The Need for Forgiveness

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This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach at a local church. My topic was the Essence of Christmas. I used John 1:1-5 to show that God’s point of view of the Christmas story wasn’t about Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in a stable surrounded by animals and shepherds. The essence of Christmas is that the God of the universe came to earth to be a man. He came to reconcile His creation (mankind) back to Himself.

Christmas wasn’t a simple birth; it was an invasion. Mankind was trapped on Earth while God was in heaven. We were separated by our enemy Satan, by our own sin, and the darkness of our lack of understanding. We were trapped behind enemy lines. So God invaded that territory to save us. The star that the magi followed that led them to Jesus was the burst of the first artillery shell. On a spiritual level this was God sending in the Marines, but His army had only one person. This invasion force was God Himself. The battle raged for 33 years and in the end His entire army was killed, but He won, and because of that we are free. Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross so he could reconcile mankind back to God.

God could have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and die in our sins; that’s what we deserve. But He did not. Because of He loved us. He came after us. He pursued us even to the painful anguish of the cross, where He bore our sin, guilt, judgment, and death. It’s on this point that some people have a hard time with; “Why did Jesus have to die at all for us to be forgiven of our sins?” Why doesn’t God simply forgive us without the necessity of the cross?

In a 1955 article of “Christian Faith Today,” a cynic is quoted in saying “If we sin against one another, we are required to forgive one another. We are even warned of dire consequences if we refuse. Why can’t God practice what He preaches and be equally generous? Nobody’s death is necessary before we forgive each other. Why then does God make so much fuss about forgiving us and even declare it impossible without His Son’s sacrifice for sin? It sounds like a primitive superstition that modern people should long since have discarded.”

People who wonder why God can’t just forgive sin without Jesus needing to die on the cross have not considered the seriousness of sin and haven’t considered the majesty of God. The fact is that the comparison between our forgiveness and God’s is far from being exact. Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:12, 14-15;

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

In this passage, Jesus was teaching the impossibility of the unforgiving being forgiven, and so the obligation of the forgiven to forgive. To further this point of forgiveness, Jesus gives parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. In both passages, Jesus was not drawing any parallel between God and us in relation to the basis of forgiveness. If we try to argue we forgive each other unconditionally, let God do the same thing. This reasoning is shallow, since it overlooks the elementary fact that we are not God.

We are private individuals and other people’s misdemeanors are personal injuries. God is not a private individual nor is sin just a personal injury. On the contrary, God is Himself the maker of the laws we break, and sin is rebellion against Him. The problem of forgiveness is the collision between divine perfection and human rebellion; between God as He is and us as we are. The obstacle to forgiveness is neither our sin alone nor our guilt alone, but the divine reaction in love and wrath toward guilty sinners.

At the cross in holy love God through Jesus Christ paid the full penalty of our disobedience Himself. He bore the judgment we deserve in order to bring us the forgiveness we do not deserve. On the cross divine mercy and justice were equally expressed and eternally reconciled. God’s holy love was satisfied.

The reason so many people have issue with the idea of us needing to be forgiven by God and that Jesus had to die on the cross and we need to accept this fact is that they don’t consider the seriousness of sin nor do they consider the majesty of God. In the next few weeks, I will review four basic biblical concepts to help us understand our need. The concepts are The Gravity of Sin, Human Moral Responsibility, True and False Guilt, and The Holiness and Wrath of God.

NOTES: Parts of this post have been taken from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ.”

Family First

The biggest challenge for all of us is to set boundaries and establish priorities. I have thomassonseen too many families destroyed because parents set other things above the family as being more important (i.e. career, hobbies, friends, etc.). We need to understand that when we are on our deathbed we will not wish we spent more time in the office, but wish we spent more time with the family. Cats Stevens songs “Cats in the Cradle” is a haunting reminding that time passes so quickly that we need to cherish our time with not only our children but with our spouses. My mom told me when I was a teenager that I should enjoy my teen years because “you blink and you are 16; blink again and your 18; blink again and you are 21; blink again and you are 30 . . .” James 4:14 says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Ripley, my daughter, turns 8 years old on Thursday, 11/23 (yes Thanksgiving’s Day). I cherish every moment I have with her. FaceBook likes to remind me of memories (pictures and videos) I have posted. I see her little face at a year old or hear her 3 year old voice in a video where she is singing a song; it melts my heart. The time is flying by so fast. I can’t stop or slow time, but I can make sure I set the proper boundaries where I’ll be with her and Teresa (my wife) during the important events.

