They really are the two foundation stones of a God-honoring life. They must be held together; neither side can be forsaken. Every day you and I give empirical evidence to the existence of both. Here are these foundation-stone realities: you still have sin living inside you and God is abundant in mercy.
You and I must stand on both these stones. Letting go of either casts us into danger. Because I am a sinner, I need mercy, and because God is merciful, I can face the reality of my sin.
The words in Nehemiah 9 describe us all: “They . . . did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules” (v. 29). Maybe it’s a thoughtless word, a selfish act, a prideful thought, a moment of envy, a flash of lust, a willing act of disobedience, an attitude of vengeance, or a minor moment of thievery; maybe it’s wanting your glory more than God’s, failing to give grace where grace is needed, bending the truth, giving in to an addiction, or working to make these kinds of things in your life look not as bad as they actually are. In some way, we all give daily proof to the truth that sin still lives
inside us. None of us is yet sin-free. We all continue to fail in word, thought, desire, and action. It is humbling but important to admit, because it’s only when you admit how deep and comprehensive your problem is that you get excited about the rescue that only God’s mercy can supply.
We aren’t just left in our sins. Nehemiah 9 continues, “Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God” (v. 31). You can be courageous in admitting your sin precisely because God is richly abundant in his mercy. He comes to you in mercy not because you are good but because you are a sinner, and he knows that because of this condition, you are unable to help yourself. Since sin means that you are a bigger danger to you than anything else in your life and since it is impossible for you to run from you, there is only one hope for you. It is that someone with power, wisdom, and mercy will invade your life, forgive your sins, and progressively deliver you from the hold that sin has had on you. That mercy comes to you in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his mercy is always fresh, uniquely fashioned for the sin struggles of this new day.
For further study and encouragement: Ephesians 2:1–10
(Source: New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp)