The Graciousness of God

THE GRACIOUSNESS OF GOD

Reading: Psalm 145 (especially verses 8-21)

 (NOTE: How many times does the writer use the word ‘all’?)

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.

 2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever

 3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

       his greatness no one can fathom.

 4 One generation will commend your works to another;

       they will tell of your mighty acts.

 5 They will speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty,

       and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

 6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,

       and I will proclaim your great deeds.

 7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness

       and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

 8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

       slow to anger and rich in love

 9 The LORD is good to all;

       he has compassion on all he has made.

 10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD;

       your saints will extol you.

 11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom

       and speak of your might

 12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts

       and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.

 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

       and your dominion endures through all generations.

       The LORD is faithful to all his promises

       and loving toward all he has made

 14 The LORD upholds all those who fall

       and lifts up all who are bowed down.

 15 The eyes of all look to you,

       and you give them their food at the proper time.

 16 You open your hand

       and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

 17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

       and loving toward all he has made.

 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,

       to all who call on him in truth.

 19 He fulfils the desires of those who fear him;

       he hears their cry and saves them.

 20 The LORD watches over all who love him,

       but all the wicked he will destroy.

 21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.

       Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

(The word ‘all’ is used 15 times + 3 of ‘every’, which means much the same as ‘all’)

INTRODUCTION

  • When we first meet someone we get an instant impression…the way they look; eye contact; tone of voice; what they say; if they smile…
  • And it’s easy to get a false picture…sometimes negative
  • When you get to know the person, s/he is often not at all like you imagine!
  • And if you’re like me you may tend to let your imagination run away with you… life becomes like Disneyland… or a prison!
  • Even as Christians we can be sucked into a fantasy world… a world of Sunday School stories where Goliath is a pantomime giant; the whale has a big grin; the destruction of Jericho is bloodless; Jesus wears a halo; nothing bad happens to faithful believers…

BUT WHAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD? What is He really like?

Do we have a ‘fantasy’ view of God?

Do others have a distorted view of Him?

  • Many people think of Him as a Victorian school master… like my late father-in-law’s teacher
  • Or like the manipulating factory owner in The Simpsons or The Joker in Batman films… enjoying people’s sufferings… a sadist
  • Or like a cuddly bear or Father Christmas…benign, harmless; useful if you need something doing… but otherwise not to be taken too seriously
  • So people stroll along to church once in a while; say their prayers if life is tough; blame God when things go wrong; but otherwise just get on with their lives and don’t give spiritual matters a second thought

PSALM 145 HELPS US TO UNDERSTAND BETTER WHAT GOD IS REALLY LIKE and therefore what really matters in life

  • The key verse for us is verse 8: “The LORD is gracious and merciful
  • I want to focus on the ‘graciousness’ or ‘loving-kindness’ of God

Graciousness has a slightly old-fashioned ring to it

  • A bit like ‘jolly hockey sticks’ or ‘spiffing’ or ‘nylons’!

I wonder if you know any PEOPLE whom you would describe as gracious (compassionate, kind, friendly, helpful, merciful)?

  • You will probably say that you know someone who is usually gracious… but not invariably so…
  • But God’s graciousness doesn’t change with the circumstances

Nehemiah 9: 17b helps us to understand God’s character better:

You are a forgiving God; gracious and compassionate; slow to anger; and abounding in love

  • Can you put your name/my name into that verse: “You are a forgiving (your name); gracious and compassionate; slow to anger; and abounding in love

A question… IS THIS GOD OF GRACE EQUALLY GRACIOUS TO EVERYONE, regardless of who they are or what they do or think or believe?

  • The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’!
  • Yes, there is a common grace that God bestows upon all: “The sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous”… in fact the wicked sometimes seem to prosper more than the righteous!
  • No, there is a special grace reserved for those who receive the gift of redemption through the Son and choose to follow Him

As we read in Romans 5: 1, 2… “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access to this faith into this grace in which we now stand

NOTE THE KEY PHRASES…

Peace with God…through faith in Christ…to gain this grace by which we now stand

  • The grace cannot be accessed in any other way except by faith in Christ
  • For the Father gives good gifts to His children
  • Unless I know God as “my” Father, it’s like asking someone else’s father to be gracious towards me!

