God’s love is greater

Psalm 36:5-10
I can’ help but “Amen!” that one line from the worship song “What a Beautiful Name.” It simplifies all I know about God’s mercy: My sin was great. Your love was greater.

Amen!

God’s love will always be greater. As Wesleyan Christians, we speak a lot about the grace of God. It shapes how we understand God’s redemptive work. So, you’d be hard-pressed to not hear us talk about it. Some take that to mean we’re soft on sin. Not at all.

The grace of God doesn’t excuse sin. It forgives it. It redeems it. Now, that’s not our get-out-of-jail-free card. Rather, it’s a reminder of how good God is to us. The apostle Paul asked, “How can we who died to sin go on living in it” (Romans 6:2)? Sin, he continues, has no dominion over the Christian heart because of God’s grace (Romans 6:14).

For that reason, in our reflection, it’s good to begin with what we know and are learning about God. We’re not ignoring who we are or what we’ve done. There’s no benefit to pretending. At the same time, it’s a bit self-centered if you only and mainly talk about how much of a sinner you are. Again, God’s love and grace are greater! Refocusing on God redirects our attention more to the goodness of God.

Psalm 36 offers us an illustration of this perspective. The psalm opens with a word about the wicked. Transgression runs deep in their hearts. In their eyes, they are well. Their mouths carry “mischief and deceit.” And while they lie on their beds, they plot their schemes. Notice the depth of their iniquity. It’s as deep as their heart and even gets as low as their bed.

Sounds bad, right? Well, let’s let the psalmist now broaden our perspective.

Whereas deceit runs deep in the heart, God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens. God’s faithfulness reaches the clouds. The Lord’s righteousness has the heights of the mountains. God’s judgments complete the fullness of the image by being like the great deep.

Do you see the comparison? Truly, our sin is great. It feels like it runs deep. But God’s love is greater. Amen!

We can also sense the psalmist’s affirmation of our premise to focus more on God’s love and grace first. He says, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” Do we need to reflect upon who we are and what we do? Of course. That’s a wise and mature way to grow in grace understanding. At the same time, let your reflection begin with God’s light, how good God is.

You won’t notice your sin less. Quite the opposite. You’ll appreciate more what God has done for us. You’ll question why and how sin grabbed you. And the depth of God’s steadfast love will be light to your soul.

Stay blessed…john

Wrong kind of persistence

Hebrews 10:26-31
I recall a newsletter piece I wrote many years ago. It used Microsoft Word as an illustration. If you know the program, one of its features is a wavy red line. The line’s purpose is to indicate when you misspell a word. In other words, it tells you when you’ve done something wrong.

It’s been my experience that a lot of people consider God to be like that red, wavy line.

That is, their impression of God is some man in the sky waiting. Just waiting for you to slip up. Misspell a word. Say something wrong. Sin in any way. As soon as you do, here comes the line. As if God enjoys punishing us.

A lot of people think of God more harshly than they do sin itself.

To be sure, God is holy. God calls us to be holy as a result. So, we can’t assume God is okay with our sin. It’s not that the Lord brushes off what we do because it doesn’t matter all that much. It does matter. But that doesn’t mean God is waiting, hoping for you to mess up so God can set you straight. That’s what Word does, not God.

The Lord deals with us with grace. I recall an album title that speaks to that truth: We don’t get what we deserve. If we did, there’d be many more red lines following us around. Instead, the love of God continues to reach out to us.

With that in mind, there’s a hard passage in Hebrews we should consider together. It reminds us that some will hear of God’s grace. They’ll hear and even receive it, perhaps. But it won’t change them. In the words of Hebrews 10, they will willfully persist in sin.

Let’s be clear. We all have sin. We’re striving for perfection. Yes, we trust God’s grace can get us there. In the meantime, we need to be truthful about our sins of commission and omission. Those are the things we do that we know are sinful and those things we know we should do that we don’t, respectively. But even that is different than what Hebrews 10 wants us to understand.

Willfully persisting in sin is to spurn Jesus, profane his blood and outrage the Spirit of grace. In that case, vengeance belongs to God. Judgment awaits all humanity. But those who willfully persist in sin, according to Hebrews, await a worse punishment.

Let not the willfully persistent consider God’s patience to be God’s forgetfulness. God has every right to throw the red, wavy line at us. But it isn’t there! In its place, we have the blood of Christ as the reminder of God’s love.

Are you wilfully persistent in sin? Know that a just God must judge. But remember that a gracious God forgives.

Stay blessed…john