Hi everyone, my name is Jon Tisevich. I have the privilege of being one of the pastors here at Whitewater. I am so ready to see what God is going to do through his word and through our time together today.
I hope you’re coming to realize that this time we set aside to come together and worship is a time to put aside distraction. It's a time to leave baggage at the door, a time to put the ear buds in and focus in on what God is trying to do in our lives today. Because He IS doing… has done… and is going to do amazing things in your life.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched walls come down, we’ve watched people going All-In, we’ve experienced baptism and breakthrough. We’ve watched as the chains of depression and addiction were broken.
Listen, we’re here today to worship and hear from a God that came to seek and save the lost, to set the captives free, to bring healing to the afflicted, to bring freedom to the oppressed… that’s who we worship… and that’s what he’s doing right here in our little corner of the world… and he’s not done.
Shout to somebody across the room “He’s not done." Drop it in the chat… “He’s not done.”
He’s not done, so let’s dig in.
We’re in our "Blessed(?)" series right now, looking at what it really means to be blessed, not according to the Kardashians, but according to Jesus.
We’re in week five of this series. If you didn’t get a chance to hear the first four messages, go back and watch them. You will be blessed by them…see what I did there? I promise God will do more through you watching those four messages than he will through you watching four episodes of The Bachelor.
I’m ruthless today… taking out The Bachelor and the Kardashians in less than three and a half minutes.
As we move into week five, looking at what is commonly referred to the Beatitudes, we are going to take a look at Matthew 5, verse 7.
There’s a shift in the Beatitudes here at verse 7. The first four are focused on a social or physical condition to help draw out an underlying spiritual condition or attitude. But in verse 7, Jesus’ message shifts to looking at the fundamental virtues of someone who has decided to make Jesus lord and leader of their life. These next four Beatitudes… those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted, these are all virtues that reflect the character of Christ.
Jesus is saying, “If you say you follow me, these are the things that others should see in you. When people see you, do they also see me?”
Today’s Beatitude we’re going to wrestle with is Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
So what does it mean to be merciful?
According to Webster, MERCY is:
1) compassion or forgiveness shown, especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power
2) compassionate treatment of those in distress
3) a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
What does showing mercy look like to you?
To be candid, I was talking with Jess this week about this, and I said “It just seems like there’s this interconnected spiderweb of grace, and forgiveness, and compassion and love, and they’re all intertwined and somewhere in all that is mercy.”
I read this and thought this was pretty spot on: GRACE is when God gives us what we don't deserve. MERCY is when God doesn't give us what we do deserve.
Author, Larry Chouinard, who wrote the college press commentary on the book of Matthew wrote this, “Extending mercy to others simply models God’s compassionate and forgiving response to our unworthy condition.” He continues to say, “Those that are merciful are those who reflect God’s acceptance of the unworthy, the guilty, and the ones in the wrong.”
There’s a story in the Gospel of Mark where this type of MERCY, the MERCY of Christ is on full display. It’s found in Mark 5:1. It goes like this:
"So they (Jesus and his disciples) arrived at the other side of the lake (the sea of Galilee), in the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from the tombs to meet him."
This is straight out of a scary movie right?! Crossing a lake at night, in a cemetery…Jesus goes to talk to a man possessed by an evil spirit. Just your typical Saturday night with Jesus.
Mark 5:3: "This man lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him."
Listen, some of you can relate to this…right now. This is real for you.
Some of you are going through hell right now. Really. For others of you, this is a family member or friend. You can relate to this story already.
Over the last year, I’ve gotten to know some of the battles you’re facing. And, you need to hear this today, there are some battles, some strongholds that you’ve been trying to fight...on your own…trying to use what the world would use to fix a problem. And none of it has worked.
No amount of medication, no amount of white-knuckling it, no amount of self-help, no amount of wishing on a star is gonna work. Because you’re trying to use manmade weapons for a supernatural battle.
In Ephesians 6:12, the apostle Paul writes, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."
There are situations in our lives, where the only thing that’s going to bring you freedom and breakthrough, is the power of Jesus Christ. Period.
Our story continues in Mark 5…
"Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones."
Some of you know all too well the darkness that leads you to self-harm. You’re not alone. Not in this place. Welcome. Welcome home. We’re all messed up in here. You are not alone. Myself and many others on staff and in this community of faith, know the dark that you know well.
You don’t have to stay in that place of darkness. I know you think you deserve it, but you don’t deserve the pain. You don’t deserve the abuse. You aren’t hideous. You are beautiful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are loved and you do have value and worth. I’m inviting you to take a step out of the darkness and just reach out to one of us.
"When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
"And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place."
"There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.”
"So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water."
