Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grace+Mercy=Love

Shameless bragging...a recent picture of my little guy in Uganda: God is SO good! And this kid is too cute and getting cuter by the day. Pure love.
Mercy and grace are two topics we talk a lot about in the Christian world. But what is the meaning of them? I don't feel like my heart has a true understanding of them, at least not enough to fully live them out in my life on a daily basis.
This morning, Connie and I were blessed to have our spirits refreshed as we studied the words of Jesus with some of the other women of Gospel Community. We had a great conversation on the way to the meeting place, and, though I won't share all the details (Connie has promised to blog about it soon!), the preface to our day was centered on Romans 12; our living sacrifices are less like ritual, and more about reliance.


So, with that foundation, we went into reading Matthew 9:9-13, the story of Jesus hanging out with the tax collectors and "sinners." Our speaker focused on verse 13, which says, "Go and learn what this means: 'I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices.' I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners." This started me on a sort of rabbit trail of conviction and repentance, of learning a new lesson and confirming other ongoing cleansing of my heart.


Jesus desires mercy (ESV) more than sacrifice. Our speaker defined 'sacrifice' as 'religious ritual,' which isn't bad. But when 'doing good' distracts or detracts from simply dwelling in the grace and mercy which God has bestowed on us, we get into the Pharisaical mindset; we are ultimately killing the joy and peace that God has freely given and longs to keep pouring into our lives! Pharisees are the legalistic ones who like to throw grace out the window and rely on works. I usually don't like to even think that I could possibly be them, much less display symptoms of their lifestyle. But being a Pharisee starts with the subtle attempts to take control of our lives, until over time we settle into the mindset that we are alright. We talk about the sinner's prayer as the moment of conversion, rather than realizing that, in truth, we're always sinners praying to the gracious and almighty God who we are always in need of. We somehow go from being completely in need of Him, to moving towards a sort of 'promotion' (keep in mind, though, Matthew 18:4-the real promotion!) where we get to figure out what is wrong in other people's lives, and decide who are the real Christians and who is certainly headed to hell.

Sound familiar? After the wrestling in my heart today, I have to confess that I am far more often like a full-blown Pharisee than a merciful, saved-by-grace-sinner. I love rules, instructions, and formulas (as much as I hate admitting it...just ask Connie and Tall Hannah) that give the fake sense of control over my life. Stress, worry, and judging are all a false sense of security, and all are a sign of doubting God's greatness. All are a sin. I've gotta say: it seems the more I learn about God, and the more I get closer to Him and desire to be like Him, the more I realize just how utterly small (no short jokes, people!), worthless, and sinful I am. The deeper I go, the more walls and 'securities' He's tearing down. He's proving to me daily just how much I need Him. That's something I won't ever graduate from: not now, and not in eternity. And that's a freeing thing! He came to invite people like me, people who are sinners, and once we've accepted that invitation He doesn't ever leave us. Now that's security!

I want to go deeper and nearer to where He is. I want to learn what it means to love. I want to know this trustworthy and merciful God more.

"I want faithful love more than animal sacrifices. I want people to know Me more than I want burnt offerings." ~Hosea 6:6, NCV

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