I invite you as you make your way back to your seats to reach and grab your copy of God's word or open your smart device to your Bible app and let's go back to Matthew, chapter 5. If you are new here with us or you're new online, we've been in the middle of a series entitled ... We are in the middle of a series. Actually, today we cross the midpoint of a series entitled Blessed, Learning to Live with Eight Attitudes that Also Contain Promises.
We've been looking at the first 12 verses of Matthew, chapter 5, where Jesus acknowledges a reality that we all experience that I believe everyone here, every one of us, we want to live a life that is filled with God's blessings. How many of you would like God to bless your life? Or how many of you would like God's favor on your life? I think all of us do, and sometimes if we aren't careful when we roll through church and we read the Bible, we step back and say, "But what do I have to do to live a life that is blessed by God?"
And I love what Jesus did for us. At the beginning of Matthew, chapter 5, he gives us eight attitudes that if you and I will learn to live with these eight attitudes, he says there is a promise that we will be blessed by God. If you missed the first four, I encourage you to go on cottonwoodcreek.org. You can see those first four lessons.
Today, we're looking at the fifth one, and here is the fifth attitude that God promises to bless. It is an attitude where we live with an attitude of intentional mercy, intentional mercy. Now I want you to know to do something intentionally means that you do it on purpose. How many of you understand that? I wanted to title this message ... The admin at the church kind of said, "Pastor, don't title it that." I wanted to title the message Learning to Live with Premeditated Mercy.
Now why did I want to do that? Because I wanted the connotation to carry, because as my admin says, "No, no, you can't use the word premeditated because when you say premeditated, the M word everybody thinks that is next is what? Right, premeditated murder. What do we understand? If someone is convicted of premeditated murder, that meant they set out to do something. They planned it, they thought about it, then they acted on it and carried it out. That's the idea of premeditated.
Now I want you to know, Jesus tells us if you and I will move out of here, leave here as a church, as a body of believers, that if we want to be blessed by God, we need to walk out of here living with intentional, with an attitude of intentional mercy. I am going to plan for it, I am going to execute it, I am going to do it. In other words, I'm going to live with premeditated mercy.
Now the beauty of living a life filled with premeditated mercy is that we are not convicted but, instead, we gain more mercy. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 5, which is where we take this sermon from, beginning with verse 7. Let's put it up on the screen. Here's what Jesus said, "Blessed ..." That is the word we looked at in the first week, which means happy, joyful, overcome with God's blessings and God's favor. "Blessed are those who are filled with mercy, for they will themselves be shown mercy."
Now at first glance, we can look up here and say, "Okay, there's kind of an equal measure here that if I give out $5 worth of mercy, I'll get back $5 worth of mercy. If I give out $50 worth of mercy, I'll get back $50 worth of mercy." But I want you to know that's not what Jesus is saying here. See, the first part of that verse is our part. The last part of that verse is God's part. Okay? I want you to know what Jesus is saying is these are not equal measures. What he's really saying is if we live, do our part, and live with intentional premeditated mercy, God will more than abundantly abound merciful blessings and gifts in our life.
I want you to know there's not an equal sign between the beginning of this verse and the end. As a matter of fact, there is a greater-than. How many of you remember the math, the equations? This side of the equation is greater than that side, and I want everybody out here today to understand this. If you leave here today in a attitude of intentional mercy, God's side of the mercy he will show you is greater than anything you could possibly show anyone else this week. I also want you to know that if you came in here and you say, "Oh¸ good, the pastor's preaching on mercy today," a lot of times we can think, "Well, isn't that sweet?"
I want you to know to leave here and truly live out an attitude of mercy, it's hard, because I'm going to challenge you with some verses of scripture as I've been challenged the last couple of weeks in preparing for this message, that some of the things that you and I are going to be asked to do by living as people of mercy are hard to do. I want you to know, and by the time I list them out in here, there are going to be some of you that you've already thought of someone who you know you need to show mercy to, but you don't want to, because in preparation for this message, I came up with a long list of deacons. No, I'm kidding.
Let me tell you, this message is not just an easy message. Sure, I could stand up here and I could talk about what mercy means. See, but to study God's word for simply what it means instead of what it means to me is to miss what God's word is all about, and more importantly, to study God's word, what it means and what it means to me, here's where the rubber meets the road in our faith and in our walk. This is where Christianity has real shoe leather, when I have to go apply mercy in the relationships that I have in life. I want you to know, this is a great message that brings great favor and great mercy in your life from God, but it's not necessarily an easy message.
