Good morning. I’m so grateful to be a part of this church family. I’m excited. The last time I preached, I was super nervous. So, today I’m just a little nervous. Like Tony said, this is week four of our Have Mercy series. And week one, we spoke about how Satan wants to bring… See more
Good morning. I’m so grateful to be a part of this church family. I’m excited. The last time I preached, I was super nervous.
So, today I’m just a little nervous. Like Tony said, this is week four of our Have Mercy series. And week one, we spoke about how Satan wants to bring us low by making us bitter. But God has a purpose for us to rise above it. In week two, we spoke about how evil is inevitable, that God sees and God will judge.
And what that means is that we can be sure that evil will be dealt with by God. And last week we learned when it comes to the helpless and the harassed, Jesus teaches us to have compassion like him.
But today’s sermon is gonna feel a little bit different.
In our series so far, we’ve taken we’ve been talking about showing mercy to others. But today we’re going to focus more on how we can recognize God’s mercy on us. Without being able to recognize the mercy that God shows us it would be extremely tough to show mercy and extend that to others. So, to dive in, would you please turn with me to Ephesians, Chapter 2, verses 1 to 5.
Before we dive into reading this, this passage actually explains what it’s like for us to be outside of Christ and what it’s like for us to be in Christ, communicating an opportunity for transformation. It also shines light on the reasons why we were dead spiritually in the first place, due to our focus on gratifying ungodly cravings, our willingness to bend to our sinful desires. This portion of the passage ends by expressing that our past doesn’t force us to remain dead.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work and those who are disobedient.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. ”
So what sticks out to me here is that the Bible speaks about how even though we all have lived in such a wicked way, all of us can receive God’s mercy and love.
All of us can go from dead in our transgressions to alive with Christ by grace. And we can be saved. But in the same vein, all of us can choose to remain dead in our sins to make the choice to remain in the cycle of following the ways of this world solely focused on gratifying cravings that lead us away from mercy and towards deserving wrath.
The truth is, we are all familiar with living like this. Even as you listen, you may be thinking about people in your life that have the opportunity to choose God’s grace, but choose rather to just go to what they desire and just go towards distractions. Or maybe it’s you recently that’s been distracted. Those distractions are getting in the way of you remembering God’s mercy that leads to life.
Through God’s mercy, we have access to life. But we can choose to remain dead.
You know this feeling, the feeling of knowing the best choice to make, but you choose to go with what you desire instead. It’s like early morning alarms. You set them because you want to get up at that time. But as soon as that alarm goes off, you decide, I’m gonna hit snooze and you don’t take the opportunity to get up and do the productive thing that you planned to do before. You thought that sleeping an extra few minutes would be better.
Church, if we aren’t careful, we can hit snooze and miss out on mercy just for a few more moments of unnecessary comfort that we desire. To illustrate this biblical principle better I want to show you one of the most tragic characters in all scriptures. Someone who really missed mercy, one who’s rarely preached about specifically. One of the most infamous people in all of the Bible. A man that we tend to look at as subhuman. A guy most of us will probably hate to be compared to.
We’re studying him out this morning as a warning.
The man I’m speaking about is Judas Iscariot. The man known most by his greatest mistakes, the one who betrayed Jesus for just 30 pieces of silver and then later took his own life because of the shame of his actions.
He’s the perfect example of a man who through God’s mercy, had access to life, but he chose death.
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’s honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of perfume.”
At this point, it’s getting close to the end of Jesus’s ministry, and a few good friends come together to honor him with a home cooked meal. So, while the group is honoring Jesus, Mary decides to wash his feet with expensive perfume that she had. This was an extravagant display of love, Mary, taking something extremely valuable and using it to serve and to show her love for Jesus.
“But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected.
‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ‘ He did not save it because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; as a keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put in it.”
So even though Judas spent a considerable amount of time with Jesus, we still see him being consistent in stealing money that was given to the disciples to help move their mission forward. A chosen disciple of Christ showing his fleshly cravings. They’re clouding his vision. It’s clouding the vision of the love that Mary is showing Jesus right now. Through that sacrifice, instead, he tries to make Mary feel guilty for not giving, not selling that perfume to give to the poor.
