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(5.) Ministries of Mercy—The Motivation for Mercy

April 29, 2008

“And when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” (Lk 10:33)

Overview: The only true and enduring motivation for the ministry of mercy is an experience and a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel. If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely.

The heart gripped by the mercy of God undergoes 2 effects: 1) The person who knows that he received mercy while an undeserving enemy of God will have a heart of love for even (and especially!) the most ungrateful and difficult persons. When a Christian sees prostitutes, alcoholics, prisoners, drug addicts, unwed mothers, the homeless, the refugees, he know that he is looking in a mirror. There is no such thing as giving to the “deserving” poor, as if anyone could deserve mercy; that would negate the very meaning of the thing. Jesus (as well as Isaiah, James, John, and Paul) use the life of mercy and love, even to one’s enemies, as a judge between true and false Christianity. The outwardly religious person can hold the outcasts and needy in contempt because he worked his way to where he is. The religious in heart knows he is who he is only by God’s mercy and forgiveness and thus pours out that same kind of love on everyone!

2) This is the second effect: the gospel of grace moves people to show mercy, as the Samaritan was moved by nothing other than this. Likewise, the Macedonian Christians gave (in 2 Cor 8) not as a result of excess, unneeded income, but as a response to the gift of Christ. Mercy is a sacrifice of praise to God’s grace, the praise of a generous heart demonstrated in one’s actions. He who is forgiven much forgives. He who is loved much loves. The gospel of grace makes this possible.

Take these words to heart from a sermon on Phil 2 entitled “Imitating Christ” by B. B. Warfield:

“He was led by His love for others into the world, to forget himself in the needs of others . . . . Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them. It means forgetfulness of self in others. It means entering into every man’s hopes and fears, longing and despairs: it means many sidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies. It means richness of development. It means not that we should live on life, but a thousand lives—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours.”

“Now dear Christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ. If so, you must be like him in giving . . . “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor’ . . . Objection 1: “My money is my own.” Answer: Christ might have said, “my blood is my own, my life is my own” . . . then where would we have been? Objection 2: “The poor are undeserving.” Answer: Christ might have said, “They are wicked rebels . . . shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.” But no, he left the 99, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving. Objection 3: “The poor may abuse it.” Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood. Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember his own word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

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