Mark 9:42 God Alone Is Strong

Mark 9:42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

  1. How serious do you think Jesus is about teaching about Himself?
  2. Why do you think he was so serious about teaching his little ones? Are little ones weak or strong?
  3. Who are God’s children?
  4. Should everybody be a teacher? Why or why not?

John 21:15–19 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Now Sings My Soul: Psalm 23:2b He Leads Me Beside Still Waters

My Lord, You are the fountain of true life. I am dead without you. It is not that I can find this water on my own. For I am lost. and, my soul is dried-up and dead. I have no wisdom, strength, or spirit to find you. But you, O Lord, rescued me. You have brought me into your life and in your life alone, I am fully alive. My soul is no longer dried in sin but restored, covered, and filled with your never-ending grace. God, please keep me close so that I stay refreshed and satisfied in all of life.

Here is Love: Romans 8:30b Called

And here is love: Romans 8:30b And those whom he predestined he also called…

So if there was nothing in us to attract, sway, or convinced God to love us and save us, what did God see in us before He saved us?

There is a war in our world to determine the value of a human’s life. Life today is no longer precious. Consider the life of a newborn or the life of a refugee. What are they to the world as a whole but lambs up for a slaughter.

But even biologically speaking, life of a human is determined by lungs breathing air, heart pumping blood. We could take it one step further that a life being lived to it’s capacity is one that is functioning on a brain or muscle capacity. And even further still, one that contributes to society.

But I am here to tell you that without the mark of the Spirit of God upon our lives as sons and daughters of God the Father, we are not fully made alive.

All humans born, or as the Bible puts it as all those born of Adam, do breath air and hearts pump blood.  But to be born is to be born under the curse of our original father. That is, to be born is to be born into sin.

And there is no escaping that. It is impossible for any baby to be born without the sperm of a male to be joined to the egg of the female. It would take a miracle of God to be borned of a woman alone and thus, not to inherit the curse of Adam’s first sin.

Now, because we are born into sin, we are born to die. Consider Paul in Ephesians:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” 1

or this in Titus:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 2

Because of sin, we are dead. We are nothing more than spirit-less corpses toiling around until we fully expire. But the world wants to convince us all that there is actually life apart from God. And not only the world, but we ourselves as believers are strongly tempted to sin and stray outside the grace of God.

We are not fully alive until we are saved by God, given a new heart, and His Spirit within us.

So how does God go about that?

First, salvation by God starts with God’s sovereign choice. But salvation certainly doesn’t end there.

All throughout the Bible, there is a certain thing that God does over and over again—constant and perfect—prior to someone experience God’s salvation. While we would never know God’s choice in all matters but we can see the effects of some of his choices. And none quicker and clearer than the powerful and effectual calling of God.

Now, we see this in Genesis 12 when God called Abram to trust and obey him. We see the calling of God upon the birth and life of Isaac. Onward with Jacob, Joseph, Noah, Moses, and on it goes.

But we only see where it was 100% effective. Does God ever call on someone and they don’t follow him? Jonah tried but was made to be convinced otherwise.

The Bible never lists those who don’t follow God upon his calling because God’s almighty word never returns void. In other words, His word does not return back to him without fulfilling what God wants to do. 3 Consider this parable from Jesus:

Matthew 13:1–9; 18-23 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.  And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.  And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”

“Hear then the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.  As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Christ said to himself that many will hear the word of the kingdom and yet, only a few where that word takes root, grows, and thrives. But we cannot confused the blanket preaching of the gospel to everybody to the ends of the earth (which we can joyfully participate in) along with the effectual calling of God.

For all that God intended to save, God will actually saved. So where we see when God calls individuals, God actually saves individuals. And now, we who possess His Holy Spirit now take the fullness and the power of gospel to everyone and everywhere, proclaim it forth and it is God who still saves.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 4

So God predestines. From there, God calls. When He actually calls, He actually saves. Salvation includes and new heart that springs forth new desires for God and His Spirit dwells within us.

If God charged a prophet to a call out to the valley of dry bones and they live, how much more powerful is the calling of God on those who are far from Him.

Consider the ultimate calling of God from death unto life.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” 5

We know Jesus has raised those who were extremely ill to the point of being thought of as death. But Jesus quickly corrects with, “She’s just asleep”. But Lazarus was someone who was dead for four days. His body was wrapped and laid in the tomb.