But the true motive for him was just to get more money in his pocket. And just to give further context.,Judas was the treasurer of the group. Even though when John 6, the scriptures show clearly that Jesus knew out of all the twelve disciples, Judas would be the one that he can trust the least. But Jesus still put him in charge of the money. Jesus wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t have any type of skill or capabilities in that area.
Temptations are common in areas where we feel skilled or trusted or we just enjoy them.
If you’re highly educated in a certain area and you have a conversation with someone who’s not the temptation is to be prideful because they don’t know as much as you. If you have a particular gift, that temptation can be to be conceited because you have that gift compared to somebody else.
Chances are Judas was gifted in how he handled the money and became really fond of it. The temptation started small, but it grew to a point where it led him to be increasingly greedy. First to the point of him becoming a thief. Then he grew to become a trader. And later, a murder accomplice just because he was in the pursuit of money. Let’s think back to the story of John 12.
He literally was right in front of one of the most extravagant showings of love, mercy and someone choosing to focus on Christ rather than other things.
Yet he missed it because his view of mercy was clouded by his greed. Often times it’s hard to notice God’s mercy because we’re consumed in our own sin. This is a clear reminder of where we started in Ephesians 2, all of us are consumed by sin and transgressions following its cravings and thoughts. Here Judas did the same. He was focused on getting extra money that he desired. His cravings clouded his view of mercy. Temptation struck right at the place of his strength, and that temptation quickly grew into death.
And what we’re going to read next is the moment he’s most famous for in the Book of Matthew, starting in Chapter 26, Judas partners with religious leaders who want to kill Jesus because of their own selfish motives.
Judas would provide information of Jesus’ whereabouts in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.
And he knew that once they got to where Jesus was and they captured him, that they were going to kill him. And he still with his temptation, was focused on just getting money, not on where he was being led into different sin.
“Early in the morning, all the chief priests and all the elders of the people made their plans to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priest and the elders.
‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’
‘What is that to us?’ They replied, ‘that’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”
A bit after this time, we’re seeing how Judas responded after he realized what he had done. He had just set up the Son of God to be arrested. Physically assaulted, flogged, mocked and killed.
After all he was doing, he had grown into the regular occurrence of putting money in his greed above all else. But now Judas is finally face to face with the consequences of his actions, filled with remorse. He takes the money back and confesses what he’s done wrong. To me, these are genuine signs of him giving an effort to repent. But even with that initial effort, it was too much. The remorse was too much for him to continue in it, and it led him to taking his own life.
He went from being clouded by his cravings, to sinking in his shame. It’s an extremely tragic story, one that I used to read only to say I never want to be like this man.
But church, I want to ask you to think about something. Take a moment and remember, Judas is human, just like you and I. Now, when Judas was a young boy, what do you think he dreamed of? What do you think he dreamed of becoming as he grew older, as he tried to reach his goals and accomplish them?
Do you think his dream was to betray the Messiah? I doubt he dreamed of being anything like this. And I believe the same thing about ourselves.
Our greatest mistakes were not what we dreamed of making a reality.
Whether it happened back in middle school, in high school, whether the bad decisions started in college because it was part of the college experience. Maybe you went too far in your attempt to get revenge on someone that hurt you or hurt your family or the lies that you’ve told your family and thought that you had to keep telling to not get in trouble.
Maybe it’s something you’ve done during this quarantine. Was it your life’s goal to make that mistake? Maybe for some of you at the time, it was. And now it’s just a regret etched into the fabric of your mind. We’ve all found ourselves in Judas-type of situations. And if it hasn’t happened yet, be on your guard, because the evil will come.
Regardless of what you think, if Judas was predestined for this or because he was possessed or all those different things, I want to ask you guys this question: Could he have chosen to receive mercy?
Could he have chosen to receive mercy?
Here’s a man who’s been been around Christ for years, having seen people healed many times over and over and over again; blind people receiving sight, paralyzed people beginning to walk, sick people being healed, and people even being raised from the dead. Countless miracles done by Christ.
Yet he did not recognize the mercy being displayed to those people. If we don’t see the mercy God has shown to others around us, we won’t be able to catch how God is trying to show us mercy.
But again, church, could he have received mercy? Rather than answer the question, I’d like to compare Judas to somebody in most cases. His story is contrasted with Peter’s, but I think there’s another individual whose past lines up a bit better with his the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus.
