Community Group Study Notes
Have someone in your group provide a 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
Read Ephesians 2:1-5. What does it mean for God to be “rich in mercy” as this passage states? In what ways has God shown us that mercy?
What can get in the way of us receiving God’s mercy? What heart attitudes and postures can despise his mercy? How can you be sure that none of these take root in your own heart and life?
Read Luke 6:36. What are some ways that you can be merciful to the people around you?
What is one action step you can take in light of Sunday’s message and our discussion today?
So in the south, we have a number of colloquial sayings. In other words, sayings that are kind of natural to the South. And there's one that describes when people have too high an estimation of themselves or kind of are bloated with their own self-importance. In the south, we say that they're too big for their britches.
You may have heard that phrase before. I checked and I think that it came from Davy Crockett who was a Tennessee folk hero who served under Andrew Jackson. And it's interesting because I think at least best I could research that Davy Crockett actually said that Andrew Jackson ended up taking all of the glory for any of the particular battles that they won. And Davy Crockett had enough of that and said that Andrew Jackson was too big for his britches.
Now have you ever known anybody like that? Have you ever known anybody who's too big for their bridges? Have you ever been that someone who was too big for their britches? My guess is the answer to those two questions is probably yes. And I understand because I have both seen them and I have been that guy. So we all probably get that.
Well, Jesus knew some of those types of people as well. And he actually told a story to them in Luke chapter number 18. And I want you to listen to how he begins or addresses the story in verse number nine. It says this. It says, "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable." I find that interesting because Jesus is about to tell a story to people who are too big for their bridges.
Now in the story, you're going to meet two characters. One is a Pharisee and the other is a tax collector. Now, Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. They were highly esteemed and highly respected by the people. They were sources of information. They were theological conservatives, they were experts in the law and the prophets. And the people held basically to their every word.
Now they also looked the part these Pharisees, because they wore the flowing robes and they had the head coverings as well. So they looked like people that were esteemed in society. So there you've got one of the characters in the story that Jesus is going to tell, this Pharisee.
And then the other character is a tax collector. So everything I said about the Pharisees, it's the opposite with the tax collector. Tax collectors were Jews, but they were working for the Romans. And tax collectors were known as people that really didn't have a friend in the world. The Romans just used them transactionally. It's not like they liked them or were friends with them. They were just using them to collect taxes for the Roman empire among the Jewish people.
But what those tax collectors would do is that they would overcharge their own people, and they would pocket the excess. And generally, this was the worst kept secret in Israel. They all kind of knew that. Being a tax collector, you didn't really have much in the way of friends. And as well, it was kind of a pejorative term. If somebody called you a tax collector, it was not a compliment. It was a big insult to be called a tax collector.
So Pharisee and a tax collector are the two key people in this story that Jesus wants to tell to people who are maybe a little too big for their britches. Who are inflamed by their own self-righteousness and look down on other people. And I want you to notice how the story unfolds. It's in Luke 18, picking up in verse 10.
It says, "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people. Robbers, evildoers, adulterers. Or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I give a 10th of all I get.'" But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said, "God have mercy on me, a sinner." I tell you that this man rather than the other went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Now, there are a variety of different layers to this story, I can assure you. But usually when Jesus is telling a story or a parable, there's usually one major truth that becomes relatively clear. And in this case you can pick it up, it's kind of self-evident. That's how Jesus told most of his stories when he told a parable. When he made up a story to make a point, usually you got one big point that was from it. And we can pick that up pretty quickly, right? Be like the tax collector, not like the Pharisee.
So knowing that that's true, I want to make sure that we talk a little bit about the implications of both the tax collector and the Pharisee, but I want to do that by lasering in on a one line prayer that Jesus gave this tax collector to pray. Remember, Jesus put these words in his mouth because Jesus told a parable or a story.
And that one line, "God have mercy on me, a sinner," is what I want us to pick up on. Here's why. Because the way that we view God's mercy matters. That's really in part what I want to focus in on in this story. That the way that we view God's mercy matters.
