I have a yellow post-it note on my desk with 2 Peter 2:19b written on it: “By what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” I should probably print it out in a larger format and post it around the house! You see, I have a great love for sweets; I’m also very lacking in self-control, and sugar is an addictive substance, at least for me. The more I have, the more I want. This verse encourages me to work a little harder against “the pull of the pantry” – I don’t want to be enslaved to my appetites.
The context of that verse in scripture is a deeper issue; Peter is discussing false teachers who draw converts to heresy, exposing their fleshly motives. But the principle behind it applies to many things in our lives. As I pondered this morning’s post, it struck me that we can be overcome (and by definition are enslaved) by many things both physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. Personally, I struggle to overcome my insecurities. I can be “addicted” or “enslaved” to wrong thinking (about myself and others), and therefore I become a slave to the same ways of responding, leading to hurt feelings or harsh words.
The good news is that God gave us a wonderful gift to open today: the gift of new mercies.
Lamentations 3:19-26 – Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fall, they are new every morning. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
Jeremiah’s theme throughout Lamentations is not only a recognition of the nation’s sin that has brought serious consequences but his own personal sin as well. God warned Israel for decades but finally had to discipline them for their idolatry and disobedience by allowing Babylon to conquer. The people left in the destroyed city of Jerusalem were suffering greatly. Jeremiah knew the answer was to humble their hearts and repent. He had great faith in the compassionate nature of God. He placed all his hope in God’s never-ceasing lovingkindness (another word for mercy or steadfast love).
I love the promise and hope this gift brings, and I’m reminded of it every morning when the sun comes up. Perhaps that’s one reason God gives us such beautiful sunrises – to remind us that no matter how we failed yesterday, today is a new day with new mercies. There is forgiveness. There are do-overs.
I think Paul knew about “new mercies” too.
Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Opening the gift of new mercies doesn’t mean we simply go on in the same patterns or habits or behavior that brought us low. We need to do the hard work of letting God change our hearts, our minds, our words, and our actions. Experiencing the mercy of God involves repentance, but in receiving His mercy, we also find the strength and ability to change – to make better decisions, to overcome rather than being overcome.
I don’t know about you, but I need new mercies today. How was your “yesterday?” Open up the gift of God’s mercy and compassion; it’s new every day.