Dimensions of Mercy

copyright 2000 by Lawngren

“Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard, and a maid approached him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!’

        When he went out to the porch, another maid saw him and said to the bystanders, ‘This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth!’ Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath.

        After awhile the bystanders approached Peter and said, ‘You certainly are one of them – your accent betrays you!’ Then Peter began to curse and swear, saying ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately the rooster crowed, and Peter remembered the words of Jesus: ‘Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.’ And Peter left the courtyard, and cried bitterly…” (Matthew 26:69-75) 

We might reasonably expect Peter’s story to end here. Deserting a human leader in this way is bad enough, but Peter had clearly, firmly stated before all the other disciples that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. At a time when many of Jesus’ followers were leaving Him because of His doctrine, Jesus asked the twelve, “Will you leave also?” Peter was the one who answered for them all: “Master, who would we go to? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter had bragged that he would die with Jesus rather than leave Him. Peter’s honor died in the courtyard of the High Priest.

But Peter’s story did NOT end there. Instead, Peter became the boldest of the twelve. During Pentecost, we find him in the Temple, no less, publicly accusing the priests of having murdered the Messiah! AND claiming to have seen that Messiah raised from the dead!

In Luke 24:33-34 we discover that Jesus appeared to Peter separately from the rest of the twelve disciples. In the book of Acts, Peter is once again an aggressive tornado. He cannot be bought out, scared off, or shouted down. He acts like a man unconscious of guilt. Given Peter’s meeting with the resurrected Christ and then this kind of behavior, what must we conclude about Peter’s sin?

It was forgiven.

God did NOT record this to embarrass Peter, but to encourage those who are afraid of God because of their sins.

Do you know how much God loves you? Do you realize that nothing you can do will make Him stop loving you? God told the prophet Ezekiel, “Tell them that the Supreme God says, ‘As surely as I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I would rather that they turn from their evil ways and live.’ ” (Ezekiel 33:11) Jesus said, “I did NOT come to call the righteous to repentance – I came to call sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17b)

God is not waiting with a big stick to beat you for your sins. He doesn’t need your permission to punish you. 1st John 1:9 tells us that when the Holy Spirit points out your sins to you, it’s because God is offering you a pardon rather than a punishment: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us AND to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John also wrote, “…if anyone does sin, we have an attorney with the Father. Jesus Christ the Righteous is our attorney, and He is Himself the payment of the penalty for our sins … your sins are forgiven for His sake.” (1st John, chapter 2, from verses 1, 2, and 12)

Everywhere you turn in the Bible you find the same love reaching out to you. Look what God does with your sins:

1) Isaiah 38:17: “…You [that is, God] have put all my sins behind Your back.” Out of sight, out of mind. The obvious meaning is that God has no interest in our sins.

2) Isaiah 43:25: “I…will remember their sins no more.” God Himself says that He will deliberately choose to forget our sins.

3) Psalm 103:11: “…as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who honor and respect Him.” Instead of your sins hanging over you, God’s mercy hangs over you…all the way up to Heaven. (IF you trust His Son’s death for forgiveness of your sins.)

4) Psalm 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our rebellion from us.” Remember that it’s doubtful that King David, the author of this Psalm, knew the earth was round. Even if he did, east was still many lifetimes away from west…because people of that time were limited to traveling by boat, animal, or foot. Twenty-five HUNDRED years passed before Magellan was able to sail all the way around the earth. Obviously David is using the most forceful, absolute illustrations he can think of to convey his awareness of being totally, completely separated from his sins

5) Micah 7:19: “… [the Lord] will throw all our sins into the deepest part of the sea.” Remember that Micah knew less about the ocean bottom than he did about the stars – at least he could SEE the stars! The most skillful, best-equipped aqualung divers of today only descend to about 130 feet. The “deepest part of the sea” (the Mariannas trench) is about 35,800 feet deep: 275 times as far down. Anything lost overboard in Micah’s day was gone forever [repeat, GONE FOREVER] if the water was only 150 feet deep. Once again, the illustration has obviously been chosen to portray total and eternal removal of our sins.