This is the first time we’ve seen Christ step before not just His friend’s dead body but at Death itself. Through the deepest and darkest grief and pain of losing his friend, even for a moment, Christ looked upon His Father and with tears running down his cheeks, he simply prays, “Father, I thank you that you hear me and have heard me. I knew that you always heard me but I want everybody around here to know that as well so that they believe in me.”

It is Jesus Christ—the lord ruling over heaven, earth, and hell; the upcoming victor over Satan and his demons—faced death and with His own voice cut through Death’s power and call his friend back to himself: “Lazarus, come out!”

This was the first time Christ faced death and won. But wasn’t the last.

As Christ broken, hunged, and blood drained upon that cross, through excurciating and tortorous pain and grieve as he had taken all of all the sin of all believers of all time everywhere and as He was absorbing the wrath of God for us, He called upon His Father and declared, “It is finished”, and gave up His Spirit and died.

We might think that Satan, demons, hell, and especially Death absolutely believe that God was defeated and Christ was dead and by what they have seen, all of mankind would perish forever.

But no! It was when Christ died and gave up his life as ransom for many is the precise moment that Satan was crushed, demons were lorded over, hell was controlled, our sins abolished, and Death defeated once and for all.

That is a love that is simply unfathomable but that is exactly the fullest of God’s love for us.

Notes:

  1. Ephesians 2:1-3
  2. Titus 3:3
  3. Isaiah 55:10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 3:5–9
  5. John 11:38-44

God Honored

The sea, dry land, winter cold, summer heat, morning light, evening shade are full of thee, and thou givest me them richly to enjoy. Thou art King of kings and Lord of lords; At thy pleasure empires rise and fall; All thy works praise thee and thy saints bless thee; Let me be numbered with thy holy ones, resemble them in character and condition, sit with them at Jesus’ feet.

– from God Honored
The Valley of Vision

Ordo Salutis XIII: Our New Heart – Spirit’s Power in Regeneration

When God saved us from eternity past, His saving work was not finished when Christ lived, died, buried, and rose again, as though there is nothing for him for his people.

You see, every single person born of man since Adam and Eve were born inherently not in connection with God but being apart from God both infinitely and eternally. That separation is because we have no spirit of God because our hearts were not born of God.

Sin has devastating, tearing, ripping-in-half effects. Adam and Eve felt that to a large degree but I don’t think they could possibly fathom what it would be like for their children and their children’s children and for all of the world.

But we see the state of the world today and exponentially more than our forefathers because we have every kind of information at our fingertips.

School shootings, mass genocide, abortions in the thousands per day: there seems to be no end in depravity. And just when think that our way of life on its own is a little better, we found out that our way of life and privilege is most often at the expense of someone else’s well being. You just have to open your eyes and see.

And even seeing it all has gotten to be too much for most of us. Too much sin, death, disease, depravity, and tragedy for us to handle on top of our own lives.

That is the inheritance of Adam. That is what we are cursed with.

But can we for sure say “all humans” are born this way? Surely there are some who are born good? There has got to be some hope?

Back in the Old Testament, from the time of Adam, the wickedness of humankind spread throughout the earth.

Genesis 6:5-7 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

When God spoke of Man, what did he declared? They were greatly wicked and the thoughts of their hearts were only producing evil. And God regretted ever creating mankind, the very image-bearers of Himself.

Before we continue, was Noah a man? So would he have been evil or born good apart from these wicked people?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 1

Does the Bible say, “But Noah was a good dude so God decided to spare him.” No, Noah was wicked just like everyone else. But the favor and grace came upon Noah for no other reason because God is good.

You might say, “But what about the next verse?” Let’s read that:

Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Now put verses 5 through 9 all together. Look at the order in relation to Noah. Noah was wicked. The thoughts of Noah’s heart produced evil continuously. God regretted ever creating Noah. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Because God gave him grace, it was then and only then Noah was declared righteous and blameless in his generation. We know it’s not that Noah was born righteous or even living a righteous life apart from God because Paul quotes a psalm of David in Romans 3:

Romans 3:9–31

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

But then some would argue that God gave us laws in order for us to be holy. But that is not the purpose of the law. The law of God was simply put in place to get you to see all of your sin and wickedness in the presence of holy and just God. Paul goes on to declare that the law was weak. In other words, the law of God is a mirror for your soul and heart but that’s all it could do. The law of God was powerless and feeble to save your soul.

You know what the real kicker is: with our hearts far from him, we are not actually obeying the laws of God. I know because it is impossible for us to obey God’s law if our hearts are far from him.

