Mercy: The Antidote for the Hardened Heart

Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4)

When seen clearly, our hearts are absolutely defenseless against God’s undeserved mercy, and His unreserved kindness. The more we understand the severity of our sinful condition and why we deserve hell, the more the love of Christ can be grasped as something intensely real and personal. It wasn’t when we were at our best that He died for us, but “while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8). I’m convinced that the greatest sign and wonder we can ever witness is not the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead or even fire falling from heaven, but the gospel’s power to transform the human heart in love.

Jesus Christ is the only ‘God’ to ever be described as having eyes like a flame of fire (Rev. 1:14, 2:18, 19:12). Why? Because He is the only one that has full knowledge of us, seeing straight through our façade, knowing all our words, deeds and thoughts, and still He burns with holy desire for us. He knows our life from every angle, He has the full scouting report, and He still says, ‘I want them’ (Jn. 17:24). It’s almost like having Superman’s x-ray vision, except God also sees what’s in our heart. He sees every hidden detail about our past, present and future (Rom. 2:16). We can tell a lot about how someone is feeling by looking into their eyes, for they are often referred to as the windows to our soul. The fire in the eyes of the Lord can tell us two primary things about how He feels when He looks at us: (1) He really loves us (2) He really hates everything that gets in the way of His love. When we truly lock eyes with Him, we will find ourselves in a pure encounter with the fear and love of God, both working together to bring us to the place of godly sorrow and concern for our soul.

The on-ramp to true repentance is not merely the fear of being punished nor the belief that God loves us, but it is experiencing His mercy, knowing what we actually deserve. I consider God’s mercy the glue of the gospel that holds the message of His justice and grace together in perfect harmony. While justice is getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve, mercy is not getting what we deserve. It pulls us away from condemnation and pushes us to the place of receiving the Lord’s unmerited favor. This is good news!

Now, there is still more to learn about this beautiful mercy that endures forever. You see, God not only gives mercy, but He DESIRES mercy (Hos. 6:6, Matt. 9:13). He doesn’t give it to us because He has to, but He gives it because He wants to! I’m going to highlight two categories of people (Matt. 9:12):

  1. The people who know they are sick and need a doctor
  2. The people who don’t think they are sick or need a doctor

The people who don’t think they are sick will never seek out a doctor nor appreciate the cure that he offers. They believe they are good enough people because they aren’t bad enough people, and if God sends people like them to hell, they want nothing to do with Him anyway. They are more concerned with how they appear on Facebook instead of how they appear in His book. They are independent yet constantly searching for approval and acceptance, and if there is a God who judges sin, they are relying on their own good deeds and sacrifices to save them.

But the people who know they are sick will do everything they can to find a doctor, and they will deeply appreciate the cure! They know they don’t deserve anything good based on their own merit, and their chief struggle is learning to receive mercy despite knowing the mistakes that are in their wake.

And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. (Luke 7:36-39) 

This woman was well acquainted with her issues, carrying the perfume she most likely used to prepare herself for paying customers, but hearing that there was one who had the power and authority to forgive such sins, she had to see for herself. As she approached the King of mercy, her heart softened and she was undone, giving Him the only appropriate response of humble adoration. By pouring out the fragrant oil that aided her shameful lifestyle, she was repenting and expressing her faith that Christ alone could save her. Her ashes became a beautiful fragrance of love to God! Though there were several there that would scoff, laugh and despise her for her desperate action, she placed her full confidence in the Lord’s mercy, thus, she was forgiven.

Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you. Go in peace. (Luke 7:48, 50)

Our capacity to love God is directly related to the extent we receive His mercy. We need the revelation that God loves to give mercy, and we MUST come and LEARN about it. The more faith we have in God’s mercy, the more power we will have to resist sin, for the struggle is not won by sheer willpower. It’s won by learning to receive His mercy, which will produce an overflow of love, gratitude and a joyful, obedient spirit.

Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. (Luke 7:47)

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. (Micah 7:18)

Imagine yourself being given Hosea’s assignment, the prophet who was commanded to become the very embodiment of mercy. Go marry that harlot! Says the Lord (Hos. 2:2). After y’all get hitched, she will sleep with anyone she can find, prostitute herself for cheap, and have children by other men, still, I want you to buy her back over and over again. I want to you to do this Hosea, because I want to paint a picture for all to see, a picture of my jealous love and desire to show mercy that ALL might turn back to me! O people of Earth, we are guilty, and we need a Savior!

Before we can see the Cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us. My sins sent Him there and His love took Him there. We are all without excuse. Why would God humiliate Himself and bear such torment and shame by taking up that cursed cross? Our sin is serious, His wrath is real, and His love is relentless.

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4)

The goodness of God can only be experienced when we understand the wrath of God. It’s the ultimate one, two punch of the gospel that must be proclaimed if we are going to see real and lasting fruit. To appreciate the good news, we must learn about the bad news.

Behind the fearsome lightning, thunder and fire of His infinite power and glory, sits a beautiful King upon the mercy seat, and He rules from a throne that is surrounded by a rainbow in appearance like an emerald, which represents His unending mercy (Rev. 4). However you come to Christ, you must first come through the storm of His majesty before you can truly know the beauty of His mercy.

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God…(Rom. 11:22)

Please, show me Your glory (Moses)… I will make all my goodness pass before you (The LORD)… And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty. (Ex. 33:18-19, 34:6-7)

*If you feel the Lord moving on your heart, please find someone you know who loves Jesus and ask them to talk with you about what you are feeling. My prayer is that all would come taste and see the riches of His goodness that leads us to repentance. Also, please feel free to share this article.

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