But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Luke 18:13
Heartbeat of God p. 85
I bet you have heard this familiar definition of both "grace" and "mercy":
--Grace is receiving what we don't deserve.
--Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve.
Today, our focus is on our Merciful God. And oh boy, how merciful he is! It's his "lasso of mercy" that wraps around us, then pulls us into his presence in order to receive his lavish grace.
The verse below says it all. While reading it slowly, look at the things we have to offer, and then compare it to what God does for us, even in our sin.
"For we also were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:3-6, emphasis mine).
Isn't that the best news ever?! His mercy steps in and keeps us from receiving what we really do deserve: "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 3:23). The thing is, I need God's mercy EVERY single day. My thoughts can so quickly step off the Lord's "paths of righteousness" and before I know it I'm in a ditch of discouragement or I'm stuck in the mud of self-STUFF. Yet he still comes to my aid. And he pulls me up and out, over and over and over again.
God illustrates this kind of rescue for us in the story of Jonah. In a nutshell, Jonah, when receiving instruction from the Lord, ran away, boarded a ship, which then resulted in a heaven-sent-storm, causing his shipmates to toss him into the raging sea. Then the Lord, in his mercy, "appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17). Did Jonah deserve this rescue? No, he did not, and neither do we. (Side note: he, Jonah, and we, are rescued for a purpose--to shine our Light for all the world to see!).
Friends, in the midst of this strange world we're living in right now, let's all take some time to remember how our God has personally shown us his mercy. How has he reached in and saved you in the past? And what about today? Maybe you feel trapped like Jonah right now, being somewhat cocooned within your same four walls day after day. Consider that this is both a time and a place to reevaluate certain things in your life. Maybe God has actually rescued you in some way. What are things you need to put down? What are things you need to pick up? Let's use this time wisely, so that when when we finally do get "spit out" on the shores of the real world once again, we are radically different.
Let His mercy do its redirecting work.
For further reading: 1 Peter 1:3-4; Titus 3:3-6; Psalm 145:8-9
God You are Merciful,
Because of our faith in you, we will not receive what we truly deserve--punishment for our sin and eternal separation from you. Thank you Jesus for stepping in to rescue us! You willingly received our death sentence simply because you loved us. "You were pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities...and with your wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Indeed, dearest Lord Jesus, your mercy has lassoed us in and your grace abounds! Amen.