Listening to many preachers and teachers, it sounds like God, deep down, hates the world. Yes, he sent his Son to save sinners, but he does that only for his own glory–and even then, reluctantly. Jesus, too, really didn’t care for sinners. He came holding his nose and was really on earth to rebuke everyone. This presentation of God has produced a lot of fear, or perhaps even hatred of him. But, the question is, is this presentation biblical? Jon and Justin consider that on this episode.
Semper Reformanda: Jon and Justin talk about adoption–how God has brought us into his own family through the blood of his Son. We now call God, “Father.” The guys also get into some law/gospel stuff and a biblical understanding of God’s holiness.
Giveaway: “The Bruised Reed” by Richard Sibbes
1 John 3:1
Justin Perdue: Hi, this is Justin. Today on Theocast, we’re going to be talking about God; in particular, we’re going to be talking about God’s posture towards us. If you listen to many preachers and many theologians talk, it seems like God deep down hates the world and hates us. He redeems us and He saves some sinners, but He does that purely for His own glory, but He doesn’t really want to do that. Then even Jesus himself came into the world kind of holding his nose and not very happy about the mission that he was on, and all of his interactions with sinners was really just to rebuke and yell at people. God is presented as harsh and Jesus is presented the same way. What this has produced in so many Christians, and so many of us, is fear, where the thought of standing before Christ or being with the Lord is a terrifying prospect. So the question is, is that presentation of God biblical? Is it accurate? Is that presentation of Jesus accurate? That’s what Jon and I are going to be talking about on today’s episode. If this interests you, which we assume it does, stay tuned.
This is a good conversation we’re going to have. This has been prompted by a number of things, even by some posts that we’ve seen recently, but I think this is more of just an ongoing observation.
I think a lot of times, the way that God is depicted in general, is that deep down, God really just hates us: He hates sin, He hates sinners, and He is just completely and altogether displeased with us. The only reason that he would ever save sinners like us is because it brings Him glory somehow—but He reluctantly does that. Even Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, took on flesh and entered into this world—and he really did it while holding his nose, not wanting to be here, not wanting to come and do what he did. He interacted with sinners on earth and hated it the entire time. He came to yell at the Jews because they had misunderstood true religion. He also came to spend time with tax collectors and sinners, but he only did that so that he could effectively rebuke them and yell at them too.
It is just this depiction of Christ as a very harsh and exacting, threatening, and even frightening person; the last thing in the world you’d want to do is be near him. It’s very clearly a misrepresentation of him because sinners, in particular people who knew that they had no righteousness, could not stay away from him. The people that thought they were righteous had a problem with him, but those who knew that they were bankrupt and devoid of righteousness seemed to flock to him in droves and wanted to be near him and hear what he had to say.
Not to bury the lead here. The title of this episode is one of the punchier titles we’ve come up with in a while: For God So Hated the World. What we’re trying to depict here is that far from God just hating all of us, hating everything, and reluctantly saving us, and Jesus coming into the world, hating his mission, hating us, and just coming to rebuke every week, the Scripture actually bears witness to the fact that Jesus willingly did this and that God loves us. God delights to save us. He is gracious and merciful and compassionate and tender. Jesus says these things about himself: “He came the first time, not to judge us, but to save us.” This is the testimony of the Scripture.
The reason why this matters a lot to me is I know for myself personally, because of the kind of teaching that I was exposed to for years combined with my natural constitution and an anxious conscience, what this means is that in my low moments, when I’m melancholy and struggling, feeling flat and dry spiritually, I do not have naturally good feelings in those moments about standing before Christ at the end of time.
I think for many people, they feel the same thing: the thought of standing before Christ at the end of it all is a frightening and terrifying prospect. The last thing in the world that you think would be good for you is to be near him because the only picture you’ve really ever been given of him is that he is holy and terrifying and hates sinners.
Today in this podcast, we want to be able to unpack the biblical representation and presentation of Jesus in his earthly ministry, and then connect that to God, because Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” I hope that this conversation is really comforting for people and encouraging. I trust that I’m going to be comforted as we keep talking about this stuff. I already have been comforted in my own mind as I was thinking about some of these things this morning, and then certainly talking with Jon before we recorded.
