I wonder, how do you think of God? Maybe he feels distant. Or maybe you think, ‘Yes, God is good and he does the right thing, but he doesn’t seem kind’? Or maybe you feel like at best, God tolerates you.
I want us to see the kindness and love of God, to see just how kind our God is. I want to leave you thinking, ‘Our God is so kind and his love is so amazing.’
1. The mercy of God the Father
Look at verse 3:3: ‘At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.’
Our relationship with God is a mess. We are ‘foolish’ and ‘disobedient’. In the Bible a fool is someone who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1). It’s not just an atheist. It’s someone who lives as if God did not exist, who ignores God. And a disobedient person is someone who rejects God’s rule, who wants to run their own life. Maybe that’s you. You ignore God. It is the epitome of folly.
And this rejection of God affects everything. It affects our thinking (we are foolish, deceived) and it affects our behaviour (we are disobedient and enslaved).
It’s something we’re responsible for (we are foolish and disobedient), but also we are victims (we are deceived and enslaved). Our choices have created a culture that deceives us. Our choices have created patterns of behaviour that enslave us. And so we’re helpless. We need someone to save us. Often people will admit they’re not perfect and need some help. But we need rescuing, saving.
Our relationship with God is a mess. And so our relationships with one another are a mess. Look again at verse 3: ‘We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.’ Malice is wishing bad things would happen to people and envy is wishing good things had not happened to people. Hated and hating.
Oh dear. I thought we were going to talk about kindness and love! And here we are talking about malice and hatred.
Imagine someone said, ‘I think you’re stupid, selfish, gullible and everyone hates you.’ Would you say, ‘It’s very kind of you to say so’?
Our culture is all about self-esteem and self-image. It’s all about me and how I feel about myself. So if anyone threatens that with truth then it feels like an attack on me. So we all have to pretend we’re wonderful people.
But with the good news of Jesus there is no need for pretending. This constant, tiring attempt to manage our image, to portray ourselves in the best light, can all be over.
We’ll never understand the wonderful kindness and love of God unless we face the reality of what we’re like without him.
We’ve got to read verse 3 with verse 4: ‘At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us …’
‘He saved us.’ Verses 4-7 are all one sentence in the original Greek with ‘he saved’ as the main verb. Our relationship with God was a mess. Our relationship with others was a mess. In fact ‘mess’ doesn’t justice to our predicament. We were facing condemnation, judgment, death. And there was nothing we could do. We were deceived and enslaved. We were powerless and helpless. But God saved us.
Do you ever have make decisions by drawing up a list of pros and cons? Imagine God deciding whether to save us with a list of pros and cons. Here’s what’s on the ‘cons’ side, the reasons why God should condemn us: foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, malice, envy, hated, hating. And what’s on the ‘pros’ side? What’s in the list of reasons why God should save us? Nothing! There’s nothing there.
But then God writes across the page, ‘My kindness. My love.’
God didn’t look at us and think, ‘On balance they’re not too bad.’ He didn’t look at us and think, ‘I can see some potential there.’ He saw, ‘Folly, disobedience, malice, envy, hatred.’ He saw a thousand reasons to condemn us for ever.
And yet in his kindness and love, he saved us. Verse 5 says: ‘He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.’ He writes across the pages of your future: ‘My kindness. My love. My mercy.’
Verse 5 says: ‘He saved us … because.’ Focus on that word ‘because’. Here’s the reason for our salvation, the grounds of our confidence, the basis of our hope. What do you put after the word ‘because’? How would you complete the sentence, ‘He saved me because …’?
If you think you’ll be saved because of anything you’ve done then you’re not saved. You can have no confidence. ‘Not because of righteous things we have done.’ ‘He saved us … because of his mercy.’ That’s our confidence. That’s our hope.Your mercy, O God, is the theme of our song, the joy of our heart and the boast of our tongue.
It all begins with the mercy of God the Father. It’s not that Jesus had to persuade God the Father to save us. It’s not that Jesus is the nice guy who has to intervene to stop an angry God hating us. It all begins with the kindness and love of God the Father.
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