1 Pastor's Notes Hello This week I want us to look at how we allow the mercy we have received from God to flow out into the people who are around us. In Matthew 5:7 (NIV) Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." That is a truth that we have to lock on to. A truth we have to take hold of. What Jesus is saying is, if you want to receive mercy you have to give mercy. You have to show mercy to other people. And what is mercy? I've been talking about how God is merciful toward you and me; mercy is undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness. But how do we translate that into the way we see and act toward the people around us. Here's another definition of mercy; mercy is love in action. Mercy is love in action. Mercy is not just talk. Mercy is not emotions. It's not just feelings. It's certainly a whole lot more than pity. Mercy is compassionate. It's showing compassion to other people. Compassion is an interesting concept. We talk about people, anymore when we use the word compassionate we use it as a descriptive word. As an adjective to talk about a compassionate man or a compassionate woman. But originally the word compassionate wasn't an adjective. It was a verb. It was an action word. To be compassionate is to enter into someone else's pain. To enter into their suffering. Not just for the purpose of feeling sorry for them but it's entering into somebody's pain to relieve them from that pain and to lift them out of that pain. Let's look at the difference between pity and compassion. Pity would say something like "Hey! Have you heard about so and so? He lost his job three months ago. Poor guy!" That's pity. Compassion would say "Hey did you hear about so and so? He lost his job three months ago. Poor guy! I wonder what he needs. Let's go find out how we can help him." That's the difference between pity and compassion. Mercy is compassionate. Mercy is love in action. Mercy is not afraid to get its hands dirty and to step into the brokenness of other people's lives. That's what Jesus did when he took on flesh, became human, became a man. He stepped into our condition. He came into our humanity. Stepped into our brokenness in order to lift us out of the condition we were in. And now Jesus says to us blessed are the merciful, the ones who show compassion, the ones who care and lift others out. Blessed are the merciful. They're the ones who will receive mercy. What God is saying is now that you have received my grace, now that you belong to the family, this is how I want you to live. If you're a kingdom
2 person this is how I want you to live. Be merciful, so that you can continue to receive mercy. And mercy comes in and it flows out like a river from your life. Rather than just being a reservoir you become a river of the mercy of God's grace. So blessed are the merciful. They're the ones who continue to receive God's mercy. When we refuse to be kind and to show merciful kindness and compassion to other people then we're cutting ourselves off from the flow of God's compassion toward us when we need it. So what does mercy look like? Jesus gives us a very clear picture when he heals the leper. Mark 1:40-45 (NIV) "A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, 'If you are willing, you can make me clean.' Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.' Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere." Leprosy is not very common in our day. But in Jesus' day leprosy was prevalent. It was widespread. And in Jesus' day there was no cure for it like there is now. So in Jesus' day, leprosy was a terminal disease. First it killed the soul. Then it killed the body. It killed the soul because a leper was an outcast. He could not be touched by anyone or they themselves would be considered unclean. Leprosy was considered an outward sign of an inward failure. A person who had leprosy was deemed by other people to have been judged by God. When they saw someone, a leprous man or a leprous woman the assumption was that person did something to bring this on themselves. So leprosy was the sign of moral failure. It wasn't just an outward problem. It was an inward problem. And in the book of Leviticus, when the law is given, it tells us that lepers were not sent to doctors; they were sent to priests. They were not called unhealthy; they were called unclean. It was more like a verdict than a diagnosis. Here's what the Bible says about how lepers were to act. Leviticus 13:45 (NIV) "The leper must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out 'Unclean! Unclean!'" So look at the condition of this man who comes to Jesus. In order to protect the community he has to wear a mask and he has to spend the rest of his life wherever he goes in public shouting out, Unclean! In other words, look at me. I'm a failure. There's something wrong with me.