Let me throw a quick disclaimer out before we go any further, because we don’t like being misunderstood, and we don’t want to be in this episode.
Nothing that we’re about to say should be understood to mean that Jesus came into the world indifferent about sin. God hates sin and there’s a reason why He sent His son so that we could be delivered and rescued from it, and so that we could be given a righteousness that we don’t have. So it’s not that Jesus was indifferent about sin or that Jesus came with all this compassion, gentleness, and meekness, and he never told anybody they were wrong, or that he’s just affirming people in their sin and is saying, “Hey, do whatever you want. It really doesn’t matter. All we want to do is just celebrate everybody and we ought not judge each other.” That’s not at all what we understand Jesus to have done. So we’re not communicating that in any way. But what we want to do is use a little bit of law-gospel and some other tools that are in our tool belt and approach the ministry of Jesus from an accurate perspective and chop it up a little.
Jon Moffitt: This is where law-gospel distinction is very important. (If you’re new to this, in our notes, we will provide a couple of podcasts. We have a specific one on law-gospel.) What we like to do is then use that paradigm to explain Scripture, explain the nature of God, the nature of Jesus, and the nature of men.
We believe firmly that in the Reformed tradition that we have been handed, that we do use a law-gospel distinction—law being that which only condemns and gospel being that which brings to life good news.
What you’re describing, Justin, in the introduction, the way I had it in my mind is Jesus, the righteous Son, walks around and says, “Hey, you peasants. If you don’t repent of your evil ways, I shall boot you out of the Kingdom. I’m here to deal with you peasants. It’s annoying to me that I have to come here because y’all can’t obey.” This is not the Jesus we’re talking about.
We don’t understand the position versus the disposition of God. So it is clear in Scripture that the position that we have in relationship to God is child of wrath. Enemy. We can use passages like Psalm 7:11, where it says God is a righteous judge and He has indignation all of the time. You and I had mentioned Nahum 1:2 and the following. Let me just read you a couple of verses and we’ll jump down, but it says, “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.” Jump down to verse 6: “Who can stand before the indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.”
So we will uphold, with firm foundations, the absolute indignation and righteous holiness of God. Under the law, that is true. This is why you can’t lower the law or make the law achievable, otherwise, you are saying that you can endure God’s wrath. The point of the law is that you see the law and you see the requirements of the law.
Let’s just do one command of the law: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, above all other gods or anything. We don’t even need to look at the rest of the Old Testament. Don’t even look at the rest of it. Just do that one law, and you should say, “Yeah, I am condemned. And then the conclusion should be now what Nahum was saying about you.
Justin Perdue: If that’s the greatest commandment, I have so failed to keep it that I am ruined.
Jon Moffitt: By God’s nature, which is hard for us as humans to understand, we somehow categorize God into emotions or we categorize Him into responses. Some describe God as an angry God, and then you have other people describing God as a loving God as if it’s two separate beings. And yet in the complexity, God can be both. We don’t understand that His anger and love can be something that is true of both statements. Outside of Christ, He is angry at me; inside of Christ, He’s not—but that doesn’t work with how Paul describes things. The difference between our position, a lot of times the Old Testament prophets, and even Paul when he says there is none righteous, we’re all under God’s condemnation, that is your position but that doesn’t mean that’s God’s disposition towards you. While we were yet sinners, what does it say? Christ died for us. We can acknowledge our position as sinners and being underneath the wrath of God, but we have to also acknowledge the rest of Scripture that describes the disposition of God towards sinners.
Justin Perdue: That he’s a Redeemer. And it’s not just that He saves people because it brings Him glory—of course it does—but it is His nature that He delights to pour out grace and mercy on people who, by definition, don’t deserve those things.
Jon Moffitt: Can I read verse seven in continuation? Nahum 1:7: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” So those are the kinds of things that we understand law and gospel to be. That passage from Nahum is a great example of a law and gospel passage.
Justin Perdue: His indignation and wrath are so intense. What is the only hope for sinners? It’s to take refuge in the Rock of Ages where we can hide ourselves.
Jon Moffitt: So there’s our introduction. So Justin, let’s go ahead and get into the meat of what we wanted to talk about today: Jesus’ disposition towards sinners. What does Jesus want us to know about him?
