By David Stahl

The longer I go with God the more I see how we easily substitute meanings of words and precepts.  Now for some words this is not a big deal, but when we start talking about words that affect our concepts such as compassion, mercy, and especially grace our substitution can cause great problems with our understanding of critical Biblical truth and if this does happen my friend we will get off track faster than anything I know. Now I am talking from personal experience.  Recently (say over the last two years) the Lord has opened my understanding to some teachings (that were not quite right) from some friends that may take me and God some time (with some heartache) to get me back on track with the right precepts. And if we get our precepts wrong my friend then our daily concepts (the basis of Godly character) will be wrong. This area seems to be a major battle for us in allowing God to form His character in us.  We must be careful to who and what we open our spirit to. Also something I have learned over my many years, especially while living in Germany, words matter.  The words we say reflect our understanding to certain truths and they reflect the intimate workings of our character.  Here is where I often can have troubles.  For example let us look at three words: compassion, mercy, and grace that are often miss used or substituted for each other, but in reality these three words have different meanings and their projects are different in precept development and application.   

Now compassion is not mercy or grace, compassion is a human feeling or emotion of sadness or pity for someone (friends) or something (animals).  Compassion is something that is most often self-generated that touches our emotions and can easily move our spirit and decision- making. Anything that moves our heart (especially quickly) we must be very careful with.  Compassion is not necessarily a Christian characteristic. I know many non-Christians who are very compassionate, but know not the Lord.  Mercy is not compassion or grace, mercy is a power of our self will to forgive (ah another word we often substitute) or to be kind. When Karen and I take our dog for a walk we have compassion and mercy on the earthworms (we call the Brethren) we find dying on the sidewalk by picking them up and putting them safely in the grass.  Mercy is like compassion it is most often self-generated that touches our emotions and can make us feel good about ourselves when we do something right.  Mercy can make us feel good, but mercy like compassion is not necessarily a Christian characteristic. I know non-Christians who can show mercy to people, even earthworms. Now please do not misunderstand me here compassion and mercy need to be a part of our character.  Micah asked, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  (Micah 6:7) and then answered his own question, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8) What great advice for today knowing how the worldly religious church has forgotten, it is not about doing for God, but becoming something in God.  Here we see it is not about working for God, but becoming (Ephesians 2:10) the work of God.  Jesus was great at not talking about compassion, but being moved by it.  In Matthew we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36) Fourteen other times in the Gospels we read where Jesus was “moved with compassion” and if the Master was compassionate should not His servants? And grace is not compassion or mercy, only grace is grace. Grace is the love and favor God shows toward undeserving man. Grace is God not giving us something we deserve.  In Romans we read, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace (not our grace or good works) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:’  (Romans 3:23-24)  The Gospel truth is;  “we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (we all deserve to be found guilty and punished) and the rest of the Gospel truth is we have “justified (Strong’s #1344, to render righteous)  freely by his grace  through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:”  God’s grace (His love and favor for us) renders us righteous (right relationship with God and man)  and the more we allow God to work in our inward man and bring us to the spiritual place of seeing what sin has wrought in our lives and how sin destroys every relationship and every area of our lives the more grace we will be able to walk in. Grace and this deeper work of God (some call it sanctification, but few people teach it) is for everyone, but everyone does not receive grace and fewer Christians receive the promise of sanctification. Jesus died on a cross so that all can taste of the goodness of eternal life that is now on earth and into eternity, but sadly everyone will not “taste and see that the Lord is good” and will spend their eternal life separated from God and in hell.  In spite of Jesus’ sacrifice many will be lost (their choice) and remember salvation is for only those who accept it.  Here are two big differences between grace and compassion or mercy. Grace is a free gift from God “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:22-23) And the second truth is before we can receive grace we must be judged and found guilty.  A blameless or innocence man needs no grace. Isaiah tells us, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) Grace is for only guilty people who stand in the way of God’s judgment, but we do not like to admit we are guilty.  Never forget, great is the man in God who knows his strengths, but far greater is the man in God who knows his weakness.  But God cannot look the other way to sin, He must deal with it.  For God and us looking the other way from sin is not compassion, mercy, or grace oh no, sin must be judged and sentenced in our lives before God can extend grace to us, but who wants to be called a sinner?  That is easy, only the one that want to be saved.  My friend God does not just forgive sin as most denominational religions teach. Oh no, sin must be dealt with by God.  Most denominations teach just walk the aisle, repeat some words (the sinner’s prayer may sound good, but the precept or concept is nowhere in the Bible), and God will forgive you of your sins, well that is not true and that is also why there are so many would be Christians who do not live a Godly life and do not reflect the character of Christ and why because they are not saved.  They have been deceived by man’s plan of salvation.  John tells us in 1 John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”  (1 John 1:9-10) The word “confess” here means to agree what God is saying about us is true and that is Romans 3:23.  Our confession must be of our own words and out from a broken and contrite (crushed and ground to powder) heart condition not by another’s words. With the sinner’s prayer the one thinking they are confessing is just agreeing with the words of another person.  And my friend, make no mistake this is a painful process (you may even cry) in our lives when we begin to allow God to show us our heart and what sin has wrought in our lives.  Listen to the words of Paul, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”  (Romans 7:18-25)  Do you hear the pain and anguish in his words?  Do you hear the cry of Paul’s heart here?  If not then you have missed the truth of his words and you have missed the work God was doing in Paul.  Funny, how Paul answered his own question “who shall deliver me.” In verse 25 Paul tells us, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

In Malachi we really see what happens when we get our precepts wrong or when we substitute the meaning of a word for another.  When most Christians think of the Book of Malachi they think here it comes again; the pastor is going to beat us over the head, again, over our poor tithing, but Malachi is a very fascinating Book. It only talks about tithing a little bit, but the rest of the Book is about Godly character and what God expects of us. In Chapter one we find the people bringing impure sacrifices to God, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. 12But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. 13Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.  14But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”  (Malachi 1:11-14) Now some people would say that is okay; the people are having a tough time making it and God does not really expect unblemished and unspotted sacrifice as He commanded.  The people and even the priest turned their heads to the truth of God’s words.  Today many pastors are turning their heads to the truth of God’s words:  so that seats and offering plates will be filled, so that their plans and agendas can be fulfilled, so that their church can climb up the denominational ladder, but just like in Malachi God wanted nothing to do with sin and folly.  You can read what God told the priest in Malachi 2:1-9, it was not pretty.  Believe it or not the priests were being compassionate and even giving mercy to the people, but that was not what God was after.  We can be compassionate and give mercy all day long to people, but if what we do for people does not line-up with what God’s word says and what He expects of us then we are doing more harm than good.  We must learn to “speak the truth in love,” if not we do not really care about people.  Now I will tell you this is a very tough thing to do. In my family for the last eight years or so Karen and I have been holding the line with the truth of God’s word and it has cost us dearly, but that is okay.  I believe my father is in heaven today because Karen and I held our ground with God’s word, a small price to pay for my father being in heaven.  We must never forget grace was not free, it cost Jesus His life and for us to be able to have more (than just salvation) of this wonderful gift of God it will cost us something too.  The more we can humble ourselves before God and man the more grace we can behold.