So I want to pull out a few truths from this story. Not to try and squeeze the turnip so to speak, where I'm straining everything. But I want to pull out three particular truths that I want us to pay close attention to because the way that we view God's mercy really does matter.
Here's the first truth that I want us to pick up on. It's this. God's mercy isn't a mood. It's a divine attribute of his eternal being. Let me say that again. You're seeing it, and some of you are taking notes I realize. God's mercy isn't a mood. It's a divine attribute of his eternal being.
Look again in verse number 13 and notice what the tax collector says. "God have mercy." Now for him to say this is a unique thing because what we don't know is we don't fully know what the tax collector knew and what the tax collector didn't know. We weren't sure because Jesus is putting these words into the mouth of someone who's a character in a story and when Jesus puts these words in his mouth, Jesus highlights the idea of the mercy of God. The tax collector says God have mercy.
Now, while we don't know what the tax collector knew or didn't know about God, we do know that he's Jewish. And if you're Jewish, you grow up learning about God. This is just part of the nature of this time. In schools, school as we would call it, you are always growing in the knowledge of God because school was about training you in the words of God, how God said what he said.
And those who really, really did well in school may have gone on to be a disciple and ultimately a rabbi of some type. Those who didn't may have gone to work in family businesses or whatever. And then you of course have some that have rebelled against what God had said, and maybe that's what made them tax collectors.
But ultimately, there's probably some things going on in the back of their minds that they had likely heard of. For instance, the one piece that you see in Exodus chapter 34 is that God has self revealed. And this is one of the most important passages in all of the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament. Because it's repeated nine times or eight other times outside of Exodus. This phrase is repeated because it's God revealing the nature of who he is. And this is what he said to Moses in Exodus chapter 34.
"The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed, 'The Lord. The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.'"
I find it extraordinarily interesting that the very first revelation that God makes of himself is he says, "I'm merciful." Now he says that I'm merciful and I'm gracious. But he reveals himself as merciful.
Now when we talk about God being merciful, there are at least three, probably primarily three Hebrew words that help to round out the idea of God's mercy. And interestingly enough, all of them are contained in the verse that we just read. It can be translated merciful, gracious, steadfast love. These are all words that have something to do with the idea of God's own mercy.
And when we talk about God being merciful or the mercy of God, maybe a way we could define it when we're relating that to God not just mercy in general, but when we're relating that to God, God's mercy. Here's a way that, and these are my words. Here's a way that I've defined that.
Mercy. God's steadfast love that withholds the wrath we deserve. That's what we're talking about when we talk about the idea of God's mercy. That it's really God's steadfast love that withholds the wrath that we deserve.
Now many times when we talk about the idea of mercy, and when we see God's mercy being represented in the scripture, we find that mercy and grace are actually linked together. And rightly so. Mercy and grace should be linked together. But remember that there is somewhat of a difference there. Mercy is when God withholds that which we deserve. In other words, his wrath. And grace is when God gives to us what we don't deserve, right? So mercy and grace are kind of two sides of the same coin.
Some theologians have actually talked about how mercy is just slightly faster than grace. They mean to say this. And this at least in our minds. That until God withholds the wrath that we deserve, we can't receive what we don't deserve. Because the fact that God is merciful means we're not consumed by his holiness, and therefore can be objects of grace. So some theologians refer to that as mercy being just a step ahead of grace or running slightly faster than grace.
You see, God is merciful in his very being. This isn't just a mood that God is in from time to time. His very being is merciful. That's why Jeremiah can say very confidently in the book of Lamentations chapter number three, these words. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness."
Why can Jeremiah say something as confidently as, "His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. The reason that God's mercies are new every morning is because they are a part of the eternal nature of who he is." And because of who he is, his mercy is always present. It is always there that his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Paul actually refers to the mercy of God as well. He says this in Romans chapter nine. Paul records this by saying, he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not therefore depend on human desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
That phrase actually translates. It doesn't depend on desire or effort, but on the mercy having God. In other words, the God who is mercy having, the merciful God.