Justin Perdue: Last preliminary statement: I don’t want to impugn anybody’s motivations. I assume that when people are preaching holiness and wrath and some of the things that I described in a punchy way where Christ is depicted as a frightening figure, I assume that they mean well, and that what they’re meaning to do is give legitimate credence to the holiness of God, the righteousness of God, and like you said, God’s indignation rightly against evil and sin. But rather than producing reverence and awe before God, all it ends up doing is producing a fear of Him that causes us either to hate Him or to be absolutely terrified of being near Him. Rather than the right preaching of law and gospel and of holding Christ out—as he has described himself and as his ministry would depict him—when you preach law and gospel and hold Christ out to people, I think what you do end up producing is reverence and awe before the Lord. That holy God loves me, He is graciously inclined toward me, He has given me mercy, and He has done so much for me that He has provided me with all the righteousness and holiness that I need, and He just gives that to me. He has dealt with my sin because He is righteous, but He has done it in such a way where he took the punishment that I deserve. Now I want to be near Him and worship Him. I’m in reverence. I’m in awe.
Jon Moffitt: And I would say the greater the authority, the greater the mercy means. For instance, if my neighbor gives me mercy because I accidentally mowed over onto his side of the lawn too far versus a judge who gives me mercy because I murdered somebody, the level of authority and the level of intensity… When it says, “fear of the Lord,” it’s one of those things that says understand His authority, understand His position, understand His power, but yet you don’t walk in trembling as far as you’re waiting for the hammer to pounce you. That’s the exact opposite description we get from Jesus.
Justin Perdue: The way that I might start this conversation about Jesus in his earthly ministry is with this (I hope) clarifying comment: if you were to survey the gospel accounts—and again, those are not always the best names for them, but it’s the life and ministry of Jesus according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—I think that we will notice that Jesus and his disposition towards different groups of people is different. There are times when Christ does act and speak in a way that is very direct—breathtakingly direct at times; it comes across as harsh and even condemnatory—and then there are other times where he speaks and carries himself in a way that is very gentle, compassionate, tender, lowly, and meek even. People have a hard time parsing this out because in some measure, they don’t have a good distinction of law and gospel in view in terms of what Christ is meaning to do. There may be other things associated with this. But I would suggest, as I’ve studied these passages and these books of the Bible, that pretty much without exception, the times when Jesus is harsh and breathtakingly direct and condemnatory are when he is interacting with people that think that they’re righteous, are trusting in themselves that they’re righteous, or think that they can achieve righteousness through the law. Then on the flip side, pretty much without exception, whenever he is around people who know that they’re sinners, or who are not claiming to be righteous, or understand that they’re in a position of need and they are coming with no confidence whatsoever, he is compassionate and gentle and tender and forgives sins. I think that’s incredibly instructive for us if we’re going to rightly understand Christ.
So I don’t know which one you want to start with, Jon. Maybe we start with the direct harsher stuff first and unpack some of that so that we can then land on the sweeter stuff?
The first one that often comes to people’s minds is when Jesus is flipping tables over, fashioning a whip, and is basically wrecking shop and turning the temple court inside out and is rebuking people. “My Father’s house is meant to be a house of prayer for all nations and you have turned it into a den of robbers.” You and I were talking about this passage before we recorded. The way that you and I both understand it, and Reformed Christians have for centuries have understood this, is that all of this hoopla is not the sale of animals itself. It’s not that that is so wicked—it was necessary actually because of the sacrificial system and people coming from a long way away and couldn’t have brought animals with them. The reason Christ is upset and is indignant is because where all of this hoopla and this circus was taking place is in the court of the Gentiles. It’s the only place in the temple complex where the nations could come and have access to God, and in particular, have access to the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s name. Christ is indignant that this whole enterprise and this fiasco that’s going on is hindering people; it’s hindering the nations in coming to God for the forgiveness of their sins. And so he is indignant about that, rightly, and that’s why he turns the place inside out. But a lot of times we just see that as a blanket indictment on everyone—that Jesus is upset about false worship wholesale and that basically, every one of us is in the cross hairs here and Jesus is generally telling all of us that our worship is illegitimate.
