Scripture Reading: “Have mercy upon me, O God…” (Psalm 51:1)
Like the plea of David, the plea of all penitent sinners to God needs to begin with a plea for mercy. It is not justice that the penitent sinner should plead for, but mercy. Sinners should not pray for their just deserts, but for an undeserved pardon granted to them by a merciful God. The sinner’s desperately needed divine pardon is only granted to those who plead for it on the basis of God’s mercy, never to those who demand it on the basis of their merit.
Grace is defined as unmerited favor. It is often said to be God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. It is God giving us what we don’t deserve—salvation and Heaven. The “gift of God,” which “is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23), cannot be earned, but only received. We can’t earn it by our goodness. We can only reach out in faith and receive it from the gracious nail-scarred hand of Christ, who alone has made it possible through His sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection from the dead.
Mercy may be seen as the flip side of grace. Whereas grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve, mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve—condemnation and Hell. Whether we’re talking about God’s grace or His mercy neither are made possible by anything that we do, but only by what Christ has done for us, which we could have never done for ourselves. Therefore, the only way for the penitent sinner to secure God’s pardon for his sins is for him to swallow his pride and to come humbly to Christ on his knees pleading for God’s grace and mercy.
“The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.” (John Stott)