I don't typically do this, but I just felt compelled to today. When I prepare to preach a sermon and as I'm reading the passage and I'm doing my studying, as I get ready to put the points together and really write out the sermon, I always kind of put kind of an English idea, a purpose statement. What is my purpose in this message? Then I also say, "Well, what is the problem? What is a problem that I'm trying to address with this message?" Then I say, "Okay, what is my point I'm trying to communicate in all this stuff that I'm talking about?" Then I always say, "What is the application point of this message?"
Normally, those are hidden. They just come out as I speak and as I teach and I go back and reference my notes, because I'm trying to address those things, but I thought today that I just wanted to start this message by sharing with you and being very transparent with you, here is what I see as a problem with us as believers today. Not necessarily specifically our church or our people, but as a church as a whole, as followers of Jesus Christ, the church universal, and here's what I want us individually as a congregation of believers to do about it.
Here was what I wrote down. What is the problem? I think many of us, we have the problem that the further we get away from our sin, in our faith, the further we walk in our faith, is that we somehow can begin to believe ... This is a problem I believe believers have sometimes. We can be so far away, maybe it's five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, we can be so far away from a sinful, a horribly sinful past, maybe a divorce or a broken relationship or an addiction I used to have or a sin that was heinous that I committed, we can get so far away from it, we can surround ourselves with other believers and other Christians as we sit in home groups or life groups and we study God's word, that we somehow ...
Here's the problem, that we can somehow begin to reflect back on God's grace because of how pure we are and righteous we are now, and we can somehow think that, "I deserved it," that, "I deserved God's grace." I want you to know that we always need to be reminded that all have sinned and fallen short of the word of God. It doesn't matter if you're divorce was 40 years ago or you're going through it right now, we all need grace. If your sin and your flesh is overwhelming you, if it did it 40 years ago or it's doing it today, we all need God's grace.
I think that's the problem, and I want you to know that a lot of times what happens in a church when we think about it, that as we journey on in our faith and all of a sudden, now all of a sudden, God is putting my life together, he is filling me with grace, and I have more power over the flesh and I'm walking in more righteousness day by day. Then I'm surrounded by other people who are also walking in righteousness. I want to distance myself from a painful and sinful past. When I do that, I stop identifying with people who are going through their painful present. Does that make sense?
As a church, we can become less and less merciful and less and less caring because we have gone beyond where we used to be. I think that's a problem. As I thought, "How do I address the problem? I want to bring it now. I want to make it very real and very honest today. What does mercy look like? Why should I be merciful and how can I apply it?" here was my prayer. I want you to know, here's my prayer. My prayer for this message is that no one at Cottonwood will leave this place unmerciful or merciless. That's my prayer.
You want to know what my hope and intended outcome is? You ready for this? That when we leave this service as the people of God called Cottonwood, there would be an explosion of mercy in the hallways of this church, in the parking lot, please, God, in the parking lot of this church. Then, when you go to your homes in the cars on the way home, wherever we're eating, how we treat those at the fast food restaurant or the restaurant we're going to eat at. When we go into the office tomorrow, we have relationships and conversations with people that all this week there would be an explosion of mercy.
On Friday, I had an explosion of mercy come my way, and I was greatly appreciative of it. It was from my wife, Jeana. She does this for me a lot, and I greatly appreciate it. Let's see if anybody can identify. Jeana, if you didn't know, she's a schoolteacher. Fall break was this week for the [00:12:07]. They get Friday off and Monday off. All of our kids were coming in from college and their friends were staying with us as they prepped for the OU-UT game. They're all heartbroken, so you know where they go to school.
As they're gathered around, we woke up Friday morning. Jeana didn't have to teach, so we knew that we had a day together, and we don't get many days together because my schedule's kind of a seven-day schedule, it's kind of all ways, and she's got this strict schedule at school and stuff like that. We had Friday off. She said, "Hey, let's get the kids up. Let's fix some lunch. Let's do all of this stuff, and then you and I will go run some errands together." I just kind of said, "You and I, we'll just the two of us hang out." That doesn't happen a lot. And she said, "Man, that sounds like a great idea."
