forgiveness

This week we continue in our reflection of of God’s attributes, specifically his goodness attributes. In this post and the previous two posts, we are following Millard Erickson’s division of greatness and goodness attributes found in his book, Introducing Christian Doctrine. Last week’s attributes focused on God’s character and nature with regard to his purity and righteousness. This week’s post emphasizes God’s goodness with regard to his loving interaction with humanity.

How do you imagine God? Do you think of him as an ancient old man smiling down on his poor creatures? Do you think of him as a grandfather figure? Do you think of him as a wrathful tyrant ready to strike rebellious humans with a lighting bolt? By the way, that last question describes the Greek deity, Zeus, far more than the God of the Bible.

My reason for asking your perception of God is that who you believe God to be plays a significant role in how you respond to him. If God is wrathful, then you might be afraid of hm. If God is a loving grandfather type, then you might want to just sit with him. If God is an old man prone to smiles, then you might merely laugh at him.

Our perceptions of God are not always accurate. For right and true understanding of who God is, we need his self-revelation found in Scripture.

The testimony of Scripture is far greater and more glorious than our typecast images of God. In fact, our typecast images of God might be idolatrous (see Exodus 20:3-6).

When we reflect on God, we need to see him for who he reveals himself to be rather than our preconceived notions. We need to see God as fully and gloriously as possible. These posts are my very limited attempt to get us to think of God in the greatness, grandeur, glory, and goodness that he has revealed himself to be. If this is your first time reading one of my posts, please go back and reflect on God’s transcendence, immanence, Trinitarian unity, greatness, and goodness (pt. 1). Here are three more goodness attributes that we discover from the Bible.

God is mercy. Mercy is not getting what one deserves. Mercy is the counterpart to justice. It is just when God punishes sin. Throughout biblical history, God punished sin individually and corporately. In the Old Testament, God judged Israel for her idolatry and punished individuals specifically for their sinfulness. When God shows mercy, he stays his hand of judgment. We want God to be just, and he is. But if God were absolutely just, in that he could only act according to justice, then we would be in a hopeless situation. If God were just with you and me, we would be destined for eternity in the judgment of hell. Yet God is merciful. He does not give us what we deserve.

God is grace. Grace is getting what one does not deserve. An acrostic of GRACE exhibits a biblical analogy using the phrase: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Paul explained, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God saves us by his grace, that is his unmerited favor to us. God does not save us according to our works for then we would be doomed to punishment. He does not save us because of our work for our works are not sufficient to satisfy his holiness and righteousness. He saves us by his grace. God merits believers with the righteousness of Christ. More than that, God shares with believers his abundant riches and glory. Grace in the greek language is charis, or gift. God’s grace is an undeserved gift that he bestows upon believing sinners. His grace is that he makes saints of sinners.

God is love. If people who are not followers of Christ believe anything about God, it is that God is love. God specifically defines himself as love when John writes: “God is love” (1 John 4:7). The word used here for God’s love is agape. It is a selfless, other-oriented love. God loves not because of what he gains, but because of what he gives. His love is purely and perfectly for the good and benefit of the objects of his love. Only God can perfectly love like this. While God expects us to love him and others with this kind of love, we only can love this way because he first loved us this way (Matthew 22:37-40; John 13:34). God’s love for his creatures is what motivated him to send Jesus to save us (John 3:16).

God is greater than we can imagine, and his goodness is deeper than we can dream. These attributes are perfected in the person of Jesus Christ. He is God’s expression of love to mankind as well as full of grace, truth, and mercy (John 1:14).

These attributes of God should motivate us to follow Jesus. It is God’s mercy, grace, and love that invites wicked sinners into a relationship of forgiveness with a holy and righteous God. If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, consider these attributes.

  • Discover the God who is just and the justifier of those who believe by his mercy and grace.
  • Worship the God who loves you in spite of your sinfulness.
  • Obey the God who does not give you the death and judgment you deserve.
  • Serve the God who offers you the unmerited riches of his grace forever and ever.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:21-26 (emphasis mine)

A little over three and a half years ago, my mom died. She had a strong faith, and I have no doubt she is in heaven with Jesus. When she passed, I wrote a tribute for her. Even though she’s been gone for a few years, I’m still learning from her.

None of us are perfect, and the past few years provided me the opportunity to evaluate my mom’s life and acknowledge her strengths and weaknesses. I’ve also had the privilege of learning from my wife and mother-in-law. The observations below are not exhaustive, but they have been spiritually formative in my life.

My mom taught me to spend time with Jesus. For many reasons, my mom struggled to sleep through the night. In her latter years, she was diagnosed with sleep apnea and had a breathing machine. Most of the time during my formative years when she would wake up at night, she would get her Bible and begin praying and reading. The memory of seeing her pray and read is imprinted on my mind.

My mom modeled selfless service. Nothing made mom happier than serving her family. That’s just who she was. She loved having us close, feeding us meals, and enjoying the company of her family. Her model challenges me often. Too many times, I connect my acts of service to rights or privileges. I think my service deserves recognition or appreciation. Mom’s example reinforces the concept that we are to serve Christ and trust that he sees, not worrying about any one else.

My mother-in-law reminds me to be compassionate. My mother-in-law has taken in and cared for lame dogs and feral cats. She cares about God’s creatures and will help a person in need with astounding quickness. She even took care of her mother-in-law on her death bed. My mother-in-law’s mother-in-law was mean and cruel with her words for many years. But instead of ignoring her, my mother-in-law returned compassion to the woman who treated her with cruelty. May I have her Christ-like and forgiving spirit.

My wife exemplifies love and grace. Being a pastor’s wife is not easy, and I’m not the easiest person to me married to (especially on Sunday afternoons after preaching three services). But she cares for our family in everyday and important ways: planning grocery orders, making meals, managing our money, and parenting our children. She overlooks my insensitivities and loves relentlessly. Her love inspires and encourages.

My wife teaches me to focus and follow through. In any task she undertakes (writing for a grant, refinishing cabinets, organizing a fundraiser, or planning our family calendar), she is able to concentrate and complete her work with quality and competency. In our age of social media, news on my smartphone, and constant interruption, I am too easily distracted. I envy her gift of concentration and follow through.

My mom, mother-in-law, and wife have modeled sensitivity to others. Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate, but it is also a difficult day for many. Infertility, grief, and broken relationships are experiences that are more acute on days like Mother’s Day. Our prayers, public comments, and interactions with others should reflect this sensitivity. We all need to remember that wherever we are and whatever we’ve been through Jesus sees and Jesus cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

I’ve been reading lately about spiritual formation, growth, and leadership development. And I have a long way to go before God is through with me. But however far I am along in this spiritual life, I owe much to the godly women God has used to shape me. I’m thankful for these Proverbs 31 women in my life.

Here’s a prayer for this meditation.

Father, thank you for the godly influences in my life. Thank you for the models of forgiveness, grace, and compassion that form my spiritual history. Give me eyes to see you at work in the lives of those closest to me. Grant me discernment to see patterns of selfish and sinful behavior in my life. Guide me in applying lessons like these in my daily walk. Glorify your name in my life as you form me into the likeness of Christ.

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash