I haven’t posted in over a month. I have been trying to listen to God’s guidance for the rest of my life. A lot of things have changed that have given us more free time and less responsibilities. I have also finished the book that I believe God created me to write. It is on its second edit, and I will do at least four edits, but it is already online for free download at https://www.rebuildingthefoundations.org/rebuilding-the-foundations.html.
A lot of my recent posting has been to promote and defend the model of Christianity I teach in that book. Today’s post is one of those teachings:
As I read through the Psalms I am becoming keenly aware just how central the mercy of God is. Israel’s favorite saying has to be, “God is good, for his mercy endures forever.” It is in almost every verse of Psalm 136. Israel, the house of Aaron, and all who fear the Lord are each told separately to say, “He is good, for his mercy endures forever” (Ps. 118). Jehoshaphat’s army, led by singers, sang, “The Lord is good, for his mercy endures forever.” When God appeared to Moses, covering him with his hand as Moses stood in the cleft of the rock, God announced himself as a God of mercy.
It is also true that he will “by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7), and he will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7), but for those of us who are trying to please the Lord, his primary OLD TESTAMENT attribute is mercy. The New Testament difference is that his primary attribute toward us is grace (favor). Jesus’ death brought us grace, which teaches us to live soberly, godly, and righteously (Tit. 2:11-12), which means that we are not among the guilty that he will not clear. The only people God does not have mercy toward are unrepentant and persistent sinners (Ezek. 18:20-30). This was true under the Old Covenant, and it is true under the New Covenant.
Jesus did not die to make God merciful. God’s sense of justice is like ours. We got ours from him. God has never believed that a person should perish for one sin. Again, read Ezek. 18:20-30. That is how he judges the children of Adam.
Read Romans 3 again, where Paul says we are all sinners. Does Romans 3 say we all told one lie, so we are liars? Does it say we all hated someone, so we are all murderers? No, it quotes Psalm 53 (from the Septuagiont) and accuses us of being full of bitterness, bloodshed, and evil. The judgment of God is not on those who lie once, but on those who are persistent liars. This is what it means that God shows mercy to thousands but does not clear the guilty.
It is that good, just, and merciful judgment that Jesus died to save us through. God endured Israel from the wilderness to Babylon, around a thousand years, so that we would learn from them that we are persistent sinners, rebels, haters, and destroyers of society. This is what Jesus died to save us from. As Romans 5:19 says, just as Adam made us sinners, so Jesus makes us righteous. That is not just in standing, but in real life action.
Because we are delivered from persistent rebellion against God, we will find the mercy of God in our day to day lives and at the final judgment, which is thoroughly described in Ezek. 18:20-30 and Matt. 25:31-46. This judgment described by the Reformers, a description they got from the Roman Catholics, in which God scours the life of the unbelieving to find one sin, then does not forgive it because he is “holy” is the most wicked slander against him. Being unmerciful is not holy!
Please! Those of you who are serving him like I am, faithfully but often poorly, what have you found God to be like? Have you found him cruel, or have you found him to be full of so much mercy and love that you weep at his kindness in forgiving your sin and pouring out his presence on you? This is how God has always been. He does not change. Jesus did not die to change him. He died to get you down on your knees, repenting and finding BOTH mercy and grace (which empowers and helps in time of need–Rom. 6:14; Heb. 4:16).
My brothers and sisters, the basic idea that the good are rewarded with life and the evil are punished with death is central to both the Old and New Testaments. Under both covenants, the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-7). Under the New Covenant, though, we have grace rather than law. The law can make no one righteous (Gal. 3:21), but Jesus’s sacrifice does what the Law could not do (Rom. 8:2-4). Grace frees us from the power of sin (Rom. 6:14) and teaches us how to live (Tit. 2:11-12). That is why Titus was told to continually remind us that we must be careful to maintain good works (Tit. 3:8).