PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
(While this is a standalone message, it can also be used subsequent to the sermon, “The Goodness of God.”)
(Illustration) As we grow older we meet all types of people in life. If we are fortunate, we spend our formative years in a family unit with a mother, father, and siblings. Our acquaintances begin to broaden as we meet our extended family members of aunts, uncles, and cousins. As we attend elementary and high school we meet yet a broader base of people. And then college comes along and we’re introduced to an assemblage of people from places far and wide. When that happens, you realize that a southern drawl is not the official language of the United States. Anyway, when I arrived at college I remember a unique character from Akron, Ohio whose nickname was “Tank.” Whenever anyone, at any time, asked Mike how he was doing he always gave one unwavering answer. In his tenor voice he would say, “God’s been good!” No one could ever catch Tank off-guard with any other reply. My brother, who was quite a clown, phoned Mike’s dormitory at 2:00 a.m., woke him up, made him get out of bed and walk down the hall to answer the phone, and said, “Mike, how are you?” My brother simply wanted to see if Mike would say, “God’s been good.” He did!
I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to say, “God’s been good” each time someone asks how we are, but I do wish everyone could live with the revelation of God’s goodness that Mike had. The problem is, it becomes easy to question God’s goodness when people witness the world’s pain, suffering, and evil. But we have to remember that God did not create evil. When God created this world He saw His creation was good. And it remained that way until Adam disobeyed God and Satan claimed the authority to wreak havoc in the world.
As “the prince and power of the air” Satan is responsible for plaguing this planet with ill and evil. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to kill and to steal and to destroy, but I have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” Jesus came to impart life, love and peace. And as our perfect Lord, Christ was so intent on showing us His love that He left the glories of heaven, entered our sin-infested world, and willingly presented Himself to wicked men who maligned and crucified Him. We need to remember that Satan is responsible for every form of sin and evil and Jesus Christ is our loving Savior and Friend who came to earth to restore creation, not plague it.
(Transition) I want to identify several ways we understand God really is good. First, we know God really is good because of His commitment to His creation.
I. We Know God Really Is Good Because of His Commitment to His Creation
Recently, we discussed the first revelation God made of His commitment of goodness toward us. It’s in the first five words of the Bible when Moses wrote, “In the beginning God created.” The Hebrew name for God in Genesis 1:1 is Elohim. And that special name for God means, “Almighty creator and benevolent sustainer.” That means, the sovereign God who created this world is faithful to care for it.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:25-26: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (26) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Some people might object and say, “But what about places like India that live in abject poverty?” Well, let’s see if Scripture can help us with this problem because we know that there are regions of the world where people are starving. But are we to lay this problem at God’s footstool or somewhere else?
(Example) Did you know that India’s agricultural shortage is not directly related to where they are situated geographically? It’s not because their climate or terrain prevents them from benefiting from the laws of agriculture. I want to submit to you that India’s lack is directly related to how they are situated spiritually not geographically! The backlash of reincarnation has devastated India. It has created the belief that they should worship the 200,000,000 sacred cows that wander over their landscape. And statistics show each cow ingests enough food to feed seven people. If the country of India modified its management of its cows, India would have enough grain to feed 1,400,000,000 people. In mere months they could become a food-exporting nation.
The Bible reveals that man’s problems are often relate to their rejection of Biblical principles. When people ignore God’s precepts, the law of reciprocity prevents them from harvesting God’s blessings. This is why Isaiah 1:19-20 says: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; (20) but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”
Let me emphasize this again. God places all His goodness before us and says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; (20) but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” That means, to a large degree, we are responsible for what we do with God’s goodness. We can love and worship Him, serve and trust Him and then expect His blessing. Or, we can “sow to the wind and reap the whirlwind.” Satan is a liar . . . and “there is no truth in him.” He is without the least trace of good or benevolence. His mission is to destroy this planet. But God is filled with love, compassion and goodness. Men who are unregenerate don’t understand this; Paul said these things must be spiritually discerned. That’s why we as Christians need to reaffirm God’s goodness in the face of a world plagued by Satan.
(Transition) God is committed to caring for His creation. But we also know God really is good because it is His very nature.
II. God’s Character Testifies to His Goodness
Nehemiah 9:17 says, “You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”
Psalm 86:15 says: “you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
The apostle John said plainly and simply, “God is love.”
Each of these Scriptures helps us understand God’s inherent quality of goodness, but I especially like how God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 34.
Moses had just delivered Israel from Egypt without raising a weapon.
He had seen God’s incredible display of power against Pharaoh when Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites.
Moses had seen the Red Sea roll back like a scroll and he was astounded at God’s awesome power.
Moses witnessed the Manna that fell around the camp each morning to feed the millions.
With all these miracles as a backdrop, this is when Moses asked God to show him His glory. Notice how God revealed His glory to Moses because He could have revealed His glory in many different ways:
He could have pointed to the sun, moon and stars and said, “Look Moses, the heavens declare the glory of God.” He could have peeled back the galaxy and shown Moses world’s that have yet to be seen by the Hubble telescope; but He didn’t.