6) Psalm 103:17: “…from everlasting to everlasting the mercy of the Lord is upon them who respect and honor Him.” How would it be possible to make a more definite statement than that?

NOTICE that these six verses tell us that our sins are separated from us in God’s mind, in all dimensions of space, and in time. That is a very thorough disposal of hazardous waste. But God does NOT stop there:

(Isaiah 1:18) “ ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ the Lord says. ‘Even if your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; even if they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’ ”

Scarlet and crimson were “fast” dyes –   they didn’t fade. That was uncommon in those days. God is saying, “If your sins are permanent, indelible, too strong for any priest or psychiatrist to help you with, bring them to Me. I, the Lord, can deal with any sin.”

(Colossians 2:13-14) “And you, who were dead in your sins and your uncircumcision, God has made alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins; He blotted out the records that were against us.” First God says that He washes out the record of your sins, then He pours ink on the legal records so that no one can ever read them again.

GOD COULD NOT POSSIBLY SAY IT ANY PLAINER! “God did NOT send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17)

I have quoted from the Old Testament, written before Jesus was born. Remember that the system of laws and sacrifices the Jews observed (usually called “the Law of Moses”) was the valid and God-ordained prelude to the coming of the Messiah. Since the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, we are not bound by those laws, but by that which those laws represented: the Messiah’s sacrifice of Himself for us. Writing in Hebrews chapter 10 to Jews of his own time, the apostle Paul said the following:

1) the Law of Moses was a shadow of what was to come,

2) it was not possible for the sacrificing of bulls and goats to take away sins, and

3) we are all sanctified (made holy in God’s eyes) by the offering of the body of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6) The book of Acts says, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) If this sounds narrow-minded, remember that God is offering salvation and a pardon for sins to anyone who will trust and rely on Jesus. It is true that if you become a Christian you should do the things Jesus commands, and especially share the good news of free salvation with others.

However, this is what you should do out of gratitude BECAUSE you are saved, because it is necessary so that you will be a believable witness when you tell others about Jesus, and because you want to earn a reward in Heaven. This is NOT how you become saved.

In Acts 16:30-31, the apostle Paul and Silas (who were in jail for telling people about Jesus) told their jailer that in order to be saved he should believe in Jesus. Period. No more required. End of story. BUT notice that BECAUSE the jailer believed, he acted: he took Paul and Silas out of jail, treated the wounds the officers had inflicted on them, and the jailer with his entire household was immediately baptized. BECAUSE he believed. Got it? Jesus said, “If you love Me, obey My commandments.” (John 14:15 and 21; also 15:10) He also said, “If you are ashamed of Me and of My words, I will be ashamed of you when I return in My glory and in the glory of My Father and the holy angels.” If you want to know what Jesus’ commandments are, read the New Testament.

If you are a new Christian or considering becoming a Christian, or just wondering what Christianity is really about, I recommend that you first read the Gospel of John (not 1st, 2nd, or 3rd John), and then maybe Galatians. Just start reading. I guarantee the answers you’re looking for are in the Bible somewhere. Some answers are more obvious than others, but everything you need to know is there. There will always be some questions you can’t find answers for. I’ve been a believer in Jesus since 1959, and I don’t have it ALL figured out, but I have had so many questions answered and doubts resolved that I know I’ve got the answer sheet to the exam of Life. It would be great to have a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and also a Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible, IF you have the time to study with them. All you really have to have, though, is enough of the Bible to cause you to believe in Jesus. UPDATE: Since I originally wrote this, there have been translations of the Bible that are not reliable. I recommend the English Standard Version, the American Standard Version, Amplified Bible, the original New International Version or the New King James Version. Verify for yourself that the quotes I’ve given are there.