Overcoming Obstacles to God's Mercy
Jesus told a story about a servant that owed his master 10,000 talents and could not pay back this massive sum (Mt 18:21-27). The master forgave him the entire debt. What a tremendous master! Of course, the master represents God and the indebted servant describes us, sinners who can’t erase one sin much less all of them. God’s loving mercy overwhelms the sinner’s ability to understand it. Obstacles exist for those who long for and need God’s forgiveness. These hindrances endanger the grace and mercy we long for.
Sin offends God! It destroys man’s relationship with the Lord. He grieves over the great chasm of sin that separates all men from him. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet.3:9). Mankind can regain their close fellowship with God but only through a special type of faith that involves genuine repentance and commitment to The Lord. Without this faith we are lost (Mk.16:15-16 and Lk.13:3-5). The saving message seems simple, and intellectually it is. However, man must be able to see himself as a sinner, hopeless and helpless, without God. Until one does he can’t humbly turn to The Lord. Too many proud people try to deny or excuse their sins, only to later confess them in some general way. King Saul demonstrates this pattern perfectly. The Lord instructs Saul to fight and completely destroy the wicked Amalekites with their flocks and herds. Instead, Saul returns with Agag, Amalek’s king, and the best of the animals. When confronted by Samuel regarding his disobedience Saul first said he did obey, next he excuses his actions by blaming the people, and finally he says, “I have sinned” (I Sam.15:19-30). One of the greatest obstacles to truly turning to God is human pride. Unless and until one can see himself as a sinner he is lost!
Sinful attitudes and activities also obstruct people from becoming true followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus lays down simple but strict requirements for discipleship. “Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk.9:23). Two things can prevent us from tasting of God’s mercy. The force of habit causes people to do many things without thinking them through: drinking alcohol, bad language, or inappropriate literature. Habit feels comfortable and easily can sweep us away from our Savior. Habit practiced too long becomes character. Also, pleasure can enslave people. Obviously the works of the flesh often controls one’s heart and diverts them away from God’s saving mercy (Rom.1:18-21). Sometimes fleshly sins involve transgressions with our heart and our mouth, these are just as condemning (Gal.5:19-21 and Eph.4:24-29).
Salvation by God’s mercy is free but it places great obligations on us. To be children of God means first seeing ourselves for what we are, “sinners.” Only then can we humble ourselves to allow our Lord to save us from the evil one (1 Pet.5:8).