Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Gospel - part 5 - God's Action - Motivated by Love

updated 1-17-16

“God is love.  By this the love of God is manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
1 John 4:8-10

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Titus 3:4-7

"Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of his possession?  He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.  He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot.  Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
Micah 7:18-19

Adam and Eve were created perfect and sinless.  God told them they could eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except for one, and said in Genesis 2:17, "For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."  They sinned and disobeyed God's command to not eat of the fruit, and God had every right to kill them right then and there and end the human race!  But God had mercy on the human race and He delayed His judgment of death on Adam and Eve, who did not die physically until years later. 

They did, however, die spiritually on that day; and now mankind, instead of being born perfect and sinless, is born depraved and in bondage to sin, and is in need of a Savior.  Romans 6:23 condemns all of mankind when it says that, "the wages of sin is death." But God, in His incredible love and mercy, has provided us a Savior: Jesus Christ, God Himself, to save us from the death that our sins deserve.

Paul Washer says this from The Gospel's Power and Message: "We were a fallen and sinful race.  We had made our decision, declared our independence, and charted our own course for destruction.  There was no virtue in us that He should seek us out, nor was there any worth in us that He should redeem us...Yet he has opened the door of salvation to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation through a most costly payment—the precious blood of his only Son."

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty."
Exodus 34:6

God is a God who loves, but He is also a holy and righteous God who hates sin and must punish sin—make sure you understand that; but also know that He does not want everyone to sin just so He can punish them to hell.  1 Timothy 2:4 says God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  Ezekiel 18:32 tells us, "'For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,' declares the LORD GOD.  'Therefore, repent and live.'"  He has graciously made a way out for our sins: we must transformed by the Holy Spirit so we can repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 30:18 says, "Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion.  For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.”  The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 also shows how God is anxious for us to repent so He can show His grace and forgiveness.  The prodigal son moved away from home and squandered away his father's inheritance in living a life of sin to the point of where he had no money and no food to eat.  It was then that he came to his senses to go back to his father:

"I will get up and go to my father and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'  So he got up and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'  But the Father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'  And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:18-24
The father in the story is like our Father in heaven who wants us to repent.  The grace and mercy of God the Father is great.  Psalm 145:8-9 says, "The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.  The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works."  Ephesians 2:1-3 says we were dead in our sins and were children of wrath, but v. 4-5 says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). 

Man often has a problem with the great love and mercy of God.  The brother of the prodigal son did not want to forgive his brother, and neither did Jonah want forgiveness to be extended to the people of Nineveh.  Jonah was a prophet of God who wished for God to judge and destroy the people of Nineveh, and he was mad when God did not.  God made Jonah a shade tree for a day and then a worm came the next morning and destroyed the tree, which made Jonah even more angry.  God did this to teach Jonah about His love in Jonah 4:10-11: "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.  Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

Unlike Jonah and the shade tree, God did create the people of Nineveh.  He did cause them to grow and He sustained them just as He does for us today.  He is not a God who is distant from His creation, for He shows His mercy and care for all men.  Jesus says of God the Father in Luke 6:35, "For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men," and in Matthew 5:45, "For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

God is both imminent and transcendent.  He is transcendent in His holiness, because He is so far above us that He is not like us at all.  But he is not a distant God.  He is imminent and close to us when we humble ourselves before Him.  Isaiah 57:15 says, "For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'"

David talked about God's love and care for him in Psalm 23:1-3, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

It is easier to understand God's love once you have children of your own.  You love your children because they are yours.  You love unconditionally and are patient with their mistakes.  You are not looking to punish them, but you will punish them for their disobedience—not out of hatred, but out of your love for them, to teach them to do what is right.  When they grow up, you still love them and want to continue to be in fellowship with them, and it would break your heart if they rebelled against all you had tried to teach them and if they wanted to have nothing to do with you.  Yet in their defiance, you would still bend over backward to try to help them to see the error of their ways and to restore the relationship you once had.

Paul Washer noted, "No one has ever loved man like God.  And no one has ever hated God like man.  'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,' and the world so hated God that they killed Him."

'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,' and the world so hated God that they killed Him.

James Montgomery Boice wrote, “Augustine once called the cross ‘a pulpit’ from which Christ preached God’s love to the world” (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p.332).  God's love is amazing and it should inspire us to love Him as well. 

If a man commits a crime against a stranger, we know that to be wrong.  But, if a man commits the same crime against his own mother, we know that to be even worse.  Further, we find out about the details of the mother's love for the man through the years in spite of his wickedness, and that makes the crime even more heinous.  It is for the same reason that our sin is so evil.  When we sin, it is not against some stranger who could care less about us.  No, when we sin, we sin against the God who created us and loves us more than we can ever know.

"The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples but because the LORD loved you."
Deuteronomy 7:7-8

Paul Washer in The Gospel's Power and Message says, "The only explanation for God's special love for Israel must rest in God Himself: He loved them because He loved them.  Merit did not prompt His love."  It is the same way today for everyone, both Jew and Gentile.  God's amazing love is not poured out on those who are worthy, but on those who are unworthy.

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
Titus 3:5

We know from Isaiah 64:6 that, “all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.”  God did not save us because we were good, nor did we earn salvation because of our good works.  He was motivated by His great and incredible love for us and we are saved us by His grace and mercy alone.  It is only after we first learn of God's holiness and justice contrasted with our own depravity that we can begin to understand how great is His mercy and love toward us.

We are not only given an amazing salvation, but God the Father adopts us as His children; and furthermore we are made heirs with Christ! 

"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God....You have received a spirit of adoption as sons...The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
Romans 8:14-17

I have read that passage numerous times without realizing the significance of it, but it finally hit me...wow!  We as believers are truly blessed with an amazing and incredible love from our Father that He would adopt us as children and fellow heirs with Christ!  All praise be to Him!  Let His amazing love, grace, and mercy motivate us to faithful love and obedience to our Savior, for He is worthy!

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