In Christ, we are promised many things, including this: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). By grace through faith, if we are in Christ, then for Christ we will be treated with contempt, scorned for our faithfulness. For the Christian, persecution is not the consequence of a lack of faith but evidence of it.
So, how shall we then live? How shall we worship God day by day in every area of life? By God’s grace, let us be motivated by mercy. You are a great sinner, but ever-greater is your Savior. According to God’s mercy, let us be sacrificed to worship. Hold nothing back; give yourself wholly and completely to the Lord. And, according to God’s mercy and by his grace, let us be transformed to discern, that we may live day by day to the glory of God.
So, let us humbly give thanks as vessels of mercy that we who were not God’s people have become his people. Let us give thanks that in his mercy and eternal love for us, he calls us his beloved. Let us give thanks that while we did not pursue the righteousness of God, by his grace he justified us as righteous through faith. And let us give thanks that he who is a stumbling stone for many is our rock of salvation. So, let us rejoice, for “The LORD liveth; and blessed be [our] rock; and let the God of [our] salvation be exalted” (Ps. 18:46 KJV).
Let us show compassion and mercy as God has shown compassion and mercy to us. Our standard for mercy is neither our neighbor nor ourselves but God, as Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Just as we are not God’s judge, we are not our neighbor’s either. Jesus said being a “neighbor” is defined by showing mercy (Luke 10:36-37), and James taught, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas. 2:13). If we are indeed “vessels of mercy” it stands to reason that mercy will flow from us to others.
If God chose Israel through the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be his people, why did they reject their Messiah, whom God promised and sent? Did God not reveal his glory to them on Mount Sinai, in the tabernacle, and in the temple? Did he not make his dwelling among them? Did God not choose Israel to receive his covenants, to keep his law, to worship him in truth? It would seem that Israel’s rejection of Christ renders God’s redemptive purpose and plan a failure. God chose Israel, but they rejected Christ. Mission failed.
In conclusion, let me encourage all of us who are tempted to set our minds on the things of the flesh yet have the Spirit of Christ to remember, reflect, realize, and rejoice. Remember that you belong to Christ. You are not your own but were bought with his blood (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Reflect on the reality that the very Spirit of God dwells in you, a guarantee that you are his child and an ever-present reminder that he is with you, even to the end of the age (verse insert). Realize that “although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life.” Regardless of how you sometimes feel, you are in fact alive in Christ. And rejoice that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), and the power of his presence transcends all the trials this world has to offer. So, let him who is greater do greater things in and through you, as you set your mind on the things of the Spirit. For, the Spirit is life.
Jesus summarized the Decalogue simply: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). It is a brilliant, comprehensive yet succinct understanding of God’s Moral Law. It is also clear in its inclusion: God, my neighbor, and me. Of course, only the fool questions who God is (Ps. 14:1), and I know who I am, but who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor my friend but not my enemy? Is my neighbor my social or political tribe but not yours? Is my neighbor those I like but not those I dislike or those who dislike me? Who is my neighbor?
But the faith that God gave Abraham did not falter, as it never will, but grew: “[Abraham] did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do” (Rom. 4:20-21 NET). Therefore, “In hope [Abraham] believed against hope.” Though his circumstances shouted hopelessness, Abraham had hope, not because he looked to himself and his faithfulness but because he looked to the One who promised.
For the gospel has come to us, carried from Jerusalem to the world. Therefore, let us guard against the Christless religion of the scribes and Pharisees, looking by faith to Christ our Savior, to be conformed to his image, as we are cleansed by his blood, finding our true identity in Christ alone.
Apart from God’s saving grace, we are all blind beggars without hope. But, in his mercy and grace, he hears our cry, “Lord, let our eyes be opened,” and graciously he does, that we may see the glory of Christ and follow him.