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The Greatness of Grace

October 10th, 2017

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NIV)

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” - these words teach us that when God saves us He does not do so in a half-hearted manner. He does not take us to heaven to shame us for eternity about what lousy sinners we are. He covers us with the righteousness of Christ so that our sinful past is completely obliterated, and He adopts us into His family so that we reconciled to Him, and He transforms us into the spiritual image of Jesus Christ, so that we are different in our character.

His grace super abounds over our sin.

Yesterday we examined the issue of God’s anger toward sinful humanity. But in Christ Jesus His anger is turned away and now we are objects of His favor and blessing. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT).

I was in a Bible study several years ago where one of the men there kept hammering on this matter of our sinfulness. It was clear that he really thought that we ought to go around shaming people about how bad they were. He was so insistent on this issue that he went too far in this area. I finally said that the way he was describing God and God’s grace is that when we get to heaven God will say, “You lousy sinner, I should have sent you to hell, but for some reason I have decided not to, so welcome to heaven. I hope you have a terrible eternity thinking all the time about how you don’t deserve any of this.”

If that is what God says to repentant sinners, then heaven will be a terrible experience. But the Bible teaches us otherwise, that God assures us of His love and of our acceptance in Christ. Though we have failed, He lifts us up in love and assures us of His faithfulness. We are now overwhelmed with how greatly He has forgiven us and restored us to Himself.

Calvin described this teaching like this: “that while sin is overflowing, [grace] pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.” The impact is that we are completely assured of God’s love and acceptance. Even the pain of shame is removed and all tears are wiped from our eyes, even tears of shame (Rev. 21:4). Calvin added that Christ is “sent to be a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captives, a comforter to the afflicted, a defender to the oppressed.”

Grace is not only the receiving of forgiveness, but also the receiving of the assurance of forgiveness. Grace is more than just not being punished. It is the “super-abounding” entrance into an entirely different frame of mind - one in which we love God and are confident of His love for us. There is the basis for new sense of self-respect, one that is divinely bestowed. If God loves us so greatly, then, on that basis alone, we should respect ourselves. His redemption is all encompassing, saving us that we might know Him, that He might reveal His character in us and through us, and that we might be filled with joy and peace.

Is it easy to love God’ asks an old author. ‘It is easy,’ he replies, ‘to those who do it.’ … [God] can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love. This is of all gifts the most to be desired. Here, not in our natural loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true centre of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible. (C.S. Lewis)

I heard a Christian author and speaker once say that what he thought the human heart truly longs for is Someone to whom we can be truly grateful. This is the miracle of God’s super-abounding grace.

This is why, by the way, the down-playing of our sinfulness is so dangerous to our spiritual health, in that it tries to resolve our feelings on this issue of forgiveness merely through human logic, and not through the power of God. But those who rejoice in their salvation, who are confident in their acceptance in Christ, possess this assurance through the divine power of God, and not through faulty human logic.

In fact, I am convinced that there is no logic that can explain God’s choice to redeem us. He has chosen to do so for His own purposes, out of His own heart of love, and true love always defies logic.

Doctrinal Studies ,

Does God Hate?

October 9th, 2017

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV)

We feel more comfortable speaking about the love of God than the hatred of God, and, honestly, the Bible emphasizes His love more than His anger. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 we see a God who compassionately and lovingly creates, redeems, and tenderly cares for His creation.

Yet there are many verses in the Bible that speak of God’s hatred. The passage above is one of these, and it is clear that God hates ungodliness in human life because it demeans both the one who holds these values in his own heart and those whom he touches and influences toward evil. Too often we close our eyes to the harmful effects of man’s sinfulness. But if we will look past the attractive places on earth and see the world as it is - the parentless children gangs in the cities of Eastern Europe, the sexual molestation of children, the enslavement of workers, drug addictions, the cruelties humans do to one another, man’s inhumanity toward man, and realize that there are many things about us that a righteous God should hate.

We generally sum up these thoughts by saying something like “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” Of course, these words are true, and are a paraphrase of key verses that speak of the redemptive love of God.

For God so loved the world,i that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. (Isaiah 59:15-16 ESV)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. (Romans 5:8-10 NLT)

Each of these passages above, however, if we examined the larger context of them, reveal long discussions of God’s righteous anger against humanity because of our sinfulness. In the Romans 5 passage it says plainly that we were enemies of God - the original Greek means that we were those hostile toward God.

God Hates: The Bible says plainly that God hates those who do evil.

The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. (Psalm 11:6 NIV)

The word in the original Hebrew means to detest, to declare enmity toward, to be utterly opposed to. Now such statements, as strongly as they are worded, are not to be understood apart from the love, mercy, and compassion of God. We meet a man in the New Testament, Paul the Apostle, who was such a man who qualified to be one hated by God prior to his salvation, but though God detested Paul the Pharisee, in His mercy and compassion He saved him from his sins and brought him into the family of grace.

God’s Complete Righteousness: When we speak of God hating sin, even hating the sinner, we must start with the understanding that God is utterly holy and righteous. We need to understand that our hatred is always tainted by impure hearts and our sinful natures. We hate others while blindly ignoring our faults, and we desire to punish others unjustly. Human hatred is a great harm to society. But God’s hatred is entirely different from ours. God hates in good reason. He hates the utter sinfulness of humanity.

In His hatred, though, He has not forgotten love, mercy, patience, compassion, as it says in Psalms 103:14, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” And in His judgment against humanity He will be completely fair. Christ spoke of it being “more tolerable” for some in the day of judgment, when compared to others. That does not suggest that there is salvation outside of Jesus, rather it teaches that God is utterly and completely fair in His dealings with us.

One that God hates can still be saved: And the paradox is that God’s mercy and grace are extended even to the one who is hated by Him. The closer we get to God the more amazed we are at His love, in fact. We are astounded that He stoops to care for us, to save us, to redeem us.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when we have so de-emphasized the holiness of God, of His righteousness and of His judgment against sinful humanity, that we have created a false picture of God - one that says God is just some doting distant deity who just ignores our sinfulness. If this is the way we picture God we will remove any need for the cross of Christ. But the cross was necessary for our salvation - without God Himself paying the price for our sin Himself, we would face His judgment in our sin alone and would fittingly be condemned for eternity to hell.

If hell was not the proper judgment against humanity for our sinfulness, then the cross was never necessary. But the biblical teaching is that Christ died for our sins out of His redemptive love for us. Grace never should be understood to minimize the harmful nature of sin, for grace means that Christ paid Himself for our sins - not that sin was ignored but that God Himself paid for it.

Doctrinal Studies