We have more than we deserve, bless the Lord all His saints

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pe 1:3-5)

We are such a blessed people. Not only has the Father given His only Son so that we might experience salvation from His wrath. But He has caused us to be born again to a living hope. A hope that will not perish or be defiled. It will not fade. Instead, it is kept in the most secure place possible — it is kept in heaven.

When Jesus returns, He will bring His kingdom with Him. A kingdom that is perfect. One that will never be defeated. One that will last for all eternity. Finally, when Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom, we will be able to experience life as God designed. There will be no sickness, no death, no disunity, no racism, no winter storms. There will be nothing that hinders our ability to live as God has designed.

We can trust that will take place because Jesus was raised from the dead. After three days in the grave — there was no way He was just faking it — He rose from the dead. After interacting with well over 500 people for 40 days, He ascended into heaven in front of the disciples. He promised to come back. His promise is guaranteed because we have been sent the Holy Spirit who works in our life day in and day out.

We are a blessed people. As blessed people, we should bless God. We should praise Him. We should submit our lives to Him giving Him His due worship by allowing Him to guide and direct our lives instead of trying to guide and direct it ourselves.

Blessed the Lord all those who have experienced God’s blessing. We have much more than we deserve.

Believe it or not, God puts his grace and mercy on display by pointing out sin

Believe it or not, God puts his grace and mercy on display by pointing out sin. In Jonah 4, God comes to Jonah and says,

…“Do you do well to be angry?””

(Jon 4:4)

In other words, God asks Jonah: What right do you have to be angry at Me saving the Ninevites? Do you see what God is doing? He is pointing out Jonah’s sin. He is revealing his heart.

Not the first time

This isn’t the first time God has pointed out the sin of another. Way back at the beginning of the Bible is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel both brought God a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s instead of Cain’s. This made Cain angry. God seeing Cain’s anger comes to him and says,

“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

(Gen 4:6–7)

God is extending grace and mercy to Cain by pointing out his sin and the consequences of it. If you continue through the story, you find Cain doesn’t rule over his sin. He allows it to attack and rule over him. He eventually rises up against his brother and kills him. Cain ends up banished from his people forever. I’d like to think God’s words to Jonah would have made a connection back to this story in Jonah’s mind, just as it should for us.

When God points out sin, it is an act of grace and mercy.

God could have left Jonah to stew in his own sin but God doesn’t do that. Instead, He extends grace and mercy by pointing out Jonah’s sin.

God could allow us to stew in our sin, but He doesn’t. He brings others into our lives to point out our sin, so the next time your spouse, neighbor, coworker, or friend points out your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy instead of getting angry with them. The next time you are reading a book and God’s uses its message to point out your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy and keep reading instead of throwing it down. The next time a song or sermon reveals your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy and keep listening instead of tuning out.

Our God is a gracious and merciful God and He puts His grace and mercy on display when He points out our sin.

We don’t have a pretty past, praise God for our present

“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5)

We do not have a pretty past. Before Paul pens these words he paints a picture of us. Telling us we were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to all kinds of passions and pleasures. If that wasn’t bad enough, we learn we were full of malice, envy, and hate for one another. The picture of our past is not pretty.

It is important we understand who we once were. If we forget, we might believe we were worth saving. That it was our righteousness that wooed God into giving himself for us. But then again those who are righteous don’t need saving. Those, however, who are unrighteous do — that’s you and me. We are unrighteous people who need the righteousness of Jesus. We need to be changed, to be washed, to be renewed, to be regenerated. We need saving, not because we are righteous but because we are unrighteous.

We have not gained salvation any other way and for any other reason than our God is a God of mercy who doesn’t give us what we deserve. When we think of salvation like that, we should be driven to worship and praise God for what He has done for us.

What happens when we believe God’s grace is earned and not freely given?

The book of Jonah highlights Jonah’s journey to preach to Nineveh. After running from the Lord, Jonah eventually ends up in Nineveh, but his heart is not completely right. After reaching Nineveh, Jonah preaches to them and his worst fear comes true, God saves Nineveh. God doesn’t just save one or two of them. He saves the entire city. One of the greatest revivals in history happens right there in Nineveh.