I’ve seen over the years, men in ministry set their church work (ministry) above their families. The result of this are children who leave the church hating it for taking their dad away from them, or them having an unhealthy relationship with their father. I know a man that almost rob himself of an opportunity to be a father because he wasn’t sure if he could be a good one because his father (a pastor) was never around. With the help and love of his wife, he agreed to have children and now he is an awesome dad to his 17 year old son. I can see the hurt is still there but he is working to get past it. Ministry workers (be us pastors, evangelists, lay ministers, deacons, etc.) need to understand that family should take priority over church work; not priority over God, but the busy work of ministry.

My childhood pastor taught me the importance of family by his example. Some 25-30 years ago, most churches used Tuesday nights to visit people. If one of his children’s schools had a PTA meeting or presentation, he was there. Most schools did these on Tuesday nights so he missed visitation and was present with his children. That has left an impression on me and has influenced me in my ministry. I set a priority that if I can help it, I will be at Ripley’s events and there whenever Teresa needs me to be with her. Teresa and I have discussed this and she is aware that sometimes I’m not able to be present so she makes sure to let Ripley know the reasons if I can’t be present. In the (almost) 8 years of her life, I missed only 1 event she was in and that was in the middle of a school day and I couldn’t get away from the office. I actually felt really bad about it, but Ripley (who has a huge and tender heart) told me she understood.

We pastors must understand that our calling is to serve others as we preach and share God’s Word. Serving our families first and then others is the right way of working in ministry. In my personal life, my priorities are set in this orders; God, Teresa, Ripley, family, other people, myself and ministry. Setting myself before ministry will allow me to keep myself healthy (both physically and mentally) in order to be 100% when serving in ministry. Let me encourage you to set your families over all other work and people; only God is set above family.

I hope you have happy and safe Thanksgiving’s Day. God bless!

 

Service

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On Sunday (November 5), our church did something that most churches would never entertain. We did not have our usual worship services. We, instead, sent out teams of church members and attenders to 4 schools and one ministry to work on their property. We did landscaping and painting. Our church has done this once before (2 years ago), but this was my first time helping.

My family and I worked with the team who painted and landscaped my daughter’s elementary school. Ripley worked hard help painting the playground equipment. I was proud of her. My wife, Teresa, helped with trimming the bushes. It looked really good. The two assistant principals were on –site to answer any questions and make sure we had access to the restrooms. They were very thankful.

One thing that our Outreach/Missions Pastor shared before sending us out was a comment from one of the principals. This gentleman was beside himself that a church would not meet for worship but instead come and help him and his school. Serving others is an act of worship and the best way to reach others is to love or serve them. There is a saying; people don’t care what you know until they know you care.

There was an idea that flooded around ten years ago about churches adopting a local school. To help with things needing done. I loved the idea then and I thought churches have done this until I heard the words from our pastor. What a great way to let people know what your church stands for and what better way to share Christ. You don’t have to close your doors on Sunday for a Service Sunday. You can adopt your school and help them through the school year. When the leadership of the school and the teachers know your church is here to help in any way, they are open to hear your words.

Here are some ways to share Christ’s love with your school;

  1. Weekly pick up trash around the school.
  2. Parents of students; volunteer to be a teacher helper (Teresa was able to do that and it encouraged Ripley’s teacher).
  3. On teachers’ planning day, drop off treats (i.e. basket of muffins, platter of sandwiches, etc.).
  4. Work with the principal, and plan one big project each year (paint the playground equipment, build a new concession stand for the school’s sport’s teams, etc.).
  5. Put (with the principal’s permission) encouraging notes in the teachers’ mail slots.

There is any number of other ways churches can serve their local school(s). My favor is what our Student Pastor has our Student Ministry is doing. At the home games, we provide dinner (a nice spread) for the football players to eat before the game.

Jesus Christ left the church (us) here to be His hands and His feet. We are to affect the community with the love of Christ. What better way to show our love by rolling up our sleeves and helping our schools. Teachers-who are over worked-will feel loved. Parents of the children will see needed things done and feel that their children are be cared for. The school system doesn’t have the time or the money to do everything they need and/or want to do. Our churches can take on this and share God’s love by helping.