We got up, we got all the kids fed. We headed off. We got Chick-fil-A. We went into Chick-fil-A. Not to eat; we had already eaten. But we went in to get some tea. We just wanted to, hey, if we're driving around doing our us day, that we want to get tea. How many of you have ever had Chick-fil-A sweet tea? What. Well, we walked in and we ordered. I ordered, because I'm watching my girlish figure, I ordered unsweetened tea. I did. I just, one man, I just don't need the extra calories. It's always a battle. and Jeana doesn't have to worry about that, so she ordered a sweet tea. Right there, she has brought temptation into the truck.
Now there's a second problem that she knows after 28 years of being married to me, is that I am a fast drinker. How many of you ladies are married to a fast drinker? I'm a gulper. Okay, I'm a gulper. I admit it. If it's there, if it's there to be drunk, I might as well drink it. That's the way it is. Now she is a savorer. How many of you know what I'm talking about? A little sip, swish it around in your mouth, and then put your drink back down.
Well, let me tell you. Being the romantic I was, here's the day that I had planned for us, and this is the actual day. She was in the earlier service. She's now teaching a life group, and it's a ladies life group, so no telling what's being said about me. Here was the day I planned for. We start at Academy Sports and Outdoors. Then, I took her to Home Depot. I'm not kidding. This was our day. We finished ... Guys, there's only one place better.
Yeah. I took her to Cabela's. Now almost before we got from Chick-fil-A to Academy, I had emptied my drink. That meant between Academy and Home Depot, I started ... As she's kind of just sweetly savoring, I just started reaching over, and the problem is if you had one sip of that sweet tea ... How many of you understand what I'm talking about? Man, your blood sugar shoots up and I'm driving, so I don't want to get lightheaded as my blood sugar goes. I have to keep going over and getting some more sweet tea.
Then we get out at Home Depot. We get all the stuff that I need at Home Depot. I looked at her, ladies. I said, "Do you need anything?" She said, "I'm good." I said, "All right, well, let's go to Cabela's." Here's what I noticed as we drove to Cabela's. About the time we pulled into the parking lot, I reached over, I grabbed her sweet tea, and I heard this sound ... How many of you know what that means?
It's empty, and I'm like, "Crud, did I do that?" That's what I'm thinking in my mind. I see no reason to confess. Okay? As we get out, she grabs her tea and we're walking around the two sides of the truck to meet up, and I hear her on the other side of the truck go ... I see her look at me. She said, "Did you drink all my sweet tea?"
Well, it depends on your definition of all, because she had a few sips in there, right? I said, "You know, I'm just going to own it. I'm going to own it." And I said, "Yeah, I did, sweetheart. I'm sorry." She looked at me. This is a direct quote. She goes, "I always get hosed." Those were her words, "I always get hosed." That's kind of a shock, because my wife's a sweetheart. She goes, "I am a slow drinker, and you have always been a fast drinker and I always get hosed."
Now let me tell you, be honest with you, here was the response that was going through my mind. It did not come out my mouth, but it was going through my mind, We have been married 28 years. You should have gotten a large. That's what was going through my mind. All right? Guys, learn. Be learners, men. I didn't say that. I looked at her and said, "I'm sorry," and I walked over and I put my arm around her with a smirk, and I kissed her on the cheek.
Win. Learn, guys. She said, "You know, I guess I can put up with your minor inconveniences." There it was. But I'm also thinking in the back of my mind, when we get through with Cabela's and walk out ... How many of you know what is at the exit at Cabela's? They have this lighted heated lamp over the cinnamon sugar pecans and almonds. As we walk up, I just open the door and I say, "Which one do you want, sweetheart?" And, yes, after she had a few, I finished those, too.
But just understand here's the way my mind's working, and I want you to know this will happen. I've already asked the deacons to remind me. One's already texted me. Some day this week when she is at school, a Chick-fil-A sweet tea will show up at the desk. Why? Mercy given and mercy received, it should always go over.
In Matthew, chapter 18, Jesus talks about what mercy should look like in the believer's life. In Matthew, chapter 18, Jesus tells a parable of the unmerciful servant. He starts that conversation, if you want to read. It's too long, so I'm not going to read it all to you. Matthew 18: 21 to 35 is the whole context of the conversation. In verse 21, for those of you who know, in Matthew, chapter 18, it starts with a question by Peter. If you don't know what the question is, it's a question that you and I ask a lot. It's one we really want to know the answer to. Peter looks at Jesus and he says, "Listen." He says, "Lord, how many times do I forgive a brother who sins against me?"
All right, how many of you understand what I'm saying? He's saying what? Remember, Peter actually gives a pretty impressive number. He says, "Seven, Lord? Seven?" Now that's a lot. Let's be honest. I'm a bigger fan of Jesus said, "Someone slaps you in the cheek, turn the other cheek," and then I'm free to respond however I want after the second cheek has been slapped, because he gives no further instruction there. But here's what Peter said, "Seven times?"
Folks, let me tell you what, that was gracious. Let's be honest in our life. If someone does something to intentionally hurt you once, you remember it. Twice, you are fired up. Let's be honest. All right, if y'all are way more spiritual than me, just yell, "Keep going." Three times, that ain't happening. I'm cutting you off at the pass.
Peter has said, "Seven?" Then Jesus adds a multiplier, "How about 70 times that?" Then knowing Peter, just like us, knowing Peter didn't get it ... Because a lot of times, we stop reading right there and say, "Okay, I got to forgive at least twice." That's what we get out of it. Jesus tells a story, and it's a story, it's a parable of the unmerciful servant. He said, "There was a master who called all of his servants in to settle their debts."
One of the servants came in ... you can read it ... and essentially this servant owed a bazillion dollars. This guy could not have repaid what he owed his master in seven lifetimes, much less 70 lifetimes. The master had every right to throw him into prison, so he says, "Take him off, throw him into prison." This guy falls down on his hands and knees, begs the master for mercy, and shockingly and surprisingly, the master has mercy on the servant. He says, "Go your way." Cancels the debt.
This servant goes out and says, "Man, I don't have a job anymore, but I have received mercy. Let me call all my servants in." He calls all of his servants in and goes to settle their debt. One of the servants comes in, and compared to the bazillion dollars he owed his master, this servant owes him a pittance, but he can't pay it. This servant, who had been forgiven much, turns around and has his servant thrown into prison. Now your mind's locked in on the story, kind of saying, "How could he?"
Then the other servants hear about this and they go tell the original master. He gets told on. Said, "Hey, by the way, Bob, who you forgave of a bazillion dollars, he threw old so-and-so over here in jail for a pittance." Jesus said it's the same way with believers. If we receive and receive and receive the grace of God in an unlimited fashion and then turn out, turn around and lock others down, we are just like that unmerciful servant.
There is one verse I want us to look at that sets the stage for the rest of this message, and it's Matthew, chapter 18, verse 33. Read the whole context. He said, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" My prayer is, as I preach this message on why we need to have and live with an attitude of intentional mercy, that that verse would just keep ringing and ringing and ringing through our minds, and it's this, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant?" Because that's really what we're talking about today. We're talking about having mercy on your husband or your wife or your son or your daughter or your mom or your dad or someone you work with or your neighbor or someone else.
I want to ask and answer two questions. One, question number one, why is intentional mercy so important for the follower of Christ, for the servant of Christ? Why is it so important? That's question number one. Are you ready for it? Number one, because God commanded us to be merciful. God didn't delay it for us as an option. He didn't say, "John Mark, hey, I know I've given you a lot of mercy. I've given you a lot of grace. I've given you a lot of forgiveness in your life. Hey, if you ever get around to it, if you ever think about it, if you ever feel like it, go ahead and forgive somebody who's harmed you."
No. God commands it of us. If you go all the way back in the Old Testament, you can go all the way back to Genesis and Exodus, he commands mercy from us. Why? Because he is mercy. If you look all through God's word, from Genesis to Revelation, God's mercy and God's grace is spoken about. In Micah, chapter 6, verse 8 ... I love Micah, chapter 6, verse 8. It's a very simple passage that'll help us all live our lives better. Here's what he says about Christ followers, followers of Christ. He says, "God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does God require?"
How many of you would like to know right now, today, what God requires of you? Here it is. You ready? Three things. You might want to write these down or underline them in the verse. He says what? Number one, to act justly. We talked about that last week. If you missed that message on righteousness, talking about a righteous relationship, right relationship with God and our righteous relationship with other people, you can go look at that and view that online. But the first thing that God requires, and we talked about this last week in an attitude that is blessed, which is to live a just and a righteous life.
Here's' number two, and this is what we're talking about today, and to love mercy, not simply receiving mercy but also giving mercy. Then finally, he says to walk humbly before your God. If you go back, or if you've been here for this whole series, that's what we talked about week one. He says, "Blessed are those who are humble in spirit." Why? "For they shall inherit the kingdom of God."
Man, as we think about it, all three of those, Jesus just reiterated it and like a diamond that has multifacets, in the Beatitudes, we just simply see Jesus taking these three as a diamond, a beautiful diamond, and turning it around and letting us see different facets of what it means to walk justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God. The first reason you and I need to live with intentional mercy is because God commands it.
Look at Hosea, chapter 6, verse 6. Hosea talking to God, to the children of Israel through Hosea in the Old Testament, was talking to the children of Israel and he says, "For I desire mercy, not your sacrifice. I want mercy." You want to know what God wants from you from the time you leave this place until your time when you return? He wants you to be a merciful person. God said, "When you come to me, show mercy. When you interact with those around you, show mercy, for I desire that more than I desire ..." here's the shocker ".. more than I desire your worship."
You say, "Pastor, is that important? That's in the Old Testament." You want to know how important it is? Jesus quotes this verse twice right here when he's talking to the Pharisees. What is he saying? He's saying, "You Pharisees, you're real good at living by your laws and you show up for the seasons of sacrifice and the times of sacrifice, but in your daily life, you are harsh and mean and just like merciless servants." Jesus said, "What does God require? He wants your mercy more than he wants your worship." What is he saying? He is not saying ... We're going to open this up a little bit more in the future, in a few minutes.
He is not saying worship's not important, but what he is saying is what we do when we leave worship, what we do this afternoon and tomorrow and the next day and the next day could, in fact, cancel out the worship we had today. In other words, if I come in here and I sing songs of being chosen by God and receive his grace and I am who you say I am but I don't turn around and share with other people God's mercy and God's grace that he's shown to me, he says, man, we have canceled out our worship.
Reason number one we have to leave here as merciful people, is that God commands it. God didn't give us an option to be merciful. Here's number two, because God has already granted us so much mercy. God has already shown me and shown you more mercy than you could have ever acquired for yourself. I love ... You go back to Matthew, chapter 18, when Jesus told the story in response to Peter's question, "How much should I forgive? How often should I forgive my brother's sins against me?"
You wonder, did Jesus get the message on the unmerciful servant? Absolutely. Look at what he says over in 1 Peter, chapter 1. Put it up on the screen here. He says, "Praise be to God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ who, in his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." What is he saying? Peter says, "I understood. I understood your story." Remember the passage I shared with you a few minutes ago in between that teaching moment and that song, Who You Say I Am.
I took you to 1 Peter, chapter 2, but I left off intentionally the last part of those verses, verse 9 and verse 10, because it references mercy. Notice this as we look at 1 Peter, chapter 9, this is what I read to you all the way to here. He says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you would declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light." Now look at verse 10. He says, "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God." Look at this, "Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
Man, as God's children, not only are we commanded to show mercy to those around us, but we are also told don't ever, ever, ever forget that you're chosen by God because of his great mercy. You're a holy nation because of his great mercy. You are a royal priesthood because of his great mercy. We are a people of God because of his great mercy. Here's a third reason we have to be merciful, is we always need to be reminded that mercy is part of my personal testimony. Mercy is part of my personal testimony. My personal testimony is I once was lost, but now I am found. I once was a sinner, but now I'm a person that is saved, a sinner that is saved by grace.
I love what the Apostle Paul said, and I talked about this a few minutes ago, that we can never let us get so far away from the grace of God that we experienced in salvation, that somehow we come to a space and a place in our life and in our thinking and our mindset, in our attitude toward other people, that somehow we deserve God's grace.
I love the Apostle Paul. Long after that Damascus Road experience that he had in Acts, chapter 9, he was still talking about his shameful past. 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 13, look at Paul. He's telling you his testimony. He says, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. But for this reason, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners." What is Paul carrying? The idea, the sense that he in no way deserves God's love and deserves God's favor and deserves God's grace.
Let me tell you. This letter was written long after Acts, chapter 9, long after he stood there and held the cloaks of those people who stoned the first martyr in the church, Stephen, that deacon right there. Paul was part of that, but Paul still carries the idea, "I was the worst of sinners. Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those ..." listen to this "... who would believe in him and receive eternal life."
How do I deliver my personal testimony? I once was lost, but now I'm found. I am a sinner who is saved by grace. We need to have this humility and attitude in our lives that whatever you see in my life that seems to be right about me, it's only right for one reason, because of the grace of God, because of his love for me, because the walk that I have and my greatest desire is that I would be an example to those who do not believe, but would believe in him if we as believers would simply be open and honest about the grace of God in our lives.
