Friday, May 1, 2015

Much grace and mercy, much one can love

Preamble:  This article will be preached as a sermon on 2 May 2015 in a Divine Healing Meeting/Service at TradeHub 21.  The gray-highlighted portions in this article are NOT necessarily shared because of time constraint.

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This is a continuation of a series on the secret to well-being of a believer. 
First, the “secret” is: we loving God.

But many could NOT get to the place of loving God (and, men, too). How do we get there?

We have covered of one of three channels to get our love capacity restored, i.e. to receive in, forgiveness.  Much one is forgiven, much one can love; this being gleaned from Luke 7:36-48 – the account of the sinful woman at Simon’s house.

Today, we are covering the 2nd of the channels, although it is NOT unlinked to forgiveness; and it is: Much grace and mercy experienced and received in, much one can love.

When much grace and mercy of God is poured out and received in, the one who received it, much would his capacity to love, be healed and restored, and much he can love; even believers around who understand it, can have their love capacity enlarged.

Where can this be gleaned from? It can be gleaned from the account of The Road to Damascus; the story of conversion of Saul (aka Apostle Paul).

Acts 9:1-20 – 1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.  11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

The background of Saul is this: 

He was a thoroughbred Jew, from young he learned and kept the Judaism faith, the faith of the OT Jews. He learned from the great teacher of Judaism, Gamaliel, who was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (Church Council).  He knew God (Yahweh) and the Spirit of God.  In those days, OT Jews, they knew God and the Spirit of God, but NOT the Lord, the Son of God.  And so, Saul championed his faith fervently, and went round persecuting the believers (this was after Jesus already died and was resurrected), and blaspheming the Son of God, the Lord Jesus.  He would throw in lots to have disciples of Jesus, Stephen for example, to be stoned to death.

On the account of the Road to Damascus, Saul had gotten letters from the Sanhedrin to go to Damascus to arrest believers to have them persecuted and to have them deny Jesus.  As we read from the scripture passage above, he had an encounter with the Lord.  Christ Jesus spoke to him, and said Saul was persecuting Him (persecuting believers for their faith and asking them to deny the Lord, is in effect persecuting the Lord).  In the course of his zeal, Saul also blasphemed the Lord who was by then already in Heaven as the restored Son of God. 

Was it NOT great mercy, the Lord had shown to Saul? Jesus said Saul was persecuting Him.  Even if the Lord would strike him dead, it would NOT be too great a punishment, but the Lord did NOT; and that was mercy.

Mercy is the Lord withholding (or avoiding for you) the punishment due you; meaning you get off, with lesser punishment, or NOT punished at all.  In Saul’s case, for example, the Lord only blinded him for 3 days. What is grace of God, then?

Grace is the Lord blessing you (or enabling for you) to receive good thing(s) you don’t deserve.  For example, when I receive the anointing to pray for you to be healed, I receive the anointing by grace, because I do NOT deserve it.

What is important for us to note, is this:

1.   God poured out grace and mercy,
2.   Paul perceived (understood) it [as grace and mercy from God],
3.   Paul received it, in; and
4.   Paul even understood that God had forgiven him, and
5.   Last but NOT least, he obeyed the leading of the Lord.

In the exposition of the first channel (forgiveness, specifically) as that which God would use to restore the love capacity of believers, I stressed, the Lord looks at humility.  This humility factor is also equally applicable to today’s discussion of grace and mercy.

I told that one needs to be like David, humble or be easily humbled and that there are 2 ways to be humbled before God.  Before I reiterate the 2 ways today, for the benefit of us all, I want to, additionally, give us a good picture of what God is always looking for, in men:

Isaiah 66:1-2 (NIV84) - 1 This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

Now the 2 ways to be humbled before God:

One is that, one is to get to the state of readily be able to be humbled, and so, easily you humble before God, and two, one is sovereignly humbled by God. 

You get to the state of readily be able to be humbled if you do NOT grieve the Holy Spirit.  Because it is the Holy Spirit, who convicts you of sin and causes you to enter into godly sorrow, which leads to humility and repentance.  Sinning repeatedly hardens one’s heart, and when it is hardened, it doesn’t get convicted easily. 