What is your church doing? Maybe share this post with your church’s leadership and maybe step up and volunteer and lead this new service ministry. Pray about it.

Broken

maxresdefault[1]Over the last year, I have put a lot of pictures on my computer. I found most of them on the internet to put on sermon PowerPoint slides, to be used in the church’s weekly newsletter, or to put on my blog.  Since I have some many, I set my screen saver to display them and I just saw one (see the picture on the right) that made me think about how sometimes God has to break us before we are useable; to bring Him glory.

Jesus is called the Great Shepherd and what do shepherds do? They watch over the sheep which are His people; Christians.  In the ancient near-east, if a sheep would wonder from the protection of its shepherd it could get hurt or be killed by a predator.  The main tool a shepherd had was his staff.  The staff was made from a small tree where the shepherd would fashion a hook on one end to be used to grab a sheep.  On the other end would be the root of the tree shaped into a ball.  The shepherd would have to use this end to teach the hardest lesson of all for the sheep.  In order to make sure a wondering sheep learns to stay close to him, the shepherd would use the ball end and break the sheep’s leg.  After the shepherd broke the leg, he would put a splint on it and the shepherd would carry this animal everywhere on his shoulders.  As time went by, the leg would heal and the sheep would be able to walk on its own. Because the shepherd carried the sheep everywhere, the sheep would stay close to the shepherd and would never wonder too far from him again.

For some of God’s children who tend to wonder, God gives them every chance to come back on their own. If they do not, He will put something in their lives to break them.  This something could be an illness or loss of a job, money, friends, or even a loved one.  There is no limit how God can and will break a person.  If the person is truly God’s child they will come back to Him asking for help in whatever circumstance they are in.  In this time, God loving and carefully carries them through this time of healing and learning.

In some cases of a wondering sheep that didn’t learn the lesson of its broken leg and continue to wonder away, the shepherd would have to kill it so the other sheep wouldn’t start to wonder. As the Great Shepherd, God too may have to kill (or call home as Paul writes in his letters) an unrepentant child so that the body as a whole will learn the lesson intended.

God wants the best for His children. Some are misguided in thinking that the world has what we truly want but everything the world has to offer is emptiness.  Full satisfaction is only found in Jesus Christ.  Everything else is a lie from Satan.  If you have wondered away from God and you feel Him calling you back, turn to Him and He will welcome you with open loving arms.

 

 

Digging Deeper

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When I send longer e-mails (over a paragraph), I tend to write out my thoughts on Microsoft Word, and then I copy and paste it in an e-mail. Word allows me to see if my grammar is right and if the spelling it correct. I came across today my response to an e-mail from back in 2010. After reading it, I thought it will make a good blog post. I’ve titled it Digging Deeper.

The back story of the e-mail and my response is a man from my men’s Bible Study group I used to lead at my old church had some questions about a passage of scripture. We were studying the book of Hebrews. We didn’t use a curriculum. I asked the men to just read through a chapter of the book of Hebrews and come prepared to discuss.  I challenged the men to not just read the book and each chapter, but to really study it during the week.  One of the guys sent me an e-mail with questions relating to his study.  Below are his e-mailed questions and my answers to his questions.

Tom,

I was reading Hebrews 6 and 7 this morning, when I came across the cross references which was talking about covenants. So, I went off on a bit of a tangent but, I have some questions for you. I did a little bit of reading on the Abraham, Nomadic, Davidic, Mosaic, and the “new covenant” in Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31:31-34 reads:

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Ok so here come the questions…

Question 1: The covenant is with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Are we included in that? By we, I mean gentiles and ‘Christians’?

Answer: Jeremiah is telling Israel that a new covenant will be made and that new covenant is Jesus Christ. The nature of this covenant in general is a new covenant and not according to the covenant made with them when they came out of Egypt; not as if that made with them at Mount Sinai were a covenant of nature and innocence. Sinners in the Old Testament were saved by old covenant upon their repentance, and faith in a Messiah to come, whose blood, confirming that covenant, was typified by that of the legal sacrifices as shown in Ex. 24:7, 8. Jesus Christ is the new covenant; the Promised One who paid the sin debt once for all. We are part of this new covenant because through belief in what Christ did for us we are called God’s children.

Question 2: If we are God’s people then don’t we have law written on our hearts? And if so, why? Why do we have something written on our hearts that can only condemn us as law can?

