Tag Archives: kingdom of heaven

Worship

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [Romans 12:1-2 ESV]

God uses a specific word to describe our relationship with Him.

“Worship.”

Worship is an act of sacrifice designed and implemented to show honor and respect for God. I do not believe this is what God originally intended. God created man in His image so all might naturally serve Him showing their respect and adoration. Enter sin and with it is corruption, like a drop of poison in a gallon of water, every molecule is affected.

In the Hebrew Scripture, in the Mosaic Law, worship was regulated. Acceptable worship was well defined by God when He brought His people out of Egypt, a symbol of the world, into the Promised Land, Israel, a symbol of His kingdom. He gave the Law, the written code, to teach those who claimed to be His about sin and the need for His grace. They were given severe restrictions on appropriate and inappropriate acts of service and sacrifice. Nothing about the Law was designed it give any a means of earning God’s love and affection. Nothing any could do in following the Law would absolve them of the affects sin had upon their complete nature and person.

God looks at the thinking of the heart. Our actions and motivations are revealed in our worship of Him, or lack of worship of Him. Now worship requires sacrifice.

Yet, it was not through the blood of bulls and goats (see Hebrews 10:4) any would be justified or declared righteous in His presence. Only by His grace, His action, His will, would any be freed from the sentence of death demanded as judgment for sin. Only the sacrifice of His Son in our place would payment for the penalty demanded by God’s judgment by satisfied. His sacrifice is an example for us of the type of sacrifice God seeks from those who are His. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” [1 Peter 2:21 ESV].

Jesus gave everything for us, setting aside His glory and position to become a servant as we are meant to be as a citizen of His kingdom. He demands nothing less than everything from us. This is not a demand issued by a malevolent dictator God upon a subservient, dehumanized people. This is an expectation of a benevolent God for a people made whole and loved by Him who, in turn, loves Him.

Sacrifice given in love defeats the worldly attributes of sin and its demands filled with unreasonable expectations for some assumed return.

We love Him because He loved us first, showing His love through the total giving of Jesus with no demand for payment or earned merit. Our sacrifice for Him, a total giving of self, is done because of the absolute intimacy shared and had with Him.

Intimacy grows the closer two come to each other. We are to test the world around us and ourselves so we might know ourselves, created in His image and remade in the likeness of Christ at rebirth. He changes us as we seek Him out. Our point of view changes as we change, as we confront and reject the lie of sin which surrounds us in the world, which tempts us though those we encounter, which tugs and pulls our very flesh. He changes the thinking of our hearts giving us His truth, driving us away from the world and drawing us toward Him, the source of eternal life.

Here is the downfall of many who think they know God by following perceived rules devoid of grace. They know the rules intellectually but do not know Him intimately, the One who is the rules, the eternal Law. Following the rules steadfastly, or at least a worldly understanding of the rules, gives a sense of control which is a subconscious manipulation of God, with the assumption God will tangibly reward those who keep them. Instead of sacrificing themselves to God, an act of loving worship and service, which results in freedom from the sentence of sin and intimacy with Him, they sacrifice a relationship with Him for control. How easy it is to lose sight of Him by seeing only the words.

 

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Teaching Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [Matthew 18:1-7 ESV]

We are all teachers, by what we do, say, think and feel. Everything we do teaches others about what we think and feel regarding God and His Son. Nothing is hidden from God. Though we are the finest actor who has ever lived, able to fool crowds, even to the point of convincing ourselves we are what we are not, God knows who we truly are.

We want to control God, our world, our relationships our own lives. Anyone who thinks they do not want control is either lying to themselves and others, a self-righteous dishonesty, or deluded. Not only do we want to control God, or at least wrench control from Him, but we want those around us to think well of us, respect us, or fear us.

One of the hazards of teaching is allowing others to put us on a pedestal. Every teachers faces this hazard sometimes succumbing to its subtle influences, which tugs and pulls them into thinking more highly of themselves than they ought. This is a form of control. Remember, everyone is a teacher even if they do not think they are. We teach more by actions and motivations than words.

In Matthew 5:19 Jesus states flatly, without pretense, everyone who teaches about God’s will is either thought of by God as great in the kingdom or is placed as the least in the kingdom. His criteria for judgment is profound.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. i [Matthew 5:19 ESV]

“Relaxes” means to loose, melt, or put off. Those who live according to the will of God, to whom they belong, teach others by example how to live with and for Him. Jesus’ words almost imply there are levels in heaven where some can earn greater prestige in this life. We know nothing we do carries merit in God’s eyes. We cannot earn our citizenship or place in eternity. This does not mean God will not lift up those who live righteously. He is preparing us for eternity. This does mean our obedience to Him is important for the here and now and for eternity. We are commanded to live according to truth given to us in nature, the evidence of God’s work, through His Word, Jesus Christ, and through the teaching and direction of the Holy Spirit. We are not partners with Him but obedient servants of His, seen as adopted children.

