Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Difference- Grace & Mercy

Some time back, my mom asked me what the difference is between grace and mercy.  I don't even remember when it was that she asked me this, but I have been contemplating it and seeing if God's Word can give a clue into the answer.  Here is what I found.

Mercy (compassion) is what we receive from Him when we should be killed from our sinful lives.  He keeps us alive to give us that chance to walk in His ways.  Grace (the divine influence upon the heart, with a reflection in the life) is what we receive from Him to help us walk with Him and in the ways He desires us too.  Now let's look at Scripture and see if that lines up. 

Let's start in Genesis where the first mention of grace is.  In Genesis 6:8 it says, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."  It goes on to say in verse 9, "This is the geneology of Noah.  Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations.  Noah walked with God".  I had never thought about this portion before.  Noah didn't need mercy at that point, because he was already a just and perfect man, which is evident in that the Lord spared his life during the flood.  He needed God's grace to help him make the choice to obey God's instruction to him to build the ark and continue serving the Lord.  Well, that lines up with just that one example.  Onto Psalm 84:11, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!"  Here the Lord is giving grace to the upright.  Again, to those who trust and follow Him, He is giving grace to help them continue obeying Him and walking in His ways. 

Luke 2:40, "And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him",gives us a glimpse of it as well in showing that Jesus also was given grace.  Why?  He was given grace to walk in God's ways, because He needed to be sinless in order to be the perfect sacrifice for sins.  Without God's grace, He wouldn't have been able to live this earthly life without sinning.  That is another great example!  I am just in awe at how He reveals to me the answers that I desire when I seek Him in His Word.  He is so faithful!  Let's read one more about grace, and then we'll see what it says about mercy.  In the Gospel of John, the first chapter, it says that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  This is a fascinating portion of Scripture, but let's continue further on in this chapter.  In verse 14 it goes on to say, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth".  Again this shows that Jesus came in the flesh and had God's grace and truth helping Him to walk sinless.  Skipping down to verse 17 it says, "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ".  I was shocked at this portion!  How many of you would say that this portion reads that the law was for Moses, but now that Jesus came, we have grace and don't need the law?  Read it with the application of what all the other portions of Scripture we have already read have verified to us that grace is.  The law was given to Moses on tablets of stone.  The New Covenant is that God's law should be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-33).  So, Jesus didn't come to do away with the law, He came to bring grace and truth, which is the purpose of helping us walk according to God's ways.  So, he is saying here, the law came through Moses, but Jesus was sent to bring the grace and truth that you need to allow that law to be written on your hearts, so you can obey them and walk in His ways.  It meshes with everything else so clearly. 

Mercy shows more of His compassion on us.  In Numbers 14:18 it says, "The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation".  This is talking about those who have done wrong.  He gives mercy to those who need forgiven.  They need to die for their sinful lives, so he gives mercy and let's them continue living.   Let's go to what Jesus Himself says about mercy.  Matthew 9:13 says, "But go and learn what this means:  I desire mercy and not sacrifice.  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance".  He desires mercy because He doesn't want any to perish, but to choose Him.  Mercy extends their opportunity to choose Him and repent of their sins. 

Let's go to Ephesians chapter 2 to wrap this up.  It sums it all up quite nicely and as I read it, I again marveled at His faithfulness to give me one portion that clearly says exactly what He sees the difference of grace and mercy being.  So here goes, try to stay with me. 
Ephesians 2:1-10 says, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest you should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them". 
Now let's break that down a bit.  It starts out in verses 1-3 talking about the sinful ways that we once were.  Verse 4 expresses God's great mercy towards us by not killing us because of our sinful ways and letting  us live to choose Him, because He loves us greatly.  I read verse 8 in a new light this evening.  We all know this verse.  But do we really know what every portion of it means and on into verses 9 and 10?  I didn't, but I do now.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith", it's our faith that causes us to believe that God exists.  It's His grace that causes us to walk with Him and that obedience to Him will save us.  "and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God", is saying that we can't obey Him on our own, it's His gift of grace that helps us obey.  "not of works, lest anyone should boast", is relating to those deeds that some may think will get them to heaven.  Works that are of the flesh more to "show" or "boast" that you are a good person will not save you.  But He does say that we were created for good works.  What works is He talking about?  In verse 10 it says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".  He prepared them beforehand?  His grace is given to help us walk in the ways that He established in the very beginning, that He created us to obey.  Wow, this passage covers it all!  Blessing the Lord for this revelation in my heart!  He is writing it on my heart and His Word says by this I will know that I am of Him.  That's right where I want to be. 

I continued studying and the Lord took me to Revelation 2.  I wasn't sure why, until I read the first part of it.  I believe that it relates to the "works that He prepared beforehand".  Revelation 2:1-5 and this is Jesus speaking, "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, these things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:  I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.  Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place- unless you repent."  If they were laboring for His name's sake how could He still say that they had left their first love?  They weren't doing those first works that He established, God's Law from the beginning .  Fascinating!  He never ceases to continue showing me His Truth.  I love it!

So, I challenge you. Really think on the difference. Have you accepted His mercy that has prolonged your life despite how you have lived in the past.  You can always start over and receive His grace that will help you obey and walk with Him.  There is no better place to be than walking with God and pleasing Him in all that you do.