Romans 8:7–8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Because of our wicked hearts, whatever “righteous” deeds we think we are doing are just dirty rags thrown before the feet of God thinking that will be good enough to be saved by Him.

Look at what Jesus says:

Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Wait a minute here. These people were doing what Christ told us to do: prophesy, cast out demons, and do mighty works in his name. Christ would go on to say for us not to rejoice because we can do mighty works and the spirits are subject to us but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. 2

Don’t you see? We cannot know nor love God without taking this wicked heart out and replacing it with heart from God. Nothing good comes out of a heart that was born into sin and has been sinning continuously.

Some theologians teach that faith to believe in God comes from some tiny little deposit of good that was given to all human beings. Well, I would accept that explanation a hundred times over than we are all basically good and can believe and trust in God out of our own strength. Because the latter is simply not happening. Whatever you may think, that faith produces a new heart or it’s a new heart that produces faith, something absolutely good has to start the process of faith because faith (inherently good) does not come from a wicked and depraved heart. The Bible makes that clear.

Choosing God is not like what you choose for breakfast, whom you have chosen to marry or whom you voted for in the last election. For you to believe, trust, love, and choose God, something supernatural has to occur and this is by the work of the Spirit alone by giving us a brand new heart from the Father all made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.  It is only then can we look upon Him with clear eyes, hear him with functioning ears, even taste him with new taste buds to know that he is good or even smell the aroma of Christ on each of us who are made fully alive by God.

When we have a new heart and His Spirit within us, it is then we can truthfully and fully be obedient to God. First, Christ fulfilled the law for each of us who believe and trust in him. Now, it’s not that we have to obey the laws of God, it is that we get to obey Him.

Don’t believe obedience requires a new heart? See what God says about it.

Ezekiel 36:24–28 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

It is only then that God removes us from death and despair; takes the blood of Christ and washes us clean from all unrighteousness 3; give us a brand new soften heart and a new spirit that causes you to walk in His statutes and being careful to obey His rules.

Because of what He has done, we now get to dwell in the house of the Lord forever 4 because we are His people and He is our God!

Notes:

  1. Genesis 6:8
  2. Luke 10:20
  3. Titus 3:3-7; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  4. Psalm 23:6

Mark 9:38-41 God Alone Over All Who Would Believe In His Name

Mark 9:38-41 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
1. How many other churches are in our town?
2. Do they love Jesus just like we do?
3. Is it okay that they do church differently?

Now Sings My Soul: Psalm 23:2a He makes me lie down in green pastures

My Lord,

You are the Prince of Peace. Where you are, there I find satisfaction of my wearied soul and find perfect peace where I can truly rest.

Apart from you, I die and I perish. Away from you, I am only tormented by confusion and despair. Without you, there is nothing but destructions by my own hands and by everything around me.

But you, O Lord, call me to enter through you and abide in you. Once I am in your good graces, you take the back-breaking weight of sin off me and place it upon you. Once more, you lay your light, featherweight righteousness upon me. I am no longer under crushing condemnation nor your furious wrath but yet, within the protection of your great arm and the coolness within your great fortress, that is the Rock of Ages.

Once more, you are the truth. While my heart strays and wanders from you, you are the Good Shepherd who would gladly chase me down and bring home over and over again. Because you alone have the words of eternal life, I have nowhere else to go but to come home with you.

I thank you for healing my broken heart and mind. I thank you for opening my eyes, ears, and mouth of your glory and goodness. I thank you for giving me strength for you are Christ Jesus my Lord forever.

Romans 8:30a Predestined

And here is love: Romans 8:30a And those whom he predestined …

We have now established that God loved us not just for the sake of love by itself. It is a warm and sentiment notion to be sure but when it comes to God, it is not just simply His love as though he can be reduced to one feeling. Likewise, while his love remains supreme, it isn’t all that he is. When we speak of God and receive God and take him as our own, we get everything about him. And God is love but God is also holy, righteous, just, merciful, kind, gracious, patient, all-knowing (omniscient), present everywhere (omnipresent), and almighty (omnipotent) just to name a few. Not only that, God is unlike any other being ever in that he is one hundred percent of everything that he is. Furthermore, he doesn’t have to give up one part of himself in order to be the fullest in another. He is maxed-out love, righteousness, holiness, and merciful.

That is the glory of God.

And we know that God saved us because He is glorious. In other words, He didn’t have to give up something about what makes Him fully Him. It’s like getting into a relationship but giving up a part of your personality, a part of who you are, in order to be with someone you have affections for. “I like this dude but he only like quiet, mousy girls so I am going to suppress my boldness when I’m around him.” “Oh I really like this girl but she doesn’t like guys who are really into God so I am going to give that up.” It’s like a terrible romantic comedy. You laugh but it happens in real life more than I want.

God saved us because He simply saw us and He chose us to be with Him forever.

Ephesians 1:3-10 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Take a look at this passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” Paul is exhorting us that God is blessed and God has definitely blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. However, for our sake and our thinking is contained within the element of time (while God is not), those blessings did not start with us, within the family we were born, the place in the world where we grew up, nor the people we know although we do know God purposely chooses all of that for us so that we “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” 1.  And with the essence of time, it doesn’t necessarily even start with the cross of Christ—although all of God’s glorious aforementioned attributes definitely are on the fullest display at that cross. 2 It started before the foundations of the earth were laid and even before time and space were spoken into existence. It started before Genesis 1:1.

There is no doubt we grow up in a world that certainly celebrates self-accomplishments especially when you have come from nothing. We love the pull-up-from-our-bootstraps stories. Just be born, work hard, and surely good things will come your way. We sometimes think that God loves and adores us not because of everything He has done for us but rather what we have done for him lately. And that is how most of us understand our salvation in Christ. It has to be because of what I did first. Why else would he love me?

Or flip it the other way: I have done so well all of my life. I did the right things. I voted the right way. I am fighting for social justice. I am on the right side of history. See me! See that I am good. God loves me, saves me, and will bless me because I do good! Despite the fact that Romans 4 adamantly declares that we do not put God into our debt.

The argument of “From eternity past, God saw me and saw that I choose him.” We know that Romans 5:8 says otherwise.

Jesus said it distinctly, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” 3

We are saved for His glory. And this started with Him choosing us from a long, long time ago. Not because He predestined us to lest we believe that we are saved by election alone.

From eternity past, God saw me in my wickedness, my shame, my sin, and trespasses and just simply declared that I want him in my family. And I am willing to send my Son and my Spirit in order to get him.

Forgive the conjuncture but I always imagined it this way:

Father: I love you

Son: I love you

Spirit: I love you so much

Father: You know who else I love so much.

Son: Joseph

Spirit: I was just about to say that.

Father: Oh I see him now. Yikes, Joseph sins a lot. I mean. Look at him: he’s working in pornography while being married with a kid.

Son: I know. But I still want him with us.

Father: You know what it will take?

Son: Of course.

Father: You ready?

Son: Always. Spirit, you ready?

Spirit: exhales slowly I am ready!

Father: Let’s do this.

Son: Father, I love you.

Father: Son, I love you. Spirit, I love you.

Spirit: I know. I love you.

Father: Let’s do it.

BOOM!

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

And you know the rest of the story.

You might ask me, “How do we know that we are chosen? How do we know we are elected or predestined.” Old, white dead guys will tell you to knock it off! Stop trying to get a hold of salvation at the wrong end. Election, much like all of salvation, belongs to God alone for He alone is mighty to save.

I recall a conversation where this lady boldly declared, “I have two sons. And no matter what they do in this life, if one is predestined and the other is not, then only the one who is predestined will go to heaven.” Again, salvation is not because of predestination.

Recall the cry of the tax collector who cried out to God, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!”, whom Christ declared justified.

Lady, if both of your kids know and love God, if both of your kids walk with Him in their days and keep his commandments not because they are super trying hard but by the power and grace of His Almighty Spirit through the broken and blood drained body of the Son of God, then my friends, I can almost assure you that both of your kids are saved to God.

God’s maxed out love is so tremendous and wonderful that sin, death, hell, Satan, nor his demons would be able to stop Him from rescuing his people. That is the very best love.

Notes:

  1. Acts 17:26-28
  2. Psalm 85:10
  3. John 15:16

Golgotha

Let us muse upon the fact that Jesus was conducted without the gates of the city. It was the common place of death. That little rising ground, which perhaps was called Golgotha, the place of a skull, from its somewhat resembling the crown of a man's skull, was the common place of execution. It was one of Death's castles; here he stored his gloomiest trophies; he was the grim lord of that stronghold. Our great hero, the destroyer of Death, bearded the lion in his den, slew the monster in his own castle, and dragged the dragon captive from his own den. Methinks Death thought it a splendid triumph when he saw the Master impaled and bleeding in the dominions of destruction; little did he know that the grave was to be rifled, and himself destroyed, by that crucified Son of man.