In order to teach truth the person must be filled with truth, understand how truth works and how it affects every facet of life. Learning to recognize truth is more important than recognizing sin, or a lie or ungodliness. This means learning to test all things against truth, even the motivations and attitudes of the heart.

We cannot judge greatness in the kingdom by the standards of the world. Being great in the kingdom of heaven means sacrificing the world’s standards and living according to God’s, even when it brings persecution.

Jesus’ disciples wanted to know who was the greatest in the kingdom, obviously wondering which one of them would fill the spot. How arrogant. They were standing in the presence of God, the King of the kingdom, and they had the audacity to ask such a question. But, Jesus did not come to exalt Himself but to take upon Himself the sentence of death for all. He placed a child in front of them and told them who the greatest was. All who enter the kingdom are the greatest.

Then He warned them. Since all you do, all you think, all you feel, all which motivates you, is taught to all around you, especially children, who by their very innocence (though they are the greatest of sinners) love God, be mindful and aware of how you are living. They will copy you. You will be held accountable. You’re best practice is to know God, not just intellectually but intimately, with your whole person. We are not citizens of the kingdom of the world but of heaven. As His servants we do and by doing teach others to do His will.

Confirming Evidence

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  [Matthew 5:19-20 ESV]

With these two verses Jesus closes a circle begun with His first statement “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:3 ESV]. Within the circle are all of the characteristics God is building into the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Outside of the circle is eternity. Like God, who transcends space and time, each Christian, as they grow and spiritually mature, will transcend the circle. This does not mean the qualities God is building into those who are His will no longer be necessary, as if anyone can grow out of being poor in spirit or no longer hunger and thirst for righteousness. Once emplaced these characteristics do not change. They do form the eternal foundation, laid in space and time, for the whole person who lives for eternity.

Everyone is a teacher. Everything done reveals what has been taught, what has been learned, and teaches in some way lessons to all with whom we come in contact. Our training is evident, the evidence of our training scattered with every step, gesture, word and thought. From the earliest training given by those who raise us to the right now impacts us for eternity. Our thinking and decisions, what we are right now allowing or giving permission to enter our life, influences who we are and what we will become. God may define who we and direct our development  but we still have  responsibility for our actions and reactions.

You teach others what you believe whether you are aware or care. Those who are poor in spirit have recognized the reality of sin in their lives, the world and those around them. They love the truth and hate sin. They confront sin and the lie behind it as part of their spiritual nature.

Being poor in spirit, with its characteristic and motivations, is only the beginning, the first step, in the call and life of the citizen of God’s kingdom. Each step which follows, each of the characteristics and motivations Jesus describes, He builds into the person making them whole and fitting them for eternity with Him. Though He does this with the individual we are part of a whole, a member of the body of Christ, where one piece influences and affects all others. We do not live independently from Christ or separated from the Church.

We are also His witnesses in this world for His righteousness and goodness. Who we are, what motivates us, all we do, all we are is critical to our witness. As servants, owned by Him, He governs us and gives each a purpose, being salt and light, showing His love, His mercy, purity and peace. What you do reflects who you are and dictates what you will become. How well we learn the lessons taught, conforming to the straightness of His will for us, is seen in the influence we have on those around us.  God is deepening our relationship with Him and strengthening our relationship with others at the same time. Being a citizen of His kingdom is not for the lazy but the diligent. There are no shortcuts.

Midway through His time, as Jesus prepared His disciples before sending them out, His instructions were explicit and definitive. Here are the people you are to teach. Go to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:6 EV]. Later, He would send them throughout the world.

Should those of the world accept you, good. Should they reject you “shake the dust from your feet” [Matthew 10:14 ESV] as you leave. People will reject you, persecute and drag you into court, and kill you. Your message is clear. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 10:7 ESV and many other places]. You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Act like citizens of the kingdom of heaven not like citizens of the fallen world. Why? “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master” [Matthew 10:24-25 ESV].

Preparation for eternity is preparation to be like Him for eternity. What we do right now counts.

Introduction: Matthew 5:17-20

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  [Matthew 5:17-20 ESV]

We like to do. Constant activity is a characteristic of the modern Western Church which has activities and programs for everyone, every age, every disposition, every need and want. Then, to legitimize the activity, we throw in a little Bible study or a few verses and a devotional and are quite satisfied with our progress and tell everyone God is smiling on us and what we do. “It’s a God thing.”