IN PASSING LET’S NOT OVERLOOK THE FACT that although God is a God of grace He hates sin

  • We often say that God hates the sin but loves the sinner
  • However, Psalm 145: 20 states that “the Lord preserves all who love Him but all the wicked He will destroy

WHO ARE THE WICKED?

  • A dictionary definition is: “evil by nature and in action
  • Those who deliberately set themselves to thwart God’s purposes
  • Those who wilfully reject the goodness of God.

So we read in Romans 3: 10-18(New Living Translation)

As it is written:

‘No one is righteous—not even one.

No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.

All have turned away; all have become useless.

No one does good; not a single one.

Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.

Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips.

Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

They rush to commit murder. {They race for the honour of being sinner of the year! The Message}

Destruction and misery always follow them.

They don’t know where to find peace.

They have no fear of God at all. {They never give God the time of day}’

WE CANNOT PLAY FAST AND LOOSE WITH THE ALMIGHTY… “We must give Him acceptable worship; for our God is a consuming fire

Psalm 145 gives us a clear picture of God’s character (not His personality)

  • Personality is the way we behave in front of others and it changes
  • Character is the way we behave when no one is watching!

So we are referring to God’s unchanging character

He is slow to anger

  • We can sometimes make our bad temper a badge of honour …someone recently said to me that she was fed up trying to be patient!
  • Anger may be justified (God can be angry)…bad temper is not!

He abounds in steadfast love

  • Note that He abounds in steadfast love
  • Steadfast means ‘firm, fixed and unyielding’
  • We can experience love in many forms…but God’s love is unique

He is good to all

  • It’s easy to be good to those who are good to us…but God is good to all, regardless of their responses
  • Jesus said that loving those who love you is easy…it’s those who don’t!
  • However like all gifts, God’s goodness has to be received by each person individually

He has compassion over all

  • God doesn’t want anyone to perish, yet it’s clear that some people will ‘shrivel up’ or ‘waste away’…which is what ‘perish’ means
  • Compassion is not for softies…it requires an act of the will on the part of the person demonstrating it
  • You and I can decide to be compassionate…or decide not to be

He upholds all who are falling

  • So many people feel that the bottom has fallen out of their world
  • We never know what is going on behind closed doors
  • Or as you look out upon a crowd…solid faces can hide so much heartache
  • How much we need to be sensitive to those who need a kindly word and a helping hand
  • Especially those who are falling and don’t even realise it!

Like the man falling off a skyscraper who waves to the office workers as he plummets to earth: “I’m fine!” he calls out

He raises up those who are bowed

  • The world seeks to throw stones…to condemn…to accuse
  • Only Satan accuses!
  • But God wants to lift our heads…to remind us that His love goes beyond the circumstances…even beyond our own foolishness

For “all who call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Acts 2:21)

Note that we have to know Him by name

  • If I speak to someone I know well, I use his or her name…if I don’t know the person well, I don’t!

AND WHAT IS HIS NAME?

  • You shall call his name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins
  • Are you and I one of His people? What about the person next door?

To understand the CHARACTER OF GOD, we must look at Jesus the Nazarene

  • The One who was, in very nature, God
  • Yet took the form of a servant and humbled Himself unto death, even death on a Cross
  • Little wonder that the Psalmist cries: “My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD

BUT PEOPLE TODAY ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH WORDS… they want evidence or proof…like the atheists’ bus slogan: There probably isn’t a God: now stop worrying and enjoy your life

  • But where will they find evidence of the graciousness of God today?
  • Where will they find the love of Jesus the Christ?

THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE BUT SCARY…they will find the graciousness of God and experience the love of Jesus first and foremost in you and me …all those who dare to call themselves Jesus’ disciples

So how do we measure up as Christ’s representatives?

A keen young person asked an older man if he was a Christian (which he was!)… The man replied: “Don’t ask me if I’m a Christian; I could tell you anything… Instead, ask my family, friends and work colleagues… they’ll tell you whether or not I’m a Christian!”

People primarily experience the character of God through contact with you and me… it’s quite a responsibility, isn’t it?


 


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