I Obtained Mercy

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

"Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hearafter believe on Him to life everlasting."
~1 Timothy 1:16

Paul was the chief of sinners. Most times, I feel like I can't measure up to his life BEFORE Christ, let alone his life after Christ. I mean, I'm not a murderer or anything. But I have a self-centered pride that would have had me standing with the Pharisees shouting Christ's sentence at the top of my voice because it was my place to judge the blasphemer, doing my duty as a Roman soldier and hammering the quiet criminal to the cross he couldn't even carry for himself.

It's a pride that has gotten me into trouble more than once in my lifetime, and lately, it seems to be the seed of the bitterness several people have been carrying against me. It's a pride that has me shouting at God about the unfairness of its being MY responsibility to be an example of His love that covers a multitude of sins when I haven't seen people offer that to me. It's a pride that has me judging others because they have judged me because I judged them first.

Maybe I'm not a murderer, but I haven't always believed in Jesus, either. For the longest time, He was a fact I knew in my head, and I "did the right thing" to try and measure up to Him. Only thing is, it didn't work. I have absolutely no power on my own to make the Christian life look good. I've even stopped telling people, "I need to work on that," because it would be rather pointless for me to try to work on it instead of looking first to the Cross every time.

But how does looking at the Cross make a difference in how I live my life? Well, for starters, it's the place I obtained mercy. Jesus took all of my punishment and bore all of my guilt and condemnation for every sin I ever committed or will ever commit on that Cross.

The Cross is also the reason for grace. When God looks at me, He sees a finished work. Jesus Christ's righteousness covers me. The grace that covers me, even now in all of the sin that I don't know that I am committing, in the mistakes I'm making, in my lack of ability to love with God's love perfectly--that grace is the unconditional result of Christ's intercession for me on the Cross. Once for all, Christ died, but my sin died with Him on that Cross. Each time I confess my sin, it is forgiven because of His death for me.

But when I look at the Cross, I see something else, too. I see my own death, for in following Christ, I am to take up my cross. The cross leads always to death.

When others refuse to extend to me the mercy and grace that God gave to me because of the Cross of Jesus, I may find my refuge and my hiding place in Him because I have been reconciled to Him through Jesus. But in taking up my cross, I leave my rights and my pain and my sorrow in that Refuge and offer the same forgiveness to others that Christ offered to the Roman soldiers beneath His Cross.

No, those who accuse me may not know me. They may not have taken the time to look for Christ in me. They may have formed their opinions before they took the time to seek Jesus' face. But that happened to Jesus too.

In every way as I have been tested, He was tested. He knows the rejection. He knows the loneliness, the misunderstanding. The more like Him I become, the more I understand His walk here on earth, the more I understand how He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. If anybody had a reason to be on an emotional roller coaster, it was Jesus Christ. I see in Scripture His sorrow, His frustration, His anger, His joy, His peace, His pain. But most of all, I see that He was one with His Father, set apart for the work God had for Him.

That work was the Cross. The intent of the Cross wasn't to make me perfect before men, but to justify me before God. In all of my sin and in all of my mistakes, I have one perfect sacrifice in my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To be holy as He is holy means that I am no longer living for myself, but I have been set apart to do the work that God has called me to do--love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love my neighbor as myself.

I'm going to make mistakes. I'm going to sin. But the war with my sin has already been won. Jesus Christ is showing forth His longsuffering in my life. He hasn't struck me dead yet!

Isaiah 53 probably covers this a lot better than I can:

"It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
~Isaiah 53:10-12

The only way I could ever repay Jesus is to accept the mercy offered because of His sacrifice. Nothing I bring from myself except could ever satisfy Him.

That's how much He loved me.

That's why I love Him.

One of the reasons anyway.


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