Photos of the Week: The City Park

As with the photos from Wednesday, these too were taken back in November 2009 at a park in New Braunfels, TX.

In this last photo, you can actually see someone very dear to my heart.


Photos of the Week: November in Texas

From the archives, taken back in November 2009. This is a park in New Braunfels, and Joey is the boy waving to the other children. He was about 2 1/2 when these photos were taken.


There is No True Mercy Apart From the Law of God

Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).

I preached on this verse recently and during my study, it hit me all over again: you cannot have true biblical mercy apart from the Law of God. This is why the world’s mercy is so empty. As Jordan Peterson pointed out in one of his lectures, the left’s concern with the poor is never a concern or love of the poor, but born out of a hatred for the rich. That is not true biblical mercy.

First off, how should biblical mercy be defined. Allow me to quote from John Stott:

“Mercy is compassion for people in need. Richard Lenski helpfully distinguishes it from grace: ‘the noun eleos (mercy) … always deals with what we see of pain, misery and distress, these results of sin; and charis (grace) always deals with the sin and guilt itself. The one extends relief, the other pardon; the one cures, heals, helps, the other cleanses and reinstates.’”

As you can see, true biblical mercy is seeking the wellbeing of the person in need. It’s not just compassion. Many can have compassion for the downtrodden that never goes anywhere. We are to have compassion, but compassion that is not left alone. It must result in mercy, actually working for the wellbeing of the person in need. This may include giving money, but that should not be the sole basis of our mercy.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) shows us what true biblical mercy looks like. It’s not my purpose to exegete the entire parable, but to show that the mercy that the Samaritan showed the man who was in need, was born out of the Law. The entire account was started by a lawyer, who was trying to test Jesus, who stood up and said, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus takes him to the law: “What is written in the law?”

The lawyer rightly answers and says: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Then the crucial question follows: “And who is my neighbor?”

the neighbor is the one who showed mercy to the downtrodden. It wasn’t the lawyer, who knew the law. It wasn’t the Pharisee or the priest. It was the one who carried out the law by showing mercy.

The Samaritan carried out the law by loving the wounded man as he would have loved himself. The greatest commandments are a summaries of the Ten Commandments, the Law itself. While the Ten Commandments are in the negative, keeping them is in the positive and how we show mercy and love  towards our neighbors. Putting others first is at the heart of the Law. We see this being born out by Christ Himself, the Lawgiver and Law keeper. He showed complete and true mercy in carrying out His ministry, not at the expense of the Law, but grounded in the Law.

The beauty in His mercy is that is goes much deeper than the mercy we can give. He became our curse for us, a curse brought on by breaking the Law, in order to show the greatest mercy to us. Jesus ends up being our Good Samaritan. He is the one who finds us, binds our wounds and rinses us with His shed blood. He is the One who provides what we need in order to be healed. He takes care of us.

But unless we see the Law as it is intended to be seen, we will fail to see our need for mercy, and fail to see the richness of the Mercy giver toward us.

The Conviction of Sin

Charles Spurgeon on the conviction of sin, from The Soul Winner:

“First, regeneration will be shown in conviction of sin. This we believe to be an indispensable mark of the Spirit’s work; the new life as it enters the heart causes intense inward pain as one of its first effects. Though nowadays we hear of persons being healed before they have been wounded, and brought into a certainty of justification without ever having lamented their condemnation, we are very dubious as to the value of such healing and justifying.”

It’s hard to imagine this ever being preached in our pulpits today. Far too many men enter to the pulpits of the church, merely to blow sunshine up the skirts of their congregations, and never mention the painful reality of becoming a Christian. If we come to Christ, we will suffer, as He suffered.

This is undeniable truth of the gospel. Coming to Christ will be a joy, but it will also be painful as we will learn to loath the sin that remains in our own hearts. This is one of the marks of a true believer, we mourn our own sinfulness. This is what Jesus was saying when He proclaimed “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

We mourn, if the Spirit really works in us, because of the sinfulness that we still struggle with, knowing that we will continue to struggle with that sin until God calls us home. This doesn’t mean we give into the sin. We are to fight against it, mortifying the flesh. But the battle will remain as long as we are on this side of glory.

Spurgeon continues:

“God never clothes men until He has first stripped them, nor does He quicken them by the gospel till first they are slain by the law.”

And here is part of the problem. The Law is virtually ignored in the pulpits of our day. Too many have fallen into the Dispensational error of misreading Romans 6:14, For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Indeed, we are under grace. But Paul was not removing the Law from our lives. He was telling us that we are now no longer under the condemning aspects of the Law. If we love Christ, then we will love His Law. If we love Christ, then we will keep HIS commandments.

Unless the Law of God is preached, mankind will never come to the reality that he needs a Savior at all. Without the Law, we think ourselves fine and dandy, and this is exactly the problem we have in the American church today. There is no Law to drive us to the cross. There is no Law to slay us. And never coming to the point of being slain, we never see any need for the true saving gospel of Christ.

Again, Spurgeon continues:

“When you meet with persons in whom there is no trace of conviction of sin, you may be quite sure that they have not been wrought upon by the Holy Spirit; for ‘when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.’ When the Spirit of the Lord breathes on us, He withers all the glory of man, which is but as the flower of grass, and then He reveals a higher and abiding glory. Do not be ashamed if you find this conviction of sin to be very acute and alarming; but, on the other hand, do not condemn those in whom it is less intense, for so long as sin is mourned over, confessed, forsaken, and abhorred, you have an evident fruit of the Spirit.”