Today marks the beginning of another year, a new year, a fresh start on the calendar. As I awoke today, I had a strong confidence that one thing has not changed as we enter 2017: Gd’s mercy to all of us. If the end of one mercy from God did not immediately lead to the beginning of a new one from Him, we would find ourselves without hope. Guilt is an awful load to continue to bear. We simply are not cut out for that exhausting burden. Yet do we not often find ourselves under its weight? How can we shake off that sense of not-quite-measuring up? It can never be your personal sense of goodness that gives you confidence that “it is well with my soul”, for though you might be a thousand times holier than the next righteous person, you are immeasurably less holy than the One against whom you are judged. How quickly our hearts would despair should we come to terms with our unworthiness, while forgetting that God has given the remedy. It was in our ignorant state of spiritual death that God sent forth His Son to be our rescue, our redemption, our resurrection! And we know that it was not only once that we have needed Him to be so, for the grace of God through Christ has been the theme of our cries more times than we can number. Listen to what the Lord has spoken through the ancient prophet:
“Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…” – Joel 2:12-13
Once again we find that God has only asked one thing of those whom He delights to rescue. He requires that we approach Him with hearts broken over what we allowed to lead us astray. The pathway is still straight and fully inhabitable; we veered from it, but it did not change the trajectory of the King’s highway one bit. We can come back from our off-the-path pursuits at any moment and appeal to His grace and forgiveness. Do you think that His fury surely awaits you? He has said above that He is slow to anger. Do you believe that your sin has warped or weakened His love for you? He is declaring in those same verses that He abounds in a love that is steadfast. So you have cleverly used His kindness as means to indulge your selfishness – surely this will cause the Almighty to burn! Listen to Him say today that He is gracious and merciful, more so than you are presumptuous and rebellious. He is postured to be kind to you – You can never change Him. Nothing has ever changed Him. He is the same yesterday, today and evermore. This is the anchor of our very soul because nothing else can lay claim to eternal immutability. God alone is our Rock…and the Rock is very, very good.
No, you are not big enough to change His heart. You are the one to be changed and it is the goodness of God which leads you repentance. As I heard a young Presbyterian pastor once say, “God’s grace is scandalous.” His grace will outdistance your reason. His love will exceed your merit. His patience will outlast your fleshly energies. His mercy will trump your wickedness…
If you will simply believe and obey His call to “Return to Me with all your heart…”