The Harmony between Truth and Mercy
I have a top-ten list I would like to share with you. It is the top ten ways to be irritating to other people.
Number 1. When you go through a drive-thru, make a point of specifying that your order is "to go."
Number 2. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green and insist that you "like it that way."
Number 3. Reply to everything someone says with "that’s what YOU think."
Number 4. Practice making fax and modem noises.
Number 5. Ask your co-workers mysterious questions and then scribble the answers in a notebook. Mutter something about "psychological profiles."
Number 6. Go to a poetry recital and ask why some of the poems don’t rhyme.
Number 7. As much as possible skip rather than walk.
Number 8. Ask people what gender they are.
Number 9. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head like a parakeet.
Number 10. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
You know, this is a reasonably good segue into what I would like to talk about this morning. John wanted me to talk about the Harmony between Truth and Mercy, and I have to warn you that this is an offensive subject to many. And this being the Christmas season, we can look and see that Jesus has always been the source of offense—even from His birth.
And you might ask, “what offense?” Because when we look at the account of Jesus’ birth, we see
· The wise men came from far away and as the Gospel of Matthew records, “they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
· We see the simple shepherds of the fields overjoyed—glorifying and praising God.
· We see the prophets Simeon and Anna who acknowledge Jesus for who He is and are Glad.
But while we see much joy at His arrival, we also see rejection and anger in many. And who was angry? King Herod and the Chief Priests and the Teacher of the Law.
As the embodiment truth, Jesus had come to take his rightful place as king; as the embodiment of mercy, He had come to be the true Chief Priest and the true Teacher of the Law.
LET’S PRAY LET’S PRAY LET’S PRAY LET’S PRAY
We’ll be using Psalms 85:10-13 as our text. Listen to the Psalmist as he refers prophetically to Jesus:
Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.
So Jesus was predestined to come and be the reconciliation of mercy and truth.
I guess that begs the question, “Why do truth and mercy upset folks and whom do they upset?” As we said before, the Pharisees and the legalists—represented by the Priests and Teachers are offended by mercy and the unbelieving world—represented by the worldly King Herod—is offended by truth.
Let’s look at MERCY. What is mercy? The dictionary definition of mercy is undeserved kindness or unmerited favor. You ask, “Who could be offended by that?” This is what Paul, in Galatians 5, refers to this as the “offense of the cross.”
The offense can be found in the key words “undeserved” and “unmerited.” The legalist cannot bear the thought that he cannot reach God on his own through religion and keeping the law.
At the heart of religion is pride. Pride says, I don’t need a Savior, I don’t want a Savior, I can attain righteousness on my own. And 1st Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…”
C.S. Lewis wrote extensively about God’s mercy through Jesus Christ. Listen to what he says about his own conversion:
You must picture me alone in that room in Maudlin, night after night feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady relentless approach of Him, whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I had greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the trinity term of 1929, I gave in and admitted that Jesus was God and knelt and prayed—perhaps that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. I did not see then what I see now, the most shining and obvious thing—the divine humility that will accept a convert even on such terms. The prodigal son at least walked home on his own feet, but who can completely ignore the love that will open the high gates of heaven to a prodigal who’s brought in kicking, struggling, and resentful, who’s darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape. Christ is the personification of the depths of Devine mercy—the hardness of God is softer than kindness of men and His compulsion is our liberation.
That, my friends, is mercy and it’s offensive to many.
If you brought your Bibles, turn with me to John 14:1 through 6.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am going.”
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered: “I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.
And in the original Greek, the word truth here isn’t ambiguous—it is
Ah-lee-thee-ah, which means, “that which is true in any matter under consideration.” In other words, it is objectively true.
And while we’re looking at it, the pronoun “I” is usually not written or spoken in Greek. It is implied by how the verb is conjugated and the pronoun is only added for emphasis. So it could be translated as: I, and only I, am the way, the truth, and the life…
The world with its pluralistic culture is at odds with that. People might be comfortable with Jesus as a great moralist. People might be comfortable with Jesus as a great teacher. People might even be comfortable with Jesus as one of many ways to God. But they will not accept that He is THE truth and that He is GOD.
