Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgement is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.

James 2:12-13 is a reflection on showing mercy to the poor, an addendum to James 1:27 – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Those are beautiful words and incredibly true. We should be steady to dedicate time to serving those who are afflicted among us. I admit that I do not do much if anything in that area. But I want to key in on the final four words of James 2:13.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

I wrote this in my journal this morning:

For those who are in Christ, these four words are a sweet refrain: ‘Mercy triumphs over judgement.’ It’s the Gospel in four words, truth exclaimed in a short sentence. May my heart be ever drawn to those words!

This is not the meaning of the passage as a whole, but I saw such amazing truth in those words this morning as I studied them. Let me explain a bit.

As humans, we are ever-deserving of the judgement we are faced with if we are not in Christ. Our sin has separated us from God, chopped up any relationship we might have had. We ignore God, dismiss Him.

But mercy steps in and triumphs over the judgement, but only in the life of the believer. Those who haven’t given themselves to Christ will not experience the power mercy has over the judgement they earned.

So next time you, if you are a Christian, are struggling with sin in your life, think about this picture: the judgement you once faced is no longer a factor, because God’s mercy has triumphed over it in your life. Think about the idea of triumph. It’s a powerful, war-like imagery that imagines two sides going at it, with one side getting a decisive victory after a long, hard battle.

Remember that in the midst of your sin: mercy triumphs.

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Sometimes the Devil Sounds a Lot Like Jesus

“Sometimes the devil sounds a lot like Jesus, telling me I’m not enough. And I don’t believe it, no, no, but I can feel it. And I need you so, yes, I need you so.” – Ben Rector

A difficulty I face (among many, many things) is the devil. He’s perhaps the greatest difficulty. He is a tempter. He likes to tell lies to us, to tell us we’re not enough, to get us to doubt God’s love.

I am a chief victim of his lies. So often I doubt the truth of God’s love in my life because all I see is my sin, all I see is the condemnation I deserve.

I pray, for myself and for you who feels the same way, that we not see God this way.

Check out 1 Peter 5:8,

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The command here is to be sober-minded. The Greek for sober-minded means “to be sober, to abstain from wine.” When someone is drunk or not in a sober state of mind, it’s likely that they don’t have their emotions in check, they’re not thinking straight. Peter challenges his audience (and God’s challenging us) to keep our emotions and our thoughts straight.

Why? Satan’s trying to devour us. Satan is trying to take us away from God, make us forget about all the grace and all the love that God offers us. Satan lies about God’s goodness (check out Genesis 3) and says the pleasures of the world are better.

When we sin, if we’re not focused on grace, we’re probably going to see the condemnation and the guilt that sin provides. Conviction of sin is good, it’s right, it’s biblical. But not seeing grace is missing the whole point of God’s love (I wrote about this recently).

I often implant my thoughts of myself on God’s lips, the devil’s guilt trip as my Father’s words. And what a sad state of affairs that is! I think God hates me, I think God can’t stand the sight of me, I think God has no business dealing with me. The feeling is horrible.

And what greater lie is there? Satan’s biggest goal is not to get people to follow him, it’s to get people to stop following God. I am fully confident of this. He pulls us away from truths in God’s Word, truths like these:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” – Psalm 86:15

When we are oblivious to or can’t find truth, we find lies because we need to cling to something. When it seems you can’t find anything to hold onto, cling to Christ! Cling to spiritual truths that promise God’s love and forgiveness for your sins if you come to him with a broken and contrite heart!

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

Let that grace spur you on to obedience.

I find the final verse to Shane & Shane’s “Embracing Accusation” quite appropriate here to close:

Oh the devil’s singing over me
An age old song
That I am cursed and gone astray
Singing the first verse so conveniently
He’s forgotten the refrain
Jesus saves!

Elderly Married Couples and the Gospel

Something that always makes me smile is seeing elderly couples who look like they love each other. Sometimes you see the elderly couples that walk together, but they’re not really together. They rarely look at each other and just generally have a grumpy attitude about them. Then there’s the couples who are holding hands or are talking to one another in a cheerful way. I went on a run tonight and saw an older couple walking together chatting about whatever was on their mind. I love seeing that.

