“Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36, my italics).
Throughout the Bible, a powerful theme rings out: “The Lord thy God is a merciful God” (Deuteronomy 4:31). This theme of mercy (leniency, compassion, forgiveness) is at the very core of the Old Testament. We read it again and again in Deuteronomy, Chronicles, Nehemiah and Psalms: “The Lord your God is gracious and merciful.” Likewise, we see the same theme of mercy in each of the Gospels and throughout the New Testament.
A SACRIFICE OF GREAT WORTH
When God looked down at the outbreak of debauchery on the earth, He did not turn away from His creation. He did not give up on this sinful, godless, lust-consumed world — and the Scriptures tell us something of what His mercy to a sinful world cost Him. He sent His own Son down into our midst and then in His tender mercy, the Father offered up His Son as a sacrifice, laying on Christ the iniquities of us all.
Think of the high cost of mercy that Jesus paid. The weight of such a price simply cannot be calculated. No one can measure Christ’s pain at taking upon Himself the sins of the world.
Scripture says the angels look down on us and marvel at the gift we’ve been given. Think about it: It is one thing to offer physical healing to someone and it is quite another to offer abundant life for this world and salvation for all eternity. Jesus gives us all the resources of heaven to deliver this Good News in truth and power:
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).
When we read this verse, we think of the amazing scale of Jesus’ miracles. But Jesus is speaking of kingdom activity — salvation, transformation, abundant life. When He says, “Whatever you ask in My name,” our request will be revealing. Do we ask for miracles because we think they will bring visible glory to God? Or do we ask for kingdom results no matter how small the scale?
According to Jesus, there is only one qualification to do the greater works He speaks of: “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works” (John 14:12, my emphasis). Every Christian believes, so that means we all are capable of doing the greater works Jesus has ordained for us.
A CLEAN HEART
But to do these works, we must have a clean heart. The very next thing Jesus says is, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15). If our hearts are cleansed, our obedience will not be grudging but an act of love.
Do you have trouble keeping God’s Word? Jesus’ promise to you is:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (14:16-17).
Note the word “Helper” here. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us the help we need to obey Him.
As we already know, the Christian church was born when the Holy Spirit was poured out. Amazingly, in the hours afterward, thousands of people converted to the faith, and the new believers fell into an inspired new rhythm of congregational life. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
In the beginning, Christian doctrine was transmitted orally since there wasn’t a written New Testament. The apostles spoke the gospel and the associated teachings they heard from Jesus. This was the Word of God that the early believers “devoted themselves to.”
That kind of dedication to the Word is always a vital sign that the Holy Spirit is moving in the life of a person or a church. Believers have a hunger to hear, read, study, and in particular, understand more about the Word of God.
That makes sense, of course, since the Holy Spirit was the one who inspired the Bible. He was the author who inspired the writers. The Bible is His book. Spirit-controlled Christians don’t usually have to force themselves to read the Bible; the Spirit gives them a holy appetite for it.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, so He will always direct us toward God’s truth. When a person has little interest in the Word, or when Scripture seems dull and tedious to a church body, that is a sign that something is seriously out of sync. When we don’t have respect for the Word and reverence for its authority, and when we don’t humble ourselves to hear what God has said, we’re on the wrong path.
I know it is possible today to gather large numbers of people together on a Sunday without a strong emphasis on the Word. In fact, many of the people sitting in the pew might be totally content without hearing careful Bible preaching and exposition. But when we wander away from the Word, thinking we can live without it day after day, week after week, we cease to grow spiritually and open ourselves to spiritual deception. The apostle Peter wrote, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2, emphasis added). The Word of God contains the vital spiritual nutrients we need—every day—to grow in Christ.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
Jesus prayed a “breakthrough prayer” at Gethsemane.
I think of Christ’s breakthrough prayer as the “ultimate prayer.” By ultimate I mean the end of a series. By this point, everything had been tried and this was the ultimate, or final, prayer, the one that would move mountains and shake hell. It was simply this: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, my italics).
Jesus gets up from pleading and says, in essence, “I have prayed, wept, fasted, done everything. Now, Father, I unload My soul to You, in total trust. Your will be done.”
Have you ever presented this “ultimate prayer” to the Lord over a situation?
THE PLACE OF REST
Then you add, “But You are the Almighty God, and I cast everything into Your hands. Now, Father, do what You want to do, when You choose to do it. I rest in Your promises to me.”
This is the rest that remains for God’s people today, the rest referred to in Hebrews 4. It is to come into the blessed promise of the New Covenant, in which God declares to us, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be My child.”
Beloved, until you pray this ultimate prayer, you cannot move your mountain. But when you do, God will open your eyes to something amazing and you will no longer miss the answer to your prayer when it comes.
When Christ prayed at Gethsemane, He was demonstrating to His people how to obtain power and authority over all satanic forces. When the disciples tried to cast out demons, those hellish spirits laughed at them. Only when Jesus came on the scene did the demons flee. The only authority they recognize is that of a contrite heart and broken spirit.
Now consider Jesus’ prayers at Gethsemane:
At Gethsemane, we find Jesus in a series of spiritual agonies:
Yet each is a spiritual episode that ultimately leads to a place of incredible revelation.
We know that as followers of Jesus we are going to experience the same things He did. He is our example in times of crisis and at such times, we are to pray as He did: with faith, knowing God bottles all our tears. Like Him, we are to pray for release and ask God for a way out.
Of course, this is not a daily experience in our walk with the Lord. Rather, it is an encounter with Him, a confrontation where we come to the end of something. In that moment, we stop looking at our circumstances and begin to pour out our soul before the Lord. And in the midst of it all, we believe, as Jesus did, that God loves us and is going to reveal something marvelous through our trial.