Lord, Son of David, Have Mercy on Me!

For saving faith to be real it must be grounded in Christ. It is both profound and at the same time problematic. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross in order to save sinners is our only hope in this life. Our dilemma though is that hardships and difficulties often leaves us wanting immediate relief and when it does not happen according to our timetable then our tendency is to begin to despair over our situation. That decision to waive a white flag may be premature from what we can learn from the faith of the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel 15:21-28. This woman had come to Jesus on behalf of her daughter who was suffering terribly from demon-possession (vv.22c) and though desperate for divine intervention, it meant that she continued to seek when her request was not immediately granted. Unlike the many promos for today where they sing the praises of self-will and what you can achieve if you put your mind to it, her belief was not in herself but in Jesus and His sufficiency. She must have heard about the Lord’s great compassion from His previous acts of mercy from earlier visits to the region, where he fed the five thousand (men, woman and children), resurrected Jairus’ twelve year old daughter from death, and healed the son of a Royal Official. It would seem that any parent desperate for help would make note of the love Christ had for children and their parents. For many, Christ signs and miracles must have felt like a thunderbolt that left them in awe about His authority over nature, sicknesses, and even death. But the amazement and wonder that was heralded around the visible acts of God was never intended to be a diversion but to draw attention to His kingdom and saving power. Today’s crowd that seek prosperity from the gospel should examine their motives. This woman was in desperate straits and she came to Him for the right reasons. To think that the blessing Jesus had in reserve for this needy woman went far beyond the miraculous restoration of her daughter is what we will see for ourselves.

Now keep in mind that not unlike what we learn from New Testament teaching, Jesus always responded to any sincere, earnest, humble cry for help so this seeming delay to the Mother’s request should not be interpreted in any way other than the unique design God had for both her and her daughter. God’s plan for mother and daughter was twofold: to increase and strengthen the mother’s faith and at the same time relieve her daughter from demonic forces. Jesus would be the instrument to achieve this. It should be noted that although the Bible clearly says that she came to Him (vv.22), it was Jesus who had sought her out. Jesus had left Israel and entered what is now known as Lebanon for rest for both His apostles and Himself and to escape a premature showdown and growing animosity from the religious elite, and most important for today’s lesson to continue the work which He (God) gave Him to do (John 17:4), which in part was to bring salvation to His elect! Both mother and child had been in God’s plans long before this episode ever happened. Now Jesus was not indifferent to her plea but the first order of business was to test and grow her faith. That the Canaanite woman had to wait expectantly on Jesus only underscores the wise manner Jesus had put her faith to the test. While Christians can anticipate that their faith will undergo testing, they should not be surprised if request are put on hold to serve as an ancillary in God’s hands to raise personal faith to another level. God worked in this manner on many occasions. Abraham and Sarah had to wait patiently for the birth of their son Isaac; Jesus remained in the same place for two days after hearing of Lazarus` death before going to him where the gathered crowd witness the raising of Lazarus including Mary and Martha who for their sake Jesus delayed his arrival that they may believe along with the apostles (John 11:14). Patient waiting under hard circumstances and faith bring together a form of synergy. But faith was never meant to be left untouched and alone to stagnate. Faith grows upward; it moves on an incline and undergoes strains and stresses as indicated in the Matthew passage. The mother’s first request was met with silence (Mat. 15:23). Jesus does not answer her, so she asked again and again. She did not quit! She recognizes that Jesus alone can help her. She pleads with Him. He prorogues her request in order to strengthen her faith, to refine it like silver and make her see for herself the glorious expression of unswerving faith, and to gladly grant her request after her faith has been proven. And her daughter was healed that very hour. Interesting how immediate Jesus response was to meet her request once He had tried her in a way that prompted a deepening trust in Him. Once Christ had achieved this work in her, He declared, Women you have great faith. (vv.28b) Jesus had successfully tilled the ground of this women’s faith and given her an “A class approval rating”. He had achieved His objective and instantly granted her request to set her daughter free from demon possession. And her daughter was healed that very hour. (vv.28d)