Answer: The whole “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” refers to the indwelling of God (in the form of the Holy Spirit) in the hearts of God’s people and not the law as the Ten Commandments.  In this passage, Jeremiah is showing the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant.  The new covenant brings with it the grace of regeneration: its doctrine, therefore, is not that of the letter, but penetrates into the heart and reforms all the inward faculties, so that obedience is rendered to the righteousness of God.

Question 3: In v 34 it says ‘for they shall all know me…’ does that mean that Hebrews (or other folks he is talking about) are saved? Because they know God and he will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. I mean that sounds a lot like salvation.

Answer: I’m thinking that Hebrews 8:12 is quoting Jeremiah 31:34, so reading this passage (Heb. 8:12) in context will answer this one. The new covenant also promised knowledge of God based on personal experience according to Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12. The knowledge of God based on personal experience was limited under the old covenant because the law restricted access to God. Only the high priest was able to enter the Most Holy Place where God dwelled on Earth. And that entrance was only available to the high priest once a year. The superior high priest, Jesus Christ, has provided access into the very presence of God and He (Jesus) invites us to draw near. The new covenant makes a personal knowledge of God available to us. The final characteristic of the new covenant is that God would no longer remember his people’s sins. This does not simply mean that God had a decision to forget some information about the sins committed by his people. Rather it means that God is providing a means by which the sin problem can be taken care of. Atonement, not just for sins but for sin, was made by the better sacrifice offered by Christ.

I take my job to equip the church to be able to feed themselves very seriously. I instilled in the minds and hearts of the men in our group the importance of not only reading the Bible but to study it. Sometimes what we read will cause us to have questions. If a person is equipped to be able to find the answers to these questions then great. If not, pastors and Bible teachers are here to help. Digging deeper can get messy, but digging deeper gets the answers God intends for us to get.

Audience of the One

Over the years, I’ve learned what it truly means to worship God. Worshipping God is more than just singing praise and worship music over singing traditional hymns because I can worship a_rays_on_the_meadow-normal[1]God through both. When I was a Minister of Music I thought using praise music was leading the church to worship God and some of our folks did worship Him. Worshipping God is more than sing praise songs. We worship our God everyday, in the things we do, the words we say, and what we don’t say. We should live our lives for the audience of the One. I’m not saying we should live our lives like those with the philosophy of pleasing only themselves but living our lives in a way that will honor our God and Savior.

 Remember, God is everywhere at one time. If you are a Christian, God indwells you in the form of the Holy Spirit. Whatever you do (good, bad, or indifferent) God is aware of it. If we truly understand the idea that God is with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days in a year, then that really should affect how we live our lives. We should live in a way that our lives should be a sweet smelling fragrance offering to our God; well pleasing to Him.

 We will never be prefect this side of heaven, but we should have a walk that should be pleasing to God. King David was called a man after God’s own heart but if you ever read the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and see some of the things he did. It’s amazing the bad things he did yet he’s called this. Even through he did bad things, he also did great things for God and when it was all said and done, David confessed his sins and asked forgiveness of God. That’s why he is called a man after God’s own heart; he confessed his sins and sought out forgiveness.  

One of my favorite worship songs is “The Potter’s Hand” because I can relate so much to it. I’ve put the words to the songs below to close out this post. I pray the song makes you think. 

Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour

I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands,

Crafted into your perfect plan

You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit

Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes

I’m captured by Your holy calling

Set me apart, I know you’re drawing me to yourself

Lead me Lord I pray 

Chorus:

Take me, Mold me, use me, fill me

I give my life to the Potter’s hand

Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me

I give my life to the Potter’s hand 

You gently call me into your presence guiding me by your Holy Spirit

Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through your eyes

I’m captured by your Holy calling

set me apart, I know your drawing me to yourself

lead me Lord I pray

 

Hand of God on 9/11

godshandstop[1]Today is the 16th anniversary of what I would call my generation’s Pearl Harbor; September 11, 2001 or better known as 9/11. The day started like any other work day for most of us. I’m sure all of us can give accounts of what we were doing or where we were when you heard the news that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. If you were like me, you were sad and then you got mad. Days after this event, the churches were packed with people. They were looking for answers on why this happened.

