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Blessed Are the Merciful

David Shin

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Pastor David Shin continues in the series of messages from the beatitudes. "Blessed are the Merciful."

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David Shin

Pastor, Hillside O'Malley Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Anchorage, AK

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Recorded

  • October 1, 2016
    11:30 AM
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If you have not already, I want to invite you to open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 5. We're continuing in our series from the Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes. JESUS is giving what I believe to be the greatest sermon ever preached in the history of Christendom. And HE begins with a series of blesseds.

 

The focus of our presentation today is verse 7 from the Beatitudes – “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”

 

Let's do a brief review. Scholars believe that the Beatitudes describe a progression in the Christian experience, growing in grace from faith to faith, from glory to glory. And in the progression, they have noticed that the first beatitude and the last beatitude have the same blessing - Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, the last beatitude - Blessed are the persecuted for their is the kingdom of heaven, indicating and implying that when you accept JESUS as your Savior at the beginning, you have the same promise as someone who has been a Christian for years. Amen. Praise GOD, you are saved regardless of where you are on the ladder; you have the assurance of salvation. So this is describing a progression in the Christian experienced, is describing Christian growth.

 

Another observation that has been made is that the Beatitudes can be divided into 2 sets of 4 as well. You notice that the first set of 4 ends with Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and then the 2nd set of beatitude its ends with the blessed are the persecuted for righteousness’ sake. It has been observed that you go from emptiness to filling of righteousness. You go from the recognition of your need to a hungering and thirsting for righteousness. And the second set of 4 describes how GOD begins to transform our characters and begins to fill us with HIS righteousness. The first attribute that JESUS ascribes in this filling of HIS righteousness is blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

 

Before we continue, let's define our terms. John Courson, the commentator says, “After you have gone through the emptying process and you are filled with GOD’s love, you will be merciful towards others, no longer judgmental and critical.” I have a thesaurus in my library and here are some synonyms for mercy: compassion, forbearance, pardoning, tender hearted. Here's the opposite of mercy, antonyms for mercy: cut throat, hard, unsparing, iron-fisted. So, that gives you a picture as to what we're talking about - synonyms and antonyms for mercy.

 

I love this quote from Thoughts on the Mount of blessings – “GOD is HIMSELF the source of all mercy. HIS name is merciful and gracious (Exodus 34:6). HE does not treat us according to what we deserve, HE does not ask if we are worthy of HIS love, but HE pours upon us the riches of HIS love to make us worthy. HE is not vindictive. HE seeks not to punish; but to redeem.” Praise GOD for that.

 

How many of you have been a recipient of GOD’s mercy? All of us. I think of how patient GOD has been with me. I would have given up on me. if I were GOD. Are you following me? I can't think of the times, I have messed up over and over and over again and I go to JESUS and HE is always there to give me a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th chance and it seems like HIS mercies are never ending. They are new every morning. Praise GOD. GOD never gives up on us. HIS forbearance is always there. HIS mercy is always there.

 

In a future presentation, I wanna talk about the condition of our hearts and how we are not static but dynamic. And we talk sometimes about the close of probation when people are scared about that. But the close of probation tells us more about the condition of our hearts and the transformation that we go through. GOD is always open. HE's always receiving. The issue is that our hearts change in response and reaction to light.

 

Has GOD been good to you? GOD says, “Be merciful just as your FATHER is merciful.” I mean what a tall order? Be merciful just as your father is merciful.

 

Now, if you'll permit me, I want to just go into a little bit of a digression before continuing. I want to look at how highly of a regard JESUS holds mercy. There are certain things in the Christian experience and Christian theology that are central and there are other things that are more peripheral. And look at JESUS' comment to the Pharisees and you'll see where JESUS places mercy on the hierarchy, if you may, of Christian value and virtue. So here is JESUS talking in a succession of woes to the Pharisees. Notice the language here. And if you read Desire of Ages, we're told that there were tears in HIS voice as HE was uttering these woes. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin…” These are these plants that were native to the Middle East, the smallest of plants. And remember in Hebrew tradition, you were to give a tithe of your first fruits to the LORD and the Pharisees were so careful about tithing, they wanted to make sure to tithe not only the large harvest, but the very small of the mint and the dill, and the cumin. “And have neglected the weightier matters of the law.” What JESUS meant by weightier, HE was talking about the things that are central, the pillars, the things that are at the core of the Christian experience. So here the Pharisees were so particular about making sure that they tithe on the smallest of entities when it came to stewardship; but they have neglected the more core elements and here they are: justice, mercy, which we're talking about today. Mercy is at the core of the Christian experience. It is not a smaller matter. JESUS says “It is the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faith. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others. Now to be very clear, JESUS is not minimizing stewardship here. HE’s saying, “Look, you ought to have been faithful, but without neglecting the others.” You, blind guides, straining out a gnat, and swallowing a camel.