We cannot read Jesus’ words and honestly believe doing is enough. Jesus expects us to be a citizen of His kingdom from the eternal core of who we are to the last ounce of concentrated, responsible effort.

Jesus demands those who are His act according to His expectations, while examining their motivation so they are in line with His. He has spent the last 16 verses giving His expectations, showing us what it means to be a citizen of His kingdom. He tells us how the world, which hates Him, will react to those who are His as they are changed into His likeness and image. His likeness is characterized by righteousness and truth and more, and He places us throughout the world as evidence of His person, His authority, His character, His grace.

In these verses, I believe we are seeing the foundation for what He has just stated and what He will state. Living for God is not meticulously following His written laws or demanding others do so. God gave the Law, the precepts found in the books written by Moses, for a specific reason. God’s reason was not to give those who are His the ability to justify themselves before Him by keeping the Law. They could never do this. Only one sin is needed to bring God’s wrath and label the person a criminal, one who violates the Law of God.

Is not the Law a teacher, a means used by God to show man his sin and convince all the sentence and punishment for sin is just?

Paul’s argument in Romans 7 is simple. God’s Law identified covetousness as sin while  revealing and exposing every covetous desire. God’s statement “you will not covet” was not a command to do something any are capable of doing, but a statement revealing man’s utter inability, our total depravity. Still, Paul’s argument does not discount the Law as a teacher.

Ultimately, those hidden in Christ, covered by His blood in death, are released from the sentence of death demanded by the Giver of the Law because of His resurrection.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the Law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the Law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. [Romans 7:4-6 ESV]

Paul continued to covet. Christ still saves. From the time Paul was redeemed God began changing him, building into him the characteristics he would carry for eternity. These characteristics conform to God’s character upon which the Mosaic Law is based.

A lawyer, one of those who knew the Law, asked Jesus a question to trap Him, to make Him slip and contradict Himself and the Law. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [Matthew 22:36 ESV]. Jesus, who is the Law, quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and then Leviticus 19:18, verses from the depths of the Law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:37-39 ESV].  These two statements are not hidden. In Luke 10:29 the Lawyer tries to qualify his question.  For those in the world having such an answer allows them to keep the  letter of the Law without being held accountable to the substance of the Law. “And who is my neighbor?” the Lawyer asked. What do you think his intent was in asking this question?  Jesus proceeds to tell the parable of the good Samaritian.

Why did God give us the Law? Why did He reveal it to Israel and make it such an integral part of their culture? Why is the Law included in the canon of Scripture? God revealed the Law so those He loves would be driven to Him seeking His grace. Grace does not trump Law, doing away with it, or gutting it’s righteous requirements. Grace reveals the full extent to which God is willing to go to bring those He loves into His presence. It would seen the measure of our spiritual maturity is seen in the depth of love we have for both God and our neighbor.

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:40 ESV]

Saltiness

You are the salt of the world, but if salt has lost its taste … [Matthew 5:13 ESV]

Salt has an essential characteristic. It is salt. Sodium chloride. It is made of two chemicals, sodium and chlorine. Take away one of the chemicals leaving the other and it is not salt.

Christians also have essential characteristics, though these are not chemical but spiritual and eternal. Jesus is using an analogy to differentiate between those who are His and those who are counterfeit. Those who are His carry within the morphe of a Christian. They have that which makes a Christian a Christian. Those who do not have the morphe of a Christian may try to manufacture a substitute but will never actually succeed. God is not fooled.

In ancient times salt was hardly ever pure, depending upon its source and the integrity of the person gathering and selling the substance. It would naturally contain other elements as impurities. Gold in salt is an impurity. This doesn’t mean the salt is not salt but that it is salt and something else not salt.

Salt dissolves in water. When the impure batch of stuff claimed as salt is exposed to the weather or humidity the actual substance salt dissolves leaving the impurities which do not dissolve. Salt loses its taste because what is left is everything mixed in which is not salt. Jesus uses the word “lost” in Matthew 5:13 which means to become simple, to lose intelligence, be compromised in the ability to think, or to lose savior. Salt is salt, and when the bags of stuff called salt loses the salt what is left is tasteless and worthless. The more of the worthless stuff mixed in with the salt the easier it is for the actual salt to leech out. What is left can never do what salt is created to do.

For the sake of the discussion let us say salt is a symbol for righteousness, even though righteousness is much more. Because of the image of God in each person, everyone has a sufficient understanding of righteousness. All know the difference between right and wrong and are capable of identifying the measure or standard for their actions and attitudes, the thinking of their hearts. They may not want to recognize God as the ultimate measure for their behavior, or use the term “righteousness” but all know guilt intimately.

