In one of his many songs, David proclaims – at least in the Wycliffe translation of the Word – that God “loveth mercy and doom.” In parenthesis, the translator adds an alternative version: “[God] loveth righteousness and justice.”
On one hand, “mercy”; on the other “righteousness.” On one hand, “doom”; on the other hand “justice.” Even in the final phrase, on one hand, “mercy”; on the other “love.”
For the word of the Lord is rightful (For the word of the Lord is true); and all his works be (done) in faithfulness. He loveth mercy and doom; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord. (He loveth righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the love of the Lord.)
Imagine God loving “doom.”
If you look around at the state of the world at large, God loving doom is not hard to imagine. Listen to the evening news and doom is all around you – earthquakes, erupting volcanos, tsunamis, rising sea levels, erratic weather patterns, droughts, fires. And this doom does not yet include what people do to you ( or what you do to people… )!
So, where’s the evidence that God loves mercy?
The evidence for God’s mercy is less compelling, you might say. But, I would argue the evidence of God’s mercy is the doom inflicted and endured by Him on the Cross. “All [God’s] works be done in faithfulness.”
On this third anniversary of GRACE PARTAKERS – well, not the actual day but you get the idea! – I stop to recognize that somewhat like David ( no I am not a “David” ) I choose to follow an urging ( I hope not to presume ) of the Holy Spirit to write a short note on a single verse of scripture each day. I’ve fallen off “each day” but I strive to meet this expectation. My prayer is like David’s:
“And the speeches of my mouth shall be such, that they please; and the thinking of mine heart is ever[more] in thy sight. Lord, mine helper; and mine again-buyer. (May the words out of my mouth be such, that they please thee; and may the thinking of my heart be acceptable before thee forevermore, O Lord; my helper, and my redeemer.)”
I’d like that “the thinking of my heart be acceptable” to God. I’d like that “the speeches of my mouth” please Him. Only God knows my heart; only He can judge my motivations. Even I not dare to say that what I write makes any difference in His Kingdom. I can only hope.
And so my theme at GRACE PARTAKERS is to glorify the Lord, my God and “mine again-buyer!”
If we worry a bit more about reforming our wits as we do about reforming our behaviors, we’d be much better off, I believe. God asks us to change our minds; that is literally to allow Him to change the patterns of our thinking. He asks us to allow Him to perform this exacting task through His own Word; but also through the indwelling of His own Holy Spirit, the third Person of the blessed Trinity.
“And do not ye be conformed to this world, but be ye reformed in newness of your wit, that ye prove which is the will of God, good, and well pleasing, and perfect.”
As we allow God to work in us through His Word and His Spirit, we inevitably find our thought patterns change. As our thoughts are changed, so our behaviors follow.
Attempting to achieve change in behavior prior to change in thought is pointless in God’s eyes.
Read the Word. As you read the Word, allow the Word to transform your mind. The rest will follow.
What makes an “urgent request” powerful? James says that righteousness makes our prayers effective, i.e. “very powerful.” And what does James define as “righteousness?” He says that righteousness is the direct result of healing. How does James say we are healed? He says that healing comes from confession of sins.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
Simply put, don’t go before God the Father in prayer without first confessing your sins. With confession comes His healing, and with His healing comes righteousness, and with righteousness comes power.
“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
So writes Paul to the church in Rome “who are loved by God and called to be saints.” (Romans 1:7) Paul testifies how he prays for them “at all times” and how pleased he is “because [their] faith is being reported all over the world.” (Romans 1:9,8) He is “eager to preach the gospel” to those “who are at Rome.” (Romans 1:15) Paul here implies that in Rome he will find “both Greeks and non-Greeks, both the wise and the foolish.” (Romans 1:14)
The gospel — the good news — is meant to be encouraging! The good news is encouraging to both the Greek and non-Greek, to the Jew and the Gentile, to the wise and the foolish. Therefore, Paul is “not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God.” (Romans 1:16) This power emanating from God saves; His power first saves the Jew, then the Gentile. This power reveals a righteousness also emanating from God, “a righteousness that is by faith first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous live by faith.'” (Romans 1:17) First to last, beginning to end — the power of God provides faith, salvation, and righteousness; and this is the good news!
