Gracefully Blowing up Ships

Continuing the study of A W Tozer’s “Attributes of God”   Part 6

Grace

There is a difference between grace and mercy- two words we often use interchangeably.  Mercy, which was discussed on the previous chapter and blog, is God’s goodness being used toward our guilt.  Grace is God’s goodness being used toward our indebtedness to Him.  In other words, mercy is God not giving us what we deserve and grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.

Speaking of similar words, according to Tozer, the Hebrew word for grace is often translated as favor in your Bible, so remember that as you read it- it really changes how I think of a few verses!  And, just as I mentioned in the mercy blog about mercy being stated four times more in the Old Testament than in the New, grace is stated about three times more in the New Testament than the Old.

So, enough background bits.  On to the cool stuff.

There is often a dichotomy between the law and grace- Moses was all law, Jesus all grace, right?  Well, how about this- Exodus 33:17, God is speaking to Moses after He gives the Ten Commandments and says “I look at you and see you covered in grace”. (My paraphrase, but please look it up and research for yourself) After the law- before Jesus.  And, even more mind blowing, what about Genesis 6:8 where God looks at Noah- a long time before the law- and says “You are full of My grace”?  That kinda blows the whole ship out of the water.

This really goes back to the same old idea that we seem to throw out of the window so easily.  God does not change.  Ever.  If there’s grace now, there was grace at creation and before.  If there was law in Moses, there’s law now.  But.  It’s important to remember- grace is the only way to be saved- ever.  And that grace only comes through Jesus Christ.  Which- and here’s the brain stretcher- has nothing to do with time as we understand it.  God is infinite- time does not really matter to Him like it does to us.  Both before and after Jesus’ incarnation, humanity was saved by grace from Him and Him alone.

This begs two questions- 1.) So why did God give the impossible to follow law anyway if it did no good? And 2.) So, if grace was already in effect, why did Jesus have to come and die for us?  The short answer for the first one is that the law, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing, and if we follow it, we will have healthy, hopefully long, lives.  If you look at all the parts of Leviticus about staying away from dead animals, and eating only meat from particular animals that they had the ability to cook well enough, and general cleanliness, it makes a ton of sense. It is, in part, a home economics and health class, and in part, a class on focusing your entire life on God.   Can we totally achieve it?  No.  This is the point of the law- to show that we cannot ever get to God by ourselves.  This is why there were sacrifices.

This brings me to the second question.  Why did Jesus have to incarnate, die, resurrect if grace was already active?  For one thing, Jesus came so that we could see God- so that we could relate to Him and see how much He loves us and cares about us and how much we need Him.  He couldn’t do that in the same way without Jesus.  Yes, He sent prophets and angels to the earth to show us all that, but sending a messenger is not the same as going yourself any more than sending a letter is the same as talking to someone in person.  It’s called relationship.  And, Jesus had to die and resurrect because we broke God’s law, so God, because He was in covenant with us, had to curse Himself- which meant that He had to die…  (If you wish more on that subject, you may leave a comment and I’ll write about it at a later date- it’s too lengthy to go into here)

It is important to understand- God gives us His grace as we accept it, but that is not a free ride.  Although this is not covered at all in Tozer’s writings- grace is never an excuse to just do our own thing.  Grace has to be accepted.  And acceptance implies humility, which implies willingness to shape ourselves into what God desires.

Ok, I’m trying to keep this short, because it’s just a blog, not a research paper, and this is not meant to be a putting-you-to-sleep read for whoever reads this, but the subject of grace is vast.  And I really can’t cover it well here.  Suffice it to say- God is grace; a grace that lets Him see us with His amazing love and mercy, instead of the aloneness and punishment we deserve; that that grace is only through Jesus- we cannot earn it through the law or any other effort of our own, and that freely accepting that grace on our own part means that we are acknowledging the above two statements and that we need God just to live- that His plan is better than ours and we will walk by His plan the best we can as He enables us to do so.

Amen.

fulfillment and influence

Think about this-

How often do we become influenced by the things around us?  We spend a ton on that next new gadget because we see so many ads for it they convince us we must need it. We start saying those words we know we shouldn’t because we hear them all around us.  We grow numb to others’ hurt because we see it all the time on the news or on the street.

Jesus came to live with us.  Surrounded by us and all our stuff.  Influenced by all our stuff.

Yet He was sinnless and holy.

So, if we are commanded to be like Him, follow Him, we need to stop being so influenced by the junk around us and start being more influenced by Him!!!  How to do this?  Keeping our eyes on Him.  We do become what we hear, what we spend time with, what we see.  So listen to, spend time with, look at Him.

After all, He spends all His time looking at us, drawing our gaze upwards to Him, seeking our hearts and love.  So, it really is the most natural thing in the world to do.

All the other stuff?  It’s just a distraction.  Nothing wrong with buying things, listening to the news, ect, but we need to do it in light of Him and His gaze.

That is what true fulfillment is in this life.  Thank You Jesus!!!

Compassionating and Wolves

Attributes of God part 5

God’s Mercy

 God is merciful.

A point Tozer makes in this chapter is that, contrary to popular belief, God is just as merciful in the Old Testament as He is in the New.  In fact, God’s mercy or Him being called such are stated four times more in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.  After my brain sputtered back to a start after reading that, I took the time to really think about it.  Letting go of all my preconceived notions, which is part of why I am doing this study, I thought through the Old Testament.  What are the creation, the flood, the exodus, the sacrifices and law, the exiles, the prophets, if not mercy?  Yes, they are judgment, but they are also mercy.  (Creation was mercy- God wanted friends and a good place for His friends to live.  He didn’t put us all on Pluto, but gave us a warm, beautiful home.  The flood was mercy, so that humanity would not destroy the earth even sooner than it will.  The exodus was mercy – undeserved freedom, being given the gift of being the chosen people of God.  Sacrifices and law were mercy- a way to partially atone for the falleness of ourselves instead of just lawlessness and disorder. The exiling of the people was mercy- it forced them to turn and look at God and to return to the One Who had always provided for and loved them.  The prophets spoke tons of judgment, but it was all centered on mercy- How many times does it speak of God leaving a remnant, of not destroying them totally, of giving them chances to repent, of bringing them back to Him? ) The entire Bible is full of God’s mercies.  I’ve been taught much of my life that the New Testament God is so much more merciful, but God doesn’t change.  Jesus’ death did not change God’s attitude toward us- it changed our attitude toward God.

 Which is a lot of typing for my introduction……

 Tozer also speaks of the compassion of God, which is part of His mercy.  We think often times of compassion as a feeling- as something we feel when we see the missing child on the news, or (maybe not, but we should) the man begging by the road, and a few seconds or minutes later it’s on to the next news bit or intersection.  But God’s compassion, and therefore His mercy, are verbs.  He doesn’t just watch us hurt, He ‘compassionates’- which is Tozer’s (and I’m now adopting it) made up verb for what compassion should be.  An action.  He watches that missing child and comforts them; He directs someone to that man who can give him a job or some food or a home.  You may not believe it, but I do wholeheartedly. 

 Because God is always there, and His mercy never fails.

 Because He has compassion, He suffers with us.  Tozer states this as something that he cannot understand- he sees suffering as implying a lack or a need, and he sees that as being an impossibility with God.  I have to partially disagree with him on this point, with all respect.  I see it as God suffers with us because He cares about us and wants the best for us.  So, when things are not as good for us as He would wish, or we are not seeking Him as we should, He feels sadness, because He has tied Himself to us.  He is responsible for us- He created us and therefore bears the responsibility of taking care of us.  So, while He is in no way limited by us or that tie, it makes perfect sense to me that God can suffer alongside us without any sense of lack or need- He just has compassion on us.

 Which, while I was reading, made me think about something.  I have been told, and it is Biblical, that we are created in the image of God.  Many people think that this means that we somehow look like God a little, or it’s the fact that we have a soul- an eternal part.  Perhaps those are true- not disagreeing with them at all.  But what if it is also the fact that we have these emotions and feelings that God also has, only we have them in a much smaller way?  The ideas of justice, mercy, grace, goodness, holiness, perfection are not things that an animal has- only we do, and God also shares that.  (More on some of those attributes in later blogs)  And, humanly, most of those make no sense for us to have.  From a pure survival standpoint, it makes no sense for me to have mercy on someone who has hurt me, or to desire to be good.  Wouldn’t it be better to just always be the best, on top, all that?  Like a pack of wolves?

 But we are not wolves- we are human beings created in the image of a merciful, wonderful God.

 Just a thought.

Bodies and Bad guys

Attributes of God- part 4

His Justice.

I spend alot of time praying for justice, so was happy that the next chapter of my book was about God’s justice.  Should be easy, I thought!!  God takes care of the ‘bad guys’ or those who have not accepted Him, ect, ect.  Right?

To start with, just what is justice?  We all have our own view of its meaning, but what is God’s view, because that really is the only one that matters….

In Hebrew, the word for justice is the same as that used for righteousness, just translated differently throughout the years. So justice is bringing things into rightness- how they should be, or better- how God created them to be.  And how did He create things?  To run smoothly, to be in communion with Him, to seek and desire Him.  The only way that can occur is through mankind humbling themselves before Him and loving Him,   God doesn’t just do justice, He IS justice.  What’s the difference?  Doing things implies a choice.  To be something is to not have a choice- God must be what He is.  His justice must always occur, because He must be.  He is not required to do justice- He is justice.  The Old Testament teaches that God is one God, which means more than just our common view of there being one God.  That is true, but there is a deeper meaning, and that meaning was also meant in the Old Testament proclamation- “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God” (Deuteronomy 6:4) This means that He was not made up of different parts like we are- you can take away a man’s appendix, tonsils, hands and feet, half his liver, a large portion of his heart, and myriad other body parts and still have a man.  You cannot take away parts of God- He was not created.  He is complete and whole and cannot be separate.  His emotions or self never argue with each other- they all work in tandem, harmoniously.  Everything He does works together smoothly.

And, while Jesus died on the cross to save us, His death did not change God’s justice. Christ did not die to change God; he died to change our moral situation- to cause us to be able to be saved, to come into a relationship with God.

So, God sending someone to hell does not mean that His justice is quarrelling with His mercy.  He is not sitting there crying because He must send you there; nor is He rejoicing at dispensing this judgment.  Everything in Him- His mercy, pity, compassion, judgment are all there, working together. His judgment demands the same outcome as His mercy.  

So why does He not just have compassion and forgive all- isn’t that what a good God should do? –is an argument I hear often.  Compassion is justice.  You cannot have compassion on anyone without having a sense of justice, too.  Can you feel pity and compassion for a homeless child without wishing for justice on her parents who left her?  Can you feel compassion for a drunk driver who got into an accident and is not lying in a hospital bed in agony without feeling that need for him to stop driving drunk?  Two small, earthly examples of human mixtures of compassion and justice.  How much more must it be for God, Who is those attributes, instead of just feeling them a bit?    

So, I thank God for His justice and compassion over me.  His justice means that I can never be good enough for Him, no matter how hard I try, and His compassion means that I don’t have to.   His justice means that I don’t have to worry about bringing about the ending of evil myself, but that He will take care of the problem, and He will do it in a compassionate way.  Yes, He may use me to do a part of that, but in reality, it is all Him. 

Deep, perhaps hard to understand, but also very hard to put into words…..  J