10 Feb Mercy and Transformation: God at Work in Us
Originally posted on February 10, 2006
This past Sunday we finished the opening verses of Romans (1:1-15). These verses contain Paul’s personal words to the Christians in Rome. In them we see God’s work in Paul in two ways- showing him mercy and transforming his character.
The good news of the gospel includes God’s willingness to rescue us from the horrible state of sin and self-centered destruction. Paul’s story in Acts 9 and Philippians 3:5-6 shows us how a person can be religious but completely lost in sin and pursuing a path that harms others and will eventually result in damnation. Paul was trying to stop Christ! What a pitiful, sad, and serious state of being. What danger there is in being left to live a self-directed life. The end result is spiritual death.
God showed Paul mercy (I Timothy 1:13). For Paul, God’s mercy came in the form of physical blindness and then a vision to stop his murderous journey to Damascus. Jesus arrested Paul before he could bring further harm to people and condemnation upon himself. He made Paul His bond-servant (Romans 1:1). Jesus was not obligated to do this; He simply had mercy on a sinner.
Apart from the details, Paul’s story is our story. We are in the pitiful and serious state of sin and self-destruction. Left to ourselves we will pursue the path that leads to death. But God shows us mercy in Christ Jesus. He stops us in our tracks, arrests us in our madness, and delivers us from the power of evil. God rescues us! This is mercy.
There is more. After Paul was shown mercy, we see him loving the very Christians he once wanted to kill. He is actually preaching to them and praying for them. He wanted to build their faith and was willing to risk his life to do so (Romans 1:11). The only explanation for this transformation is God’s mercy.
God will transform you. I have seen God turn mean people into great lovers. I have witnessed people consumed with lust become pure in heart. I have seen boldness in the timid, peace in the anxious, and generosity in the greedy. People have had their priorities so rearranged that their time, money, and desires are completely redirected. God transforms sinners so that they look more and more like saints.
Turning to God
If Paul were to come to Grace Community Church this Sunday, he would tell us to throw ourselves at the mercy of God. He would call us to repent of our sins and trust Jesus alone to make us right with God. He would show us how to come to God everyday in repentance and faith to be renewed in our minds and redirected in our pursuits. He would tell us of the Spirit’s work within us to make us aware of God’s love and to make us more Christ-like in character. If Paul were here, mercy and transformation would be his theme.
We have our Bibles. We can read of the reality of God’s gospel. We have read it, now let us believe it and rejoice in the transforming mercy of God at work in us.