A very popular link I’ve seen in the last couple weeks is about a 96-year-old widower who wrote a song about his wife of 75 years. “She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw. I just fell in love right there,” Fred Stobaugh said in an interview.

“Oh sweet Lorraine, I wish we could do all the good times over again,” the song goes. “But the memories always linger on, oh sweet Lorraine, I don’t want to move on.”

Stuff like that makes me emotional. If you watch the interview, you see he still wears his wedding ring. The chills run up and down my spine quickly.

There’s so much beauty in that. I’m not married, but I imagine that going through 75 years (three-fourths of a century, by the way) of marriage means a lot of grace and forgiveness. A lot of times where the other person has wronged you and you decide to forgive them because you love them.

Grace is a choice. That’s what makes the Gospel so beautiful. God didn’t have to forgive us. He didn’t have to offer a way out of the eternal condemnation our sin earns us. But He did, and that was through His Son, Jesus Christ, the only perfect being to walk the earth.

God’s grace is eternal. It doesn’t stop when we die. Think about it like Fred Stobaugh’s love for his wife. He didn’t stop loving Lorraine, even after she died. He wrote that he didn’t want to move on. God feels the same way about those He has brought to Himself. But that relationship extends beyond death and into heaven, where His children will be in His presence for eternity.

That’s so different from how people in the world often view each other. We often fall into the trap of using people to achieve our own ends and then dumping them when it’s not convenient to befriend them. Or we develop lasting friendships with people, but we don’t value them the way we should.

God will never do that, EVER. All you need to do is give your life to Him.

Come to God with a sincere heart of repentance for all the wrong you’ve done, wrong that should separate you from Him forever. Recognize you’re a sinner in need of His grace. Ask Him for forgiveness that He will surely give if you ask with a sincere heart and desire to honor Him. This link gives a good description of how to become a Christian. It’s the most important decision you will ever make.

The Second (Or Third, Fourth, Fifth…) Time You Sin

One of the peskiest things I dealt with in middle and high school and college math was my penchant for making careless mistakes. I would always get tests or quizzes back with something circled wrong that was simply a mistake. I would add something wrong or divide instead of multiply, something like that. Granted, my math skills were and still are limited, but I remember one teacher in particular pulling me aside and saying, “Zach, you need to avoid careless errors. Take your time.”

Now that I’m older (and no longer taking math classes, thank goodness), I’m learning that certain sins in my life are like those careless errors in math; they just seem to come up again and again. Some people call them “besetting sins.”

Dictionary.com defines “besetting” as “constantly assailing or obsessing, as with temptation.” There are certain sins in my life that I could define as “besetting”: laziness, selfishness, lust, not trusting God and more.

So often, for me, it’s easy to get discouraged when those sins pop up again and again. I know there was grace the first time, but I struggle with receiving grace the second time. I think of verses like Romans 6:1-2,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Yes, we should not take advantage of grace by sinning. We should be seeking obedience of our Father.

But we should not ignore grace.

I repeat, we should not ignore grace.

Grace is still as fresh to the repentant heart of a true believer the second, third, fourth and fifth time as it is after the first time. And if we forget that, we forget the foundation of our salvation. We first desired Christ, a desire drawn up by the Holy Spirit, because we knew we sinned again and again, and because of that, we found ourselves opposed to God and in need of a sacrifice, one that Jesus offered up on the cross.

If we sit in guilt of our sin and don’t let grace motivate us to seek repentance and obedience, we are claiming that we believe that our sin is greater than the grace that God gives freely to His children.

Think about the story of the Israelites. All throughout the Old Testament, you see the people of Israel obeying God, then doing what was evil in God’s sight, then seeing their need for forgiveness, then turning to God. Then they would repeat the cycle, over and over again. We’re the same way because, on earth, we will never be without sin.

But we must remember, that if we are in Christ, Romans 8:1 is true for us:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

If you are saved, you are not condemned. Ever again.

So today, tonight, this afternoon, whatever it is, if you are a Christian and your besetting sin has got you down again, I beg you, do not forget the grace of your Father God. He desires for you to live in grace. He desires for you to have a contrite heart, convicted of your sin (I wrote about this in one of the first posts on this blog over two years ago), and to seek His grace and obedience in light of that.