Get a New God :: Forgiving Sin with Justice

At Gateway Church in Austin, we finished our series, Get A New God.

Is God really who we think He is? Are our concepts of God accurate? No matter what has shaped our perceptions of God, it is important to understand who He really is. How can we explore the true character of God and remove any old, tainted images of Him from our minds in order to live in relationship with the real God?

The Get a New God series included the following messages:

NEXT STEPS:

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

HERE IS THE AUDIO OF THE MESSAGE I SHARED:

HERE ARE NOTES FROM THE MESSAGE BY JOHN BURKE:

That song by British Songwriter, James Morrison, “Once when I was little” taps into a nostalgia I think we all have—a longing for the innocence of life. We all start off in the innocence of life—and it’s wonderful.  Do you remember it?

Innocence was wonderful—you were born to dream, to imagine, to play and explore, to learn and grow and become.

Like this kid’s answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He says “When I was 3, I wanted to be a dad. When I was 4, I wanted to be a Toy Designer. When I was 5, I wanted to be a video game maker. Now that I’m 5.5, I KNOW I want to be a Ninja Chef when I grow up.”

That’s how we started, how God made us. Innocent.

And we trusted everyone—why not? We are born to trust. Life was intrinsically meant to be that way.

But those days do fly by like a breeze just passing through, and before we knew it, innocence got stripped away. We realized, maybe way too soon, not everyone can be trusted, some dreams get shattered, when you try to fly, you break your leg, and soon we all experienced the hurts, disappointments, abuses, and evils of life—it stole our innocence. What happened? Why? Where is God in all of that?  What’s God doing about that? Anything? Nothing? That’s what we’re talking about today as we wrap up this series Get a New God.

We’ve been questioning our image of God that we all carry in our heads and hearts—what is our Creator really like?  I said, there’s no more important question because I’m convinced that nothing shapes you more—shapes how you view yourself, how you interpret what happens to you, what determines who you become and what you do—than how you view God.  

And we’ve been studying how God claims to have been revealing to us what God is like, for 4000 years through many prophets and ultimately through Jesus. He wants to be known and loved and trusted.  But so often, we paint God with the face of those who stole our innocence, or hurt us, or confused us, or abused us—and so we need to Get a New God—the Real God.

So let’s review what we’ve learned from Exodus 34 where God tells Moses and us his Name and Who God is—what He’s really like:

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

  • Yahweh, Yahweh God calls out – the I am, the eternal, self-existent one
  • The God who is always with you because time and space do not limit Yahweh like they do you and me
  • So Yahweh is here, now, always—in fact
  • Yahweh is the Lifeforce sustaining your every heartbeat.
  • And there is only One God, Yahweh. There can’t be multiple uncreated, independent, timeless Beings by definition
  • God is holy—set apart and different from us—there are no finite, time-bound words in which to contain the wild mystery of Yahweh—who created all the mysteries and wonders of life
  • Every good thing we love points toward Yahweh like a shadow points toward a real person.

God tells Moses in Hebrew, I am “Rahum” – the compassionate God, rahum comes from the word womb, God is like a loving mother who can’t forget the children from her womb–God feels for you with the tender compassion of a perfect mother.

God says, I am “Chanan” – Merciful, Grace-giving – He bends to help us, he stoops down to our level to pick us back up when we fall and fail. That’s Grace. God doesn’t give us what we deserve when we rebel or do wrong, he offers us Grace, mercy for all who will receive it—like a parent helping a child grow through mistakes.  

God is Slow to Anger – God is not an angry person—not a rageaholic parent—he doesn’t get angry easily. In fact, slow is used 12 times to describe God, 11 modify anger. God’s not slow about much, except getting angry. God alone is always appropriate with his anger—some things make him angry. Be glad—a good parent gets angry when evil is attacking or hurting his or her child.

God is Faithful – literally “overflowing with covenant love and faithfulness” – God’s trustworthy to his promises, God’s love for you is not like our love—it isn’t dependent, it never runs out or diminishes, no matter what. It’s not based on what you do or don’t do, it’s based on His character. Love is WHO GOD is. God is the One True love you try to get from broken, hurting people who can never unconditionally give it—God is everything we long for.

Is this what the God in your head and heart is like? If not, Get a New God—the Real God. So If you were here week 1, I gave you an assessment, let’s do it again and compare:

God Concept Quiz:

When I think about God I feel___________   

When I have to trust God I feel________

When I think about God I wish he_________   

Sometimes I get angry at God when_________  

It frustrates me when God______  

The one thing I would change about myself to please God is________  

One thing that frightens me about God is___________

The one thing I’m afraid God will do is___________

Has your view changed? I hope so—at least some.

One day you will see, God is who and what you longed for most.

  • When you stand in the presence of the Creator that generated billions of stars, planets, plants and animals and people, your knees will buckle in awe.
  • When you realize that all the beauty of earth was merely an extension of Yahweh’s beauty, your praise will erupt spontaneously.
  • When you realize Creator of the Universe knows you so intimately that in His presence you will suddenly understand yourself fully, and you will feel more valuable, special, important because you are personal to God.
  • As you feel the waves of love and life—the joys and pleasures of life—flowing through you like waves of glorious light, Worship—awe, joy, praise—jumping up and down like a little kid at Christmas will be the spontaneous reaction you can’t hold back.

That’s who God is.

I sometimes worship God by thinking of all the things I’ve experienced in life that I’ve loved, enjoyed, found pleasure in, been excited about, remembering that

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” James 1:17

It all points to him. So worship realigns us with Reality—so we can live out of who God says He is, and it helps us want to follow Him. Is that the God in your head and heart—if not, do that exercise this week—name everything you like, love, enjoy—and worship God—thank God–realizing it’s a reflection of something you’ll love even more about Him.

But there’s one last thing God says about himself that is so important. He says to Moses:

“Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:7 NLT

God is Just—we want Justice

  • It’s why the atheist complains that there can’t be a God, because of all the injustice and evils in the world not brought to justice—we want justice.
  • We want things made right.
  • We all know something’s wrong, and we want it set right.
  • We don’t want the guilty excused—not if they harmed us, not if they harmed someone.
  • We complain—something’s wrong—we’ve all had our innocence stolen away.

But how, why? It’s because we all keep going our own way. That’s what God in his love and mercy tried to warn us about, but we don’t listen. We all learn the hard way. To the ancient Israelites (and all of us) he says through the prophet and king David:

For it was I, the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things. But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around. 12 So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas. Oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me! Ps 81:10-13  

Do you hear the heart of God? “I want to fill your life with good things.”  But when people stubbornly push God to the periphery, he lets us go our own way. That’s the consequence he warns us of—it’s not God doing it to us, it’s God giving us what we want—my will be done—but it doesn’t just affect us but those around us and after us.

God set this world up and knows how things are supposed to work—but he gave us free will to choose to love and follow God or go our own way.  That’s because LOVE is God’s ultimate purpose in creating us—to experience his love as His loving children forever. But love must be free to choose—not even God can force love—it must be free by definition.

But the worst effect of evil is not the sins, wrongs, hurts we inflict on each other—the worst effect of evil is for the creature to reject the Creator forever—for Justice to prevail eternally, those who don’t want God’s will and ways can’t live in his Kingdom of freedom—they’d corrupt it like we have the earth.  

So God sets spiritual laws on earth, just like physical laws—laws that have consequences if you ignore them. He lets us experience these consequences in hopes we will learn and want to follow His will and ways freely.

I can ignore the law of gravity and think I can fly, but it would only take one jump as the Caped Crusader to realize the law of Gravity.

In Exodus 34 God gives a spiritual law to protect us.  He says he is compassionate, merciful, loving to 1000 generations, but I’m also just—he doesn’t let wrongs go unpunished forever.  And as a warning he says, when you go against my ways, it doesn’t just affect you, but your children, and their children—until someone turns back and breaks the chain. He doesn’t say that punitively, but preventatively—in other words, he gives us a warning of the consequences—it passes on until someone breaks that chain.

I love my grandfather.

I remember as a kid starting to realize, not everything was perfect in my family.

  • I remember sitting in front of the TV in San Antonio at my grandparents’ house only for my grandfather to yell at me: “Get out of the way! Your daddy wasn’t a glass maker!” You know I never really understood what that meant even though he said it all the time. My dad didn’t make babies who were transparent and see-through.
  • He liked to watch TV more than I wished he did. Because my mom seemed to have the tv on all the time when I was a kid. It’s hard for me not to turn on the TV as soon as I get home from work.
  • He loved to eat. Ice cream with whipped cream, which he called calf slobber, was one of his favorites. He was a friend to every waiter and restaurant owner who knew him on a first name basis, but he was so loud in the restaurant and a little too flirtatious with the waitresses that I often felt embarrassed.
  • I remember playing card games like Canasta and Spades. If things didn’t go the way he wanted, sometimes my grandfather would throw a hand of cards he did not like across the table while shouting words I wasn’t allowed to say.
  • My grandfather said things to my mom I wish he hadn’t said. He would make her cry.
  • He had magazines under his bed that I wish he didn’t have, and I wish I hadn’t found when I was in middle school.
  • When my Mom was growing up, he drank more than I wish he had. He struggled with addiction. He was even angrier than usual when he was drunk.
  • When my mom was a teenager and my uncle was just a child, he had a nervous breakdown.