Still at times, by the mercy and grace of God, some people still receive a forceful conviction that break the heart of stone.  And when that happens, the person is humbled.  The case of Saul falls into this.

Now, the important point to stress is that, from that incident, Paul perceived the grace and mercy of God; received it, in, and also perceived in it, the forgiveness of God, and received that in, too, and he obeyed the leading of the Spirit of the Lord, and he continued to do so; and after repeatedly in such posture, his capacity to love the Lord, and so, men, too, becomes restored greatly by God.  And we know that Paul went on, to say that which is commonly quoted - “to live is for Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21).

Paul loved the Lord so much that his life was to live for Christ.  Saul, who became Paul, was capacitated by the Lord to love Him, and men.

On the occasion that I talked about forgiveness being the most important channel, to get our love capacity restored, I said, often, there is a part of us to play, although it is God who forgives, and it is also God who heals and restores our capacity to love (our part, is to come to the place of forgiveness).  It is similar here; often, we need to get to the place of grace and mercy, to receive the much grace and mercy of God.

Remember, I said the two channels are NOT completely unlinked, because the latter (grace and mercy), has the mercy element in it, and mercy got to do with punishment and so, forgiveness. 

Here, I will give the critical understandings needed to get to the place of grace and mercy:

1.   Always bear in mind we have love-covenanted with God.  You and I have love-covenanted with God; we need always bear that in mind.

2.   And all of us have to understand: love is first, a choice, and then a commitment. 

God chose to love you and I, and we have chosen to love Him back.  It is the exercise of your volition. When you and I have that covenant in mind all the time, NOT just any covenant but that love-covenant, we are to remind ourselves, that we have committed to love Him.  That is the posture that will draw God’s grace and mercy to you.

Further elaboration: We cannot merit or earn God’s grace and mercy, and we cannot arm-twist God to give us grace and mercy, but we can attract His grace and mercy.

Now, which come first? You love God and God pours out grace and mercy to you, or the other way round, God pours out grace and mercy to you and then you love God?

Those who have heard my sharing on the “secret” to the well-being of a believer, being loving God, would know that I gave 3 sets of the most wonderful and powerful promises of God to illustrate it; where each has the element that the promises are for those who love God.  Promises coming to pass, is grace and mercy of God, for we are NOT receiving anything from God through our merit, but by grace and mercy.

The 3 sets are Rom 8:28, Ps 91:14-16 & 1 Cor 2:9 (You are encouraged to go and read them).

Which comes first, you love God, and then you get the grace and mercy (including goodies promised), or you get grace and mercy first, so that you could love God?  Appear circular doesn’t it?!

For now, I will give us the short version of the understanding (we will have the long version when we next discuss the 3rd channel, through which God restores our love capacity). 

This is how we are to understand it (short version):  God first, men subsequent; there was God, first; men were NOT there when God started out. God then made Man; God the Creator, Man, the created.  It was also God who first loved men; and men to love God back. 

Men fell, and men’s capacity to love God was diminished or impaired.  Prior to the Fall, Man had no problem loving God perfectly, and Scripture painted for us the picture of Man serving God gladly; looking after the Garden God assigned to him and his wife (Adam and Eve); it was a huge garden, by narration given in Scripture. And we also read that God would come to fellowship with Man, like having high-tea in the Garden!  After the Fall, all of these changed.  It got to do with Man’s loss of righteousness, which we will cover only when we look at the 3rd channel, another day. 

After the Fall, it became complex and difficult for Man to love God. We will cover the complexity and difficulty only in the 3rd channel lesson; in brief, I will just mention that it got to do with the knowledge of good and evil. Because God knows it is hard for you and I, to love Him (that we have knowledge of good and evil), He will keep enlarging our capacity to love, if we allow the works of His grace and mercy to affect and effect you. 

In fact, God started doing that, right from the beginning, after the Fall.  The portions of Scripture post-The fall revealed to us, thus.  Examples are Gen 3:21 – God still made garment of skin for Man; Gen 3:16-19 – God did NOT put Man to death immediate, but allowed them to live on, but with secondary penalties (Gen 2:17 – you will surely die).