Charles Spurgeon. The Procession of Sorrow. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. 1 March 1863.

Ordo Salutis VI: Christ’s Perfect Work, We Are Justified

Many people tried to say that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are completely two different gods. Have you heard this argument? Why was God so angry? Why is Jesus so loving and kind? Was God in the Old Testament was the Father and then his Son took over in the New? I don’t understand a god that would punish people. I can only understand a god that loves.

Interesting is that the Holy Spirit took killed a husband and his wife for lying to God about the selling land and the giving of proceeds from that sale. 1

It is even more interesting to note that the Apostle John wrote in his Gospel in chapter 3 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” 2, did not finish that statement without further claiming and clarifying, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”. 3

So quite simply by seeing the wrath of God in both Testaments, that we know that God is eternally God past, present, and future.

But what about His love, mercy, and grace? What about His gospel which Paul utterly declares to be “… the power of God in salvation for those who believe, to the Jew first and also the Greek4, to which he was not ashamed of?

To try to speak of God’s grace upon constant grace, His daily renewed mercies, and His steadfast love throughout the Bible, I believe we have to also look at his righteousness throughout the Bible.

But what is righteousness? Webster defines it as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable.” When God defines it, he takes it to that next proverbial level: “To stand upright in the presence of God.” That is to say: to be without sin, to be perfect.

Here’s the reality: we don’t know a time or place ever in our lives or in our souls that was without the effects and consequences of sin. We cannot fathom what it really means to be perfect. Can we really? Even saying something like “That dress is perfect!” or “This gift is so perfect” really doesn’t mean the same thing.

And yet, the Creator God of the universe requires us to be perfect in order to never to perish and more so than that, to be with Him forever. To be with God now and forever requires you to be free from sin—never known sin, committed any sin or never failed to do the thing you were supposed to do.

God requires you to be perfect. And in my experience, when people realize that, there are usually three reactions.

One, hubris. “Well, I guess I better roll up my sleeves and get to work. I know I can do this if I remain perfect control of myself but more so, controlling those people around me and the world around me. If everyone acts right, I can be right and my life will be perfect.”

Two, despair. “Oh my God! This is impossible. I will be crushed under this weight!”

Three, apathy. “Why even bother? This impossible. Screw God, his people and his made up laws. They are not real and made up anyways.”

And all three leads not to joy and pleasures but to destruction and death.

But God, from the moment sin was introduced into this perfect world, gave us the first tidbit of the good news as he promises Satan his own death in front of his two dying kids:

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

That monster, Satan, came to kill, steal, and destroy. And Satan successfully came and did that. Think about this: Adam and Eve had it all. Not because they had all their needs met, and even more than never knowing sin, they had it all because they had God. But in original parents’ fatal mistake, God doesn’t respond with instant judgment. Instead, God lovingly and calmly comes into our world evident by simply strolling through the coolness of the garden looking for his two lost kids.

God calls out, “Adam, where are you? Why are you wearing those ridiculous things? Who said you were naked?”

In other words, “What’s wrong? Tell me, son. Tell me, daughter. What is wrong?”

God doesn’t respond out of by judgment alone although he alone rightfully judges. He doesn’t respond out of only his holiness by shunning his kids instantly away because we know that His holiness does not tolerate sin in his presence. God doesn’t just respond out of righteousness. No, God responds fully and truly out of everything he is–perfectly and fully.

It is out of the perfection and fullness of God’s love, desires, affections, mercy, grace, justice, righteousness, patience, peace, holiness, aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, we can fully see in God’s response.

God doesn’t chastise or even condemn. (Bare with me. I will get to that in a moment.)  Instead, God responds with, “Satan, I will send Someone to make this right. You might think you have hurt him but he will crush your skull underneath his barefoot once and for all.” 5

God promises the monster that he will be destroyed and God makes this threat in front of his half-naked, scared, frightened, sin-filled kids. With Adam and Eve as his first witnesses, God promises He alone will fix what they did. Step number one was sending someone to be born of a woman, step two was for this savior to be hurt in some way and step three was that this person would smash Satan’s head to smithereens.

And when God turns to Adam and Eve, I believe that God doesn’t just instantly judge them. Why would I say this? Because after this encounter, they are still standing around on the earth. What I see is that God is simply laying out the consequences of sin in their lives and in the world.