 

When you look in the book of Leviticus, the largest unclean animal, Leviticus 11 described, was the camel. All right. No camel sandwiches. I'm sorry to declare to you. All right. It was the camel. The smallest possible unclean animal was the gnat. The Pharisees were so careful not to consume things especially in their drink. They want to strain out the gnat and swallow the proverbial camel. What is JESUS talking about here? JESUS is talking about a condition in which we can get caught up into today. Sometimes we get so caught up in the minors that we forget about the major. For clarification, JESUS was not minimizing the little things. HE says, “You ought to have done these things.” And the devil loves to have us get so caught up in the minutia if we can just forget about the major and the core elements of Christianity.

 

I love history. And there was a time in Adventist history, perhaps you heard of the general conference session of 1888 Minneapolis, pivotal moment in Adventist history, What a lot of people don't know is what set the stage for the explosion following 1888 was another theological discussion that took place between two camps within the church: one was a relatively young camp E.T. Jones and E.J. Wagner, and the other was the old guard G.I. Butler and Uriah Smith, the writer/author for Daniel and Revelation. And the controversy of discussion was the law in Galatians. Have you studied the law in Galatians before? The law in Galatians became this hot bed of controversy because E.T. Jones and E.J. Wagner believed that the law in Galatians was describing the moral law. Uriah Smith and G.I. Butler believe that the law in Galatians was the ceremonial law. And this controversy, literally exploded within the church. It became a law again in the sand; you were either moral law-iets or ceremonial law-iets when it came to the law in Galatians. And this controversy became so escalated that Ellen White had to be the adult in the room and referee the situation. I want to read Ellen White's comment on this controversy in regards to the law in Galatians. I have it here on the screen. It's a little bit long but I want to read it in its entirety.

 

 

 

Here it is: Now brethren, I have nothing to say, no burden in regard to the law in Galatians. Now, she’s fascinating - nothing to say, no burden in regard to the law in Galatians. This matter looks to me of (what does it say on the screen? of) minor consequence in comparison with the spirit you have brought into your faith. It is exactly of the same piece that was manifested by the Jews in reference to the work in the mission of JESUS CHRIST. The most convincing testimony that we can bear to others that we have the truth is the spirit which attends the advocacy of the truth. If it sanctifies the heart of the receiver, if it makes him gentle, kind, forbearing, true and CHRIST-like, then he will give some evidence of the fact that he has the genuine truth.

 

It's so ironic, isn't it? That we can get so caught up talking about GOD's book that we can become ungodly in the way that we talk about it. That's ironic and here they were so caught up in the law of Galatians that there were being unchristian in the way that they were treating each other. I contend that the way that we present the truth is just as important as the truth itself.

 

I was in Sabbath School years ago.  A visitor and a certain person stood up and they were so right, but they were so wrong. Are you following me? They were so right doctrinally, but they were so wrong in the way that they were presenting the truths of Scripture – arrogance, pride, disrespect, anger, venom spewing out in smoke, I mean, just figuratively speaking. So right and yet so wrong. And the devil doesn't mind if we have theological dialogue, you know that, as long as we're un-Christian in the way that we treat each other.

 

And JESUS says, “You know what? You are so caught up in the minutia that you forgot to be a Christian.” JESUS said they that worship me will worship me with 2 things. We need to keep these things in tension and in balance. What are they? In spirit and in truth. Sometimes, we misunderstand what JESUS said. We think, in spirit or in truth; but JESUS says, “They that worship ME will worship ME in spirit and in truth.” We need both. And the devil loves to have us get off in one of 2 pitfalls, all right. I have been in certain camps and if you ever want to have a discussion about Adventist communities, I've been through it all. All right. The full spectrum. If I can use that word. All through it. And you know, I have been in certain camps when they are high on truth, orthodoxy, but they have very little of the spirit - baptized in lemon juice, if I can use that term. I believe the Christians should be the happiest people in the world. I mean something's wrong, you know. Some of the things that have been said by me, by orthodox individuals, are just terrible. I mean, my enemies in the world, don't even treat me like that. I mean something's wrong. Then, I've been another camps where very loving, very kind, but there's very little truth, low regard for truth. We need both. The two go hand in hand.

 

And I think that sometimes, we've gotten into some Greek thinking when it comes to truth and we need to do a better job on this as a church. We have separated truth from JESUS. But notice what JESUS said. I mean this is incredible thought. It blows the mind of Greek thinkers. JESUS said, “I am the truth.” JESUS brings truth and HE says that it is in HIS person. It's not propositional, it is personal. Truth and the personhood of JESUS are tied together. And in our Adventist history, I think that sometimes we've gotten so isolated, we've taken away the Second Coming from the person of JESUS or the doctrines and we need to bring them together. CHRIST-centric/CHRIST centered.