That's why Paul also writes in Ephesians chapter two these words. "But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace you have been saved." Paul also said these words in Romans 9. "What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for his glory?"
This really gets to the bottom of God's heart, that God's heart really is a heart of mercy. Now is God just? Absolutely. Is God Holy? Of course he is. But as one theologian has said, justice is the stem. Mercy is the flower.
You see what justice is, it's a response by God to those who despise God's mercy. But know this, mercy is actually at God's heart. That when you get down into the bottom of God's heart, God's desire and God's heart is that of mercy. God's responsibility is to be just, but God's heart is to be merciful because it's the nature of who he is. It's not a mood.
Have you ever looked at God's mercy? Have you ever looked at mercy from God as if it's a mood? I bet you have. I bet you've looked at it saying, "I've really messed up today and I don't know if I can really go before God. I hope God's in a good mood today. I hope God has some mercy for me today." You're looking at it all wrong. The nature of God, his attribute, the fact that God is not in a mood to be merciful, but this is a part of the divine attributes of his eternal being means that we can come to God confidently, and know that mercy is available to us when we posture ourselves in repentance.
Now when we despise the mercy of God, that's a different thing altogether, right? We need the discipline of God. But even God's discipline in our lives as children of God is merciful to us. But we have to remember that God is not just in a mood. God never wakes up on the wrong side of the bed because God never sleeps. So this isn't just something where we go, "Boy, I hope God's in a good mood today because I know I blew it yesterday. I know I didn't do what I should have done yesterday. And I hope God's in a good mood." This is not what we should be picturing God as. God is merciful as a part of his eternal being. It's not just a mood.
Now, whether the tax collector realized that or not, what the tax collector did know is that at some point, God is capable of mercy. Because in his prayer he says, "God have mercy." The reason God has mercy is because it's a part of his eternal being. It's not just a mood that he's in.
But there's a second truth that I don't want us to miss, and it's this. God's mercy means salvation is outside of us. God's mercy means salvation is outside of us. I want you to look again at his prayer in verse number 13. The tax collector says, "God have mercy on me." Now I find this extraordinarily interesting and I'll tell you why because what I realized when I read that when he says, "God have mercy on me," he's recognizing that this mercy has to come from outside of himself. And Jesus gives us these two pictures, the picture of a Pharisee and the picture of a tax collector in this story for us to look at the contrast between them. What I find interesting is that the Pharisee sees everyone else's sin and sees his own righteousness.
In fact, if you look back where we read just a few moments ago in verse 11 and 12, here's what it says. It says, "The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people. Robbers, evil doers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a 10th of all I get.'"
Boy, this Pharisee is seeing everybody else's sin, right? He's seeing the adulterers, and the robbers, and the evil doers, and even the tax collector sin. And he's seeing his own righteousness. I thank you that I'm not like all of these other people. I fast twice a week and I give a 10th of all I get.
I find it interesting that the Pharisee is really consumed on his own pride. The tax collector realizes that mercy must come from outside of himself, but the Pharisee seems to think that in his pride, that it can come from within himself, right?
He impresses God with what he says. "I fast two times a week." By the way, the law didn't call for him to fast two times a week. He's going above and beyond. "I fast two times a week." I give a 10th of all I get. The law didn't tell him he had to give a 10th of all he got. It actually talked about what you were supposed to give a 10th on. So he's going above and beyond.
And it's interesting when Jesus tells the story and says the Pharisee stood by himself and prayed. You could also render that the Pharisee said to himself or by himself prayed. In other words, this is what was going on in his mind, in his heart. Jesus is giving us a story. We're in the mind and the heart of the Pharisee. He's actually thinking that his pride and how proud he is, that he's not like everyone else. He compares himself to everyone else and he's glad he's not like them, particularly this tax collector. And he's also saying, "God, I'm doing all of these things and I'm righteous because of all the things that I'm doing."