God continued to grant grace and mercy throughout the OT history of Man, and we read of them in the lives of many Bible characters, including those of Hannah (mother of prophet Samuel), King Hezekiah, and King David.  Yet, lovers of God were truly few; something was needed to address the potent change (Man’s loss of righteousness) at the Fall.

Finally, the way forward is provided by the Lord, Jesus; and God sent Him to restore the capacity for Man to be righteous, and so, the capacity for Man to love God.  We will cover the connection between the capacity to love and righteousness, when we discuss the 3rd channel (not here, today).

So, the answer is God had to move first, God got to grant the defining grace and mercy first, the grace and mercy that was in Christ Jesus’ suffering and death as a Man. 

The defining grace and mercy in the works of Christ Jesus, for one thing brought us the indwelling Holy Spirit who could help us deal with the knowledge of good and evil and He, the Holy Spirit, helps us with the understanding of spiritual things, so that grace and mercy of God granted us or experienced by us (both as the minister or ministee), can have the effect of restoring our capacity to love God, and men, and more importantly, rightly; love rightly.

We need to come into the place of experiencing the grace and mercy of God.  The grace and mercy of God can be talked about loosely, as 2 categories, the quiet grace and exceeding grace.  Example of quiet grace is God sends down rain to you and I – the common good occurrences we often take for granted.  Example of exceeding grace is when you get healed by, say, a prayer of a servant of God, when you had had not able to get healing through consultation with a medical doctor. Another way of seeing exceeding grace is breakthroughs helped by God.  Signs and wonders and miracles or interventions of God come under this. 

There is the need for many, to experience the exceeding grace and mercy of God to appreciate the quiet grace of God, and to be transformed of heart, to be more loving towards God, and men, too.

I honestly think we are NOT surprised that many believers actually stay away from God’s grace and mercy, for all kinds of reasons or excuses.  They would say, they want the grace and mercy of God, but actually they want them at their own terms, NOT on God’s terms or according to His righteousness. 

3 common negative scenarios I will cover here (to help us get away from the negatives, into the positives):

1.   Want to engage in unrighteousness.  Believers know it, yet many just brushed it off.  God is everywhere, but He is also NOT in evil and wickedness.  So, you and I, will find difficulty experiencing the grace and mercy of God there.  But if you will turn back, you can experience it. 

How are you going to love God, and men, too, when you are into evil and wickedness, or throwing self-control to the wind?!  Split-personality; juggling both; you won’t have peace and joy having that!

2.   Many believers do NOT want transparency, but without transparency, God’s grace and mercy is NOT readily attracted to you, and when they are NOT being poured out to you, they cannot do their works of healing or enlarging back, your capacity to love God, and men.  People who find it difficult to love God, and men, often have much baggage or bondages they are NOT wanting them dwelt with. Now, these people may want to love God, but they are unable to come to the place of loving God, we say.

3.   Unwillingness to serve. Some years back, God revealed His longing in this area (believers are to serve), to me, for a local church; His Spirit revealed that God’s children should be serving. 

In serving, the children of God can experience and see God’s grace and mercy, and from it, they will develop greater love for God, and men. So, I recommend, as far as possible, we serve in some way, say, in a church, for example.

What do we see as the issue?  Yes, unwillingness. Are you protesting that you are NOT unwilling to love God?  We will all say, we are NOT unwilling to love God; but when we break it down, we can see it there, there is a great deal of unwillingness on our part to love God.  We are unwilling to be righteous in our thoughts and actions; we are unwilling to be transparent, and we are unwilling to serve.

What is the solution?  A master chef will tell you, you need to cut open or peel open, an onion to make it beautiful.  And so, too, we need to come under the Master’s hand to peel us open and work in, His grace and mercy.  In order for the Chef to work on the onion, the onion cannot hide away in the closet; so, too, you and I cannot just staying away or hide away in own preoccupations.  The longer you resist that, the longer you are finding it hard to love God, and men.  And when you accept that as the way of life, you are going to be missing the peace and joy that other brothers and sisters who love God, are enjoying; and you are going to answer to the Lord ultimately, the lukewarm-ness of your love for Him.
The take away for this message is that you need to get to the place of grace and mercy.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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