I know, I know some of you are thinking, “Two weeks in a row, and he keeps talking about pigs… what’s next a Taco Bell reference?
"The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid."
"Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone."
"As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them."
Now, some of you may be wondering “What in the world does a story about demon possession and 2000 pigs have to do with being merciful?”
I’m so glad you asked.
I hope you’re ready for this. This was just so beautiful and powerful when God showed this to me. I’m praying I can show this to you the way he showed it to me.
All throughout the gospels, there are stories of Jesus healing people, rescuing people, forgiving people of their sins… right?
Now for those Bible students…what’s something Jesus has a tendency of doing after he heals someone or does something miraculous?
He says…don’t tell anyone. Right? Throughout the gospels, his instructions are to keep this to yourself. (A lot of the time, they don’t listen…)
But, His instruction is to keep this quiet. Commentators call this the “Messianic Secret." And they’ve got all these different theories on why he does this.
But, what I find fascinating is that in the midst of all these gospel stories that Jesus is saying “keep things under wraps”…“keep this quiet”...there is one man Jesus says the opposite to. He commissions him to go and preach.
And it’s our friend, the Gerasene demoniac.
Out of all the people Jesus could have asked to go and preach, he chooses this guy. A Gentile… not a Jew.
We know he’s a Gentile because of the region in which he lives. We learned last week, no God-fearing Jew would live in a region known for raising pigs. So, we’ve got to ask, "Why this guy?" "Why is this the story Jesus wants to be told?"
Lots of stories throughout the gospels, where faith heals an individual, right? The bleeding woman is healed. Jesus says “Your faith has saved you." Later on, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus raises a little girl back to life and he gives strict orders not to tell anyone what happened.
But the healing of the demon possessed man is unlike any of those stories because he isn’t healed by faith, but by God’s mercy.
This man, who has been demon possessed, is an outcast…living among the dead, with no one to speak for him or bring him to Jesus. He is trapped inside of himself, isolated, and abandoned.
This is the story God wants told. Not the story of the great faith of his followers. But the story of His mercy. A mercy that is so great he crosses a sea at night, through the middle of storm, to go to a place no one else wants to go. To rescue a man that the world has forgotten. This is the heart of Jesus. A heart moved to mercy for the outcast.
This is the calling Jesus has placed on each of our hearts. Our faith journey isn’t just about our personal testimony of faith. It’s a call to liberate those that are still suffering and shackled in the pain of their past. We can’t turn our backs on the outcast or on those who cast them out.
At the end of our story, the guy tries to get on the boat with Jesus. Obviously, he’s gotta be thinking…please don’t leave me here with these people!
And Jesus is like, sorry buddy…I need you to go back to your community and show them what I did for you. Go and show them the same mercy I showed you.
When the darkness has been cast out of us, we’re called to turn and show mercy to those still trapped in darkness. If we want to reflect Jesus, we need to represent the story he actually wants told.
Mercy is for the wounded and for those who wound. Each of them is in each of us. Who are you being asked to show mercy to?
Mercy is a really big deal, so, I’m praying you are paying attention.
In James 2:13, God’s word says: "There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you."
Who is it you have (consciously or subconsciously) left alone in their tomb?
We’ve all got people we have marginalized, placed over there because they’re too this or they’re too that…I don’t really like their music, I don’t really like their fashion choices or I disagree with their philosophy or their politics. Maybe I disagree with their sexuality or their life choices. When it comes down to it, I just don’t really like them.
When we get really honest, we’ve all got “those people."
And so, when we come in contact with "those people", we kind of give them the holy stiff arm, and we give 'em our "thoughts and prayers."
But really, we just leave them alone to continue suffering in their hurt and isolation, because they’re too messy...too different…too difficult…too much.
It’s not that they’re too much…it’s that we think it would cost US too much to invest.
If you think back to the story in Mark, the pig farmers in the region of the Gerasenes wanted nothing to do with Jesus…why? Because he cost them a lot of money!
They didn’t care about the demon-possessed man. They cared about their pigs. That was their livelihood. That’s what provided them their needs and brought them comfort. It put bacon on the table…
These people would rather push away Jesus, then give up what brought them comfort and security.
Now we’re getting somewhere, right?
What it more valuable to you?
Showing compassion or clutching our coins and caring for our herd?
Are we more worried about the herd or those that hurt?
Too often, we don’t invest in others because to do so would mean to give up the things and stuff we cling to for comfort. As a society… we love our comforts. Comfort foods…comfort drinks…comfy people…comfy clothes.
I’m told by our friends in Student Ministry that "Comfies" are all the rage…this is what the cool kids are wearing. I don’t feel very cool. I am, however, quite comfy, and warm and fuzzy.