3 Stay away from me. That's what this man has to do according to the law. Unclean is his confession that there's something morally broken in his life. Imagine the humiliation. Leprosy eats away at the flesh and at the nervous system. It's a horribly disfiguring disease. So imagine the torment and the physical pain the man is in. You can imagine the kind of confusion he must be in. What did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening to me? Lepers could be whipped or stoned for coming into a public place. They were not allowed to enter a town openly. And they couldn't even live with their own families. They had to live alone. In fact, look at Leviticus 13:46 (NIV) "As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp." So a leper was a walking dead man. Leprosy was a living death sentence. A complete banishment from the presence of God's people. Banished from his friends. Banished even from worship. He wasn't allowed to go into the places of worship. So what that meant to him was that his worship was unacceptable to God. The only one who could possibly help him, God himself, has now rejected him. Because he's not allowed to come into the place of worship. That's the condition this man is in. But he comes to Jesus in a public place. So there's a huge crowd following Jesus that day. You can imagine as this guy comes into the crowd going Unclean, Unclean! Everybody's parting out of the way. Because nobody wants to be touched by this guy and he comes straight up to Jesus and falls on his knees in the middle of this crowd and here's what he says, "...'If you are willing, you can make me clean.'" If you are willing you can make me clean, if you are willing you can change my life. Notice he doesn't say if you are able. He knew Jesus was able. How many people today are afraid to come into the church, are told they don't belong with God's people. They believe Jesus could do something but the question in their mind is "Is he willing? Is he willing to do it for me?" This man says to Jesus if you are willing I know you can help me. My question to you Jesus is, are you willing to help me? Or are you just willing to leave me the way I am? There are people around us, all around us, all throughout wherever we live, people around us, just like a leper who are relegated to the outskirts of society. They are the people who are untouchable. The people who just don't quite measure up to the standard that we all expect. And just like the leper I can hear his voice ringing through the ages in their voices, Are you willing? Are you willing? If you're willing you can restore my dignity. If you're willing you can help me find my life again. If you're willing you can bring peace into my life. If you're willing you can relieve my hunger. If
4 you're willing you can relieve my loneliness. If you're willing you can show me love and compassion and hope and mercy. If you're willing you can show me what Jesus is like. Are you willing? It's a question I'm asking you this week. It's a question I've had to ask myself. Are you willing? "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." And Mark 1:41 (NIV) says, "Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!'" Jesus did the unthinkable. He touched a leper. And when he touched the leper only one of two things could happen. Either the man is going to be healed or Jesus will become unclean. Because according to the law when you touched a leper you also became unclean. So there's only two options here. Either the man will be healed or Jesus will become unclean. And the man was healed. How long had it been since anyone had touched him? How long had it been since anyone gave him a hug, patted him on the back, or even said something kind to him? The only friends this man would have had were people in the same hopeless condition he was in. Look at it again, "Filled with compassion, [in other words entering into his pain] Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man." He didn't just talk to him. He didn't just say, Oh, poor guy! He did something about it. He reached out his hand and he touched the man. "'I am willing,' he said 'Be clean.'" Jesus touched him before he spoke to him. We have to reach out and touch people's lives first. We have to show them the love of Jesus before we start talking about the love of Jesus. Because they've heard about the love of Jesus; they just haven't seen it yet. And Jesus touched this man first before he said a word to him. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. People don't want to hear it; they want to see it. They want to know that it's true. Are you willing to reach out and touch me? What greater sign of compassion could Jesus have shown a leper than to touch him, to do the unthinkable? To reach into the man's pain, into his condition, to join him in his suffering and to touch him. To put himself at risk. To risk his own body. To risk his own reputation by touching an unclean person. Kay Warren in her book, 'Say Yes to God' says this: "Compassion is about making a decision. It's not an emotion... Expressing compassion is a deliberate choice. We are most like Christ when we choose to offer the gift of our presence and choose to absorb within ourselves the suffering of the least, the last, and the lost. Are you looking for Jesus? That's where you'll find him." Jesus touched the man and then he spoke to the man and said "I am willing. Be clean." The man could see that Jesus was willing. He wasn't just hearing it and years of sickness were healed in an instant. Years of
