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The God of All Grace Pt. 2

July 3, 2011 Series: This Grace in Which We Stand

Topic: Grace Passage: Jeremiah 9:23–24

Turn in your bibles to Jeremiah 9:23-24– “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, [24] but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

We’re in a series called THIS GRACE IN WHICH WE STAND. And today is part 2 of a message I began last week: The God of All Grace…Pt. 2. The reason we’re starting with God in a study on grace is that In order to rightly understand, apply and enjoy the grace of God, we must first know the God of grace. And it’s important that we never disconnect grace from God-but without a solid, biblical understanding of God it’s easy to create a God of our own, based on our preferences and wisdom. As we just read in Jeremiah, it’s not just a worthy task to undertake, it is necessary to understand and know God. And as we grow in our knowledge, our amazement at grace will increase and our experience of grace will flourish. 

Last week we looked at 4 attributes of God [the eternal nature of God (no beginning and no end), His independence (complete within Himself), omnipresence (fully everywhere at all times) and omniscience (He knows all things at once). And my hope was to shine a light on the greatness of our God so that in turn we would be amazed, humbled and drawn to worship by the fact that this God has reached down to us and allowed us to experience His grace. This week I hope to continue to do the same. 

One of the challenges that many find with understanding and explaining God is in being able to see God in all of His attributes as consistent. In our day, we could summarize one of the most common objections of God and Christianity in the following question: “How could a loving and merciful God send anyone to hell?” The answer is because He is God. But if you don’t know who God is this won’t make sense. 

It’s important that we understand that God is completely consistent and unified in all His ways. God is not divided into parts, yet we see different attributes of God emphasized at different times. Every attribute of God that we find in scripture is true of all of God’s being, and we therefore can say that every attribute of God also qualifies every other attribute. In other words, all the attributes of God are completely true of God all the time. He is not part loving, part just, part faithful, and so on. He is only loving, only merciful, only holy, only faithful… 

Knowing this helps us avoid the error of thinking that God changed from the Old and New Testaments. And it helps us avoid the error of singling out any one of God’s attributes as more important than all the others. If there is one attribute that is prone to be singled out, it is the one we’ll talk about next.

 God is love 

God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others. 

This is much different than the Hollywood, Disney fairy tale rendition of love that we’ve all grown up with and in varying ways, have come to expect. And it’s not the kind of love that has to be (or can be) earned as most of us have probably experienced in life. God’s love is different and is consistent with all His other attributes. His love is eternal and infinite and complete, etc. 

But many have taken this attribute, and using their own reasoning based on their own wisdom, experience and feelings, and have diminished God and restricted Him solely to be the God of love. But the problem with this is that this is not the God of the bible. 

In his book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, DA Carson has a chapter called On Distorting The Love of God in which he writes: “If people believe in God at all today, the overwhelming majority hold that this God…is a loving being…Nowadays if you tell people that God loves them, they are unlikely to be surprised. Of course God loves me; He’s like that, isn’t He? Besides, why shouldn’t He love me? I’m kind of cute, or at least as nice as the next person.” 

But this is not true. Yes, God is a loving God, but not in the way that our culture sees it; not separated from the rest of who he is. This is creating our own God in our own image from our own wisdom, and preferences. The singling out of God’s love from His other attributes distorts our view of who God is and will give us a distorted view of what love is. Now it will allow us to live our lives the way we want to for now but God will not be mocked and what was once thought to be untrue will be fully realized. Love needs justice to be love. Love needs holiness to be love. When we isolate God’s love from the rest of His attributes, it strips away any sense of need for a Savior and makes the cross unnecessary. 

Love is in its nature self-giving. It’s God’s nature to give of Himself for the blessing and good of others. God’s love desires the best for His creation. Love is not simply a sentimental feeling; it’s not payment for something done well. It’s the giving of oneself for the good of the beloved. 1 John 3:16-“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us,” 

God’s love is personal. God’s love is emotional, passionate and directed toward you. His love is not only infinite and eternal but personal and intimate. Paul makes it very personal in Galatians 2:20-It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

At the same time we need to know that there is a difference between His love and our love. It is emotional, but it is not driven by emotions or motivated by performance. It is passionate, but God’s passions never drive Him away from what His will has purposed. His emotions and passions are not sinful and capricious as ours are. This truth should give us great joy and assurance. 