I love my Papa.

Some say I look a lot like my Papa. The more I eat ice cream with calf slobber, the more I look like him!

Although sin being passed down from generation to generation sounds like an unfair punishment, we are being warned that the decisions we make affect our children and our children’s children. In addition, as we grow up we become aware of what we need to avoid as we watch the previous generations struggle right in front of us.

Some of us struggle to believe because of the families in which we were born, but have you ever considered: God loves you so much he put you in that family that you might find faith, and once you do, He wants to heal you so you can bring healing to all who are older than you and all who come after you?

This past week I was in Florida at an event for those hosting the Global Leadership Summit, which I am excited to announce today: as far as I can tell, we are the first to ever host the Summit in South Austin. More details to come soon about this amazing event coming in August!

At this event, they had this ice cream made from liquid nitrogen! Everyone got in line. I heard someone say they had heard it was fat free and sugar free. For 30 minutes I stood in line with some friends of mine who live outside of Chicago. I finally got to choose my flavor: I went with Cinnamon Honey. It was fantastic!

Later on, I went to bed and at about 1am I woke up with a terrible stomach ache. I couldn’t sleep for 2 hours. While I lay in bed in excruciating pain:

  • I remembered I am fasting from sugar for Lent. How did I stand in line for 30 minutes and not remember this?
  • I have known for years that ice cream before bed makes me sick. How could I talk about ice cream in line for 30 minutes and not remember this?
  • Earlier that day, I had even remembered the verse that says: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corithians 10:31 How did I forget this?
  • Even as I saw them make the chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce which is obviously not sugar free with nitrogen steam literally blowing all over us, I failed to remember what the consequences would be if I broke my fast and ate ice cream before bed – something I had not done in years!

You see, when the Scriptures talk of punishment, often the natural consequences are what is meant. These consequences are a warning to stay away from those actions, thoughts, and behaviors which are destructive.

We all inherit bad traits.
My grandfather inherited some bad traits.

My mom decided not to drink in hopes of making some of the same mistakes my grandpa made.

I never had much interest in drinking because I knew the story of my grandfather’s addiction, and I know I have an addictive personality and I am cheap (a trait I get from my father’s side of the family.

I started to seek God’s guidance and I realized I had inherited a fear of being like my Grandfather. I broke that chain with God’s help.  And there were many generational sins God has shown me over the years I had to break.

Some of you had angry or even abusive parents – God wants to re-parent you, restore your innocence, so you don’t pass on anger, or rage, or emotional deadness to your kids—he wants to break the chain with you. Will you let him be that New Father?  

Some of you had codependent mothers who emotionally controlled you, and it’s affecting you with your children – God wants to be that Compassionate mom who re-parents you with freedom.  

Some of you had drug addicted or alcoholic parents—and maybe you fight that, or you married an addict subconsciously trying to work that out—God can heal all of that and make a new, free marriage out of the old.

But if you don’t believe God, that our wrongs have a ripple effect we can’t always see—you’ll be destined to pass it on.  You need to get a New God—the real one is also Just.

Billy Graham died recently. He’s the religious leader ever and first civilian since Rosa Parks to lay in honor at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. He spoke to over 200 million people about God’s love and forgiveness. He once said:  “Modern mankind does not like to think of God in terms of wrath, anger and judgment. He likes to make God according to his own ideas and give God the characteristics he wants Him to possess…so that he can make himself comfortable in his sins. This modern god has the attributes of love, mercy and forgiveness, but is without justice.”—Billy Graham  

If God is not just, in reality, we wouldn’t want to follow Him.

If you read the Bible, God warns about his coming wrath. It confuses people. The day of the Lord, his judgement, when he finally brings justice—God says He forgives iniquity, rebellion, sin, but he doesn’t let guilt go unpunished forever. What’s God’s wrath about—how is that consistent with a loving, merciful, compassionate, grace-giving God? Completely!

God gets angry seeing evil actions spreading to hurt people He loves—just like a father who wants to protect his daughters. That’s the Wrath of God. Wrath is defined as “the emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice,” Both humans and God express wrath. But there is vast difference between the wrath of God and the wrath of humans. God’s wrath is holy, always justified, and patient with our wrongs; ours is never holy and rarely justified.”  And God doesn’t seem to punish right away, except in a few instances as examples—but evildoers get away with it for decades, sometimes a lifetime. So where is God’s Justice—this Day of the Lord?

