Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blessed Are the Merciful

Part 6 of Kingdom Life

Text: Matthew 5:7

You can listen to this sermon here.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). 

Our World Lacks Mercy 

One of the problems in our world today is hunger. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, about 805 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2012-2014. That’s one in nine people. [1] But did you know that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone? World hunger is a solvable problem.

There are many reasons for world hunger. But one of the most basic reasons for world hunger is that there is a lack of mercy in the world.

A God of Mercy

What is mercy? Mercy is “compassion in action.” [2] “The merciful” are “those who demonstrate forgiveness toward the guilty and kindness for the hurting and needy.” [3] Many times in the Gospels, people in need of healing cry out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me.” [4]

Scripture presents God as a God of mercy. David declared, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps. 103:8).

The greatest demonstration of God’s mercy is the cross. 

We “were by nature objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). We were helpless and hopeless. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5).

God Desires Mercy in His People 

As Christians, there is always the danger of losing sight of what is most important. This is what happened to many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They were very good at doing religious things, but they weren’t good at showing mercy.

Citizens of God’s kingdom are to value mercy over empty religion. 

In Matthew 9:10-13, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who would rather avoid “sinners” than show them mercy.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  
In Matthew 23:23-24, Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, who were careful to tithe their spices while neglecting to have mercy.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”  
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite—two religious men—chose not to show the injured man mercy.
"Which of these three [the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan], do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:36-37). 

Is Mercy Earned? 

Some people think that the fifth beatitude teaches that God’s mercy is earned. But this goes against the clear teaching of Scripture that salvation is by grace through faith. The story of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:21-35) teaches us that we should show mercy to others because God has shown mercy to us.

Showing mercy to others is evidence that we have received mercy. 

The apostle John writes,
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18). 

Making Mercy a Priority 

Each week we plan to do spend our time doing many things: complete a project, go to a movie, watch a hockey game on TV, spend time doing a hobby, or go shopping. But how often do we plan to do something that will show mercy to someone else?

[1] http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm
[2] R. K. Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, 46.
[3] Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew, 208.
[4] See Matthew 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30.

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