Jon Moffitt: If I were to summarize, I’d say Jesus is upset about people who are blocking the gospel. They are blocking grace from the nations, and so he gets upset saying they need to get out of the way. What breaks my heart about the interpretation of some people is that they immediately turn it into some kind of repentance of sinners. He’s not upset at the Gentiles; he’s upset at the Jews. It’s the religious system that blocked grace from people. Justin and I often, on this podcast, get very upset when people block the gospel or block grace from people, requiring something of them or putting a hurdle in their way, and almost making it impossible to believe or follow Jesus.
Justin Perdue: It’s not that Jesus is just indignant at sinners in general. He is indignant, like you just said, about barriers that are being erected between people and redemption, forgiveness of sins, and salvation. That needs to be said.
Next example that we came up with was Luke 13. This is where Jesus is talking again to a Jewish audience and people bring to his attention the Galileans who were slaughtered by Pilate, mingled with these other pagan sacrifices. Jesus says to this group of people, “Do you think that these people were any worse than you? Well, they weren’t. You need to repent or you too will likewise perish.” Jesus continues, “What about those 18 people in Siloam on whom the tower fell and they died? Do you think that they were worse than you? No, they weren’t. You too need to repent.” it’s very clear in the context. He’s talking to people that think they are better than other people. Their base mentality is, “We’re not like those people are and thereby are not as sinful or not in the same kind of need, or maybe not even worthy of the same kind of judgment or bad things happening to them. And Christ is meaning to blow up that kind of stupidity and let people see themselves for what they are.”
Jon Moffitt: The word “repent” there. We have to ask ourselves what Jesus means by repent. What are they repenting of? We just throw that word out there as if it always means repent of immorality of some sort.
Justin Perdue: I think you’re exactly right. I think what Jesus is most often aiming the gun at when it comes to repenting is he is telling them to repent of self-righteousness. Repent of all of these things that you’re trusting in that are not going to save you. And in fact, you’re trusting and stuff that is at best filthy rags. Stop.
Jon Moffitt: There are some sections where Jesus is dealing with the immorality of a woman. He says, “Go sin no more.” Put an Excel spreadsheet together of who Jesus tells to repent of self-righteousness versus who he tells to repent of sin, and he’s always poking a finger in the self-righteous’ eye, because without the righteousness of Christ, you have no righteousness. And so he’s always telling them to repent of their own righteousness.
Justin Perdue: But even that account that you just mentioned in John 8—and I understand that that’s a disputed text but still the point is made; it’s in our Bibles—and Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. What has he done in that circumstance? He has protected her, he has defended her, he has protected her in particular from Pharisees who wanted to stone her. Then he says, “Woman, who is left to condemn you?” And she says, “Nobody.” He says, “Well, neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” He is gentle and encouraging. You’ve just been forgiven, clearly, now go and sin no more—to which we say praise be to God.
Jon Moffitt: Which, as an exegetical note, I don’t believe was a part of the original text, but I don’t think it’s inconsistent with the nature of Jesus.
Justin Perdue: There’s a reason why it’s been included in the canon.
Other examples are how Jesus is very, very confrontational with the Jewish religious leadership regarding the Sabbath Day. There are a number of passages we could point to where they are trying to either trap Jesus or Jesus will raise things in their presence, whether it’s over healing a man with a withered hand or plucking a head of grain on the Sabbath. Jesus makes it very clear that these people—this is one example of many of how they have codified a godly life to death and how they are trusting in living a codified life to earn them something before God. They clearly think they are crushing it and doing what the Lord would require and desire of them in the ways that they have put this fence around the Sabbath. Jesus, again, is blowing up that kind of system and that sort of a schema of religion that, “No, you have not understood this at all. In fact, you think that man was made for the Sabbath when in reality, the Sabbath was made for you. It’s for your benefit. I am Lord of the Sabbath and my word stands.”