God’s intention for sinners is to make them rethink their lost condition to where they exercise genuine faith in His Son. Sometimes it takes what can be termed “divine delays.” The woman doggedly sought Jesus since she knew that He alone could and would help her. Have you come to that point where like this woman who called on Jesus, “Take pity on me, O Lord, Son of David” (vv.22b), recognizing for yourself that Jesus is your only hope for salvation. Do you sense your need for mercy and forgiveness? Christian, do you intend not to ever leave Him until you receive His blessing that He will give to those who humbly ask with correct motives. That is the very thing that Christ wishes from us, to come to Him often with expectations that only He could meet. During the days of the depression, a young family had taken up residence just across the town’s train station. Hobos that rode the trains would often come to their home to beg for food. One day the young son answered the door to find a man asking for a sandwich. The boy told the beggar that they did not have enough food for themselves, which was what he was told to say since this happened quite often. Still, the man persisted and asked once more that if they could spare even a slice of bread, he would be grateful. At this point, the boy left him at the door and went and told his Mom. On hearing this, the Mother said to give him whatever food the beggar needed since she was sure that his need was genuine! Are you persuaded that only Christ can meet your need for mercy and forgiveness of your sins and the promise of salvation? Are you coming to Christ as a true beggar in great need of His mercy and grace over your lost condition, and quite grateful for whatever amount He may give you? He will show you mercy above what you may expect to be sure, and grant you spiritual life if you ask Him.

Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. (Mat. 7:7) The verb tense for ask and seeking describes an on-going action. It means to keep on asking and seeking. Like the Canaanite women, she persisted until it was opened to her, so too we must sense our own dire condition and go to Christ often and unreservedly.

Sin – Are You Really Serious?

In 1995 Newsweek magazine reported that teaching on sin had all but disappeared from many churches. They questioned how can people still identify with Adam and Eve these days? Yet, the articles points out that people still experience shame — loss of face — and that guilt requires much more such as a recognition of sin and the need to change one’s life. True evangelicals will agree that confession and repentance remains valid into the 21st century but only if Christ is at the center of one’s faith. A short insert from Newsweek:

But the aging baby boomers who are rushing back to church do not want to hear sermons that might rattle their self-esteem. And many clergy, who are competing in a buyer’s market, feel they cannot afford to alienate. To be sure, liberal ministers — and many a rabbi — routinely condemn such “systemic” social evils as racism, sexism and other updated permutations of the Mosaic Ten Commandments. But their voices are strangely muffled on subjects close to home — like divorce, pride, greed and overweening personal ambition.

Although sin leads to shame and guilt and necessitates the cross and forgiveness, that the gospel in liberal theology has had its message hallowed out and champions mostly social issues, will inevitably leave those in the pews to decide for themselves if they are good Christians, which not surprisingly most see themselves better than what Scriptures say about them.

Our tendency toward self-righteousness is plain when God’s law is applied to our lives. The Ten Commandments shows us what is right and wrong and to break any of these commands is to be guilty before God. God repeatedly reminds us in Scriptures about our sinful state and how far we are from meeting His standards. If you were to make a list of all the kinds of sins described in Scriptures, it would total over one hundred and twenty five, which can be catalogued under one or more of the commandments. Even so, to grasp the extensive nature of sin, we learn from 1 John 5:17 that “all wrongdoing is sin.” Furthermore, James tells us in 4:17 that “anyone, then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” Individuals sin far more than they realize or wish to admit when our minds take in the teaching of Scripture. Yet, today a baneful denial exist in men’s hearts about personal sin which complicates matters on a twofold level: First, the universality to downplay sin leaves the hearer confused about the need for acceptance of the gospel And second, a shadow is cast over the Holy character of God. After all, if sin is not real what was the purpose for a Holy God to send His Son? It would be unnecessary and it would seem God had made a mistake. But that is not the case since sin made the cross indispensable. The cross meant that the sinner is not left alone to face the consequences of his sins on judgement day – if this is not the case then the sinner is not a recipient of Christ saving act and His divine righteousness is not credited to him so that he has not been made right before God – but if personal faith is placed in Christ saving work, the sinner is justified and granted the right to be forgiven and adopted into His family. If you are not concerned or prepared for this, do not think that anything in fallen humanity will help you. It is plain to see that the world is spiraling out of control each time we visit the news. But distressing news stories is not ours to control. The trouble we are speaking about is the kind we experience when we take sin lightly and leave God out of our lives. We have choices to make and if we decide not to take responsibility for our own sins we face the consequences and remain in our lost state with no hope of eternal life. But when the sinner goes to the cross for new life, a radical transformation in our lives begins to take shape. Our transgressions against God are forgiven and forgotten and Christ becomes our Savior. This can only come about when we trust Christ and confess our sins and repent of them.