5 loneliness were loved away in a single touch. And this ruin of a man was instantly restored in his body and in his soul. This broken, helpless, hopeless, desperate man could finally go home to his family. In Mark 1:44 (NIV) Jesus says this to the leper, "'Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.'" What does he mean go to the priest and offer the sacrifices? What sacrifices? Leviticus 14:13-14 (NIV) says, "[The priest] is to slaughter the lamb [the leper has brought. The priest is to slaughter the lamb...] in the holy place where the sin offering and the burnt offering are slaughtered... The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot." Big deal right? A little blood on the right side and, Boda-boom, bodabing; your all good. What's that? And why's that even in the bible? Let's look at Leviticus 8:23-24 (NIV) it tells us the regulation for ordaining a priest. Here's what it says, "Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Moses also brought Aaron's sons [who were being called into the priesthood. He called them...] forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet." Here's the deal. The blood that cleanses the priest is the blood that cleanses the leper. The sacrifice that makes the priest, the holy man, acceptable to God is the sacrifice that makes the leper acceptable to God. What it means is there is nobody so unclean as to be beyond cleansing. And there is nobody so righteous and so holy in their own mind as to be above cleansing. Whether you are a priest or a leper it's the same sacrifice for all of us. We all need a Savior. All of us. So, here's the challenge: who are the untouchable people in your world and are you willing to reach out with the love of Jesus to show them the love of Jesus? To love them in the name of Jesus. Because Jesus is still willing. Jesus still touches and cleanses broken people. But he does it through you and me. He does it through his church. That's why we're called the body of Christ. He touches people through his people. That's what it means to be a follower of Christ. We carry the presence of Jesus into other people's pain and suffering in order to lift them out of it. Jesus still touches the world. Now he touches it through us. So what are you willing to do? How can you be Jesus to others? Remember, according to the law the leper had to live outside the camp. He wasn't allowed to come in where the people were. He had to live
6 in the lonely places. In Mark1:45 it says the leper, "went out and began to talk freely spreading the news. And as a result Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people sill came to him from everywhere." Here's the point. As we engage, as we minister to the lepers in our world they're going to go out and tell people about it. And as they draw closer to us don't be surprised if other people begin to steer clear. If other people begin to withdraw from you. Don't be surprised when those who lack mercy and are unwilling to make sacrifices for the ministry of Christ come against your ministry. There's a cost to mercy. It could cost you your comfort. It can cost you your reputation. People might disagree with what you're doing and who you're doing it for. As the church we have an obligation to meet people where they are in life and love them right in the middle of it. Jesus doesn't wait for us to clean up our lives before he helps us. He just helps. Change, and all of that, that takes place afterwards. That's the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life. Jesus just reaches out and touches people right in the middle of the mess. And it's uncomfortable and it takes us outside our comfort zone. There are consequences to mercy. But if we fail to act in compassion, there are also consequences. If we refuse to act in compassion, there is a greater price to pay because it's the merciful who receive mercy. If we refuse to show mercy we are putting ourselves at risk of not receiving the mercy of God when we are in pain, when we are in torment. If we want to receive mercy, we have to show mercy. Mercy is the key to answered prayer. Where do you need mercy in your life right now? Is there a place in your life you've been praying for God's mercy and nothing is happening and you've been saying what's going on? Why is God not acting on your behalf? Here's what the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 58:7-8 (TLB) "I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don't hide from relatives who need your help. "If you do these things, God will shed his own glorious light upon you. He will heal you; your godliness will lead you forward, goodness will be a shield before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind." If you do these things! Jesus says if you'll do what God says through his prophet Isaiah, if you will do that, then I will bless you. In other words, blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy. If you're not having your prayers answered, then you need to ask yourself if you are putting yourself in the position to receive mercy. And the way you put yourself in a position to receive mercy is to give mercy away. "Blessed are the merciful; for they will
7 be shown mercy." The way you serve God is by serving people. Mercy is love in action. That's the way you serve God. You have to shift your focus from what you want in our church, the things that make you comfortable, to what is necessary to serve the people in our community. How many of us have asked the question, what can we do to bring more members into our church? Specifically, how can we draw young families with children into the life of Macedonia Christian Church so we can continue this legacy through another generation and beyond? How many times have you asked that question? How do we make that prayer a realization in our church? How do we do that? We have to meet the lost where they are. We have to move ourselves outside our comfort zone and do things that are not our preference. It's part of showing mercy! So I want to challenge you, I want to encourage you to think about the future of Macedonia Christian Church. How can you get involved in and support the ministries of this Church? How can you be a part of the focus to reach the lost in our community? What sacrifices are you willing to make to change the way we do church so that we focus on how we can reach the families with young children in our community? Do you want to see a revival in our church? Make it your mission to join in as we change our community through love in action. We can change our community. We can see our prayers answered. Because when we serve others, we receive mercy from God. Take Jesus at his word. Take him up on his challenge. "Blessed are the merciful, they'll receive mercy." Blessings, Scott