Jon Moffitt: One of the things I’m teaching my church is to look at all the Scripture before you make conclusions about one particular section of Scripture or a doctrine. We did this last time at men’s group. Someone was mentioning a section of Romans 10. And I said, “Yes, but let’s read that in light of what all of Scripture has to say about justification.” What ends up happening is that someone’s disposition towards a particular theological bent, like angry Puritan preachers or even modern day street preachers, is they tend to emphasize one aspect of the nature of God or of the nature of redemption, which is the law .Part of redemption is the law. We have to do it in balance. When we look at Jesus, you see the balance in what Jesus goes after. I think we have to use the posture and the nature and the purpose of Jesus. Jesus literally says, “I have come to do the will of my Father.” And what was the will of his Father? It wasn’t to bring a sword; he brought redemption. He laid down his life. That was his purpose and will.
Justin Perdue: You’re alluding to John 6 amongst other places where Jesus says that basically, he came to do the will of his Father, which is to save sinners and that he would actually lose none of any who come to him. And any who come to him, he will never cast them out. “It is the will of my Father that anybody who believes in me should not perish, but be raised on the last day. And I will do that.”
Jon Moffitt: I love the descriptors the New Testament gives Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” He is the Shepherd. He is our brother. For sinners, he is living water. For sinners, he is living bread.
Justin Perdue: He is the bread of life that came down from heaven.
Jon Moffitt: Right. For sinners. That’s the thing about it. We somehow think it’s for those who have made this transition. It’s, “While we were in sin, Christ died for us,” not, “When we repented, Christ died for us.”
Justin Perdue: Or, “Once we have repented adequately and feel the way we should about our sin and are fighting hard enough, then God is pleased to sustain, bless us, and show us grace.” It’s crazy.
Jon Moffitt: And a lot of this is rooted out of a comment that we had read recently. This is not an uncommon statement within some areas of Christianity: “Jesus is with sinners and the reason he is with them is to call them to repentance.” Let’s just do an analysis again.
Jesus is described as a friend of sinners. Jesus spends time with sinners so much that he’s being described as a drunkard, being criticized for letting prostitutes touch him—and just to be clear, touch not in an inappropriate way. “She’s a dirty woman. How could you let her touch your feet?” And yet, when he’s dealing with sinners, he describes himself as gentle and lowly. When he’s dealing with the self-righteous, he is angry. John the Baptist called them a brood of vipers.
Justin Perdue: Jesus calls the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” because on the outside they look good, they’re doing the right stuff, they’re checking the boxes, and they’ve got all these codes that they follow, but inside they’re dead.
Jon Moffitt: So what’s the difference between a Pharisee, a whitewashed tomb, and a sinner? Jesus says he has come to save the lost or find the lost. So as a sinner, it makes sense. If Jesus is saying, “These people understand why I’m here—they have no righteousness, they have nothing to cling to, and the Pharisees or the self-righteous are clinging to their own sin.” So he’s calling them to repent.
Justin Perdue: They’re clinging to their own righteousness.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. He calls the self-righteous to repent and he tells those who are beat down by the law and by their sin. He says, “Come to me.”
Justin Perdue: So we’ve already kind of naturally made the transition. There are many other passages we could go to where Jesus is like dropping bombs and setting grenades on the table and pulling the pin. We’re already transitioning naturally to some of the other things that he says.
What you just said, Jon, is exactly right. For example, Matthew 9:12-13, where the Pharisees have challenged Jesus. They say to Christ’s disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And then what does Christ say? “When Jesus heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'” To your point, this is why he came. He didn’t come for those who think that they’re righteous already; he came for those who are sinners, and this is why he’s here. And what’s his posture toward those people? Matthew 11:28-30—which is where we got our tagline from—where he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden…” With what? The demands of the law. Perhaps even the code that had been thrown on top of the law by the Pharisees. “And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I’m gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That is the invitation of Jesus to sinners.
Jon Moffitt: Gentle and lowly.
Justin Perdue: Yes. “And I will give you rest. If you’re weary and you’re burdened, and you’re weighed down and getting crushed, I’m who and what you need. Come to me.”
Jon Moffitt: I will say this again, and it needs to be said a thousand times: if the invitation of Jesus does not lead you to rest, you have got the wrong invitation from the wrong Bible. How can you miss the point? Weary sinners who feel the weight of the law—which is the purpose of the law. We need the law. The law must be preached. Jesus was the greatest preacher of the law. Bar none. Period. He executed that position clearly because without the law, Jesus cannot be the Redeemer. He presses the law on people, to the point where the disciples say, “Well then, who can be saved?” the rich young ruler also asked, “Who can be saved?” And he says, “With man, it’s impossible. But with God, all things are possible.” That’s what the law should do to you. You should say, “Well, that’s impossible.”