Author Peg Rankin and her husband, Lee, witnessed the burning Twin Towers in New York City from their Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, high-rise on that day. Like many, Rankin began to consider the state of evil in our world. What is evil? Why does God allow it? How can we stop it? She went to the Bible for answers and ended up writing her latest book, Making Sense of Evil: 9/11 Eyewitness Finds Answers.

Peg Rankin wrote in her book, “When a tragedy like 9/11 occurs, your mind can drive you crazy…The Bible comes to our aid at times like these, reassuring us that there are no “what ifs” or “if onlys” with God. Whatever happens is part of an ultimate plan. While some people find such a conclusion disturbing, I find it wonderfully liberating. In fact, it is the only thing that sets one free from the bondage of the destructive “what-could-have-beens.”’

Later in her book, Peg Rankin shares a story from a family friend who worked near the World Trade Center. She writes, “Later on, a friend, Rich Immordino, shared with us a unique opportunity he had to testify to his faith that day. It seems that Rich’s office was located in a building near the Twin Towers. When the North Tower was hit, fellow workers crowded around his desk. Together they watched as the ensuing fire exploded into an inferno. And together they commiserated with those who were hanging out of windows crying for help. Everyone felt powerless. Suddenly into their view sped the second airliner. The group looked on in disbelief as the plane took aim at the South Tower and hit its target right on. There was a collective, audible gasp, Rich said. Then one fellow worker, who knew of Rich’s Christian faith, caught Rich’s eye and asked sarcastically, “OK, Mr. Immordino, where is your God now?” “My God is in the same place today that He was in the day His Son died on Calvary’s cross,” Rich answered assuredly. “He’s on His throne in heaven.”’

After the events of September 11, 2001, sermons were preached that said that God could not have stopped this tragedy from happening. I disagree with that assumption 150%. There are 3 Attributes of God that goes against that conclusion. God as being “all knowing (Omniscience)”; God as being “all powerful (Omnipotence)”; and God is present everywhere (Omnipresence). I’ve seen a refrigerator magnet that reads, “Either God is in control or He isn’t.” To me, that says it all. Although events may appear to be spiraling out of control that does not mean that they are. Although evil may seem to have gained the upper hand; that does not mean that it has.

We live on a fallen planet. Ever since man sinned in the Garden of Eden, evil has been part of the curse God pronounced on humanity as a result of that sin. The curse will be with us until the end of time; but only until then. Jesus Christ will one day banish evil. Meanwhile, God has Satan and his cohorts on a lease. They can go only so far. Unfortunately, these evildoers go as far as they can, and they do so every time. One day, however, they will be stopped in their tracks and duly punished for the harm they have done to God’s people (See Isaiah 13:11). It will be a glorious day—a day of righteousness, justice, and truth.

We are talking about God’s sovereignty. He has authority, power, rule, and control over everything that happens in His world. As philosopher Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch of the universe over which King Jesus does not claim.” When the authors of the Bible address God’s sovereignty, they do so with one voice and without wavering. You see, when it comes to the Sovereignty of God, there is no middle ground. As the plaque on my refrigerator says, “Either God is in control or He isn’t.”

The subject of The Sovereignty of God can be a very lengthy series of posts. I will address the subject with regard of the events of 9/11. I will define the term The Sovereignty of God in simple terms.

In order for us to best understand what is meant by any subject, we must first define it. The term Sovereignty of God basically means supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stop His hand or say to Him, “Why are you do this?”

Daniel 4:34-35 has a testimony of one king toward the King;

34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.

35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can stop His purpose or resist His will. Psalm 115: 3 “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Such is the God of the Bible.

The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute and infinite. Since God is sovereign, He has the right to govern the universe, which He has made for His own glory, just as He pleases. He has the right over all things as the Potter over the clay, i.e., that He may mold that clay into whatsoever form He chooses, making one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor. He is under no rule or law outside of His own will and nature, that God is a law unto Himself, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His matters to anyone.

Sovereignty characterizes the whole Being of God. He is sovereign in all His attributes. He is sovereign in the exercise of His power. His power is exercised as He wills, when He wills, where He wills. God is sovereign in the exercise of His mercy. Mercy is directed by the will of Him that shows mercy. Mercy is not a right to which man is entitled. The objects of mercy are those who are miserable, and all misery is the result of sin, hence the miserable are deserving of punishment not mercy. To speak of deserving mercy is a contradiction of terms.

