When God made the covenant with Abraham, His mercy was evident at the outset. In this mysterious scene described in Genesis 15 the Spirit of God “passes through” the blood, but he does not allow Abram to pass through when it is his turn. Instead, the Spirit of God passes through twice. Indeed, this covenant is fulfilled through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of his Son – Jesus Christ. Later God tests Abraham by brining him to the very breaking point of sacrifice, requiring that he lay his son (and God’s promise) on the alter. He requires the very same from each of us. He requires that we lay what we hold most dear on the alter. Jesus requires complete surrender… He said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24) In Luke 14:26 he tells us “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.” Over and over again, we see Jesus make it very clear that to follow him, is to surrender all. And he makes it abundantly clear that there is no other way. He said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It is one of the most exclusive religious statements ever made. In Matthew 7:14 we read “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” And Jesus says point-blank that he is that gate in John 10:8 we read “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved.” We have all sinned and that sin separates us from God, the source of all life. But He has made a way, through his son. He has made the sacrifice and covered the penalty for our blood guilt. But God’s mercy is always balanced by His justice. His wrath was poured out on His own son on our behalf. But when we refuse to acknowledge His sacrifice – when we choose to reject his Son, we will ourselves encounter that wrath. If you have never been born again into the Kingdom of God, you have that opportunity right now. He says “if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead – YOU WILL BE SAVED.” This is the “good confession” of faith… To proclaim Jesus as Lord of your life. It means laying down your own authority to “do it your way” and yielding to the authority of Jesus. Repent of your sins therefore, and be baptized – to be baptized is to be saturated with a new identity – follower of Christ. John the Baptist declared “One is coming after me who will baptize you in the Spirit – referring to the Holy Spirit. When St. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the gospel, the people cried out “what must we do to be saved?” His answer was to repent, be baptized, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Your part of this equation is to repent of your sin, to proclaim Jesus as Lord, to believe that God raised him from the dead, and to be baptized. And God promises that if you do, He will fill you with His Holy Spirit – who will lead you into all truth. This is the gospel. It is the truth. And it is the reality of the mercy of a loving God who loved you so much that He gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting live.