And I love how the modern day American will say, “Well, everybody is a sinner.” that’s not what you should say. What you should say is who can be good—and the problem is nobody can be good.
Justin Perdue: I’m just struck by the way that Jesus came and did ministry. Did he call people to repentance? But just to reiterate, what we often mean when we say that is to repent of your immorality—and that’s really it. Whereas what Christ means is repent of your immorality, yes, but repent of your own virtue in and your own righteousness in your own eyes and effectively come to him. That’s what he’s calling people to do. “Come to me and trust me. Find your righteousness here and find your rest here.”
Jon Moffitt: As crazy as this sounds—and we probably need to do another podcast on this—but I think it’s impossible to repent of all sin.
Justin Perdue: Of course it is.
Jon Moffitt: Because I can’t love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, even though it’s my ambition.
Justin Perdue: There’s a million sins that we commit that we’re not aware of.
Jon Moffitt: Which is why you have to repent of the one sin, which is your self-righteousness. Don’t hold onto that.
Justin Perdue: These are not the words of Christ, but this is Matthew’s description of Jesus, citing the prophet Isaiah—which is where Richard Sibbes got the title for his book, The Bruised Reeds.
So Matthew is talking about Jesus and he’s healing people and he’s doing these things. Matthew says this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah because Jesus is telling people not to make him known yet. “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
So again, you have this posture of this servant of God who is Christ, who will not break a bruised reed, he will not snuff out the wick that is just flickering and barely hanging on, but instead he will bring judgment to victory for all those who trust in him. What a marvelous presentation of Christ and his mission. At least the tone and the tenor of that sounds very different than how Christ is often preached.
Jon Moffitt: One more illustration to throw in there. I remember preaching John 4 on the woman at the well. Jesus knows who this woman is, knows what this woman has done, and completely engages with her, which is a surprise to the woman. ” How is it that you, being a teacher, are asking me for water?” What does he offer her out of the gate? Living water, not repentance. She’s trying to quench her thirst by the flesh, and Jesus says, “Are you tired of that yet? How about I give you water so that you will never thirst again?” And she says, “Give me that water,” which she don’t doesn’t really understand. And when he finally reveals it to her, she loses her mind and runs back into the city to tell people, “Do you know who I just found?”
What I love is that Jesus always has these missionaries that are the broken of the community. They’re the scum of the earth. Thinking about Zacchaeus too, right? And in John 20, when Jesus walks into the room and the disciples are there, they have abandoned Jesus, the doors are locked. Luke describes them as screeching like little girls when Jesus appears to them. And he says to them, “Peace be with you.” And he shows them his scars in his hands and on his sides. And then he commissions them to complete the Father’s mission.
Paul finally makes the description. Not many of us are wise. Not many of us are strong. He describes those whom Jesus saves and he saves the weak, rejected, no-name people, and that’s who God uses. Why? Because in the end, Jesus gets all the glory, and we don’t want any because we don’t have anything to be happy about. Because we’re nobody.
Justin Perdue: To be clear about what I said at the outset, God most certainly is glorified in the work of redemption. That is not up for debate. But we totally misrepresent him when we do not say—Luke 15, the parables of Christ—that God delights, finds great joy, and actually celebrates over sinners who repent. God is brought joy in this whole enterprise of salvation. It is not just that He’s going to be renowned and praised—of course He will be, but He in His person delights to do this. That to me is one of the biggest mind blows in the universe. The holy God who made us, against Him, we have committed cosmic treason—to use the words of RC Sproul—loves us so much and delights to save us in such a way that He is effectively throwing a party in heaven every time a sinner repents. It’s astonishing love, mercy, and grace.