This line right here is just to quickly compare the their past. Judas brought about the death of Christ. Paul brought about the death and imprisonment of the followers of Christ.
So, Paul is another man who is known for his terrible past, persecuting the Church of Christ.
He was feared by many because he was putting Christians into prison and also having some put to death. Paul looked at the new Christian church community that Jesus started as a cult that he needed to demolish. We can read an example of this in Act 7, where a young follower of Christ named Steven speaks out against a different corrupt leaders of the Sanhedrin that are led by Paul. His words caused these men to be so furious that they dragged Steven out of the city just to stone him to death.
Paul stood in the distance, approving of their killing of him, and he didn’t plan to stop there. He had plans to continue to persecute this church. Later, Acts 9, we see Paul on his way to a city named Damascus to continue his persecution of the church. He’s headed there with a plan to put more disciples of Jesus in prison. But while on the way there, he encounters Jesus.
And that ends up being the catalyst of Paul turning from persecuting the church to now supporting them as they as they spread the gospel. We see the similarities between Judas and Paul, two men who brought about death of Jesus and his followers. Paul ultimately choosing life after his encounter with Christ. But as we read this next passage, I want you to keep an eye out for how Paul viewed his past.
He recounts his story in 1st Corinthians 15.
1st Corinthians 15:8-10
“And last of all, he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them- yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me.”
Paul was one of the church’s biggest antagonist when he looked back at his life. He knew he had no qualifications to be an apostle or even to be saved. But I’ll ask a similar question to the one I asked earlier. Could someone in this position with this kind of past really have access to life?
What’s the main difference between these two men? Paul understood God’s mercy and was changed by it after just one encounter with Jesus. Judas walked with Jesus for three years and couldn’t catch it.
Mercy and grace had an effect on Paul. The Christian with arguably the worst past went on to be arguably the best Christian of all time because he understood the mercy shown to him. Everything Paul did he attributed to mercy and grace shown to him.
The difference between you and someone who has impact on God’s kingdom is not the acts of your past. It’s your understanding of God’s grace and his mercy.
I’ll say it one more time, because if you’re anything like me, you need the encouragement, the reminder and the help. The difference between you and someone who has impact on God’s kingdom is not the actions of your past. It’s your understanding and acceptance of God’s mercy.
So, to answer the question earlier, of course, these two men, people like you, someone like me, despite our past still have access to life.
I want to leave you with this encouragement from our brother who chose to accept mercy offered them.
“Here’s a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ might display his immense patience as an example for those who believe in him and receive eternal life.”
If mercy can be applied to the worst of sinners and have tremendous impact, then it can be applied to all of us. There’s no sin, no blemish that God can’t forget or forgive or make clean. We can comprehend what the scripture says, but believing it can be tough, because we don’t feel like we’re worth God showing us mercy.
Maybe you believe this because family, friends, enemies or strangers have said or done hurtful things to you. Our culture also has made it popular to deem that someone is an accident or a mistake or worthless.
But the value of something isn’t determined by anyone’s opinion. It’s determined by the price someone’s willing to pay for it.
This reminds me of a contract that was just signed in the NFL. If you know about Patrick Mahomes, he actually signed a 500 million dollar contract for 10 years to play with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, some people, or some coaches, or some organizations would say he’s not worth that. But it doesn’t matter. The Chiefs saw him as worth spending that much money to keep him for 10 years. That’s all that matters. So even if people have different opinions, they can’t change what they valued him at.
And so for you, it doesn’t matter, your opinion on the value of what something is. Worth is determined by how much a person would be willing to pay for it.
Think about what God spent to give us a chance to accept him.
The price spent for us to have a chance to understand his mercy. To understand his grace, to understand his love and salvation he offers. The Almighty knew the price.
We don’t have the authority to say we’re worth it or not. I’ll say that one more time. We don’t have authority to say, God, we’re not worth it. He saw us as worthy. God has made it clear that we are.
What would your life look like if you truly believed what we just spoke about?
If you truly believe that you were worth it to God? And you made that a conviction of yours? That to him, you are worth every drop of blood. To him, you are worth every lash to the back. The thorns in the nails that pierced him, even the terrible experience of death.
Then his mercy and grace wouldn’t be without effect in you. Remember, we all have access to life because Jesus died for all. The key is to aim, to understand, and accept the mercy God wants to give you.