What he fails to understand, he felt at ease telling God how impressive he was. He felt at ease basically showing God how he stacks up against everyone else. But what he failed to realize is what the tax collector realized. Is that we all stand in need of mercy, and mercy comes from outside of us. Mercy is not something that we can generate in and of ourselves. Our pride can't get us to that place.
I wonder, have you ever been able to identify with the Pharisee in this story? Have you ever looked down through your nose on someone else because of what they did or what they thought? Maybe you have.
I'm not even suggesting that there are times where people are patently wrong and the things that they're doing may very well be evil. But Jesus is talking about that here. He says robbers, and evil doers, and adulterers, and tax collectors. That's what the Pharisee is actually referring to. By the way. It's not a statement that robbers aren't doing wrong by robbing. They certainly are. Evil doers are doing evil. Yeah, they certainly are. Adulterers are making mistakes. They sin, absolutely. Tax collectors are doing wrong things by stealing from the people. Absolutely. All those things are true. But the job of our lives is not to take our hearts and compare them to everybody else. It's actually how we view the mercy of God that matters.
So have you ever been like this Pharisee, looking down on all these other despicable people? Those despicable Republicans, those awful Democrats, those terrible fill in the blank, right? Those terrible foreigners, those awful homosexuals, those horrific and greedy capitalists, those ridiculous socialists. Am I touching home yet at any point?
You see what happens is, is that we develop things in our heart, in our minds, where we need to be real careful about how we view the mercy of God. Because when we're doing this, when we're looking down on all of these other people, regardless of whether what may be happening is evil or not, it very well may be. But when we are looking from a perch that makes us think that we are not in need of something, there's two reminders that I would want to give us. Number one, it's possible that the people that we're looking down on need to receive the same thing we said we have received. The mercy of God. Or secondly, maybe it's possible that we need what we said that we have found, but we have failed to see. The mercy of God.
None of us are deserving, ladies and gentlemen. Because salvation of our lives, the remedy for our sin. It does not come from inside of us. It is not something we can do on our own. The Pharisee was postured looking at everybody else's sin and how he compared, and was real impressed with his own righteousness. But the tax collector realized, "God have mercy on me. This must come from outside of me and be given to me."
Charles Spurgeon when he wrote this small sermon called, or devotional called the mercy of God, he pointed something out about God's mercy that I want to remind us of. He said this. "Mercy is undeserved. It is undeserved mercy. As indeed all true mercy must be. For deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner's part to the saving mercy of the most high God. Had the rebel been doomed at once to eternal fire, he would have justly merited the doom. And if delivered from wrath, sovereign love alone has found a cause for there was none in the center himself."
I think that's a great reminder for us. I'm also reminded about something that A.W. Tozer actually quoted in his book The Knowledge of the Holy when he was writing about the mercy of God. He actually quoted a man named Joseph Addison who said this. "When through the blood of the everlasting covenant, we children of the shadows reach at last our home in the light. We shall have 1,000 strings to our harps, but the sweetest may well be the one tuned to sound fourth most perfectly the mercy of God. For what right will we have to be there? Did we not by our sins take part in that unholy rebellion, which rashly sought to dethrone the glorious king of creation? And did we not in times past walk according to the course of this world, according to the evil prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience?"
"And did we not all at once live in the less of our flesh? And were we not by nature the children of wrath even as others? But we who were one time enemies and alienated in our minds through wicked works shall then see God face to face, and his name shall be in our foreheads. We who earned banishment shall enjoy communion. We who deserve the pains of hell shall know the bliss of heaven. And all through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high has visited us. When all thy mercies, oh my God, my rising soul surveys transported with the view I'm lost in wonder, love, and praise."
I think it serves us well to be reminded, ladies and gentlemen. Friends, brothers, and sisters. I think it serves us well to be reminded that the mercy of God's salvation is something from outside of us. It's not something that we can earn in our own merit. Pride will not get us to that place. It is only when we recognize mercy has to fall on me because of what God has done.