How does Jonah respond?

“O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

(Jon 4:2)

Clearly, Jonah’s emotions are out of control. He is angry at God and feels he has been treated unfairly. All because God saved the Ninevites. If you think about it, that is quite a peculiar reaction.

But before you are too hard on Jonah and think you could never react like him. Consider for a moment the emotions you might feel if a terrorist suddenly repented and turned to the Lord. On the one hand, you might rejoice because you know their terrorist activities would stop.

But on the other hand, you might be upset, you might find it hard to rejoice and praise God because you think they didn’t get what they deserve — the full brunt of God’s wrath.

Or bringing it even closer to home. Consider how you would react if someone who brutally murdered a family member met Jesus on death row. Before they could carry out the death penalty, they came to know the Lord. How would you react? Would you find it hard to rejoice with them? To praise God for saving another soul from the fires of hell? Would you be upset because you don’t feel like true justice was served?

Resentment

If we aren’t careful, we can end up resenting the Father because we don’t get what we think we are owed. Maybe we believe we are owed recognition, wealth, prosperity, and an easy marriage. When we don’t get those things, we resent God because we think He is being unfair.

But when we act that way, we show we misunderstand the gospel. We have it wrong if we think God’s grace is earned. God’s grace is not earned it is freely given. It’s crucial we know God’s grace is freely given because if we believe God’s grace is earned, we will also believe God owes us for our faithful service. When God doesn’t pay up, we will resent Him. As well as if we believe God’s grace is earned, we won’t be able to celebrate when someone who we believe doesn’t deserve God’s grace gets it.

It’s crucial we understand God’s grace is freely given and it is given to those who don’t deserve it. If we don’t understand that, we are going to resent God for not giving us what we think we are owed for our faithful service.

Here is the odd thing.

The more we faithfully serve the greater the temptation becomes to resent God for not giving us what we think we are owed for faithfully serving Him.

A Right View of God’s Grace

Wash

Are we able to clean ourselves up enough so that God would say,

“I see you have put some effort in. You have cleaned yourself up a bit. Since you have worked so hard, I will now extend my grace and mercy to you.”

The Crowd and the Blind Men

In Matthew 20:29-34, Jesus is walking by two blind men, who call out for healing. The crowd, not thinking they were deserving, tells them to be quiet, to quit calling out to Jesus. They did this because they wrongly understood God’s grace and mercy.

What They Thought

They thought God only extended His grace and mercy to those who were deserving. Since they saw these two men as unholy sinners who were being punished by God, they didn’t think they deserved God’s grace or mercy.

Many Think That Way Today

Many people today think they they have to clean themselves up before they come to Jesus. Or they believe they don’t deserve God’s grace and mercy because of who they are or what they have done in the past. That, however, is simply not true.

No One is Deserving

According to the Bible no one is deserving. No one deserves God’s mercy and grace. Paul tells us in Romans 3:23:

We all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.”

So according to Paul, no one is worthy of God’s mercy. No one deserves His grace, which is why it is called grace – it is a gift God gives to us. Since God’s grace is a gift, it is something we don’t earn or deserve.

A Gift Open To All People’s

Even more, it is a gift open to all peoples. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past, or who you are right now. God’s grace is open to you.

A Return To Our Initial Question

Returning to our initial question, the answer is that we can’t clean ourselves up enough for God to extend His mercy and grace to us. No, God’s grace and mercy is extended while we are still unholy sinners deserving of His wrath. So then, it is God who cleans us up, not the other way around.

Question for Reflection

  1. Why do people often think they have to make themselves presentable to God?

Resources

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Post adapted from my most recent sermon: How should we think about and act toward the disabled?

On Christmas

On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise. Yes, the Savior has come, and with him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world.

Every Christmas is still a “turning of the page” until Jesus returns. Every December 25th marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to…home.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you long for peace in the world this Christmas?
  2. Do you long for home?

Resources

Joni Eareckson Tada, A Christmas Longing, 137 via Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie

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