Peter, Jesus’ disciple, answers this:

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent [turn back to God]. 2 Peter 3:9

God is Just—he doesn’t let wrongs go unpunished—he demands justice. Yet Justice says the cost of sin is death.

For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23

Death means separation. When we lost our innocence because sins pass generation to generation, we also chose to go our way—to do wrong knowing it wasn’t right. God is just—someone has to pay. If he made us all pay immediately, we’d all be separated from God forever. But God loves us like his own children.  On the cross, God’s justice met God’s love—He paid for us. He was condemned in our place. Jesus experienced physical and spiritual death we owed—but he overcame the ultimate consequence–death, so that in Him, we can overcome it too.

So there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4

God is just—rebellion against God separates us from God, it’s just wages is eternal death (eternal separation from God)—but God is not only just, He pays our debts—He paid his own price for Justice. So he is just in taking back all who admit, “I know I’m guilty, I’ve done wrong, I need what Jesus did to count for me. Come lead my life according to Your will and ways.”  That admission, and we are declared debt free.

Imagine if you broke the law – some serious breech of the law, and the penalty for breaking this law was a debt you couldn’t pay, so you would be locked up forever.  You go before the judge, you look up and you see that the Judge is your mom—the person who loves you more than any other person in the world. And your mom is in a dilemma—she knows that to pronounce you guilty means you will be locked up and separated from her until the debt is paid.  And she knows you can’t pay. But to not convict you as guilty would be a breech of justice. If she’s going to be a just Judge, she must punish the guilty. So she slams down the gavel and declares you guilty of breaking the law. You’re dumbfounded, how can she love you and sentence you?  Then, to your amazement, she stands up, removes her robe, and walks down to the front of the bench. She writes out a check for the full amount of your debt–holds it out and says, “I love you, and I don’t want you to remain separated from me because of your wrongdoing. I will pay the fine for you, will you accept it and come home?” 

God is just—someone must pay for wrongs done. Either we pay, or he pays for us. He stands there, holding out the check for the debt we owe against Him—in pride we can say “I don’t need forgiveness, I don’t need you.” Or in humility, we can take the check in gratitude and go home.

When you were dead in your transgressions…He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us…and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 

And here’s why he does this. He wants you to live with him. He wants you to trust him and follow him out of willingness.  Because that’s the only way we overcome evil—that’s the way we stop passing on the chains of evil generation to generation, that’s the way we grow to be more like God—willingly following God’s will and ways instead of going our own way.

Tim Mackie from The Bible Project explains it this way in the video “Day of the Lord”

“Jesus was going to let evil exhaust all of its power on him, using its only real weapon: death. Jesus knew that God’s love and life were even more powerful, that he could overcome evil by becoming the Passover lamb (the ultimate sacrifice for all of humanity, once and for all), giving his life in an act of love. Something changed that day. When Jesus defeated evil, he opened up a new way for anyone to escape from Babylon (the evil of this world) and discover this new kind of power, this new way of being human….

In the (book of) Revelation, the victorious Jesus is symbolized by a sacrificial bloody lamb… When Jesus does arrive in the end, riding his white horse to confront evil, he is bloody before the battle even starts…. Jesus is not out for our blood. Rather, he overcame with his blood when he died for his enemies. The sword in his mouth is a symbol of Jesus’s authority to define good and evil, and hold us accountable when he brings final justice once and for all.” – Tim Mackie

God is just. He took on Himself the punishment all of humanity deserves so that He can restore us to innocence. That Romans 8 passage goes on to say:

You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16  

He could call us anything, but he calls us his own children.

  • He knows you’re not a child—you grew up, lost your innocence, turned from him, paid the consequences—but God is restoring your innocence.  
  • You get to start over—with a New Daddy—that’s literally the word Abba-daddy.
  • In a new family, his church, brothers and sisters learning to break every chain and live in the freedom and innocence, the possibilities and dreams, the trust and hope of the Life God created us to live originally.  

Are you growing up in a renewed innocence—free again to dream, trust, hope, play, explore, love as children of God? I hope you see a new vision of God and will follow Him into that.

  • God who revealed himself as Yahweh, coming in the flesh as Jesus, living with us by his Spirit to help us break every chain—created us to be His loving, adopted children.
  • That adoption happens with a simple “I Do” to God.  I Do want you to forgive me, lead me, reparent me.
  • All it requires is humility—turning back to God in faith and love.  

That happens with a simple prayer I’ll lead you in—if you want to leave here today Knowing, you know, you know you belong to God, forgiven, clean, innocent—starting over—and nothing can separate you. Pray with me.  

 

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