So that's two truths, but there's a third one that I don't want us to miss. And it's this. God's mercy breaks those who receive it, and hardens those who despise it. Look at that again. God's mercy breaks those who receive it, and hardens those who despise it.
Look again in the prayer that we're looking at, the one line prayer of Luke chapter 18 verse 13. The tax collector says, "God have mercy on me, a sinner." The tax collector. Isn't it an interesting parallel here? Both the tax collector and the Pharisee go to the temple. Where's the tax collector stand? Far away. He stands far off from the temple. Why? Because he doesn't think that he actually belongs there. Because he realizes this is not a place for someone like him.
He doesn't even look up. He looks down. He beats his breast, which was an ancient sign of grief. He's broken by his sin. See what he recognizes is, is that mercy of God has a breaking effect in relationship to our sin. When we realized that we are broken in our sin, that's when mercy finds its place. That's when mercy comes rushing in. The tax collector knew that well in this story. But Jesus in telling us about this tax collector is also helping us to understand people from the past. And he's also helping us to understand people from the future.
For instance, someone like David. If you remember when David was caught in his sin, he sinned as an adulterer with Bathsheba. Another man's wife. Got her pregnant, had her husband basically put to death. He didn't do it by his own hand, but he had it done. And then Nathan the prophet confronts David, and David recognizes that he is the one who has sinned. And listen to what he says in Psalm 51 beginning in verse number one. "Have mercy on me, oh God. According to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before you. Against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. So you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge."
David was broken by his sin. And do you know what happens when we're broken by our sin? Mercy comes rushing in. In fact, when I think of this tax collector, I can't help but think of what was going to happen in the life of someone like the apostle Paul. Who by the way was a Pharisee. Who was an expert in the law. This is why this is such good news when we see this Pharisee and this tax collector. Is because those who are taking the posture of pride, those who are comparing themselves with everyone else, those who are taking comfort in the fact that they're just more religious and more externally impressive than everybody else. Can still be, can still be broken by the beautiful mercy of God.
Notice what Paul says in his own testimony in first Timothy chapter one verse 15 and 16. Paul says, "Here's a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason, I was shown mercy. So that in me the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life." You see, when we're broken by our sin, mercy comes rushing in. But if we lose sight of mercy, what can happen is we can become hardened.
You see in this story, the Pharisee who knew the scripture well had lost sight of the mercy of God. And as a result he became hardened. He became self-reliant, he became self-righteous. That's a frightening thing. Because what God can do is he can just harden us when we harden ourselves. And that's not a place that we want to find ourselves in.
I take you back to the book of Romans where we looked at earlier in chapter nine, and I would point you to verses 17 and 18 which says this. Paul says, "For scripture says to Pharaoh." He's talking about when Pharaoh was holding up the people of God and not releasing them in Egypt. He says, "I raised you up for this very purpose that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."
You see ladies and gentlemen, what we find out in this passage of scripture is that the tax collector is broken by his sin, and the Pharisee is hardened by mercy. That instead of understanding God's mercy, he's hardened to it. And that's not a place we want to find ourselves in, because here's what happens. One day, one day, the hardened will be humbled. In fact, that's how Jesus ends this story in verse number 14. Notice what it says. "I tell you that this man, speaking of the tax collector rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled. And those who humble themselves will be exalted."
This is a brilliant story for people that are too big for their britches. People who have been inflamed and inflated by their own self-importance or by their own exercise of outward religious show. It's a good story for people who are too big for their britches. The truth is, it's a good story for every one of us because we've all known those people and we've all been those people. So this is a story for all of us.
Do you know this story that Jesus told, it reminds me actually of another story. There was a famous French writer, his name was Victor Hugo. And he wrote famously The Hunchback of Notre Dame. You may know that one. But there's another story that he wrote, that's probably his other most famous work, at least in Western culture for us kind of non-French culture. And it was called Les Miserables. My French is not perfect, but we call it here in the states, we just refer to it by using the short form Les Mis.
