Grace and Mercy

Words are important.  Very important.  And in my humble opinion, I do not think that we should use words that we do not fully know the meaning of.  Admittedly, I may not be the best example of this rule, since I call everyone (girls and guys alike) “dudes” and I commonly refer to things that excite me as “sick”.  But in order to put an Inception-type spin on the common phrase, I urge you to “Do as I say (even though the words that I “say” with often contradict the words I just said) and not as I do.  Think about it.

Now if your brain isn’t already oozing out of your ears, then let us continue our conversation about words.  Because words are important.  For the past few weeks John Bower and I have been attempting to put into words what we see God doing throughout the body of our church.  Several other people have weighed-in with their own thoughts, and finally last Thursday I feel like we might have made break through.  To the best of our collective discernment, and to the extent in which I am able to interpret it, here is what we think God has been up to at Normandy:

God is graciously bringing all of us to the end of ourselves. And He won't relent till He has all of our hearts. He is doing this so that we will be broken. He is breaking us so we can experience His mercy and grace. He wants us to experience His mercy and grace so we can bring His mercy and grace to the world.

Keeping this idea in mind, it may now be clear why Pastor Bower began our service with an incredible verse from Hebrews 4:16.  “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Bower is desiring that we the people of Normandy would realize our needs (brokenness and incompleteness) through approaching Jesus with confidence that He is able to pour out both mercy and grace on us.  Sounds good, right?  This verse can be an absolutely life changing piece of scripture, but only if we fully understand the meanings of both “Grace” and “Mercy”.  Without fully understanding these two words, this verse loses its meaning and we simply cannot comprehend the magnitude of God’s goodness.  These words are very important! So in order to help us understand these two words, allow me to paint a verbal scenario for us.

Imagine this…you are driving down a Texas highway on a clear and star-fill night.  With the open Texas road in front of you and the eternal majesty of the living God shining above your head, it is understandable that you get a little distracted from your normal driving precautions.  Perhaps fueled by the excitement and energy of the Holy Spirit, your right foot presses on the accelerator a little harder.  And suddenly, you notice blue and red lights in your rear view mirror…"doh!"  You look down at your speedometer and see that you are traveling at 85mph on a 75mph Texas highway (God bless Texas and it’s high speed limits!).  As the officer approaches your window, you contemplate blaming the entire thing on God’s beauty to see if the policeman might sympathize with you…but you quickly dismiss your silly thoughts. Because let’s face it, you were caught red-handed.  So you reach for your registration and your wallet…SHOOT!!! You must have left your wallet at home! Dang-it.  This is not looking good for you.  But after a quick conversation with the officer in which you recite your DL# from memory, he miraculously decides to write you a warning and allows you to proceed on your way.  

***Pop Quiz*** 

- Did the police officer just extend you grace?

- …or did the police officer show you mercy?

- What would you say to thank him? “Thank you for showing me grace!” or “Thank you for having mercy!”

- Are they both right? (No they are not…keep reading)

The story continues.  Relieved from dodging a speeding ticket, you thank him generously and sincerely.  He leans in a little closer to accept your apology and he happens to glance at your gas gauge, which is dangling dangerously close to the capital “E”.  Embarrassed of how much the stars actually distracted you during your drive, you sheepishly tell the officer that you must have not noticed the warning light, and you ask him where the nearest gas station is.  He points up the road and tells your that the nearest station is about 15 miles away.  And then he leans in closer and speaks a little quieter than his previous statement, “…but you don’t have your wallet…”  Your heart sinks in your chest.  He’s right.  You are in some serious trouble.  But this officer isn’t done with you yet.  He speaks to you with a calm and caring voice, “Why don’t I follow you to the gas station to make sure you arrive there safely, and then I will fill-up your tank free of charge.  This one’s on me.”  Shocked, you simply nod your head and agree. 

***Pop Quiz #2***

- Grace or Mercy?

These are words that we often use interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. “Mercy” is when you DO NOT get what you DO deserve.  You deserved a speeding ticket because you broke the law.  But because the officer withheld your rightful punishment from you, he showed you mercy!  “Grace” on the other hand is when you DO get what you DO NOT deserve.  You did not deserve to have the officer follow you to the gas station and you did not deserve for him to pay for your tank of gas, but he did it anyway!  That is grace.  Make sense?

Now let’s revisit that Hebrews verse again: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  What the writer of Hebrews is telling us is that if we are in need of anything, we should approach the throne of Jesus.  And at this throne we will find that Jesus is withholding our rightful punishments while He is lavishing undeserved gifts on us.  We deserve separation, punishments, fines, penalties, rebuking, and death.  But because Jesus is merciful, He withholds those things from us and He graciously chooses to give us gifts, talents, freedoms, blessings, and life!  Our God is both gracious and merciful, and He desires to display both of those qualities to us each and every day.  But in order to receive both grace and mercy, we must approach the throne of grace, fully confident that Jesus alone is able to provide both qualities to the fullest amount.  

What the writer of Hebrews is telling us is that if we are in need of anything, we should approach the throne of Jesus

Our words are important.  When used correctly, they are able to communicate both the forgiveness and the generosity of God, in that while we were still sinners He sent His son to die for us (mercy) and provide eternal life for all who believe (grace). Our words are able to reveal the truth about Jesus, who is The Word…which might be the sickest thing I’ve said to you dudes this entire post.  

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” -John 1:14

Mark Heger and his wife, Emily, live in Lake Highlands.  Emily and Mark enjoy sending practical joke emails that scare their pastor. Mark can be reached at Mark@WakeWell.org.  You can also check out his national ministry at www.wakewell.org