God’s love is active. Back to our definition: God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others. This means that His love by definition requires action. And He is active in doing it. Our God is an initiator: Romans 5:6-“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” 1 John 4:10-“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 

God is Just (or righteous) 

God’s justice means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right. 

Justice and righteousness are vitally important to God’s character if He is to be considered good. Now we all desire justice when we see a wrong that has been committed. If wicked men like Hitler or Stalin or Bin Laden– responsible for millions of people being murdered – men, women and children – ultimately never came to justice, how good would God be? Even worse is the idea of God saying: you deserve punishment, but I love you too much and am going to act like it never happened! 

When we read of atrocities against innocent people – especially children – our hearts cry out for justice! But in order for God to be just at all, He must be perfectly just all the time-because that’s His Character. A judge who is hard on some criminals and let’s others off the hook is corrupt. If God ignored the smallest of sins today, He would be compromising who He is; which He is incapable of. 

God’s perfect love demands God’s perfect justice. 

God is holy 

God’s holiness means that He is separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor. 

God’s holiness means He is separate from all His creation. When the angels cry “holy”, it can be translated “other” – He is other than all His creation. He’s infinitely higher than the highest of all creation. That is why we must never think that God and Satan are locked in mortal combat and that God is more powerful. God is God – there is no other. 

God is separated from sin 

When love is isolated from God’s holiness, there can be a distorted view that sin isn’t a big deal to God. That it’s easy for God to forgive. Because He loves. Yet God is, and must be, separated from all sin. His perfect and holy character cannot compromise in one bit with sin. His honor and glory demand that sin never be allowed in His kingdom or person. Do not think that a God that tolerates “little sins” would be a good God. His holiness demands absolute separation from sin. 

He loves His honor 

If we love our honor it is sinful and wrong. We avoid people who love their own honor and seek it. But it’s different for God. He is good to love His honor because He is infinitely worthy of honor. When He points us to worship Him alone – it is the only loving thing He can do, for if He pointed us anywhere else He would be leading us to idolatry and to love something infinitely less worthy of our love and worship. 

Listen to how God’s love and mercy are tied to His honor and glory in Isaiah 48:9-11-“For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” [see God’s love] 

God hates and is separate from sin but He loves His own glory! God is Holy. 

God is love, He is just and He is holy. He could condemn all men to hell and be completely loving and just. But God is also Wise. And He devised a plan that would express His great love, satisfy His justice, magnify His holiness, and glorify His Son. Eph. 1:8, Eph. 3:10, I Cor. 1:21. Before the foundations of the world, He had a plan: Send His Son to live in perfect obedience to His will, and then to die upon the cross – the innocent for the guilty. And the punishment for our sins would fall upon Him. Romans 3:26. 

At the cross perfect love and perfect justice met. Mercy triumphed over justice – not by ignoring justice, but rather by carrying it out on another. Jesus was our sacrifice, our propitiation. 

And because our sin was completely dealt with in terms of God’s righteous wrath, and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we are no longer separated from God. His holiness and hatred for sin is abundantly demonstrated because of the horrible sacrifice He would make to deal with sin and not just pass over it. And His glory is not only upheld but magnified through the cross – and His Son will receive more glory because of the cross. 

So how does this affect us? Going back to the DA Carson Quote, when we hear, read or remember that God loves us, we should be amazed. When we’re reminder of the grace of God in our lives; that God has placed His unmerited favor on us- it should blow us away. Why? Because we’re not just aware of His love, we’re also aware of His Justice and Holiness. And we’re aware that if not for the sacrifice of Jesus that we would rightly be objects of God’s wrath. But instead, we’re His children. If you’re not amazed by God’s love for you and the grace that has come to you through Jesus, start studying and praying that God would open your eyes and reveal Himself in greater capacity to know and understand your God.

More in This Grace in Which We Stand

September 4, 2011

Standing Firmly on Future Grace

August 21, 2011

Friendships Take Grace

August 14, 2011

Grace Under Fire