Those who are truly salt have God’s righteousness embedded within and covered without, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Those who are not salt have created a self-righteousness, seeking to justify themselves according to the acceptable standards of the world. God is the Eternal Taster and He knows when the salt of righteousness is present and when it is lacking.

Jesus takes it further. No analogy will perfectly describe or define the actual. He is giving those who are His, and the world, a warning about the need and uses of righteousness. He hates unrighteousness and expects the citizen of His kingdom to hate sin as well, while loving the truth. He expects those who are His to hunger and thirst after righteousness. He says those who are His will stand for righteousness when persecuted because of Him, the Giver of Righteousness. Every statement implies His work in the Believer and their work for Him, the evidence of ownership. What owner keeps anything which is useless? Even hoarders see their stuff as valuable to them. Either a person assigns value or they recognize the value assigned by God. Those who think they own themselves, and act like God has no ownership, are still owned by Him and He will do with them as he pleases.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” [Matthew 7:21-23 ESV]

God will look at the evidence of His ownership recognized by those who are His. Do not interpret these verses as something we do under our own power, from our own direction, while in the world. It is too easy to remove God from the equation of our lives. The tugs  and pulls of the world, our own flesh, and Satan, assault us every moment, seeking to compromise our effectiveness for God. These assaults are failed unless we give them permission to succeed. The more we allow the world, our own flesh, and Satan to compromise who God is making us the more unrighteousness is mixed with God’s righteousness. I am not suggesting any who are His can at sometime be not His, or lose their salvation. I am questioning the perception of those who think they are saved, by their own effort, when they are not. Those who reject the absolute authority of God will pile up evidence of their self-righteousness just as those who humble themselves will show evidence of God’s grace.

Mercy: Conclusion

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.[Matthew 5:7 ESV]

Jesus speaks deliberately about the characteristics of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. In this statement He gives both the evidence of a faithful life committed to God in every way and a warning to those who would try to manipulate God. Those who are merciful are those who are changed by God because they have received mercy after fully recognizing their sinful position before God. Those who selectively show mercy are in danger of having God’s mercy withheld and His justice unleashed because of their dubious position before Him

God is under no compulsion to offer mercy to anyone who has rebelled against Him. There is, however, the necessary action of justly sentencing those who rebel to death. Those who violate His law, the law inherent in their being, integral to the image of God in which He made them, will face judgment. When He shows mercy it is for His reasons and is freely given. His mercy never conflicts with His justice nor violates His law.

We need His mercy. We are under His judgment. Everything done by anyone, with the exception of Jesus Christ, comes from the motivation of complete selfishness and self-absorption. We are bent and twisted by sin from birth, in a state of complete rebellion against our Creator. We have been in this state since Adam ate the only food forbidden him. From him, the head of mankind, we all get our willful desire to rebel against God, though we were created for relationship. From Adam we inherited our self-focus and self-serving attitudes and actions. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” [Genesis 6:5 ESV].

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. [Psalm 14:1-3; cf. Psalm 53:1-3 ESV]

I have met men who called themselves Christians who claimed they had not sinned for a long while. One, a Chaplain, claimed he had not sinned for years. Because of them I thought it possible to live without sinning, to live such a self-controlled life sin’s grip would loosen and soon fall away, to no longer have its hold. This caused immeasurable grief and despair for I soon saw through Scripture that sin did not simply hold me but inhabited me and bent me out of shape. My self was the natural home of sin. I saw sin had a personality and that personality was my own. The more I read Scripture looking for the magic pill the clearer it became there was no magic pill. I was bent and twisted and simply banging out the bends and twists did not leave something straight only something less bent and twisted. Still bent and twisted.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1 John 1:8-10 ESV]

I was under God’s justified wrath. I could never pay for my sins, let alone escape them. God forced me to acknowledge my complete slavery to sin and complete rebellion against Him. He demanded I recognize my poverty of spirit and realize the consequences of my sin, separation from Him. Jesus is intentional in His statements. Once I saw my position I was forced to a decision.  Either I continue trying to control my sin, ultimately allowing it to control me, or I relinquish control of myself to God. This is a lifetime struggle of obedience to Him. Yet, the evidence of this struggle is a hunger and thirst for His righteousness.

He offers a way out, but only one way. He is completely just and requires punishment for any and all rebellion against Him, against His moral law. From the first sin He has promised a way. In His justice He took upon Himself, in His Son, the full penalty for sin. This fulfilled His requirement for justice. In His mercy He offered complete restoration to His presence. This is grace. But, He will not simply straighten us who are bent, He recreate us. He changes us. Though we continue to fight and rebel and war against sin that change is complete and accomplished. That which He has started in us He will finish.

