At a meeting of Baptist leaders in the mid 1700s, a newly ordained minister stood to argue for the value of oversees missions. He was abruptly interrupted by another minister who said, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without consulting you or me.” That young man was William Carey.
William Carey is often called the Father of Modern Protestant Missions. Though there were European Protestant missionaries to Asia almost a century before Carey arrived in India, his work marks a turning point in the size and scope of Protestant missionary efforts to the world. (He spent 41 years in India, through the death of two wives and several children, with no furlough.)
Carey taught himself Latin at age 12. By the time of his death, at age 73, Carey had translated the complete Bible into six languages, and portions of the Bible into 29 others. Yet, he never attended the equivalent of high school or college. His work was so impressive that in 1807, 41 years after his death, Brown University conferred on him a Doctor of Divinity.
There are few people in the history of the Christian Church more revered than William Carey; and yet, when he was suffering from a dangerous illness, he was asked, “If this sickness proves fatal, what passage would you select a the text for your funeral sermon?” Carey replied, “Oh, I feel that such a poor sinful creature as myself is unworthy of having anything said about him; but if a funeral sermon must be preached, let it be from the words: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, and according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion, blot out my transgressions.’” In the same spirit of humility, he directed in his will that the following inscription and nothing more be engraved on his tombstone:
William Carey, born August 17, 1761: Died June 9, 1834
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm
On thy kind arms I fall.”
Someone has said, “Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; merely professing Christians can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness.”
That’s what James says happens to us when we look into the mirror of the Gospel, the perfect law, the law of liberty. Not only is mercy desired, our hearts are changed and we begin giving it to others.
Look at what James says in 2:8, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scriptures, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself…’ Why? He answers that in the next verse; because you will see them exactly as you see yourself – a sinner in desperate need of mercy.
We are going to talk about mercy this week. It’s at the heart of God’s self-disclosure in both the Old and New Testament. That’s why James can make this dramatic statement: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
In preparation for this week’s message, “Living in Mercy”, you may wish to consider the following:
- How does God describe Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7?
- In what ways do we see Jesus fulfilling God’s self-description?
- In what way do you fit James’ description of one God chooses in verse 5?
- How does James’ view of the poor square with Jesus’ view of them? (See Mt. 5:3 and Luke 6:20.)
- How do the rich blaspheme the name of Christ? (See verse 7.)
- How does loving your neighbor as yourself relate to not showing partiality?
- How does one act as one who’s judged under the law of liberty?
- In what way does mercy triumph over judgment?
- How does the mirror of the Gospel make us merciful?
- If faith without works is dead, what work best demonstrates your vitality as a child of God?