 

Truth matters when it comes to our relationships. Amen. No relationship can be built on lies. I have a friend of mine, went to high school together. It's interesting when you see all of your paths and where everyone is ending up. And she got married to this “upstanding” individual; had the perfect marriage, very happy. Later on, her marriage came crashing down around her because her husband was not who she thought he was. She thought he was an upstanding businessman in the community. He actually worked for the mob. He was the head of the mafia and basically their marriage was a front for all the illegal activities that were taking place. Their whole marriage was built on lies. And friends, there are a lot of lies about GOD, and we need to present truth as it is in JESUS because we want to optimize people's relationship, not degrade it and a relationship is elevated by truth. Amen. You asked that young lady, once she found out that the whole foundation of their relationship was built on a lie, that marriage crumbled. There was no transparency. There was no honesty.

 

They that worship ME will worship ME in spirit and in truth. These 2 must go hand in hand together.

 

One other observation, before moving on, by implication this statement of JESUS here is stating that there are certain truths that are central to the Christian experience and others are peripheral. And we need to know and be wise and have the discernment of the HOLY SPIRIT to distinguish between what is a major issue and what is a minor issue. Amen. We need grace to understand that.

 

My ministerial director when I first came into ministry, he said, “David, when you go into a church, you're gonna notice a lot of things; but remember this; you can only be a martyr once. You can only be a martyr once. Before you go to die on that hill, you need to ask yourself, is this a hill to die on? And in our community of faith, I have seen congregations destroyed because individuals have drawn a line in the sand on minutia and not the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and being a Christian. Amen.

 

JESUS says that mercy is a central cord to the Christian experience. I love this quotation “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity.”

 

Mercy is at the core of the Christian experience and who we are. But you say, “Pastor David, what about correction?” Now, I want to be very clear. Mercy does not imply that we are spineless and unprincipled. If someone is heading off a cliff, the merciful thing to do is let them know, that they're headed in a dangerous direction. Now, I have been the recipient of correction and it has been made very clear in the way that it has been delivered that the person did not care about me. Mercy is not only the action but the posture and the spirit in which we engage other individuals.

 

How have you felt when you've been corrected and you know that the person does not care about you? Sometimes, we go out to correct and we're correcting not because we love the person but because it bothers us. We’re annoyed by the behavior. I had a classmate of mine, a fellow theology major, and we nicknamed him Frank rebuke because he loved to rebuke people - just dress them down. And that was a character flaw in him because he enjoyed it. It was something that he looked for.

 

And this quotation from thoughts on the Mount of Blessing has simply riveted me since the first time that I read it. Now listen to this. This is when you know you're ready to go and correct somebody. Here it is. “Not until you feel that you could sacrifice your own self dignity and even lay down your life (I want to read that again and even lay down your life) in order to save an erring brother have you cast the beam out of your own eye so that you are prepared to help your brother then you can approach him or her and touch their heart.”

 

Here's the criteria: if you are not willing to die for that person and lay down your life, you have no business correcting them. Amen. You have no business, until you are willing to lay down your life, then you can approach them in the proper way.

 

Here are some questions that one scholar and theologian asked in reference to mercy. Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be a parent who disciplines for disobedience? Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be an employer who pays good wages for excellent work but dismisses irresponsible employees who do shoddy work? Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be a legislator who annex laws that give stiff penalties for drunk driving and child abuse? Life is complicated.

 

The Bible does not give just an ethical manual for how to be merciful and how to be just in every single situation. But the Bible does tell us that we as a person should be merciful. And I love what John Piper said in his commentary on this – “If we ask how we shall know when to do justice and how to show mercy, I would answer by getting as close to JESUS as you possibly can. As you get close to JESUS, HE will give you discernment when it comes to these very difficult situations of how and when we should apply these biblical principles.” There are certain situations that are so complex that really, you could argue either way, should I administer justice or should I be lenient and administer mercy or what do we do in those times that you could simply flip a coin and you don't know which side of the approach to take? Many administrators, many individuals in authority have a very difficult decision to make in regards to this.

 

I love this from Ellen White. “If we err, let it be on the side of (what?) mercy.” Look, if it's going to be a flip of a coin and you just don't know, always err on the side of mercy, rather on the side of condemnation and harsh dealing. Now, I want you to think about that. Sometimes, we get on this hunting crusade. But JESUS says, “whoa, whoa, whoa.” Remember, the core of what it means to be a Christian and if you're going to err, err on the side of mercy. Luke 6:36 - JESUS said, “Be merciful, just as your FATHER is merciful.”

 

Let us pray.

 

Our Father in Heaven, LORD, YOU have given us chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity, YOUR mercies are new every morning. And FATHER, from this frame, and from this reference point, LORD, we ask that YOU would help us to reflect this mercy and this difference to others. Help us to give others the same benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves. FATHER, may the character and the mercy of GOD be reflected in us, in this community of faith. FATHER, give us YOUR divine wisdom as we come to complex situations and circumstances, how to administer YOUR grace to others. Bless us; help us to be like JESUS. For we ask these things in JESUS’ name. Amen.

 

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