You may know the story. It focuses on a man named Jean Valjean. And Jean Valjean is a criminal. He's hardened and he's angry. He went to jail for stealing some bread to help feed a part of his family. And he ended up, because he tried to escape a number of times, he ended up being in jail for 19 years for this offense. He was angry and he was hardened by being in that system, and he eventually gets out and tries to come back into society. But he found rejection at every single turn.
But, there was another character in this story who was a Bishop. And this Bishop gave Jean Valjean a chance. He gave him a place to sleep and some food to eat. He showed him mercy.
In fact, if you went back to the actual book and you saw toward the beginning of the book, you would see that it was actually foreshadowing this idea because you had the opportunity through Victor Hugo's pen to be in the Bishop's study. And the Bishop was actually chronicling the characteristics of God. And he's writing about God being sovereign and writing little devotional thoughts about that. And God being all powerful and writing about that.
So he's writing about all of these things. And then he finally comes to the place where he says, "And finally, I want to now describe God's most beautiful name." And then he just writes the word mercy.
You see, that was early in the book and it kind of foreshadowed what was going to take place. And now Jean Valjean is looking for someone to be able to accept him, someone to help him. And the bishop gives him a place to sleep and food. And do you know how Jean Valjean rewards the Bishop's mercy? By stealing all of his silver. So he steals all the bishop's silver and he leaves, but then the police catch him and they bring him back to the bishop. And one of the most beautiful parts of the story occurs. There are many beautiful parts of the story, but one of the more beautiful parts of the story occurs when they bring Jean Valjean back to the bishop and say, "We caught him. He stole all your silver." And the bishop says, "Steal it? It was a gift. In fact, you forgot these two candlesticks." And he gave it to him. And the police left, and Jean Valjean's life was absolutely transformed by mercy. In fact, everywhere that Jean would go, he brought those two candlesticks with him to those places to remind him about the mercy that he'd been shown.
But there was another character that was in this story as well. His name was Javert. And Javert was a policeman. He was the law. And everything was by the book. He had dogged Jean Valjean everywhere, trying to catch him in everything he could catch him in. This is what his life, it seemed his life goal was. He was self-reliant. He was self-righteous. He himself was the law.
And eventually, this epic part of the story came where Javert was actually in bindings. And Jean Valjean was able to come up and had the opportunity if he wanted to take it to kill him. And instead of killing him, he cut him loose and let him go.
Jean Valjean was shown mercy. And he now showed mercy. What did Javert do? He couldn't take it. You know why? Because people who continue to be self-righteous and self-reliant in the face of mercy become hardened. And in fact, mercy becomes offensive. Because they can do it all themselves. And he came face-to-face with the darkness of his own soul that despised mercy. And he ended up jumping off a bridge.
But the story is a beautiful story in how it comes to a conclusion. Because at the close of Jean Valjean's life, you see that this act of mercy had actually transformed him. And when he comes to the very close of his life and he's about to die, you may not see this in the movie, but when Victor Hugo writes, "You don't miss it." Victor Hugo writes about his death this way. He says that Jean lay back with his head turned to the sky, and the light from the two candlesticks fell upon his face. Even at his death, he had the light of the two candlesticks that reminded him of mercy, right as he was going to die.
So like Jean Valjean and Javert, we have a choice to make as to how we respond to mercy. Like the tax collector and the Pharisee, we have a choice to make as to how we respond to God's mercy. But let me say this. The way you respond to God's mercy, it matters.
You see, we've been shown the mercy of God. He is merciful in his very nature that while even though all of us spiritually and in every other way, we have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And the wages of our sin is death, spiritual separation from God, and ultimately physical death. This is the payment for our sin.