Here's another reason you and I don't want to live without mercy, because living with mercy keeps us from being hypocrites. I want you to know I think one of the greatest frustrations that I have and I hear and I want you to know it drives me crazy. I hear a lot of people when I tell them what I do or I invite them to church, just like you do ... How many of you have ever had someone say, "You know, I really don't go to church much anymore. They're a bunch of hypocrites there." Yeah, yeah. And I'm like, "I feel the same way sometimes." Why is that? Because we can be.
I want you to know. Listen to this. I want you to hear me well. If we leave this place as children of God, people of his who have received mercy, and we don't give mercy, we are hypocrites, that we are willing to take, take, take, take from God his mercy and his grace, but we're not willing to give one ounce of mercy. It makes us hypocrites. You say, "Where do you see that?" Look in Matthew, chapter 23. We'll put it up on the screen. Notice this, as Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, look at what Jesus said. He says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees."
That word woe, it means woe. All right? It mans you better watch out. It means you just better stop what you're doing. He says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees." In other words, these were people, they were in Sunday School. They went to church. They knew their Bible. They had memorized the verses. He says, "Woe to you who know a lot about the faith, you hypocrites." Woe. Not only did he say woe, he calls them hypocrites.
I don't know about you, but we all talk about that day, that some day that we will walk through the pearly gates, that I'll be absent from the body, be present with Christ. The last thing I would want anybody to herald when I'm on my way to heaven, to say, "Woe, here comes the hypocrite." I think for all of eternity, I'd be discouraged, and rightly so. You say, "Pastor, why were they hypocrites?" Not because they knew the law, not because they knew how to worship, not because they knew how to sacrifice, not because they lived good lives. Notice what he says, "You give a tenth of your spices ..." and then there's a lot of other stuff "...but you have neglected the more important matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faithfulness."
He says, "You should have practiced the latter ..." now here's a key point "... without neglecting the former." What is Jesus saying? He's saying, "You show up for sacrifices, you give a tenth, the offering, the tithe of your spices. You do all the law and all those things, but then when you leave the temple, when you leave the place of worship, you are harsh and you are mean and you are not kind. You do not practice mercy." Jesus said, "You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former."
I want you to know, a faithful follower of Christ doesn't choose either/or. That's what makes us hypocrites. As best we can, to fully follow Christ and live according to him, we have to choose a life of both/and. Everybody say both/and.
It's not either/or. It's not either I'm going to study God's word, I'm going to know the law, and I'm going to live righteously, but I'm not going to be merciful, I'm not going to be faithful, I'm not going to be gracious. Nor is it I throw out all the law and I throw out all the righteousness, and I'm just going to be mercy, mercy, oh, mercy. No, that's not sin. God loves everyone. He says no, following Christ is both/and, that they should have been studying their Bibles and reading their word and praying and growing in the discipline and giving a tithe and a tenth, but not neglecting justice and mercy and faithfulness. We do both.
Folks, if we choose one over the other, we're hypocrites. You say, "What does that mean?" Well, we can easily see with the Pharisee. If the Pharisee stands here and he knows all the laws and he's rigid and he always makes it to church on time and he looks down on others that don't make it to church on time, he always makes his tithe, he always does his sacrifice, but he never lived with righteousness and justice and mercy outside the church, he's a hypocrite.
Let me reverse that around because you and I also know some other hypocrites. There are other people, they would never come to church and they would never give God a tenth of their stuff and they would ... But they talk about God is so important to me and God loves me. Let me tell you what. They are just as big a hypocrite. See, Jesus said it's both/and. It's not either/or. Why live a life filled with mercy? So we won't be hypocrites.
Here's another reason. You ready? Being merciful is what makes us a better witness. Not only is it part of my personal testimony. It keeps me from being a hypocrite, but it's part of my witness. Look at what Jude said, Jude in Jude, chapter 1, verse 22. He says, "Be merciful to those who doubt." See, if you want to win somebody to faith, you sometimes first have to make them your friend. He says, "Be merciful to those who doubt."
