My Aunt Ann made the best homemade jams I ever had in my life. My favorite was elderberry. Since I also helped to pick the berries that went into them, I learned that elderberry was also the most difficult to make because the berries were very tiny compared to other berries and grow on individual stems that need to be removed.
Now that I have your attention I must break it to you that the jam this article is about is not that kind of jam.
The jam I am referring to stands for justice and mercy (j and m).
God is both a God who judges with justice, and also a God of mercy. How can He combine these two apparently contradictory characteristics? The answer is that the sacrifice of Jesus has made it possible for God to combine both justice and mercy:
But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 2:4-5 NLT)
I hope this illustration will help you to understand what Jesus achieved for us by dying on the cross and rising again:
Two people went through school together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they went their separate ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other’s life spiraled down and he ended up as a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend and faced the dilemma, which, in effect, God faces. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t simply let the man off. On the other hand, he wanted to be merciful, because he loved his friend. So he fined him the correct penalty for the offence. That was justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That was an act of mercy, love and sacrifice.
In His justice, God judges us because we are guilty. Then in His mercy and love He comes down in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and pays the penalty for us. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God is both just and merciful.
The illustration is not an exact one for three reasons. First, our plight is worse. The penalty we are facing is not just a fine but death. Second, the relationship is closer. This is not just two friends; it is our Father in heaven Who loves us more than any earthly parent loves their own child. Third, the cost is greater. It cost God far more than money – He came Himself, in the person of Jesus, and paid the penalty of sin.
We need to understand something about the heart of God — He feels along with us, no matter what it is. Our God is a just God, but wherever He needs to apply justice, He also provides mercy. The themes of justice and mercy are weaved throughout the Bible.
Now to come to the highlight of this article. There is a big ‘but’ that goes hand-in-hand with God’s justice and mercy:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; BUT he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18 NKJV)
That big ‘but’ is that mercy of being pardoned from eternity in the final hell (lake of fire) is conditional upon our acceptance of it. The consequences are astronomical if not seized upon:
And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 NLT)
So please do not ignore God’s ‘jam’. Feast on His mercy in Jesus Christ like a little boy feasting on his aunt’s jam!