All of us have sinned. None of us can save ourselves. We are all helpless before God. And none of us because of our sin are deserving of anything. But God in his great mercy and his great grace has demonstrated to us how much he loves us. His steadfast love has withheld his wrath from us. And instead of his wrath being poured upon us, God took matters into his own hands to satisfy his own justice by putting on skin in the person of Jesus Christ. Fully God and fully man, born of a virgin living a sinless life, going to a cross. Listen to this, so that the wrath of God that was meant for us could actually be poured out on a perfect substitute in our stead. Why? Because God is merciful. The mercy of God was shown to us as his wrath had fallen upon his son Jesus, who died in our place.
I don't want any of us to ever forget that because it matters how we view the mercy of God. In fact, maybe I could say it this way. The cross of Christ is a candlestick that illuminates God's merciful heart. The cross of Christ is a candlestick that illuminates God's merciful heart. Here's what that means.
It means that you and I should carry that truth with us wherever we go. Because ultimately, the way that we view God's mercy, it matters. We have been shown mercy at the cross. So wherever we go, we better carry the cross with us. Because the cross of Christ is a candle stick that illuminates God's merciful heart. And we should never forget that the cross means that God has shown us incredible, incredible mercy.
Even when you come to the point of your death, we should hold on to the beauty of what Jesus has done for us at the cross and through his resurrection. Because it's a demonstration of the mercy of God.
God is so many things. God, we have talked about. God is gracious. God is merciful. God is forgiving. God is love. God is Holy. God is compassionate. God will always be there for us. We cannot forget all of these things. But we must remember friends, brothers, sisters, ladies, gentlemen, we must remember that the way that we view mercy, it matters.
So I want us to take just a moment. And I want us to sit with that as some of the folks from our chapel worship team have written a song. And they're writing a number of originals these days. Have written a song that I want you to be able to listen and take in about who God is and what God does. And then I want to come back right after that, and tie up what we're saying here. So listen.
That describes the nature of God. He's all of these things and never leaves us. He's merciful to us. He's compassionate to us. And we need to be able to take that truth with us wherever we go. It. It not only changes the way that we live, but it also changes the way that we ultimately can go to our dying just like Jean Valjean did. That we have this reminder of God's mercy to us in Christ. That we see God's merciful heart when we see the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I don't know if you've ever come to a place where you have given up trying to make your own way, or maybe leaning into your own righteousness as if somehow you can impress God by the things that you've done. You know, the obligatory checking in with God and making sure that I've said something to him, or that I've giving him something.
Listen at the end of the day, there is nothing we can do to merit the mercy of God. God has done that as an act of his loving kindness to us. God so loved us that he gave his only son, that whoever believed in him would not perish, but have everlasting life. That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
So if you've never come to a place where you've surrendered your life to Jesus and turned from trusting in your own pride and your own self-reliance, that I beg you just to throw yourself on the mercy of God. Because God is merciful. It's not a mood that he's in or not in. He's merciful, and he has shown us his mercy in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
If you want to know what it looks like to receive Jesus, to know in your heart what it means to be transformed, we'd love to help you with that. We'd love to help you with what it means to begin this journey of faith. Two ways that you can do that. One is you can go online to thechapel.com/knowingjesus and you can connect with somebody there. We've got some resources there available to you that'd be able to help you. If you want to talk to somebody in person, we'd love to do that as well. (716) 631-2636. You can call that number and speak to someone, and they would love to be able to talk to you about what it means to know Jesus.
So father, I pray that you would speak your truth into each of our lives and remind us of the beauty of your mercy. That every time we look at the cross, it is this beautiful candlestick that illuminates the merciful God's heart. Father, thank you for that mercy that you've shown us that was undeserved on our part. But as an act of your loving kindness and in grace, you've withheld your wrath from us. And it has been poured out on your son who willingly stood in our place to satisfy the justice of God. So that by faith in Jesus, we can now be reconciled to God and transformed, sins forgiven, life made new, and have the hope of eternal life. Thank you for that truth. We love you in Jesus' name. Amen.