Mercy is the Foundation to Forgiveness

August 12, 2016

Good Afternoon Church,

I pray your week has been filled with the joy of the Lord as you live for His glory, His praise, and His pleasure above all else. I am writing to you from sunny St. Augustine, Florida, where Tom and I have the great blessing of meeting with Dave and Elaine Wilson. They are the longest supported missionaries of Belcroft, having been one of our missionaries since 1971! That was before I was even born! What a blessing for me to see their years of faithfulness and their continued zeal for reaching the lost despite the fact that David is 76 years old. I am very excited to report what I have seen and learned from them and all that God is doing through our partnership with them. Also, I was greatly blessed with an opportunity to spend over two hours this week with Pam Palumbo and some of the staff at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. I cannot wait to fill you in on all that God is doing through that ministry, which actually has sharing Christ and His gospel as one of its primary focuses. Praise the Lord for our undeserved privilege to co-labor with Christ in the Church’s ultimate ministry in bringing God ultimate glory through missions!

Mercy is the Foundation to Forgiveness

mercy-and-grace-gods-way

Now, allow me to remind you that forgiveness is the greatest gift of God and greatest need of man! Yet, two of the hardest things to do in this world are to ask for forgiveness, and in turn to give forgiveness. We are not naturally a forgiving people. As a matter of fact, we are all by nature a judgmental people. That is why it is so easy to criticize, so easy to be embittered, and so easy to remember past offenses by others, but we so quickly forget past mercies and blessings given to us by others! It has been rightfully said that we are most like animals when we kill each other, most like man when we judge each other, and most like God when we forgive each other. The Bible makes it clear that we are to be like God in that we are to forgive one another as He, that is God, in Christ has forgiven us.[1] Forgiveness is the heartbeat of heaven![2] Forgiveness is the promise of the gospel![3] Forgiveness was the ultimate ministry and mission for Christ coming to earth![4] Forgiveness is in many ways the binding that holds the Bible together! From Gen 3 to Rev 22 we see a God who is merciful and desires to give eternal mercy to sinful mankind if they will only turn to Him in true repentance![5]

So, forgiveness is no small matter! It is the biggest blessing in this world! Nothing can compare with forgiveness! It calms a desperate heart! It frees the disgruntled heart! It brings life to the dead heart! It brings feeling to the numb heart! It softens the hard heart and shatters the prideful heart! Forgiveness protects, purifies, instructs, humbles, unites, strengthens, empowers, blesses, and impacts like nothing else! But how do we forgive those who hurt, abuse, malign, manipulate, belittle, disrespect, take advantage of, lie to, and steal from us? How do we forgive those who sin against us? Well, this is what we have been learning and will continue to grow in as we contemplate what it means to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.[6] Over the next few weeks we will consider how ultimate forgiveness, or better yet the “act of forgiveness”, is a two way street and thus can only truly come to those who ask for, and then those who actually subsequently give, true biblical forgiveness or pardon from guilt.[7] However, the “attitude of forgiveness” is singular, meaning it is totally an internal reality with the heart[8] of the person who has been sinned against or hurt. In that since we are called to have a forgiving spirit with all men who hurt, abuse, and even persecute us[9] just like Christ demonstrated on the cross.[10]

If we are ever to truly understand and embrace the command to forgive one another, then we must contemplate the blessed nature of biblical forgiveness, which begins with seeing mercy as the ultimate foundation stone. You could say that mercy is the conduit through which forgiveness flows! It was God’s great mercy that drove Him to send His Son to seek and save the lost.[11] It was God’s rich mercy that turned Him toward His enemy in love.[12] It is God’s infinite mercy[13] that offers pardon to all mankind if he will only repent from his sin.[14] It is God’s faithful mercy that lays the foundation for Him to perpetually provide forgiveness to repentant Christians.[15] God is a forgiving God, in large part, because He is a merciful God![16] It was God who established the “Mercy Seat” where Israel would find mercy and temporal forgiveness from God[17] and it is God who provides to us the ultimate Minister of Mercy, Jesus Christ, where we find eternal forgiveness of sins[18] and peace with God.[19]

Therefore, if we are ever going to continue to be, or grow to become, a forgiving people, we must first be a merciful people because mercy lays the foundation from which the fruit of forgiveness springs. Yet, the only people who can ever give biblical mercy are those who have received God’s mercy.[20] That stands behind Paul’s exhortation to the Colossian believers when He commands them to forgive “as the Lord has forgiven you…”,[21] which is an eternal forgiveness that flowed through the divine conduit of “rich mercy”.[22] Furthermore, this reality of personally knowing God’s mercy, and in turn giving mercy to others that do not deserve it, was exactly what Christ commanded of all His followers![23] However, is mercy all there is to biblical forgiveness? If mercy means to withhold retaliation rightfully due the guilty, then is that all forgiveness is? Is forgiveness, even the attitude of forgiveness, simply withholding punishment, or is there also something positive that must be given to the offender even if he or she is unrepentant? What is the correlation with forgiveness between mercy, grace, and love, and are they all the same?

Well, these questions and many more will be grappled with this Lord’s Day as we gather corporately to praise the Lord together and to hear from Him through His Word. I look forward to not only filling you in on all that God is doing through the Wilson’s and the Crisis Pregnancy Center, but most specifically I am greatly anticipating our time in the Word together. I pray you will prepare your heart to listen, learn, and live according to all that God is and all that He says in His precious Word. I praise the Lord for the opportunity I have to grow with you in the mercy, grace, and love of God seen through His magnanimous forgiveness given through faith in His majestic Son!

Marveling in God’s Mercy,

Pastor Matt

[1] Eph 4:32; Col 3:13

2 Isa 55:6-7

3 Lk 24:47

4 Mt 9:13;Lk 19:10

5 Ps 32:1-5; 103:1-14; Isa 55:7; Jerm 31:31-34; Lk 24:47; Acts 17:30; 1 Tim 2:3-7; Heb 8:12; 10:16-18; 1 Jn 1:9

6 Col 3:13; Eph 4:32

7 Lk 17:3-4; Mt 18:15

8 Mt 18:35; Mk 11:25

9 Mt 5:38-48

10 Lk 23:34

11 1 Pet 1:3; Titus 3:5

12 Eph 2:4

13 Lam 3:22

14 Isa 55:6-7; Lk 24:47

15 1 Jn 1:9

16 Ex 34:6-7; Dt 4:25-31

17 Ex 25:17

18 Heb 4:14-16

19 Rom 5:1

20 Mt 5:7; Titus 3:5

21 Col 3:13

22 Eph 2:4

23 Lk 6:36

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