We Christians commonly experience problems when we think about God. If we listen to us collectively as a church, we don't talk much about God. We think and talk about God occasionally. We think and talk about Jesus Christ much more often. We think and talk about the church a lot.

Why do we do that? There are a lot of reasons. But consider just one reason. We find the church easy to think and talk about. We find Jesus Christ more complex to think and talk about. We find God extremely complicated to think and talk about.

Like people throughout the ages, we tend to make God a human being--an extraordinary human being, but a human being none the less. Intellectually, we say God is not a human. Yet, when we try to understand God, we tend to think of God as the best and highest of all humans. For example when we think of God's goodness or God's love, we tend to limit God's goodness and love to the goodness and love that we would expect in the ideal person.

But the truth is that God is not human. God's goodness and love exceed human goodness and love in every consideration.

  1. In His goodness, God never stops loving.
    1. God gave Adam and Eve the ideal human existence (Genesis 2).
      1. They abused His kindness and rebelled against His instructions.
      2. But God still loved them.
    2. Generations later, people were so wicked that they never thought one good thought (Genesis 6,7,8).
      1. Their wickedness was so absolute that God could not tolerate their evil.
      2. Yet, God still loved people and began again with Noah and his family.
    3. God made the key promise of human history to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).
      1. Abraham made a lot of mistakes.
        1. He had moments of deep doubt.
        2. He lied about Sarah being his wife.
        3. He had a son by Hagar because Sarah insisted that he do so.
      2. But God still loved him.
    4. We could make a long list of the mistakes made by Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, but God still loved them.
    5. After God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, they were miserable failures in the wilderness.
      1. Their acts of faithlessness far outnumbered their acts of faith.
      2. But God still loved them.
    6. The period of the Israelite judges was one of the lowest points in Jewish history (Judges).
      1. It was a time filled with lawlessness, idolatry, and violence.
      2. But God still loved them.
    7. Conditions became so wicked in the period of the Jewish kings, that once again God could not tolerate the wickedness.
      1. He begged the people to repent and return to Him, and they would not.
      2. He told them the consequences that they would suffer, and still they refused to listen.
      3. He even told them when they passed the critical point of no return; the captivity and exile were inevitable and unavoidable.
      4. And still God loved them.
    8. To me, in a unique manner, the prophet Hosea gives voice to God's love.
      1. Hosea in stark, honest terms declared Israel's wickedness and evil.
        1. There was no faithfulness, kindness, or knowledge of God (4:1).
        2. They were liars, murderers, and thieves who committed adultery (4:2).
        3. Their priests did nothing to teach the people about God (4:4-6)
        4. They chased idols and let their daughters practice cultic prostitution (4:11-14).
      2. Listen to the agony that they caused God because He loved (Hosea 11:1-4).
        Hosea 11:1-4 When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols. Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. With all they did to grieve God, God still loved them.

  2. God's love is so astounding that it simply refuses to give up.
    1. John 3:16,17 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    3. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

  3. We have a problem: we struggle to accept the truth that divine love cannot be confined by the limits of our comprehension.
    1. We either say in words or in our thoughts, "No one can be that loving!"
      1. "No one can be that good, that compassionate, that forgiving, that merciful, that kind, or that generous."
      2. Our reasoning says that if it cannot exist in a human it simply cannot exist.
      3. No human can be that loving, but God can be and God is.
    2. The greatest single manifestation of God's love is Jesus Christ.
      1. He fed the people that he knew would turn against him (John 6).
      2. He cleansed people who were the outcasts of society because of their leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4).
      3. He brought the good news about the Savior and God's kingdom to Sychar by interacting with a Samaritan divorcee who was living in adultery (John 4).
      4. He forgave an immoral woman who washed his feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50).
      5. He brought salvation to the Zachaeus who was a chief tax collector, a position of greed and dishonesty (Luke 19:1-10).
      6. As he was dying on the cross, he asked God not to hold the people who were responsible for his death accountable (Luke 23:34).
      7. As Jesus died, he forgave a thief who was dying for crimes the thief committed (Luke 23:39-43).
    3. In Matthew 12 Jesus had a major confrontation with the Pharisees, and the end result was that the Pharisees were infuriated.
      1. Jesus left the area.
        1. An enormous group of people followed him, and he healed all of them.
        2. He asked them not to reveal his identity as the Christ.
        3. Matthew wrote Jesus asked this so that a statement made about him by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier might be fulfilled.
      2. Listen to that statement in Isaiah 42:1-4.
        Isaiah 42:1-4 "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Focus on verse 3: "A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not extinguish."
        2. Measuring rods were made from the reeds that grew along the river banks.
          1. They cost nothing.
          2. Pull one, cut it to the right length, and use it; but if you bend it, break it and throw it away.
        3. When you blew the lamp flame out, a wick would have one small ember that glowed from which a wisp of smoke arose.
          1. You could easily put it out by pinching it between your fingers.
          2. That glow was very delicate and did not last long.
        4. God's love shown in Jesus will not throw away a broken nobody who is worth nothing.
        5. God's love shown in Jesus will not kill a glowing ember that is almost out.
      3. That is how much God loves.
        1. God's love is not in question.
        2. The question is, have we let God teach us how to love like He does?

  4. God saves broken people, and God uses broken people to accomplish His purposes.
    1. "Why would God do that?"
      1. That is an excellent question! We must understand the answer.
      2. God works through broken people who believe on Him to make it clear that the power lies in God, not in people.
    2. That focuses our attention on a problem that Christians need to address.
      1. Too few Christians have experienced brokenness.
      2. Because too few have experienced brokenness, too few have repented.
      3. We extol the value of what we define to be goodness.
        1. That definition of goodness excludes the possibility of brokenness.
        2. If we are broken, we are broken by evil.
        3. So we feel the need to deny our problems so that we can demonstrate our goodness.
        4. Why? Because we think that God loves good people.
        5. We convinced ourselves that we are saved because we are good.
      4. We need an understanding of Jesus' statement, "I desire compassion and not sacrifice, for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13).
    3. Christians who do not experience brokenness do not discover gratitude for their salvation.
      1. Salvation becomes an intellectual understanding instead of an actual deliverance.
      2. Salvation is a product of human knowledge, reasoning, and intelligence, not the action of a compassionate, loving God who by His power cleansed us in the innocent blood of His Son.
      3. Salvation becomes a human achievement, not a resurrection to life by the power of God.

Until we experience God's love, until we let God to teach us how to love, we will never serve the eternal purposes of the eternal God who John says is love (1 John 4:8).

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Wednesday Evening Sermon, 28 April 1999

This sermon is also available in French.

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