 

God gives His mercy to whom He pleases and withholds mercy as sees good to Himself. A remarkable illustration of this fact is seen in the manner that God responded to the prayers of two men offered under very similar circumstances; Moses and Hezekiah. Sentence of death was given to Moses for one act of disobedience, and he asked God for a reprieve. But his desire was not gratified. He told Israel in Deut. 3:26, “But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the LORD said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter.” The second case deals with Hezekiah; we see in 2 Kings 20:1-6;

“1 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” 2 Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying,

3 “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

5 “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”’

Both of these men had the sentence of death, and both prayed to God for a reprieve: the one wrote: “The Lord would not hear me,” and died; but to the other it was said, “I have heard your prayer”, and his life was spared.

What an illustration and great example of the truth expressed by Paul in Romans 9:15; “For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”

The sovereign exercise of God’s mercy—pity shown to the sinner—was displayed when Jehovah became flesh and tabernacled or dwelt among men. Another example of The Sovereignty of God deals with Jesus healing a lame man. The lame man came to the Pool of Bethesda, where there were a lot of sick and lame people. Among this group of people, Jesus heals one man. Why was this one man singled out from all the others? We are not told that he cried “Lord, have mercy on me.” There is not a word in the narrative that shows this man possessed any qualifications which entitled him to receive special favor. This was a case of the sovereign exercise of Divine mercy. It would have been easy for Christ to heal the whole group of sick and lame people but He choose to heal one “certain man.” Jesus used His power and relieved the suffering of this one particular lame man, and for some reason known only to Himself, He declined to do the same for the others.

God is sovereign in the exercise of His grace. Grace is favor shown to the undeserving. Grace is the opposite of justice; justice demands the impartial enforcement of the law. Justice requires that each shall receive his legitimate due, neither more nor less. Justice bestows no favors and is no respecter of persons. Justice, as such, shows no pity and knows no mercy. But after justice has been fully satisfied, grace flows forth.

 

Divine grace is not exercised at the expense of justice, but “grace reigns through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21). Grace can be defined as the unmerited favor of God. That means that no one can claim it as their inalienable right. If grace is unearned and undeserved, then no one is entitled to it. If grace is a gift, then no one can demand it. Therefore, as salvation is by grace, the free gift of God, then He bestows it on whom He pleases. Because salvation is by grace, the very chief of sinners is not beyond the reach of Divine mercy. Because salvation is by grace, boasting is excluded and God gets all the glory.

The sovereign exercise of grace is illustrated on nearly every page of the Bible. The Gentiles are left to walk in their own ways, while Israel becomes the covenant people of Jehovah. Ishmael the firstborn is cast out relatively unblessed, while Isaac the son of his parents’ old age is made the child of promise. Esau the generous-hearted and forgiving-spirited is denied the blessing, though he sought it carefully with tears, while the worm Jacob receives the inheritance and is fashioned through trials into a vessel of honor.

So in the New Testament; Divine truth is hidden from the wise and prudent, but is revealed to babes. The Pharisees and Sadducees are left to go their own way, while publicans and harlots are drawn by the cords of love.

When it comes to The Sovereignty of God, Charles Spurgeon is quoted in saying;

There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation–the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands–the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.

We just looked at the Cliffnotes version of what the definition of “The Sovereignty of God.” We can spend weeks on the definition alone, but how did The Sovereignty of God have anything to do with 9/11? Since we know that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and is all-present, He could have prevented 9/11 from happening. For His own reason, He did not prevent it.

As bad as the event of 9/11 was, the fact that things could have been worse. As far as the collapse of the Twin Towers is concerned, 15,000 people did manage to get out alive. While this statistic does little to relieve the pain of the families of the 2807 individuals who were crushed, it does show that there was a divine restraint on evil that day. It makes one wonder what the day would have been like without God’s restraining hand.

Tragedies also serve as reminders that our days are numbered. According to reports from churches, people did put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of 9/11. Others, sadly, did not. In fact, many are still ignoring the warning to repent of their sins and let God change their lives.

So what is the bottom line? Does evil reign on planet Earth? Absolutely not!

The sovereign Lord reigns on planet Earth. This is His world, created by His grace, existing for His purposes. Are we to ignore the evil we see around us then? No. For even though Christ won the battle against evil on the cross, Satan is a real and present danger. He fights on. In the end, however, we know who comes out on top. It is God.