It is easy to want rules for living. Something that tells us “do this” and “don’t do that” removes us from the need to walk in true relationship with God. If we can just figure out what he wants then we simply have to follow a to-do list.
But the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of The Kingdom is much more than what we are doing or not doing. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about relationship, about nuance, about principles for living (not rules), and about our manner of being woven throughout everything.
If I was to give anyone rules for living the Christian life I would direct them to the book of Micah.
“O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you, to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
From what I can tell this sums up life in Christ.
So let’s take a look at it’s parts:
1. Do What is Right
There are many things that are right. Notice here that we are not instructed to not do what is wrong. Rather the author directs us to the positive. By this it is reinforced that at any given time we all know what is right.
Our consciences tell us what is right. God has hard-wired into each and every human being this knowing system that alerts us to what is right.
We find a similar message in James.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17
This means that sin is a very personal thing. This verse takes us beyond the rules and law and brings us to the reality of conviction.
Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives in relationship and response to our walk with God.
Convictions are the thoughts and compelling of the Spirit of God unto good works, kind words, faithful service, compassionate care, and more.
James makes it very clear that we must follow our convictions, and that to do anything less is in fact sin.
What is God calling you to do today?
How might he be compelling you?
To what are you being invited into and are you responding positively or negatively?
This is the crux of ‘Do What is Right’. Follow the Lord’s compelling.
2. To Love Mercy
Mercy understands that we are all the same in our inner being. Mercy gets it that the sins of others could be our very same sins. Mercy does not hold ourselves above others as though we are better than them.
No! Rather, mercy knows that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. We all stand at the same height before our God. All of us.
And mercy understands that to put ourselves above another is to refuse mercy to that person.
In Matthew we find this truth:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7
Thing is, we always receive what we give out. We want to be merciful people. We want to live above the letter of the law and enter into the spirit of the law.
The letter of the law says we are all condemned. If we live under this we then come to think we can condemn others also. We begin to believe that the gospel of Christ is about condemnation. But it’s not.
Rather, the Spirit of the law says that Christ came to do away with condemnation and to grant us grace and favour when we least deserved it. Living under this we find mercy and are then able to extend that same mercy to others.
In Exodus we find this mighty declaration of the character of God:
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” Exodus 34:6-7a
Here we find that the heart of God is about compassion, mercy, grace, steadfast love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
This is the very same things we are called to walk in. This is to be the manner of our being as well.
In Matthew we also find this:
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,”Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13 NLT
Notice at the start of the passage in Vs.9 we find Jesus’ invitation, “Come follow me and be my disciple.”
We might wonder what this means. What is it to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Well, the passage goes on to show us.
Jesus ate with tax collectors (a hated despicable people at the time) and with notorious sinners.
We realize, as we look at this passage and many others, that Jesus did not hold himself back from relationship with anyone. And the church leaders at the time were scandalized.
*Notice, Jesus was hated by the church leaders because he kept breaking all the rules:
- He ate with sinners. Matthew 9:10
- He let the adulterous woman go free. John 8:2-11
- He didn’t wash his hands before eating. Matthew 15:2 + 20
- He healed on the sabbath. Mark 3:1-6
- He worked on the sabbath. Matthew 12:1-8
- He refused to come under their manipulative ways. Matthew 21:24-27
- He spoke with Samaritans. John 4:9
- He forgave sins. Mark 2:5-11
- He let the sinful woman touch him. Luke 7:37-38
And the end of this passage in Matthew points out what the gospel is, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.”
We are drawn down the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to become a disciple of Jesus Christ?
It is this: Mercy. Given to all. Freely.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17
To LOVE Mercy. Fall in love with mercy. Receive it unto ourselves. Give it away freely to all. This is the work of the Kingdom. This is what the Lord requires.
3. To Walk Humbly with Our God
In Luke we find some practical advice from Jesus regarding humility,
“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!
“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11
Jesus is wisely advising all of us to never seek after our own honour, but to rather humble ourselves. Presuming we are great we in fact will find ourselves brought low.
We are rather to live as Christ himself did. In Philippians we find this,
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
And in 1st Peter we find,
“And all of you, serve each other in humility, for
“God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.”
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honour.” 1 Peter 5:5b-6
This verse, “God opposes the proud.” should bring us to our senses.
Are we getting this? Do we understand fully and completely that when we are proud (and we all start out this way) that God has no other option than to oppose us?
We may be doing the kingdom work, we may be honestly seeking after what is good and right, but listen and listen well: when we do this in a spirit of pride we are not under the covering of our God.
We are in our flesh.
And in our flesh we are opposed by God and in danger to attack of the enemy.
Humility rather, is of the Spirit, and here in the same manner of Jesus Christ we find we are 100% protected and covered and kept in the Lord.
We must lead in humility. We must humble ourselves or be humbled. We must put aside our pride or we will be opposed by God.
These are powerful and scary truths. One I pray you take to heart today.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ advances through us, or not, depending on how well we are acting out the gospel of Christ.
It does no good to be speaking it and then acting in a different manner.
Rather we go forward in relationship and ministry in the spirit by which Peter writes,
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
What do Disciples know?
They know that:
1. God loves them
2. Jesus covers over our wrong
3. The Holy Spirit is alongside us to lead, guide, comfort and convict.
Trust this in your own life, and you can trust this in others lives. Trust the work of the Lord in your own life and you will be able to trust the work of the Lord in other’s lives.
Ministry takes on a whole new meaning as we simply learn to Do What is Right, To Love Mercy, and to Walk Humbly with Our God.
“God we come before you today confessing our need of you. We so like our rules and our guidelines, but God I see today that you in fact call me to relationship with you, not with your rules.
You are right, I do know what is right. May I grow in integrity as I commit to doing what is right. May I not push away that still small voice that compels me to do good things for others. May I not ignore your convictions unto compassion and tenderness and grace.
Teach me to love mercy. Enable me to accept your mercy. Please pour your mercy into me and burn away the stuff of condemnation. We are a people desperate for mercy, teach me to give mercy to others, and to become a person of mercy in all of my dealings.
My pride I bring to you and I renounce this day in the name and blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. I confess Father that I cannot remove pride from my own being. And I realize that pride has in fact blinded me to the depths of my pride. I don’t even know how bad the problem is.
So today I simply bring my whole self to you asking that you do away with my pride and that you teach me humility. Enable me to walk in sober reality of who I am. Please help me.
Thank-You Lord for your heart of justice, of mercy and of humility. Make my heart like your heart today and every day from here on out. I love you. I honour you. I bless you this day. In the name and the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ I simply declare Amen and Amen”