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Lowell Brueckner

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Father of Mercies, God of All Comfort


I preach on the wrath of God, the horribleness of sin and its consequences, because it is part of the whole counsel of God and we dare not omit it. I emphasize it, because of the extreme imbalance and lack of preaching on these subjects in our day. Christian leaders are not aware of the disservice that they do to their listeners and the purposes of God by avoiding them. To not warn people sleeping in a burning house of their danger is a cruelty beyond what can be described, but that is exactly what pastors do, who have decided not to disturb the consciences of the spiritually asleep in their congregation. There may be those who think I am a cranky old man… or worse yet, a cranky preacher… so allow me to say that the message that follows is an example of the sublime teachings of the Bible, which I much rather enjoy proclaiming.      
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.”                                                                         2 Corinthians 1:3

The primary motivation for reading the Scriptures is to see in the Bible the revelation of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. When my friend, the Navajo Herman Williams, was converted, he cried because he had a Bible, but didn’t know how to read. He wanted so much to know more of the One, who had come into his life and given him peace. Our text tells us that it is God’s nature to be merciful and to comfort.

Before we enter our subject, we must recognize the need for a clear and deep conviction of our sin, past and present, understanding that we are great sinners. We are in fact criminals, who have committed crimes against God. At this point it would be proper to meditate on the consequences of sin upon David’s soul, as he expressed it in Psalms 38: “There is no rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long… I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart… My heart panteth, my strength faileth me.”

John Newton, the infamous slave trader, who later found Christ and became a minister of the gospel, wrote the great hymn, Amazing Grace. He said that 10,000 phantoms awakened him in the nights and robbed him of sleep. They were the memory of the Africans, whose lives were destroyed on his ship. If we have not experienced conviction of sin, then we cannot appreciate the text above and the message that follows.

However, once a person has come to the conclusion that he is a miserable sinner, there is only good news ahead. John Newton also said, “I am a mighty sinner, but I have a mighty Saviour.” A. W. Tozer said, “Whatever great deeds of sin we may have committed, they are small in comparison to the great work that God has done to remedy our problem through Jesus Christ on the cross.” Martin Luther surmised, “One drop of blood that fell from the veins of the Son of God is enough to cleanse all the sins of the world and that of thousands of worlds besides.” Nevertheless, He shed litres of blood and emptied his veins in order to provide an abundant salvation.

God is more than willing to forgive; it is not difficult for Him. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds” (36:5). That was his way of stating that there is no limitation to His mercy and no earthly measure, with which to fathom it. There are no sins beyond His capacity for forgiveness.

God manifested His mercy to the man and woman who brought sin into the world and made “coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen.3:21). In spite of the unequalled disaster that that sin has caused over the centuries and among all mankind, God has provided grace that abounds beyond that sin. It is clear that God is a fierce enemy of all genders of sin, but although it has entered into this world and into the nature of man, He found a way to work, so that every person who has fallen, can actually reach to greater heights in Him, than had he never sinned.

“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?... to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Lk.7:41-47). The potential for loving God today is more than it was in the Garden of Eden. Adam, before he sinned, did not know how to love like the sinner woman, whose sins were forgiven. It is a love that angels do not know. God takes the disaster that someone has caused, the moral failure that He truly despises, breaks it, crushes it, melts it down and begins to mould until He forms something more beautiful than would ever have been possible, if it had not been for that terrible loss.

After the immense failure, when the children of Israel believed the faithless spies and that entire generation was forbidden entrance into the Promised Land, God did not abandon them to perish in the desert. You might recall that Miriam, Aaron and Moses were included in that number, which could not cross the Jordan. Still, Balaam, hired by King Balak to curse them, could do no more than proclaim them a blessed people: “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed?... Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his (Israel’s)!... He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel” (Num. 23:8,10,21).

God can take the worst situation and turn it around for the best. When Samson broke his covenant with God, particularly the commandment never to cut his hair, he lost his eyes, was bound in chains and had to grind at the mill. However, in that low condition, his hair began to grow again! In spite of what he had lost, God had planted life within him, so that even in his loss, he had the ability to recover. He put life in the roots of his hair, and where there is life, there is the potential for recovery. Although he suffered severe consequences because of his sin, he was once again used to do something more important than that, which he had accomplished during the whole of his life. He fulfilled the purpose for his existence and could still proclaim with Paul, “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course.” It is only the matchless handiwork of God that can accomplish such things.