But do not miss this next part. When you teach a Sunday school lesson, preach the word or simply reading from the Bible on this passage, pay special attention to this verse:

Genesis 3:21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Now, if you had only read the Bible for the first time in your life and chapter 3 verse 21 was the first time you have ever heard of that, that might not mean anything to you.  I mean, it’s nice that God covered their naked bodies. But as the days and lives continue on after this moment, God continues to interact, guide, speak to, and continues to reveal His glory to his people, we can go back and see what was God really doing in that instance. It is only when I read through the law and the gospels that I can reread that verse in actual truth.

That Adam and Eve sinned and they tried covering up their sins with their own self-righteousness which are as dirty garments before God. But, God responds by preaching the Gospel of his Son. Adam and Eve respond by believing the gospel. And because they believed God, God takes away their sin and self-righteousness and clothes them with His own righteousness.

Don’t believe me?

Consider the following:

Luke 15:17–24 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What did the father do? He quickly covered his son’s own mess, shame, and guilt with the best robe; ordained his son with his own seal, and covered his kids’ dirt and poop-covered feet with peace. And then ordered for the fattened calf to be barbequed because his own son was now saved.

The father in the parable had all the means to restore his son to his own family. But how much more is the Good Father in heaven able to restore and bring the very worst and vile sinners into his own family.

God knows everything about you. He determines when you were born and where you would live 6. On top of that, He knows when you were far from him, running away from him and commiting treason against Him. He sees all of that. He knows all of that. God also knows when you appear to do good things but your heart is not in the right place. Namely, your heart is not about God. But when God saw you in your unrighteousness, he decided not to instantly judge you to instant condemnation. But even before the creation of the world, God decided to save you 7.

Just as God slew an animal to clothe his kids, the slaying of that animal did save them. Just as God proclaims his law to His people, that law could not and did not save them—it was too weak to do so. Even when God laid out the instructions to spill the blood of perfect, spotless animals in order to show his people what God must do in order to  save them, not even the animals’ dried blood that completely stain the bronze altar would not save his people 8!

No! God demanded the Perfect Sacrifice and that sacrifice had to be Man. But here’s the dilemma: no one ever born of man is perfect. No one! All who were born of Adam inherited Adam’s wicked and depraved heart. No one is righteous. No, not one. All of us have fallen way short of the glory of God. But under the law of God, the shedding of blood purified everything and without the shedding of blood, there is no removal of sin. Man has fallen into sin, committed sin even when they thought they were obeying the law of God (they were not) and only Man can atone for sin. You cannot atone for sin when you are filled with sin. God has a perfect requirement to atone for sin: it is a perfect man who lives perfectly and this same man would not ever know sin. This man could even be tempted as we are but still freed from sin. From the moment I was made in my mother’s womb, I was automatically disqualified from atoning for my own sin. My very birth was into sin and my continuous disobedience condemns me before the righteous and just God. And don’t get hung up on the word ‘continuous’ as thought I could somehow stop sinning on my own. If I had broken one of the laws of God, I have broken all of the laws of God 9.

With every single verse, chapter, and book in the Old Testament, God continuously, lovingly, and graciously preached His gospel to his people, both Jew and Gentile: “I know you are messed up. I have these laws that you need to perfectly obey in order to be with me forever. They are but the standard of which to live with me forever. Oh, I know you were going to fail. All of you will fail. And your sins will have consequences—sometimes even dire and mortal. But trust in me. No matter how many times you fail, just trust me. Maybe not in your lifetime or your kids’ lifetime or your kids’ kids lifetime but I promise you that one day I will fix everything that you have broken.

That fix was His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God the Father sent God the Son to born as a little baby to perfect live his life perfectly obeying every single law that God gave his people. His Son was tempted but never falling short of the glory of God. But in perfect obedience to His Father by the power of His Spirit, the God and man, Jesus Christ, made a beeline to the cross in perfect obedience and with joy and gladness because what Christ was about to do is save His people from their sins. It was upon the last step on that hill of the skull where Jesus Christ would gladly give up his perfect life once and for all so that we would have the perfect life once and for all.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Notes:

  1. Acts 5:1-11
  2. John 3:16
  3. John 3:36
  4. Romans 1:16
  5. Genesis 3:15
  6. Acts 17:24-28
  7. Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:3-10
  8. Hebrews 9:11–22; Hebrews 10:3-7
  9. James 2:10