As I was writing my message, I asked my 9-yr-old daughter, Isabel where my ‘COMFY’ was, and she said,"Why?" And I said, "Well, I’m actually going to put it on while I’m preaching this Sunday cause one of the things I’m going to be talking about is how sometimes we get too comfortable." And then she gave me the side eye, letting me know I was a fool to put this on in front of anyone. But then my 9-year-old dropped 90-year-old knowledge on my heart.
She said, “I think if you stay in your comfort zone too long, you may not be able to experience new things…actually, you won’t be able to do the things you’re meant to do if you stay in your comfort zone.” OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES…
If we’re focused on the things that keep us comfortable… we're not gonna like this guy named Jesus. He says, “I want you to leave everything and follow me. I want you to leave your comforts and pick up your cross.”
I want you to step out of your comfort zone and step into sacrifice. I cannot fully extend the cause of Christ, the mercy of Christ, the compassion of Christ, if I’m still focused on myself.
Comfort or Mercy. Which will I cling to? Bacon or Blessing.
Sometimes it’s our comforts that hold us back from extending mercy to those who need it most and other times it’s our complacency. At times, for all sorts of different reasons, we get complacent and we ignore or neglect.
We kinda of shrug our shoulders or roll our eyes…or let out one of those long exhales…like, I’m so over you. Sometimes, we get so complacent, we kind of just check out.
You have any people like this in your life? Don’t raise your hand…
Like one of those people that you’re just like, “Ugh, why are you still here? Why are you still talking?”
And, if we’re being honest, we get here because we feel to engage or to get involved, it’s just going to be too much. And so, we just kind of leave people to their own devices.
Who is it that you have left to their own devices?
I’m gonna bring this real close to home for some of you. God showed it to me this way, and I really wrestled with God whether I was supposed to go here…
For some of you, this is gonna hurt. In about 45 seconds, some of you are gonna start feeling a certain way towards me. Just remember, I didn’t name you, I didn’t call you out, that’s the Holy Spirit convicting you.
Some of us have chosen to leave those closest to us…left them alone in their tombs. We have left them to their own devices…literally.
Parents, some of you have left your kids alone to their devices. Because we’re too busy…too comfortable…too caught up…too self-centered…too invested in our Netflix series that is too mature for our kids, so we send them upstairs…and we leave them alone, left to their own devices.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but the mind of a child, the mind of a teen is not developed enough to truly understand the weight and responsibility that comes with these devices.
Oh, the places they will go…and those places aren’t filled with Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.
They’re places of suggestion and innuendo, places of unhealth and compromise, places of destruction and evil…
Left to their own devices…without filters…without restrictions…without guidance, they will eventually find disturbing confusion, darkness, and despair.
And when they start acting a fool, like they’re demon-possessed…when they start acting out and start making unhealthy and un-wise choices…
Instead of realizing that WE’RE the ones that put the devices in their hand, shut the door and walked away…
Instead of getting off OUR devices…instead of setting boundaries with our boss…instead of saying NO to going out yet again with our friends...instead of setting aside margin to intentionally invest and enter into their world…getting on the floor and playing…
Meeting them in their world… with their interests… with their friends…
Meeting them right where they are to show them they have your undivided attention…showing them they matter and are more valuable than binge watching the latest season of trash we’re currently obsessed with…
Instead of showing mercy and compassion to those we’ve been called to love and develop the most…
We cast them aside…we lash out…we blow up…
We abandon them to their rooms…abandon them to themselves…we leave them alone, left to their own demons and devices…
And we wonder why they’ve changed…why they’ve disconnected…why they don’t seem to be our cute little babies anymore…we wonder why they don’t want to hang out with us while we do OUR THING…
And we wonder why the suicide rate for 10-19 year olds has sky rocketed over the last few years. We wonder why teen heroin and opioid addiction has dramatically increased.
We wonder why all this is happening. It seemed perfectly fine to just leave them alone in their tombs…I mean rooms…to navigate their life and devices on their own.
God have Mercy on us…
Jesus is calling us out of complacency and into compassion. Out of Comfort and into Mercy.
Jesus didn’t just show mercy and compassion to those who called him Lord…to just his faith community...
Jesus went out of his way to show compassion and mercy to those that needed it most…to the least of these…to the forgotten…to the marginalized…to those not yet a part of the community of hope.
This is the cause and call of Christ on our lives.
To show compassion and mercy…not just to those who we think deserve it, but to those that don’t deserve it.
"Blessed are those that show mercy for they will be shown mercy."
Through the voice of the outcast, Jesus has spoken so clearly, and His voice is MERCY. He is asking all of us to speak it, too.