Joy of the Gospel

The Good News of Jesus Christ

Jesus the Shepherd

Lord, you are my shepherd that I will not want (Psalm 23:1). How can I want anything when you supply my every need (Philippians 4:19)? Am I not rich in Jesus to be rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:18)? So what is there in life to give other than my life to give. In other words, is not my life the only thing I can sacrifice to you, Lord? How can I not offer my body, mind, and strength as a living sacrifice, which is holy and acceptable to you (Romans 12:1)?

Gift of the Lord

Lord, you* are greater than all things. Did you not create all things? Is not everything made by you (John 1:3)? The water, air, earth, animals, plants, people, and universe are your creation. What is not subject to you, Lord? The rocks on the ground are even subject to your rule. In fact, if you allowed them to, they would praise your name (Luke 19:40). What would these rocks say other than what is true? Would they say, “Please save us now in the highest degree! Save us eternally!” And it is for this reason you came to the world. You came to save us by meeting your hour of gruesome death (John 12:27). But this death could not keep you in the tomb.

Faith Produces Actions

Still, the apostle James says faith without actions is dead. Therefore, James implicitly says that faith is alive. But how is faith alive? We can answer this question by seeing how faith can be dead. Dead faith, James says, is faith without actions. Therefore, actions are necessary for faith to be alive. Now, we could focus on what such actions are. But for the moment, focusing on faith as action-producing is enough.

Faith and Death

Thus, a lack of faith puts us in a terrible predicament. A lack of faith makes us unacceptable to God. Our unacceptableness arises from our sinful life. This sinful past is present with everyone, and it makes us guilty before God. For instance, David, fearing judgment from God, says, “Don’t put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you” (Psalm 143:2). David emphasizes not only his fear of the judgment of God, but why everyone should be fearful. We should be fearful because we have all been unfaithful toward God.

Faith and Actions

Therefore, simple actions that appear righteous do not please God. So, God wants something more. But how can we please God? On this question, Scripture states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Here, God emphasizes that if we are to please him, we must have faith in him. But what does this faith mean? What is its relationship to our actions?

Desire Over Sacrifice

Now, it is interesting how Jesus’ desire for mercy resembles another place in Scripture. This passage is in the book of Samuel. In Samuel, the prophet Samuel tells King Saul that “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Samuel stresses that God wants obedience more than burnt offerings. Samuel says this to King Saul because Saul disobeyed God. God told Saul to kill every Amakelite and all their animals (1 Samuel 15:1-7). But Saul kept their king alive and saved the best of their animals. Yet when Samuel met Saul about this rebellion, Saul claimed the animals were for a sacrifice to God. 

Mercy Desired

These questions point us to how God wants us to see justice, judgment, and mercy. Of course, justice and judgment are important to God. Still, mercy is important, if not most important. But how is mercy, perhaps, more important than justice or judgment? Well, of the control we have on events, we have control of mercy. In contrast, justice and judgment are prohibited and left to God. For instance, Scripture says, “judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). This statement stresses that we are not to judge; correct and precise judgment will happen when Jesus Christ returns. Such judgment is impossible through us.

Forbearance as Good

Justice

But how is God’s forbearance good? If God forbears, he must refrain from something. Is judgment what God refrains from, if the sinner does not die immediately? Yes, God refrains from judgment. But what is judgment? This question is answered by a couple negative questions from Jesus. Negative questions, here, means questions asked that have a negative answer. For instance, Jesus asks, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cries to him day and night? Will he delay long over them (Luke 18:7)? “But,” as the apostle Peter adds, “by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Thus, judgment is justice for evil and righteous people.

Firestorm

So why does this great fall happen at the end? Why can people build a house on lawlessness until they finish building? The apostle Peter answers this question by first recognizing that a storm is coming. This storm, as Paul hinted, will be a firestorm. Peter says, “The present sky, universe, and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed” (2 Peter 3:7). Peter stresses that life as we know it will explode in a great fire. This destruction is far more destructive than a hurricane. In fact, this storm is going to be a cosmic firestorm!

A Great Fall

It doesn’t end well for the person who builds on lawlessness. Thus, Jesus compares lawlessness to sand. Sand is far from a suitable material to build anything on. So we can imagine that if someone built a house on sand, how the house would fall. This fall might not be apparent immediately. But the more one builds on such a weak foundation, the greater that fall will be. This is the point Jesus makes when he describes the builder who builds on sand. Jesus says, “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:27). Jesus stresses that the fall of the house built on sand is not only approaching but great.

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© 2021 Dwight A. Lucas II | Saved By Grace