How many of you ever heard the phrase, we have to love the sinner and hate the sin? How many of you have heard the phrase? A lot of times, we say it, and I will tell you, there are a lot of times I've had a lot of people, even a lot of people that I've known closely over the years said, "You know, you just got to love the sinner and hate the sin." Let me tell you what. I can tell by their attitude they hated the sin and the sinner. Anybody know anybody? Don't point.
But if we are not merciful, folks, we give off that air, that air that says, "I don't love the sinner or the sin." You say, "Why would you bring it up into this?" Well, I didn't want to put too much on here, but if you might want to take a note of this, if you'll go read Jude, chapter 1, verse 22 and 23, as you come all the way down verse 23, he says, "Be merciful to those who doubt." And he says some other things, and he says, "Also, we hate clothes that are soiled with sin." What is he saying? He goes, "I love the sinner who doubts, but I can still hate the sin they're involved in." Does that make sense?
We have to learn how we demonstrate that we are merciful people. We truly learn to love the sinner and still hate the sin. Let me give you the final thought. Mercy's better than judgment. Why be merciful? Because mercy is better than judgment. If you go look at James, chapter 2, James the brother of Jesus, he says a lot of things about do not be judge, and about judging, he says, "But at the end of the day ..." Look at it. He says, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." If you want to see God's grace move in your life and the lives of others, don't lead with condemnation and judgment. Show up with God's mercy.
Now let me give you four ways quickly to put this into practice, and I want you to know some of these are going to be peeling scabs off wounds, and I apologize ahead of time, but if we're going to be an explosion of mercy, we got to be real, we got to be transparent, and we got to be honest, folks. And here's how it's going to happen. Number one, this is the easy one of the bunch, by the way. Reach out to someone that is heartbroken. Do you know someone?
This is where I want you, and I want to encourage you, just write out next to that point there, write the initials of someone that you know who is heartbroken, someone who is hurting, someone that is struggling, someone that is going through a divorce, someone that is struggling with their marriage, they can't figure out their finances, they lost their job recently, they lost it a while back. Man, they are just going through it. I want to encourage you this week, you're going to reach out and you're going to demonstrate mercy. You're going to be the sweet tea in their life. You're going to reach out to them.
Look at what Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 27 says. He says, "Do not withhold good from those with whom it is due when it is within your power to act." If they need a bazillion dollars, I'm not going to be any help, because let me tell you what, paying a bazillion dollars is not in mine. It's not that I don't want to give that much. I don't have that much. But you probably can be the sweet tea in someone's life this week who is hurting and heartbroken. How many of you know what I'm talking about? Everybody in here knows someone like that.
Here's Romans, chapter 12, verse 8. Notice what Paul says. He says, "If it is to encourage, then give them encouragement. If it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." When you show up, don't show up with somebody if you're going to give them a couple of dollars and dig around and say, "This is all I got. I'm going to give it to you because I'm being merciful. Enjoy. No, I'll be without but I'll be fine. I got God on my side."
Look. If that's the way it's going to be, just put your $5 right in that offering box right there and don't be merciful. All right? Man, when we show up in someone's life, man, they need to see a reflection of God's grace in our heart and on our face as we show up and give them a hug of mercy, a hug of mercy.
Here's number two. You ready? This is a hard one. This is a hard one. This is a hard one. Buckle your seat belts. Give someone who hurt you another chance. Feel the turbulence in the plane? Feel like there's a mask about to drop down because I know some of you here today are sitting there going, "Not again. Not again." I realize this is not easy. This is tearing scab off. I just want to encourage you. Our natural reaction is not even Peter, seven times. It's like, "I'm going to forgive them. Never going to forget, and it's never happening again."
Listen. Give someone who has hurt you another chance. Write their initials. Please don't point at them. What does it say in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 31? Paul very much gives us six negative thoughts and then follows it up with a few positive. You want to change your marriage, your heartbeat, your life, your relationship, he says, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. What is ..." Excuse me. I jumped ahead.
He says, "Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger and brawling and slander along with every form of malice." Those are the negatives. He goes ... Here's the positives, "Be kind." That word kind, that's the Greek word translated mercy. The NRV just chooses there to translate it as mercy. He says, "Instead, be merciful and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ in God has forgiven you."
Man, give someone another chance. You say, "Pastor, I'm just not motivated to help someone out that every time I help them out, they kick dirt in my face." Well, let me give you another motive, and maybe this one's a bit more sinister, but I want you to know there have been many a times that I've been motivated by this verse, and now you're going to know how your pastor's mind works from time to time. Look at Romans, chapter 12, verse 17. He says, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. On the contrary, if your enemy, they would come out an enemy. If your enemy is hungry, feed him." That doesn't sound like fun. "If he is thirsty, give him something to drink." That doesn't sound like fun. "In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." That's fun.