At the first sign of repentance, God is ready to forgive. Read of the evilness of King Ahab of Israel in 1 Kings 16:30-31. He did evil more than all those who reigned before him. As if it were not enough to guide all Israel into idolatry, he imported more from outside the country. He took wicked Jezabel for a wife, the daughter of the Sidonian king, and served and worshiped the heathen god, Baal. After having done his worst, after a situation in which Nebot was killed, in order that Ahab could have his vineyard, an act that the Bible called abominable, Elijah pronounced a curse upon him. In response Ahab “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days” (1 Kgs. 21:27-29).

In 2 Kings 13, it states that Israel’s king Jehoahaz did evil in the sight of the Lord and that the anger of God rose against Israel. However in verse 4, we find that “Jehoahaz besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened unto him… (And the Lord gave Israel a savior, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians)” (4 and 5).

Isaiah 7 tells of another wicked king, this time Ahaz of Judah (see history’s assessment of this king in 2 Kings 16:2-3). See that throughout the chapter, God intends to encourage him to dismiss the lies of the enemy, who was frightening him, and to trust in the Lord. He told him that the things, which the enemy designed against God’s people, would not come to pass, but instead in the end, He would have His people triumph. He asked for Ahaz to request a sign, which would help him to believe, after which God Himself gave him a promise of the coming Messiah.

Perhaps the greatest demonstration of God’s mercy is seen in the case of King Manasseh. His father, Hezekiah, was the godliest king of all, who had made greater reforms in Judah, than any king before or after him. This wicked man, undid and destroyed all the good that his father had done. However, when the judgment of God fell as a result “and when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God” (2 Chron. 33:12-13). It appears that he served God the rest of his days.

Even in the midst of judgment, God remembers mercy. When finally there was no remedy and Israel must go into captivity, God promised mercy during this time, as well as a future of well-being: “Be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace… for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:6,7,11). There the king of Israel found favour, above all the other kings that Nebuchadrezzar conquered: “Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison, and spake kindly unto him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon, and changed his prison garments: and he did continually eat bread before him all the days of his life. And for his diet, there was a continual diet given him of the king of Babylon, every day a portion until the day of his death, all the days of his life” (Jer. 52:31-34).

In the New Testament, understanding what Jesus expected from His disciples, it would be difficult to find a more serious failure than that of Peter. Jesus taught them that if anyone would deny Him before men, He would deny him before His Father in heaven and Peter did just that. Can you imagine how he felt after the cock crowed and then Jesus came by and fixed His eyes on him? “The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Lk. 22:61-62).

Peter could never return to the level of discipleship that he had left behind, nor could he ever have the kind of relationship with Jesus that he had had before. At that point, he probably wished that he could have all that back again, but it was not to be. Peter’s former commitment had been dealt a death blow, but it was in preparation for that, which he would receive on the Day of Pentecost. Peter received forgiveness and comfort, but beyond that, the Lord was faithfully bringing Peter to a much higher place in Him.

We know the doctrine about dying to self, so that Christ can live within us. The question is, how do we arrive at that place of death? Is it an act on our part of self-crucifixion? Or can it be that God will make use of something that occurs in our life to transform it into an instrument of death? It could be something similar to Peter’s denial. When it happens, we also will never be able to go back to living and functioning at the level that we did before. We will seek our old form of praise, prayer and service, but we will not find it.

We must be careful at this point, not to give up, throw up our hands and say, “I might as well quit trying to be a Christian. I have failed and I cannot find the old place that I used to have. Maybe there’s no hope for me.” No, God is far from rejecting and abandoning you. Let me explain what is happening. A death has taken place and now you must try to go on – keep praying, study your Bible, continue to serve and take part in Christian activities and fellowship, until Jesus raises you up, as He raised up the boy, who fell as dead after the demon left him (Mark 9:26-27). Jesus needed to take him by the hand and lift him again to his feet, even as Jesus raised John, after he had fallen at His feet as dead (Rev. 1:17). But now, this boy was free from the power that had dominated him.

Little by little, He will teach you things that you did not know before; things that are better and more important. Much of it will be a secret work and you will not even know that it is taking place. He is in charge, He knows what is happening to you, and will personally be involved in an inner renovation. You will come to a higher and stronger place than you’ve known before.


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