Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Transformed By Mercy

Last week, we talked about the measure God has for our walk with God. The keystone measure is the measure of our mercy and how we share that mercy with others in our life. It came from Micah 6:8. Micah 6:8 translated by Delbert R. Hilbert says: “He told you, ‘O man what is Good; Yahweh wants nothing of you, except that you do justice, love kindness and walk wisely with your God.”
God wants nothing of us but to do justice, love kindness and walk wisely with our God. God wants us to be merciful to our neighbor, and yes to our enemies as well. But how do we do that? It is so hard to be merciful to those who despise us and injure us and malign us and speak poorly of us. We need someone greater than us to help us do that. Someone who transcends our small earthly conceits. Someone beyond our emotions, envy, and pettiness. We would need to model someone of immense love. We would need to model someone with wisdom about the future. We find that someone in Jesus Christ our Lord. So, how does Christ’s example speak to the mercy we need to show in our lives? First, we will look at the love of God and the invitation of God to all of humanity. Then we will look at the way God’s mercy comes into our lives and recreates, remakes or regenerates our very being.
Let’s read Romans 11:28-32

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
To understand this passage, we need to understand four groups of people it speaks to and God’s action towards all four.
The first group are the Jews. After Christ’s resurrection, there were many Jews who did not accept Jesus Christ as the Mesiah. Yet, they remained God’s chosen people. Of all the people on earth, they had a singular relationship with God. That exclusive relationship ended with Christ. They would not accept the new reality of God that came with Christ. They did not embrace the Gospel. First century Jews persecuted Jewish Christians and hated the Gentile Christians. They would not accept Gentiles into the faith. The Gentiles were unclean, detestable, unholy and just plain unacceptable.

Paul tells his audience that these first century Jews are enemies of the Gospel of Christ. But they are still deeply loved by God. In addition, God’s original call to the Jewish people as the descendants of the patriarchs still stands. In God’s mercy, God will be patient with them and keep open the invitation to accept Christ. Thus, those who follow Christ are to not be hostile towards the Jewish people and instead, treat them with respect and not disdain.
The next group is the Jewish Christians. They are tired of being persecuted by their kinsmen and at the same time hopeful that they will discover Christ and convert. They are worried that their kinsmen will miss the boat and not receive salvation and God’s grace. They too judge the Gentile Christians and look down on them for the liberties they take in the faith. They believe that if you follow Christ, you also follow the Torah. The Jewish law and the Gospel go together. To the Jewish Christians, Jesus was the Messiah and the chosen one, but the Jewish law still needed to be followed.
The next group is the Gentile Christians. They were disobedient to God, and the Jewish Christians point this out.  When the Gentiles received the Gospel and salvation, they accepted God’s mercy and grace. The Gentiles accepted the good news of the Gospel and overcame their disobedience to become followers of Christ.  Their faith was charismatic, filled with the spirit, energetic, and marked by the outward signs of the Holy Spirit. Signs like prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, discernment, and more. They felt freedom in their faith, and many of their previous Gentile behaviors did not change. On the one hand, the Jewish Christians judged the Gentile Christians.  They didn’t like the continuing cultural practices of the pagan Gentiles who were now Christians. On the other hand, the Gentile Christians disdained the Jewish Christians because they were so uptight and legalistic. 

Finally, there was the fourth group, the people group Paul felt called to reach for God, the Spanish Barbarians. Both the Jewish Christians and the Gentiles thought of the Barbarians as subhuman. But Paul wanted to bring the good news of the Gospel to them. He needed the cooperative help of both groups to carry out his mission to Spain. Both groups disliked each other, and they would need to come together under Christ to help Paul share the Gospel with people they both disliked.
Why do I share all this background information? Because at the core of Paul’s message is mercy. “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” God calls all of humanity to Christ. God offers mercy to all people. God’s mercy extends to all of us as forgiveness for our disobedience, self-centeredness, hatred of God and hatred of neighbor. God is forever patient to the extreme. God’s grace and salvation are available to anyone who wishes to exercise their freewill and accept Christ. Later in the letter, Paul writes:

Romans 14:1-4

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on to servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Paul says the Jewish Christians are to stop judging the Gentiles and the Gentiles are to stop holding the Jewish Christians in disdain. God welcomed both and all people. Whoever accepts Christ is a servant of God. You have heard me say it many times, do not pass judgment on other believers. That seems like a ridiculous statement with the division in the Christian world today. Look at our sister United Methodist Congregations dividing over cultural differences and beliefs.

What would Paul tell them? He would say, find a community where you can live within your own conscience and be at peace and joyful there. But do not pass judgment on the group you cannot be a part of because of your conscience. Therefore, do not pass judgment on them. They are God’s servants, and it is God’s place to judge them. It is before their Lord that they stand or fall—not before any of our opinions. It is simply not our task to judge another believer, even if we feel their life is extremely disobedient. Simply live in a community where your conscience is at peace. And continue to pray for your brethren. Do not judge them or despise them.
In our Christian life, our task is not to judge other Christians, that is Christ’s task. Instead, let’s focus on our task. What is our task? It is to share the very Gospel that we received and that saved us from our disobedience. We are to remember God’s mercy extends to the people around us and patiently wait and hope for their salvation.

Through our disobedience, we find it very hard to not cling to our opinions and our truth and our concerns. It hurts when people we love and have journeyed with go another way. But God tells us to let it go and not be concerned with the journey of others. It is their journey with God. Like the disobedient Jewish people, God has it well in hand and their journey is between them and God’s Holy Spirit.
Let us be concerned with our journey. We share the Gospel by living the Christian life. It was called the Way of Life by the early church. It was powerful, and it radically transformed people.

You may have heard the term “born again Christian.” When we use that term, we think it happens at that moment when we make the decision to follow Jesus. When we are saved, we are born again. But it’s much more than that. Let’s read the passage where Jesus talks about being born again:
John 3:5-8

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Being born again is the great exercise of God’s mercy in our lives. It is God’s action in our life once we accept God’s grace and the salvation that comes through Christ. God continues to act well beyond our acceptance of the Gospel and Christ as our Savior. God’s activity in our life begins the day we accept Christ and continues to the day we may reject Christ or return to God in heaven. Being born again is a process of regeneration by the Holy Spirit within us.

God is merciful toward us, forgiving us of our transgressions. God’s mercy also brings renewal and transforms our lives.

Our task as Christians is to experience the transformation of being born again and of the power of God living within us through the Holy Spirit. In God’s active mercy towards us, God really changes us. We are born anew. God’s power actively does something “in us.” We are not the same person; God joins with us through the Holy Spirit and empowers our life. We receive Divine Power. Our rebirth and God’s active mercy changes our inner most souls. We become saints.

God created us in God’s image. Sin destroyed that image of God with in us. God’s active mercy restores us to the image of God. We embark on a path guided by the Spirit toward holiness.

Through Jesus Christ living, dying and being born again, we can accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we receive Christ, we receive salvation through God’s grace. That just begins our journey. As we continue our journey with God, God’s active power through God’s love and mercy moves us from disobedience to obedience. We grow, we are regenerated throughout our lives.
This is our task. To live life fully in the power of God. We are to receive God’s full measure of mercy and embrace our transformation in the Spirit.

When we embrace our task and focus on God’s mercy, we are freed from criticism. We no longer value or are concerned with the criticism of others. We live by our own conscience. We no longer need to be right or chase and defend our sense of truth. We no longer need to waste energy on judging others.

We can leave judgment and criticism to the regenerative power of God. That is God’s task. God and the Holy Spirit really do have it under control. We can live true to our conscience informed by our living wisely with our God. We can use all the energy we used to spend on being concerned with the activity of others and instead focus on our activity and the activity of our chosen community that respects and honors our conscience.
We can focus on what God desires of us.  What is that? “Yahweh wants nothing of you, except that you do justice, love kindness and walk wisely with your God.” God wants you to be true to your conscience and to live justly as guided by your conscience and the powerful presence of God’s power in your life–God’s mercy. God wants you to love your neighbor and to be kind. Let God worry about the rest. God wants us to do justice as a testament to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God wants us to live wisely with God as a people who possess God’s reforming power through the Holy Spirit.
May we freely receive God’s abundant loving mercy and live a holy life filled with mercy and love. Amen.

Prayer
Gracious and Merciful God,

We come before You with hearts for Your boundless mercy and love. As we prepare to leave this place, we carry with us the lessons of Your mercy and the call to extend that mercy to others.

Our true measure lies in how we love and show mercy. Help us to walk justly, love kindness, and journey wisely with You each day. Fill our hearts with compassion for our neighbors and even for those who oppose us, reflecting Your unconditional love in our actions and words.

Lord, empower us through Your Holy Spirit to be agents of transformation in our communities. May Your mercy continue to reshape us and guide us away from judgment and towards understanding and unity. Teach us to embrace our neighbor with love, to forgive with grace, and to serve wisely.

May we learn from Your enduring patience, forgiveness, and the renewing power of being born again in Your Spirit.

We pray for strength to remain true to our conscience, to live in peace with one another, and to focus on the tasks You have set before us. May we always seek Your will and walk the path You have laid out for us, trusting in Your eternal wisdom and love.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we pray.

Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

Categories
Social Share