Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Word for the Day

I've been working my way through a Bible reading plan this year, and for the first time in my life I've actually stuck with it for longer than 3 days! The plan has you read four chapters from four different books--two in the NT and two in the OT--as you work your way through each book. There have been several days where the themes of the various chapters have been remarkably consistent, and today was one of those days.

This morning, two of the chapters that I read were Exodus 33 and John 12. I'll quote a selection from each:
And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Ex. 33:19)

"If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47)
Isn't it amazing what God says in that Exodus quote? "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy..."; and then we probably expect him to say something like, "...and I will condemn whom I will condemn." But he doesn't say that. Instead, he says, "...and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." God speaks of himself in terms of mercy and compassion, and the verbiage of condemnation is absent.

Then you have the verse in John where Jesus says, "For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." Jesus didn't picture his mission as one of judgment or condemnation, but rather as one of salvation. (See also, John 3:17) Truly remarkable, isn't it?

Now, we know that judgment is coming for all of us, but it's important to see that the Bible testifies that the first word is mercy, compassion, and salvation. That is the first word. That is the loudest word. That is the strongest word. Judgment is coming, of course, but not until God's mercy, compassion, and salvation have run their course. Jesus goes on to say in John 12 that all who reject his words (i.e., the gospel message) will be judged by those words, and ultimately condemned by them. Sadly, there can be no salvation for those who reject Jesus' word of salvation. If you reject the word of salvation, then all that is left is the word of condemnation.

But Jesus is committed to saving you; he is not committed to condemning you. Maybe you need to hear that today because it sure doesn't seem true. All you've ever heard is that Jesus is coming and he's going to throw all the unbelievers into hell. Jesus' mission is not condemnation. It's salvation. It's grace. We Christians don't often live that truth out. Maybe we need to hear that today, too. Jesus doesn't want to crush you, destroy you, or throw you into the pit of eternal hellfire. What he wants--what he really, really wants--is to save you. He wants that so bad that he was willing to lay down his divine rights, become a homeless peasant, and suffer death on a cruel Roman cross so that he could live life as you live it, and speak to you that word of mercy, compassion, and salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God; condemnation is the end result of your rejection of God, who has exhausted every avenue in his relentless love for you.

Salvation is the word for today. I hope you hear him speaking to you. I hope you can come to terms with your sin and rebellion, set that aside, and trust in Jesus rather than in your own goodness, success, or intelligence. Jesus desperately wants to save you from sin, evil, and death. I hope that you can receive today's word.

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