For any who are seeking a check list to measure themselves against several are provided throughout Scriptures (Proverbs 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). These lists are not exhaustive, but they do provide particular vices for us to see our own complicity to do evil; to remind us that we are not blameless and are guilty of having offended God on many fronts and in many ways. To offend God is a serious matter. Do not condescend to the attitude that it is no one’s business but our own to do as we please and that it should not become an issue. There is good reason to change your outlook about sin.

Ask yourself, if doing wrong is no one’s concern but your own, and if it can be overcome some other way, Christ’s death would then not be necessary, and therefore a great deal of pain and suffering could have been avoided. Right? But we soon find out that not a day goes by that we do not sin. John makes this point very clear “If we say that we do not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins He is just and faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When self-will and rebellion asserts itself, a sense of “lostness” and “fear of God” along with “impending judgment” fades from our consciousness. Concern for our own souls lessens. From here onward it becomes progressively worse as shown in Romans 1:29-31. Here sin is tracked to its final outcome where it is given free rein to run its course. When sin is left to its own devices and continues unhampered, it leads to a state that is best described as “extreme wickedness” where every type of debauchery is carried out and encouraged and celebrated. Instead of regret, evil is approved and applauded (vv.32). God leaves the sinner to himself as an act of judgement when the sinner has fully abandoned God. One cannot help but be saddened by the increase of evil that we have experienced in our day. If you think this warning from Scripture remains theoretical reasoning or reserved for another period in history and has not happened yet, think about the sins of our nation as of late, the evil promoted through recent legislations, and you have good reason to reconsider. The Scriptures teach that those who perpetrate evil are fools and deserving of death (vv.32). Fools trust in their own wisdom and fail to discern truth from lies and good from evil and apart from seeking God’s wisdom, cannot do otherwise. Vanity and conceit make people think that they are wise, but their conceit has left them largely ignorant of reality.

The fact is that when man tries to avoid sin’s significance and its effects in life, it only compounds the problem. We find ourselves sliding deeper into chaos. Any attempt to rationalize sin out of existence, either nullifying or lessening its importance only shows man’s utter foolishness as he seeks to sidestep the truth about God and about man’s sinfulness. Typically man’s arrogance leads him to create his own philosophies about the universe and life’s purposes even though God has spoken clearly from the Scriptures about our origins and depraved state. Far better to consider men liars and God to be true than to accept the bizarre and chaotic that forms man’s understanding about himself and this universe. Man wishes to be autonomous and suppresses truth in his efforts to distance himself from God. It is in this darkness that the Christian is called to live on God’s terms — a defiantly normal life where the believer accepts responsibility for his sins and looks to Christ for continual forgiveness, strength and wisdom to resist being part of the absurd, destructive, and petulant ways of those who wish to avoid the light of God’s Truth. The Christian must be fiercely devoted in his stand. The Christian seeks to embrace truth about himself and about God, regardless if it is self-effacing or God Glorifying, or finds acceptance in this world or not, for it is far less injurious to be thought of as intolerant, narrow-minded and a bigot than to be considered a fool by God and spend eternity in hell.

Which will it be for you? Are you a sinner in need of salvation. Jesus said “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:13b) Will you admit to your sins and look to Christ for forgiveness and eternal life?