Deuteronomy 7:6-7 (NKJV) 6 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
Deuteronomy 9:6 (NKJV) 6 Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.
In our last post said that when we begin a new year, God has a plan and purpose for that year. This applies to the world as a whole and to your life in particular. Although there are probably things that carry over from one year to the next, we need to remember that 2017 is gone. Your successes and your failures are in the past. You can learn from both and build upon both, but you cannot relive them. God’s mercy is new every morning. No matter what happened last year you can start again in the coming year. God’s mercy will wipe the slate clean if you can receive it.
God began last year by highlighting his mercy to me. I have been praying about it and studying it through the year. Mercy is that aspect of God’s love which causes him to withhold things we may deserve. In Jerimiah we find that Israel had disobeyed God. They deserved to be destroyed but Jerimiah remembers something that gives him hope in the face of hopelessness. Since they were still there, God had chosen to extend mercy instead of judgement to his people.
Mercy cannot always hold back consequences. When we put certain things in motion with our choices and our behavior we may face physical and spiritual consequences. However, the mercy of God will cause him to do all that he can to minimize those consequences and he will not bring judgement from his hand upon us. As a Christian we have mercy because of our relationship to Jesus. That relationship itself is a product of the mercy of God.
As I was praying for God’s message to me for this year, I began to think about the progression we looked at in the last post. Compassion causes God to enter in to our situation with understanding. Mercy causes God to withhold what we deserve. The next step in the progression of God’s love is grace. Through Grace, the Lord brings to us what we do not deserve. Last year I felt God led me to concentrate on the fact that his mercies are new every morning. This year I feel the Lord wants me to take another look at grace.
It is always true that when the Lord begins to emphasize a particular bible truth, some will take that truth to the extreme. This will cause some to reject anything to do with that message. When I was a young minister I heard a message that really set me free. The essence of that message was simply that the Word of God was the highest truth in the universe and that anything physical could be changed by faith in God’s Word.
I still believe that to be true. There were many people who took that truth to a place God did not intend for it to go. There were extremes and in some cases abuses. The “faith movement” got a bad name in many circles. I was in a time of transition, so I found myself around people who did not come from where I did. I heard them say things about “those faith people” that were both unkind and not true, at least not about me and what I believed. The whole message got tainted by a few who took it beyond what the bible really said.
The result was that faith, prosperity and many other things became buzzwords both for and against a stream. On the one hand there were many who defended the “word of faith” to the point where they became angry and confrontational. To some degree the rhetoric caused them to reject good counsel and hold on to things they would probably have naturally seen as extreme. They would not accept it because they did not want to give in to the opposition.
On the other side, the rhetoric caused people to reject a truth that they needed. I believe God brought the emphasis on faith and the Word. However, because of the abuse and because we allowed what should have been a healthy dialog become a heated debate, many could not partake of it Something that could have met major needs in their lives was rejected out of hand. We cannot let this happen with the message of grace.
I have been seated across the table from people who said things to me in support of the current message of grace that were not biblical. I do know who they were listening to. It is not my place to judge anyone. I simply know that what they were saying was not right. I have talked to others that have allowed grace to become a dirty word because of its connection to a message with which they disagree. We cannot allow that to happen.
Grace, like faith, is part of the heart of Christianity. In todays scriptures we see that God choose Israel. That choice was not based how worthy they were. It was simply God’s choice. He chose Abraham and made covenant with him. As long as Israel stayed within the boundaries of the covenant they walked in favor. That favor was not what they deserved. By definition, the favor they enjoyed was a form of Grace. We often debate that Israel was under law, but we are under grace. However, as a nation Israel was what they were by grace.
The two verses quoted above point to some things we need to remember. God did not favor Israel because they were great. He did not choose them because they were deserving. He makes it plain to them. They were the least of nations not the greatest. They were small compared to others. They had little to offer. God favored them because he chose them. He chose them because he wanted to. He gave them grace.
God did not save you because you were great. He saved you by grace. He did not save you because you were deserving. As a matter of fact, how great or deserving you are is irrelevant to salvation. We are all the same to God. He died for everyone even though no one deserved his sacrifice. That is grace. You cannot earn it. You cannot deserve it. It is a free gift from God according to his will. He paid the price for it. He made the sacrifice because he loved us not because anyone deserved it.
Deuteronomy 9 makes the other truth we must understand clear. God did not give the promised land to Israel because of their righteousness. They were a stiff-necked people. They resisted God continually. They tried their best to get away from God’s mercy and grace. God was too persistent and too loving to let them go, but they tried!
Earlier in the chapter he makes it clear that they were not given the land because they were so good. They were given the land because the sin of the Canaanites was so bad. They did not deserve the land. We might think that God was saying they were not as bad as the Canaanites. That is not really true either. The only reason they were any better than the Canaanites was their covenant with God. It had nothing to do with their behavior. God made it clear that, if anything, their behavior disqualified them.
We cannot earn salvation. We cannot pay for salvation. We simply do not have the price. The only way salvation can work is if it is a free gift that God paid for with the blood of his only begotten son. It cannot come any other way. If it did, some would be excluded. It is ours by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8.) If it comes by works, it is not salvation in Christ. If it can be earned, it is not salvation in Christ. True salvation can only come by grace.
However, Israel did not deserve their covenant “grace.” Their behavior should have excluded them, but Mercy chose to provide grace instead. You cannot be good enough to earn salvation nor bad enough to be excluded. It is God’s gift. You have no reason to boast. You are not better than those in the world who do not know Jesus. You are simply forgiven because you have received grace by faith. Thank God for his goodness.