The gospel – the good news – is meant to be strengthening! The power of God encourages and strengthens “all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) No matter whether we are male or female, Black or White, Brown or Red; no matter our national origin or ethnic descent, we have all “sinned and [fallen] short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace.” (Romans 3:23)
“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:27-28)
God is faithful. He brings “a righteousness from [Himself], apart from law.” This righteousness “comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21,22) All people “sin and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) All people “are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that comes by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:24)
God is faithful. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4)
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All turn away.” (Romans 3:10-11,12) “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18)
So, what point is Paul making? He’s saying, “Let God be true; every man is a liar!” “Every mouth is silenced and the whole world is held accountable to God. Therefore no one is declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:19,20)
Now we are not left “conscious of sin.” Rather than leaving us drenched in guilt, God provides us a simple albeit costly solution. God “justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26)
Therefore, says Paul, boasting is excluded. Pride in self is inappropriate for “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:28)
“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,” writes Paul. Webster’s Vest Pocket Dictionary defines “put” as “bring to a specified position or condition.” A perfect description of what God expects us to do; we are to bring ourselves into the condition specified for us by God Himself — we are to put on true righteousness, who is Jesus Christ. We are to put on His holiness. Webster’s also defines “put” as “cause to be used or employed.” We are to use Christ’s righteousness as our own.
The truth is not only that we are positionally holy; we are truly righteous because Christ is righteous and He dwells fully in us through His Holy Spirit, the Helper.
We put off the old self “which belongs to [our] former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.” (Ephesians 4: 22) We are then “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds.” (Ephesians 4: 23)
Our action is both a negative and a positive — we put off the old; we put on the new. The old is a foreign way of living while the new life fits us best because we belong to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“How much more do those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ,” writes Paul to the church at Rome. (Romans 5:17) “How much more does the grace of God and the gift overflow to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15) “Through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone.” (Romans 5:18) “Through one man’s obedience the many are made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) “Grace is multiplied even more.” (Romans 5:20) “Grace reigns through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)
Whose obedience does Paul highlight? Certainly not Adam’s or Eve’s. Certainly not mine or yours. Rather, Paul writes of one man’s obedience, of the one man, Jesus Christ who obeyed God the Father completely. Through Jesus’ obedience is “life-giving justification.” Through Jesus’ grace, “the many are made righteous.” Jesus’ grace overflows to us as does the gift of His own righteousness.
“What shall we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not!” (Romans 6:1) “What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not!” (Romans 6:15) “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He does not even spare His own Son but offers Him up for us all; how does He not grant also with Him us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33)
When “the Spirit from heaven is poured out on us, then justice inhabits the wilderness, and righteousness dwells in the orchard. The result of righteousness is peace; the effect of righteousness is quiet confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:15-17)
This righteousness, you do know, is not our own. This righteousness is not some thing we attain; rather this holiness is “poured out on us” via the Spirit of God so that justice and righteousness spread throughout the people of God. The result, the effect is peace and a quiet confidence forever.
Although a storm rages and the boat is sinking, we remain quietly confident and peaceful. “For the majestic One, our Lord, is there, a place of rivers and broad streams where ships that are rowed do not go and majestic vessels do not pass. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King. He saves us. Your ropes are slack; they cannot hold the base of the mast or spread out the flag. Then the abundant soil is divided, the lame plunder it, and none say, ‘I am sick.’ The people who dwell there are forgiven their iniquity.” (Isaiah 33:21-24)
And with forgiveness comes righteousness and peace — a quiet confidence forever.
God makes it crystal clear that He is holy and just. In Him there is no darkness. He makes it even clearer that He is merciful. Throughout His Word, He speaks of and shows off His great hatred of disobedience, sin, and waywardness. Simultaneously, He speaks of and shows off His willingness and great desire to forgive, restore, and love those He calls His own.
Our part is believing these two truths regarding the nature of God. Believing in God’s wrath necessarily leads to fear, but “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) Our fear is rather awe of God, a marveling of God’s ability to “forgive the iniquity of Your people; You cover all their sin. You withdraw all Your wrath; You turn from Your hot anger.” (Psalm 85:2-3) “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.” (Psalm 85:11)
Jesus proclaims, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins; I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:24)
“If we confess our sins, [You] are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”