Monday, June 13, 2016

"Vessels of Mercy"

"Vessels of Mercy"  

    "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
    "God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 8:5; 10).

    God's attitude and treatment of enemies perhaps best reveals His transcendent moral difference and otherness.  His heart of gracious mercy leads Him to love those who do not love Him, and to work in human hearts to lead us to the fountain of forgiveness that springs up from our Lord's innermost being.  "He delighteth in mercy" exults the prophet, revealing not merely God's desire to pardon sin, but His literal joy therein (Micah 7:18).

    No such disposition independently exists in human hearts.  Left to ourselves, the tooth and the claw would govern every aspect of our existence.  Rather than forgive when offended, our natural response involves resentment, bitterness, and vengeance.  Only the influence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in the world leads humanity to even consider the existence of mercy.  Thereby we do see attitudes and actions of forgiveness, as practiced by people.  However, the source of such always originates in God, whether directly in born again believers, or indirectly in unbelievers influenced by the Lord's disposition revealed in the world despite its rejection of Him.

    "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).

    The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit constitutes Christians as "vessels of mercy" (Romans 9:23).  Dwelling within our redeemed spirits, the Spirit of God reveals in us our Lord's disposition to love both friend and foe.  We still do not possess innate merciful tendencies - "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit" (Galatians 5:17).  When offended, believers still feel the natural human impulses that tempt us to turn away from our offenders, or treat them as they have treated us.   Thus, the Holy Spirit works in us to reveal His natural disposition of mercy - "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  By such working, along with His Word and the example of the Lord Jesus and our fellow believers, the Holy Spirit encourages and challenges us to affirm the indwelling love of God in us that establishes mercy as our delight, even as it delights our Heavenly Father.  "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22).

   God's transcendent goodness, greatness, and otherness requires His presence and working in us if we are to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus.  This especially applies to the treatment of enemies.  Only the wondrous Lord revealed in Scripture possesses the quality of mercy in and of Himself.  "I am God, and there is none like Me" (Isaiah 46:9).  However, His trusting children in Christ possess this quality through Him, that is, by being "partakers of the Divine nature" (II Peter 1:4).  Through Christ, God's delight becomes our delight.  Presently, however, we must believe in order to overcome our remaining fleshly tendencies toward resentment, bitterness, and vengeance.  As always, the dynamic New Testament way of grace as revealed through faith enables us - "I cannot… I can… through Christ!"

"I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
(Matthew 5:44-45)
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(Philippians 4:13)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
(Proverbs 17:28)

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