In his Easter sermon on Saturday, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Southern California stressed that God sent Jesus to show mercy to everybody, and shared three examples of how that applies to our lives.
Warren, a best-selling author, is delivering Easter sermons for all 57 services offered at 16 campuses, including 10 locations in Southern California, as well as international gatherings in Berlin, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and South Manila during the weekend.
In his sermon on Saturday, Warren said we need God's mercy when we've messed up, as his first example.
None of us is perfect, he told the congregation. "I don't measure up to my own standards, much less God's… Nobody is perfect," he said, and quoted James 3:2, "We all stumble in many ways," explaining that we stumble in our words, actions and emotions.
"How does God respond when we mess up? The answer is, He always responds with mercy," the pastor said.
He read John 8:2-11, which is about a woman who was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus by Pharisees, who said the law of Moses demands that she be stoned to death. But Jesus said if there's anyone who has never sinned may throw the first stone. And the people in the crowd left one by one.
The word "caught" is important here, Warren said, explaining that we can get caught in a wrong relationship or a secret habit or in a bad business deal or in a competition or in addiction. "Everybody has a secret sin… But God knows about it," he said.
Jesus protects the dignity of the woman publicly, and then deals with her sin in a one-on-one conversation with her, the pastor pointed out. "If we are Christians, we must deal with everyone with dignity," he said.
"Jesus didn't condemn her, but He didn't condone her… He changed her… That's what Jesus wants to do for you," Warren added. "God's mercy forgives and frees me from my past," he went on to say, and explained that forgiveness takes care of the past and freedom helps one do better in the future.
The megachurch pastor quoted Isaiah 61:1, "I was sent to announce freedom to all held captive and forgiveness to all who've been imprisoned." And John 12:47, "I have come to save the world and not to judge it."
At the end of the time, there will be judgment where every person will give account of their lives to God, Warren added. But it's for those who have rejected the mercy of God, and not those who've accepted it, he clarified.
Two, "I need God's mercy when I'm angry or frustrated or disappointed … or when I don't have what I need," Warren continued.
None of us have everything we need within ourselves, he said. In fact, we have disabilities, mental, emotional and physical, he added, and underlined that dependence is not always a bad thing, as we are made to depend on God and on others.
He read out John 5:2-9: "In Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, which was surrounded by five covered porches. A large crowd of all sorts of disabled people would lie by the pool, waiting for a miracle. There was a legend that every once in a while an angel would stir up the water, and whoever was the first to get in the water while it was still moving would get what they needed and be made whole. One poor man had been waiting by the pool for 38 years. When Jesus saw this man and heard that he'd been lying there for such a long time, he asked the man 'Do you want to get well?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'I have no one to help me get into the pool when the water is stirred! While I'm trying to get there, somebody else always get ahead of me!' Then Jesus simply said, 'Stand up, pick up your mat, and start walking!' When the man trusted Jesus, he was immediately able to walk again."
Pastor Warren explained, "One reason why you get angry and disappointed in life is you're looking to other things and other people to meet your needs, and meet the needs that only God can meet."
What does Jesus have to say about those whose needs haven't been met and are disappointed? "When I ask for God's help, God's mercy makes the impossible possible," Warren said, but clarified that sometimes, God doesn't remove the problem, but gives us supernatural power to handle it.
"What is impossible with men is possible with God," he said, quoting Luke 18:27. He also shared 2 Peter 1:3, "As you get to know Jesus better, he will give you, through his great power, everything you need for living a truly good life."
The third example, Warren said, is, "I need God's mercy when I'm facing death."
Death is universal, inevitable and unpredictable, and it is fearful for those who do not know God, he said.
The pastor then read Luke 23:39-43, "One of the criminals being executed on a cross beside Jesus ridiculed him saying, 'If you're supposed to be the Messiah, why don't you save yourself . . . and us too!' But the second criminal rebuked him, 'Man, don't you even fear God when you're dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn't done anything wrong!' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.' And Jesus replied, 'I guarantee you that today you will be with me in paradise.'"
The only way we're ever getting to heaven is by the mercy of God, the pastor stressed. We can't be good enough or perfect to earn it. "It's not what you say that gets you into heaven, but your attitude of humility… There's only one thing that will keep you out of heaven, your pride … arrogance … ego," he said.
He added, "God's mercy will save me for eternity… You're made to last forever," and quoted John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life! Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, will live again!"
"I'm betting my life that Jesus was not a liar, what are you betting your life on?" Warren asked the congregation. "Anyone who asks for mercy from the Lord shall have it and shall be saved," he said, quoting Acts 2:21.
Pastor Warren concluded the sermon by urging listeners to consider putting their faith in Jesus, and quoted Isaiah 30:18, "The Lord God is waiting to show you how kind he is and to have mercy on you. The Lord always does what's right and he blesses those who trust him!"
Through the Easter sermons, the megachurch wants to reach 50,000 people, Nebai Cherrick, the marketing coordinator at Saddleback, told The Christian Post earlier during the week.