He could have pointed to the natural wonders of the world that testify of His glory. But He didn’t do that.
He didn’t perform a miracle or heal an incurable disease either.
(Insight) The glory that God revealed to Moses was not something God did; it was something that God said! It was a self-declaration that defined His character and nature. In essence, God said, “Moses, if you really want to see My glory, you need to know who I am. You need to hear the testimony of my character and nature.” Listen to God’s self-revelation when Moses hid in the cleft of the rock and God passed before him in Exodus 34:6. “[God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, (7) maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” This is just what we need! We need God’s compassion, grace, love and forgiveness. We need God’s mercy to transform us from sinners destined to hell, into Christians with the promise of heaven.
(Transition) God’s very character testifies to His goodness. Third, we know God really is good because of His plan of redemption. God loves us enough to forgive us.
III. We Know God Really is Good Because of His Plan of Redemption
Redemption is at the center of God’s heart. Nothing has been more important to God than to rescue mankind from his sinfulness. Do you remember what happened in the Garden of Eden immediately after Adam disobeyed God and sin separated man from His Creator? Adam’s first reaction prompted him to run from God—a typical guilt-response. But God’s first reaction was to search for Adam; it was to rescue Adam; it was to offer restoration and forgiveness. These are things that flow from unconditional love and goodness. And God went all the way to restore us to Himself.
You see, sin separates us from God. It creates a debt, which in human terms, is impossible to pay. But in order to be restored to righteous standing before God, the chasm must be closed and the debt must be paid. And only God could do this. Psalm 49:7 says: “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him— (8) the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough— (9) that he should live on forever and not see decay. (15) But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.”
(Example) Jesus told a parable of a servant that owed his master an infinite debt and was in danger of being imprisoned until it was repaid. When the Bible says “infinite” think of it in terms of trillions of dollars. That’s what this servant, who represented the sinful human race, owed. Without the ability to pay his only recourse was to fall before his master and plead for mercy. That was his only hope! And when he did that his master discharged the entire account! From the goodness of His heart the master instantly cleared the debt and the servant was freed. The debt was discharged!
Jesus told this parable to illustrate the boundless nature of His love and mercy. And when we humble ourselves and ask God’s forgiveness, Jesus steps in, and from the goodness of His heart, discharges our infinite debt and forgives our sin.
(Illustration) Years ago I read the account of a Cambodian play. The drama centered on a young peasant couple’s romance and marriage. They lived under a tyrannical Monarch and just days after the ceremony the king’s son abducted the bride and threatened to murder the groom if she acknowledged her husband. But the bereaved groom determined to reclaim his wife, and risking death, broke before the king’s court and accused the prince of stealing his bride. With the king’s son and his stolen bride sitting nearby, the king asked the girl if the accusation was true. To the peasant’s astonishment she disclaimed him! With the court guards restraining him the boy exploded, insisting he was her husband. Instantly, the young bride burst into tears while the king’s son demanded death to the peasant. But the court had been assigned a Priest, who always watched for injustice. It was clear to the Priest that the king’s son had stolen his bride, so he offered the king a solution. He told the court of a truth serum the couple could drink and within minutes they would both speak honestly. The king agreed to have it administered and the couple was blindfolded and placed in an adjoining room. Once alone, they fell into each other’s arms and the girl explained her confession. But the boy said he would rather die than live without her. Ten minutes later they were ushered back into the courtroom. A moment later, a scribe, holding a tablet, walked from the adjoining room where the blindfolded couple had been. He had transcribed the entire conversation and the unvarnished truth was disclosed to the court. By this time, the drama had climaxed and the audience was ready to erupt in jubilation. But the King slammed down the gavel, stood from his seat, defended his son saying he would never stoop to such deceit. The peasant-boy was led to his execution. Later that night the girl committed suicide. The crowd dispersed feeling depressed and hollow.
Do you realize what was missing from that performance? Not an advocate, the Priest offered defense. A savior was missing—someone with power to rescue to bride and groom. That priest, like the Old Testament Law, could only identify the enemy not deliver from him. The Law was powerless to save and deliver from sin. But Jesus is man’s Advocate and Savior. This is what Titus 2:13 means when it says it was our: “great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (14) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.” Jesus brokered the buy-back! Jesus reclaimed our righteousness, peace, and fellowship with God, and brought everlasting life.
One day humanity will gather into Heaven’s courtroom where nothing but truth will be allowed—no attorneys—just God, you, and truth. It’ll be a fearful day for many because they won’t be ready for the verdict. They’ll have to face the consequences of living without God. But it’s not just a court of truth; it’s a court where redemption will be revealed. Our great Savior Jesus Christ will rise to rescue those that have placed their trust in Him. That’s when we will fully realize, God really is good!