We often hear that there are many paths to God, and there are even many Christians who have let that world-view infiltrate their own set of beliefs. In his book, Made In His Presence, Allister Begg rejects this notion:
The idea that there are really no substantive differences between religions needs to be held up to careful scrutiny and declared fraudulent. For example, Islam says that Jesus was not crucified. Christianity says he was. ONLY ONE OF US CAN BE RIGHT. Judaism says Jesus was not the Messiah. Christianity says he was. ONLY ONE OF US CAN BE RIGHT. Hinduism says God has often been incarnate. Christianity says God was incarnate only in Jesus. WE CANNOT BOTH BE RIGHT. Buddhism says that the world’s mysteries will end when we do what is right. Christianity says we cannot do what is right. The world’s mysteries will end when we believe what is right.
Christians are often exhorted by detractors to give up our exclusive claims and be " humble " enough to admit the validity of all the other roads. To which we must reply, "Truth is not ultimately a matter of pride or humility; it is a matter of fact."
And do you see the difference? Mohammed never claimed to be God, Buddha never claimed to be God--they only claimed to know a method to get to God. Jesus claims to be GOD.
With the claim I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life, Jesus intentionally sets Himself up against the claims of the all religions of the world. And with that claim, He also makes us choose one way or the other about Him. As CS Lewis, in his book The Case for Christianity writes:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus
said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d either be a lunatic
- on the level with a man who says he’s a poached egg - or else
he’d be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either
this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or
And admittedly, that is a bold claim. And the unbelieving world doesn’t like that.
Have you ever noticed how nonbelievers are comfortable talking about God, about going to Church, about praying…but the moment you mention Jesus as GOD--look out.
Story about getting religion
You know, what I had implied by saying that was that Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life” and people were offended.
And this isn’t something new.
In literature classes, professors were always talking about irony as a literary device. Irony is defined as, “Inconsistency between what might be expected and what actually occurs.”
Well, you want irony. If you look at the account of Jesus’ trial in the Gospel of John, you will get irony. John18:37 & 38:
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." "What is truth?" Pilate asked.
Here Pilate is in front of THE truth and he asks, “What is truth?” “Inconsistency between what might be expected and what actually occurs.”
And yet we have many modern examples of this. Charles Stanley relates the following story:
One year the University of Chicago invited Dr. Paul Tillich, the existentialist theologian who tried to reconcile Christianity to the rest of the world’s religion saying that there are many paths to God. Dr. Tillich spoke for 2 ½ hours attempting to prove that the resurrection of Jesus was false.
He concluded that since there was no such thing as the historical resurrection the religious tradition of the church was groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, in fact, never rose from the dead in any literal sense. He then asked if there were any questions.
After about 30 seconds, an old, dark skinned preacher with a head of short-cropped, wooly white hair stood up in the back of the auditorium. "Docta Tillich, I got one question." All eyes turned toward him. He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it.
"Docta Tillich"…CRUCH, MUNCH…"My question is a simple question."…CRUNCH, MUNCH…"Now, I ain’t never read them books you read"… CRUNCH, MUNCH… "and I can’t recite the Scriptures in original Greek"… CRUNCH, MUNCH… "I don’t know nothin’ about Neibuhr and Heidegger"… CRUNCH, MUNCH… and then held up the core of the apple he had just finished, "All I wanna know is" This apple I just ate—was it bitter or sweet?"
Dr. Tillich paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: "I cannot possible answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple." The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at Dr. Tillich and said calmly, "Neither have you tasted my Jesus." The 1,000 plus in attendance could not contain themselves. The auditorium erupted with applause and cheers. Dr. Tillich thanked his audience and promptly left the platform.
We have talked about irony. And I have one more for you. Looking back once again at the trial of Jesus we see more irony.
WORSHIP TEAM WORSHIP TEAM WORSHIP TEAM
The Gospel of Matthew:
So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor. "Barabbas," they answered.
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!" "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
My friends, Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Psalms 85:10-11 (NKJV).
So what will we do this morning with He who embodies the virtues of mercy and truth? What will we do with Jesus who is called Christ? As offensive as it may be, this is the single most important question that we will ever ask ourselves because it’s the only question that has eternal implications.
Believers, God is speaking to me and he’s speaking to you. John has talked about the integrated Christian lifestyle where our beliefs are the same at church as they are in our jobs and in our homes.
Maybe you’ve never entirely turned your world-view over to Him and you are allowing some of the philosophies of this world to shape your perception of Jesus. Maybe you’re struggling with what God has for you, maybe you’re struggling with a situation at work or at home. If this is the case, we will have ministry teams available up front or stay in your seat and someone will come to you.
And we must ask this question every time we meet together. Because maybe, just maybe, this morning, you have never accepted the king of truth and mercy as you’re Lord and Savior. And now you feel the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit. Well my friend, wouldn’t you like to square things with Him today?