Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 8
Thesis: There is a fundamental issue behind the quality of our lives: the attitude we take toward doing justly.
Introduction: In our study last week we looked at Mary's description of how God works in the lives of people depending upon whether they are contented with Him or not. The greatest evil in the universe is the lack of gratitude to God for His loving placement of His creatures in His creation. It was out of this discontent that Lucifer rebelled against the Most High God, and it was out of this discontent that Adam plunged us all into the disaster of self-will. The bottom line is this question: are you satisfied with God and His present plan? This morning we are going to look into Mary's comment regarding the mercy of God. We shall see that God is particularly interested in certain of our "discontents" and is willing to address them.
May 16, 2004
- I. What Does the Mercy of God Look Like?
- A. The biblical records reveal that "mercy" is the tangible expression of the willingness to give help in bad circumstances.
- 1. In the present world, "bad circumstances" abound.
- a. The presence of human rebellion against God automatically creates the human abuse of other human beings in injustice.
- b. When the Scriptures address what I am calling "bad circumstances", they do so as the outworking of injustice.
- c. What men, in their commitment to injustice, call "bad circumstances" is often nothing more than their dissatisfaction being cloaked in "justice" terms.
- 1) The current demand by the sexually perverse for "equal treatment under the law" is a classic example of the grownup world pulling the "it's not fair!" tactic of the child. [600,000 households out of 290 million people in the U.S. are "alternative lifestylers".]
- a) The basic argument of these people is: because I want to act this way, it ought to not only be legal, but also protected, behavior.
- b) The issues have nothing to do with whether the behavior is good; they have only to do with the fact that "I want to do this" under the cloak of "love".
- 2) The current welfare mentality of "I deserve a better life without anyone asking about my lifestyle choices" is a second example.
- a) We have come into the established situation of calling "good" evil and "evil" good.
- b) The result is almost invariably the blaming of the enforcer and the bemoaning of the transgressor.
- 2. The biblical injunction to "contentment" is not an injunction to embrace the bad circumstances.
- a. Contentment with evil is not contentment; it is perversion.
- b. Contentment has more to do with the inner life than the outer one.
- c. Contentment has to do with God's placement in His creation in terms of both identity and function...who am I and what is God's assignment to me?
- 3. "Mercy" is the way God addresses the evil in our world.
- a. Evil creates bad circumstances.
- b. Mercy seeks to bring a solution to those in those circumstances.
- c. Mercy does not ask "do you deserve to be in those circumstances?".
- B. God's mercy involves a specific kind of help.
- 1. God's mercy is not the Band-Aid approach of modern society...He really isn't interested in enabling people to continue to ignore the causes of the bad circumstances while He applies a "fix".
- 2. The "mercy" of God involves addressing the issues at their core: this is why Jesus is the premier example of the mercy of God.
- a. The problem at the core is human alienation from God.
- b. Jesus is the solution to this problem.
- 3. So, God's "mercy" looks like two specific things...
- a. It "looks like" divine action to address the real issues.
- b. It "looks like" a divine summons to men to face the real issues.
- II. Why Is God's Mercy Restricted to Those Who Fear Him?
- A. That the mercy of God is restricted is without debate in the text...
- 1. He "scatters the proud".
- 2. He "puts down princes".
- 3. He "sends the wealthy away empty".
- 4. He not only rejects mercy for these; He grinds their faces in it.
- B. That the mercy of God is extended to those who fear Him is also without debate...
- 1. The text says this.
- 2. The text expands upon its declaration by saying that it covers all generations of men.
- a. This is standard operating procedure for God.
- b. God always displays mercy to those that fear Him.
- C. That the issue that draws the dividing line is the "fear of God" is also without debate.
- 1. This means that we need to understand what it means to "fear" God.
- a. Fundamentally, "fear" is the strong conviction that "I just might lose something really important to me".
- b. This means that the "fear of God" means that "God just might take something away from me that is really important to me".
- 2. On what basis does God take away what is important to us?
- a. When we act unjustly, we become subject to vengeance.
- b. We are constantly warned in the Bible that if we do evil to others, God will avenge them upon us...be not deceived, God is not mocked.
- 3. Thus we have a definition of the "fear of God"...
- a. It means that we "fear" to offend His sense of what is right.
- b. It means that we become somewhat desperate to discover His method(s) for doing what He considers right.
- 1) The Gospel is not a method for doing evil with impunity.
- 2) The Gospel is a message of the mercy of God in action to pull us out of the process of evil so that we can do justly.
- III. Why, Then, Do The Evil Seem to Prosper?
- A. God is longsuffering so as to permit repentance.
- B. Appearances are deceiving because time moves by a minute at a time and we tend only to see the present.