killing Christians, you could become the best mouthpiece for God of our age. Never lose hope; just lose yourself in the grace of God.

Grace Does Not Discriminate

John 4: 9, 27, 40, 41

The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word.

Everyone needs a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus. It will change a life forever. This is the story of one Samaritan woman’s encounter with the Lord. Not only did it change her life but many came to believe because of her testimony. This story is recorded in verses 4 – 42. I have selected a few key verses which show the unusual nature of this encounter.

Jesus was sitting at Jacob’s well while his disciples went into town to buy food. A woman of Samaria approached in order to draw water so Jesus requested a drink of water from her. She was astonished. First of all, Jews didn’t speak to Samaritans. Second she was a woman. Strike two. Given the social structure of their times this woman should have been overlooked and she should never have had a personal encounter with the Messiah. Fortunately for all of us, Jesus is not constrained by social mores. He lives in the light and in truth.

The Samaritans and the Jews had a vicious debate over where to worship. That sounds ridiculous today but they were virulent in their disagreement, so much in fact that Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. But this is not so different from today. There are cultures today that view others to be as low as dogs and wouldn’t even stoop to help them if they were in mortal peril. Even in our own country, the land of the free, we have a history of treating a group of people differently than others. Every ethnic group that has migrated here over the short history of our country has had to fight against racial prejudice. The Irish were treated horribly, the Poles, Japanese, Chinese and so on. And of course, there was the importation of Africans who did not migrate here willingly but were captured and brought here against their will. Each time the disfavored group was eventually accepted but they were replaced by another. Unfortunately, the church is sometimes the slowest group to accept integration of others. Women are still considered as subordinate actors in some congregations today, even in the face of this story and many others in the telling of Jesus’ earthly experience.

What Jesus did at the well that day was unheard of. It was against all church doctrine and wisdom. Had the Pharisees witnessed it they would have come apart at the seams. To engage with a lowly woman was bad enough but a Samaritan as well. That was heretical. Of course some people say we are all going to hell because we allow women to preach in our churches and some of us allow every type of person in our doors.

This Samaritan woman was responsible for the salvation of the men of her town because she ran back to town and preached Jesus. The men came out to him at the well and many believed. The first thing that happens when a person accepts Jesus into their hearts is a softening of the heart and outflowing generosity, so these men invited Jesus to come stay in their town. Incredibly Jesus accepted and he stayed two days. I don’t know if you can appreciate how outlandish this was but it was earth-shattering.

Throughout history there has been layer upon layer of prejudice for one reason or another. No sooner do we rise above one prejudice than we adopt another. It seems that we have a need for a disfavored group upon which we can cast our vitriol, but this is not Jesus’ way. He loved the Samaritans and he loved women. He treated everyone as a child of the Most High. He treated everyone with grace and respect, well, with one obvious exception. He didn’t care for pharisaical church leaders, but then that was only because of their actions. My guess is that he still doesn’t like Pharisees. When we withhold the love of God from any person because of some discriminatory prejudice then we have retreated from grace and when we put others under the judgment of the law we have just judged ourselves. We have condemned ourselves. Jesus gave us one commandment, to love one another as he himself loved us, and he demonstrated his own adherence to the commandment of love in his time on earth.

Grace is meant to be given freely, never to be withheld. The entrance of grace into the earth came at a high cost. To withhold it is to blemish the sacrifice of our dear Lord. Our course is simple; love everyone and let God sort out the sinners from the saints.