*Intro* – The old comedian Milton Berle used to say, “God has been good to you.
God has been good to me.
But He’s been better to you than He’s been to me.”
Well, the truth is, God is good all the time.
He can never be other than good!
In Luke 1:58, we see the Lord “had shown great mercy to” Elizabeth.
In her old age, she had at last born a child.
But the word translated “mercy” is used 194 times in the Greek OT and translated “steadfast love”.
For example, Psa 118:1: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” 194 times God reminds us of His steadfast love and mercy.
Think He’s trying to tell us something?!
God’s steadfast love is flowing our direction 24-7.
It never ceases.
His mercy is active in our lives like the air we breathe.
If we got what our sin deserves, we would be dead within 2 minutes – if not for what we did, then certainly for what we thought.
God gifts us with the air we breathe, the ability to work and the capacity to enjoy life.
Every opportunity that comes to us is from God.
The fact we live in the USA places us among the most gifted people in the history of the world.
Often unrecognized, His mercy never ceases.
And spiritually – as believers we have “the gift of God which is eternal life” (Rom 6:23); we are recipients of “the surpassing riches of His grace” for all eternity (Eph 2:7); the “God of all grace” (I Pet 5:10) has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3).
Even on our worst day, God’s grace and mercy flow over us like Niagara Falls.
Sure, it’s not a miraculous pregnancy every day, but we are no less daily recipients of God’s mercy.
The question is, are we being changed by grace?
Or is it flowing unrecognized, unappreciated and unused.
I want us to see 5 ways God’s mercy attaches to and changes us.
The most basic truth to understand about God’s mercy is it cannot be earned.
It is not based on merit.
All we do is receive it!
God’s blessing in our lives is apart from anything we can do either before or after receiving Christ.
Everything inside us says, “Do well, and you can earn God’s favor.”
You’re good enough to merit Him!
But notice Lu 1:57, “Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.” “Now the time came”.
Aren’t those great words?
God is about to act in the space/time continuum.
It has all been promises until now, but no longer.
The very next verse assures us that this is God’s mercy in action.
God has delivered.
Because Elizabeth and Zechariah earned it?
Clearly, they had not.
They were physically incapable of conception.
Zechariah’s unbelief brought God’s discipline What he earned was to be passed over in favor of someone else.
Yet God delivered.
Didn’t faith play a part?
They did what they could – coming together as husband and wife resulting in a conception in defiance of the natural order.
But even their faith was God’s mercy.
Eph 2:8 tells us our faith is not ”our own doing; it [too] is a gift of God.”
That was equally true for Elizabeth and Zechariah.
There was nothing at all to set this little country priest and his wife apart from scores of other faithful priests except – God chose them.
And then, He delivered on His promise despite the fact that Zechariah had told Gabriel in so many words, “I don’t believe God can do it.”
Aren’t you glad God’s lovingkindness is not dependent on our performance.
If it were, we’d be doomed.
It is freeing to know that I need not earn His favor.
New Yorker magazine had a telling cartoon one time.
It showed an exasperated father saying to his prodigal son, “This is the fourth time we’ve killed the fatted calf.”
It was meant as a joke, but it was, accidentally, a theologically informed representation of what God does for us over and over again.
His mercy flows despite our unfaithfulness.
Thus our security is not based on our performance but on His.
So – does that mean we can sin at will, that it doesn’t matter how we live?
Of course not.
Grasping this truth will give us even more incentive to live a holy life; the desire to take advantage would reflect an unsaved condition.
Someone has never received God’s mercy in the first place; someone who has just watched it flow right on by.
But for those in Christ, His mercy preempts merit.
What a great truth to grasp!
Get ahold of this and it will change your life.
You’ll stop trying to be God to earn mercy and start doing it out of gratitude.
God’s mercy is always a cause for rejoicing, even when associated with discipline – but it especially provokes joy when a promise is fulfilled.
Lu 1:57-58, “Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.
58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.” Elizabeth had kept her condition secret for at least five months.
But now she has delivered her child, and everyone rejoiced – perhaps even some who had been unaware until now.
Mary was probably still there.
She came at Elizabeth’s sixth month and stayed 3. It is hard to imagine she would have left just before the big moment when they shared such incredible evidences of grace.
Other neighbors and family also rejoiced with her.
There is no envy that Elizabeth has experienced God’s tender mercies.
Rather, everyone rejoices.
Lu 1:59 tells us “And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child.”
The promise has turned into a living, breathing baby boy.
It’s party time; time to celebrate at John’s circumcision on the 8th day which was a provision of the law.
Further, though not prescribed by law, tradition dictated there be at least 10 witnesses to circumcision which was usually, performed by the head of the home.
Moses’ wife, Zipporah, reluctantly circumcised their boy.
But it was probably Zechariah here, and everyone celebrated.
God’s mercy is always cause for celebration.
And since it flows constantly, joy should be a discriminating feature in the life of a believer.
Paul says in I Thess 5:16, “Rejoice always.”
And his insistence on this only increased with age as he later wrote to the Philippians from a jail cell in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
Notice he didn’t say rejoice in the circumstances, but rejoice in the Lord – the One who is raining mercy at all times.
Is your life characterized by rejoicing?
Or is it more like whining, griping, complaining, perfectionism or some other distraction from joy!
You know it’s one thing when the mercy of God brings a baby boy.
What about when it takes one?
Tony Dungy coached the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007, but he faced the loss of his 18-year-old son who took his own life in 2005.
Dungy is a believer and he spoke at the funeral.
He said, “It’s great to be here today.
I know that’s a strange-sounding message, but when you came in today, one of the first songs you heard was ‘I Will Bless the Lord at All Times.’