It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. The last eight weeks we have considered this quote from Ligon Duncan: “Reflect on and pray through the attributes of God. Consider what makes Him worthy of our worship. Consider yourself, and spend time in confession of sin. Pray that God would prepare your heart to hear the proclamation of His Word.” So, for eight weeks in a row we have looked at a different attribute of God. We have looked at God’s immensity, God’s omniscience, God’s power, God’s patience, God’s grace, God’s holiness, God’s faithfulness, and God’s immutability. This week I want to focus on the mercy of God.
Psalm 145:8-9 tell us: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
Charles Spurgeon tells us that God: “is gracious, or full of goodness and generosity. He treats creatures with kindness, his subjects with consideration, and his saints favour. His words and ways, his promises and his gifts, his plans…all manifest his grace, or free favour. There is nothing suspicious, diced, morose, tyrannical, or unapproachable in Jehovah,—he is condescending and kind. And full of compassion. To the suffering, the weak, the despondent, he is very pitiful: he feels for them, he feels with them:…What an ocean of compassion there must be since the Infinite God is full of Slow to anger.”
Spurgeon goes on to say that God is a God of great mercy. “This is his attitude towards the guilty. When men at last repent, find pardon awaiting them. Great is their sin, and great is God’s mercy,…for he is good to the greatly guilty.” All of us are greatly guilty before a holy God, but God is ‘good to the greatly guilty.’ We should be stunned by that truth every day of our lives. We should reflect upon the gospel as we prepare our hearts for worship each week. As we reflect on the truth of the gospel “our hearts cannot sit still.” We will be moved with wonder as we reflect on God’s grace and mercy that He has extended to the ‘greatly guilty.’
Titus 3:4-7 would be a great passage to reflect on each week, that says: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
The notes in my Bible on these verses from Titus 3 say that: “We are reminded that God and God alone ‘saved us,’ not due to any contribution we make but solely due to his own mercy. We learn that this mercy gives us new birth, or ‘regeneration,’ the total renewal of who we are by the Holy Spirit. We learn that this regeneration washes us―messy sinners get clean not by washing themselves but by being washed by the Spirit, poured out on us (vv. 5-6); we are reminded of the way Jesus himself in his earthly ministry cleansed, with a touch of his hand, those deemed dirty by society (e.g., Matt. 8:3; Mark 1:41). We learn that justification―being declared acquitted and righteous in God’s divine courtroom―is only ‘by his grace’ and makes us not only righteous but heirs, with Christ, of all things through the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7).”
Psalm 103 is another great place to dwell on. The first 12 verses of Psalm 103 tell us:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Psalm 103:10 says that God ‘does not deal with us according to our sins,…’ Jerry Bridges said that when we read this verse we should ask ourselves, what if God did deal with us according to our sins? How terrible that would be! Incomprehensibly though God doesn’t deal with us according to our sins! How is this possible? The answer is that God dealt with all of our sins when he laid our sins on the sinless savior. Isaiah 53:6 famously says: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 10 of Isaiah 53 tells us that: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;” (or bruise him).
John Piper commenting on verse 10 of Isaiah 53 says: “In other words, it was not for his own sin that the Father bruised him. It was because he wanted to show us mercy. He wanted to forgive and heal and save and rejoice over us with loud singing. But he was righteous. That means his heart was filled with a love for the infinite worth of his own glory. And we were sinners, and that means that our hearts were filled with God-belittling affections. And so to save sinners and at the same time magnify the worth of his glory God lays our sin on Jesus and abandons him to the shame and slaughter of the cross.”
So, as we prepare for worship today and tomorrow let’s be stunned by God’s mercy towards us (the greatly guilty)! Let’s spend time in prayer and let’s just thank God for laying all of our sins on Jesus. Let’s be sure to pray for Ian, Erin, and Molly as they will lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he will lead us in a time of confession. Let’s also pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark I believe will be looking at Galatians 1 again. The link to the ESV text is below.