We do not deserve His mercy, nor His grace. He does not look at our worthiness, for He has already called us worthless. But we are still created in His image and the object of His love. If He has given anything it is through grace. We earn nothing.

There is an expectation He has. We freely receive His mercy, being released from the sentence of death and eternal separation from Him, the source of life. The evidence of receiving His mercy is our showing mercy to others. Mercy is God’s active love for and toward us who do not deserve His love. Mercy is also our active love toward those who do not deserve His love because He first loved us. It is not about us.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.[Matthew 5:7 ESV]

Introduction: Mercy

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. [Matthew 5:7 ESV]

With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;

with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.

For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. [Psalm 18:25-27 ESV]

Even though we distinguish the various characteristics of God speaking about this attribute first and next about that quality He is One and must be known as a whole. He is huge, larger than our ability to comprehend hence our desire to break Him into pieces. Our problem is a desire to control God through trying to understand Him. We take the various pieces we have identified and combine them in a way which makes some kind of sense to us and then, after a time, stop discovering more about Him and try to rest in our incomplete vision of who He is. We do the same thing with people seeing something we like or dislike and, because there are so many people and each is complex, we tag them or label them  and stop discovering more about them. They are who we say they are. God is who we say He is. Once our decision about Him or anyone else is fixed and entrenched neither He nor they change in the thinking of our hearts because our concept of them will not change. For many mercy is an eternal quality of God separated out from the rest of Him.

Mercy is God’s active love toward those He has created in His image with the added element  of offering reconciliation to those separated from Him because of rebellion. His active love for man is shown in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, His Son and extends to those He has chosen for eternity.

Jesus is emphatic is His statements about the qualities and characteristics of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” [Matthew 5:7 ESV] continues defining the citizen. But with this statement there is an obvious expansion in the description of those who follow Him. With this verse, and the following two statements, we come to the working out of the first four verses showing the evidence of a changed life.

Once the whole person is changed, made by God to conform to the likeness of Jesus, the resulting actions will show the activity of the Holy Spirit in directing the citizen in a hostile world. As God takes those who are His through the transition from being one who sins and rebels to one who seeks God with their whole heart they begin to love God, love their neighbors and love themselves.

It is impossible for the unchanged person to show the evidence of love in their lives. Before they can begin showing love the person must be changed, recreated, with their eyes, hearts, words and actions directed by God and not themselves.

It seems like Jesus is repeating Himself and His teachings.  He does repeat Himself, saying the same thing in different ways, over and over, expounding on the principles of a Godly life and forcing His listeners to agree with Him or completely reject Him. Jesus forces the issues leaving no room for ignoring them or being complacent with them. He demands, as only a Sovereign may, our full being to conform to His absolute standard.

Here’s the rub. Jesus meets the ultimate standard for us. He shows mercy to us but then demands we show mercy to others as evidence we recognize His mercy to us. Where we were sinners, still sinful, He covers us with His blood, an act of merciful redemption.  Where He shows us our sin, bringing us to the low of repentance, He takes upon Himself the consequences of that sin, suffering the death justly ours.  Where He turns us toward God, constantly away from sin, He gives us the tools we need to constantly live for God. Where we are continually enticed and tempted by the world He gives us a hunger and thirst for Him by living in us as His Holy Spirit. If we live it is because of Him. When we die it is for Him, for we will be with Him only because of His great and eternal mercy toward us.

Mercy is God’s active love toward us individually. We show we recognize God’s active love toward us by showing mercy, actively loving, those around us.

When we are merciful to others it shows we love God for what He has done for us. It is His rightful demand we love Him. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” [Deut. 6:4-5 ESV].  He is God and that is enough. He has commanded we love those He loves. However, since we are not god, He is, we do not have permission to act like god. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” [Leviticus 19:18 ESV]. So, we are to love God with our whole being, and we are to love even those who sin against us with our whole being. Everything in the Hebrew Scripture directs God’s creation, those made in His image, to love their Creator and to love those made in His image. In the New Testament, when the equivalent of an attorney asked Jesus “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Jesus was quick to reply.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:36-40 ESV]

If we are honest with ourselves we will see the evidence of our lives and know, with the thinking of our hearts, how truly wanting we are in doing anything God requires. Being honest, however, will also show how much God has done for us and will do for us for eternity. His mercy is not once for now but once forever. He does not claim us as His to turn us back over to those who are our enemies but to fit us completely for eternity in His presence. He is brutally honest with us and demands we be brutally honest with ourselves and with Him.

Tempered with mercy.