So, if you are like me and you can think of someone that the last thing you want to do is be kind and merciful to them, if you aren't motivated by Ephesians, chapter 4, go dump some burning coals on their head with the mercy and grave you give and do it with a smile on your face. You can walk away and you can just say, "Enjoy that." So, there's a thought for you. If there's an enemy in your life, just go be grace in their life. You say, "Pastor, is there going to be literally hot coals upon their head?" I wish. Right?
But no. Let me tell you what, when you're gracious and you act like God in their life and they dump on you, when you turn around and you hold your head high and you don't respond, they can't help but be convicted. Let me tell you what, it just makes them look worse and worse and worse.
Here's another one. You ready? Please, nobody, no pointing on this one. Be patient with those who drive you nuts. You understand what I'm talking about? Anybody have in your life that, man, when they just start walking toward you, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. How many of you know? Don't point, please. But it's, this is just them. The hair begins to ... Now I know for you younger kids, you don't understand what that means. It's like dropping your iPhone and breaking the glass. I know you don't know what a chalkboard is.`
But it's like fingernails on a ... They just come to you and then guess what? Not only are they walking towards you, you know they've made eye contact with you and you've made eye contact with them, and you're thinking, "How do I get out of it?" Then you're thinking in your mind, "Please, don't talk to me." I know y'all think the same thing I do. And guess what? They always do. And they say, "Hey, you got a minute?" First thing you want to say is, "Not for you." And then go, "Yep."
Be patient with those people who drive you nuts. Put an initial there. Draw it there. You say, "Why do you want to do it, Pastor?" Look at Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 2. Here's what Paul says, "Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love, even those people that drive you nuts." Proverbs, chapter 11, here's what Proverbs says, "Those who are kind ..." that's the word merciful in the Hebrew "... benefit themselves but the cruel only bring ruin to themselves."
Let me tell you what. If you and I turn around and start being cruel to those who drive us nuts, other people are watching. If we are kind and gracious to them, God is watching, and God promises us those who are kind will benefit themselves.
Here's number four. You ready? This is the last one. We're going to close on this one, befriend someone who others write off. Befriend someone who others write off. Now let me tell you what, what I'm about to share with you goes against the grain, and this is going to cause the hair on the back of the necks of the Pharisees in here to stand up. Do you know someone that is an alcoholic? Someone with lives a different lifestyle? Someone who is blowing up a marriage? Someone that others are writing off? You want to be merciful? Befriend them.
Now I also want to tell you, be careful. If it's your addiction that you're struggling with yourself, be careful getting too close to a sin that still has its claws in you. But, befriend someone who others are writing off. That's mercy, and that's God's grace. If you look, and I won't read it to you because we're going to close. In Matthew, chapter 9, it says, "Matthew, who was a tax collector, who everybody in the day wrote off, he had a big banquet." Who did he invite? He invited a bunch of other tax collectors and sinners who everybody wrote off. Who was willing to go and eat? Jesus. And the Pharisees begin to attack him and Jesus turned and looked at them and says, "Who needs a doctor? Those who are sick or those who are well?" And he says, "Go and do likewise."
So, here's what we're going to do as we leave this place. We're going to think about applying those. We're not going to have an altar call or an invitation. Bridget and the team are going to come out. They're just going to sing over us. Everybody reach into your pre-guide and pull out a prayer request, that prayer card, that note card. We're going to stop. I'm going to pray. We're going to stand up. On your way out, you're going to pull someone over to your side, and you're going to say, "What can I pray for you about this week? What's your struggle? What are you going through?
I want us to do that all the way out to our cars today. And I want you to write it down, and I want to compel you to pray for them and encourage them. Some people have been stung with the fact that they need to reach out to someone that they've written off. And I want you to know, folks, just because you go practice this doesn't mean that people are going to say, "I've been waiting for your call." But listen, how they respond should never dictate how we obey the word of God.
My prayer, an explosion of mercy. God, thank you so much for this day. Thank you for your people of God at Cottonwood. God, thank you so much that we already are a compassionate and merciful people. But, God, we always need to be challenged because we can all do better. God, let us be a place that mercy explodes from beginning right now. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen and amen.