Another passage. Jesus, in John 10, calls himself the Good Shepherd. This is picking up on the language of Ezekiel 34 where the Lord says that He will be the Shepherd of His people, He’s going to seek them out, and He’s going to save them and bring them to pasture and gather them from where they’ve been scattered. It’s been dark and scary, but He’s going to get them and they’re going to be safe, and He’s going to set up over them his servant, David. By the time Ezekiel was alive, David’s been dead for a minute. He’s talking about the Christ, the greater David who would come, and Jesus says, “I’m him. I’m the Good Shepherd. I have come, not like a hired hand. I have actually come. I know my own sheep and they know me, and I have come to lay my life down for them. The Father has given me this mission, but I do this of my own accord. I lay my life down willingly. Nobody takes it from me.” He’s not reluctant in this.
A few chapters later in John’s gospel, when he’s talking to the disciples during the last night that he’s on earth, what is all of that from John 13 on through the high priestly prayer? It’s all words of comfort. Because we’re told that Jesus had loved his disciples while he was on earth, and then he loved them to the end, and he gives them all these words of comfort, including the beginning of chapter 14: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, what I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” And he prays for us in John 17:24. “I desire that you’ll be with me where I am to see the glory that the Father gave me before the foundation of the world.” Jesus wants us with him.
Jon Moffitt: One last illustration. What does Jesus say to the woman who’s washing his feet in the Pharisee’s home? Her sins have been forgiven, so she has shown him much love. The point of it is this woman understands her position and understands Jesus’ disposition towards her. She feels the freedom and the right to be with Jesus. Think about this. She feels the freedom and the right to wash his feet, not out of fear, but because she knows he loves her. Unreal.
Justin Perdue: The posture that she’s coming with is one of humility and meekness. She’s not arrogant. She’s not trusting in herself. She’s a prostitute of the city, for crying out loud.
Jon Moffitt: She’s crying over her forgiveness.
Justin Perdue: Exactly. Simon the Pharisee is wigging out and is thinking to himself, “If Jesus knew, if this man was a prophet, he wouldn’t have anything to do with it.” And Jesus, of course, knows the thoughts of man and confronts the Pharisee. But where that all ends up is, to your point, Luke 7:47 and following, these words are incredible to me: Jesus says to Simon the Pharisee, “Therefore, I tell you, her sins—which are many—are forgiven, for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little loves little.” How does Jesus treat this woman who is a prostitute of the city? Does he drop the hammer on her? What are his first words to her? He just said in her presence to the Pharisee that she’s forgiven. But then he looks at her and he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who are at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Because only God can do that. And then verse 50, to conclude the account, Jesus says to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Not her faith in and of itself, but her faith in what? In Jesus. “It has saved you, now go in peace.” That is Christ’s word to wretched sinners such as us who come to him, knowing that we need him.
Jon Moffitt: What’s waiting on the other side of when we come to Jesus is peace. When Jesus tells the disciples, “Peace be to you,” and he shows him the scars in his hands, if the Jesus that’s being presented to you—which we’ll get into in SR—is not one that you can run to with your sin, you’ve been given the wrong Jesus. He is gentle and lowly, he draws sinners to himself, he has already taken on your sin, and you can run to him boldly, according to Hebrews, and to receive mercy and grace, and it’s promised to you every single time you ask for it. That’s the Jesus of the Bible.
Justin Perdue: Amen, brother. What an encouraging thought, what an encouraging, incredible message that this is the God of the universe, and this is what He’s done for us. Jesus, what a friend for sinners. Just talking about it has been good for my heart. I’m encouraged by God’s Word and talking about this and just thinking about the life and ministry of our Savior. I hope, for those of you who have listened to the conversation today, that you too have been encouraged and comforted, and your takeaway from this is that Jesus loves you and offers you peace and rest, and you can go to him because of that.
So Jon and I are about to continue the conversation. We’re going to talk more about the posture of Christ and even the disposition of God toward us, even in thinking about how God has adopted sinners into his own family. He has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of adoption through which we call Him Father now—which is mind blowing in and of itself. That podcast that we’re about to record as an additional podcast we do each week called Semper Reformanda. That is for people who have become Semper Reformanda members who have partnered with Theocast to see this message of the sufficiency of Christ spread as far and wide as possible. If you’re curious about that podcast and you want to know how you can get access to it, you could go over to our website, theocast.org, and find out more there about Semper Reformanda and what that means. We’ve got an app, a community that’s being built of people, just like you, who are learning; just like Jon and I are still learning about what it means to rest in Christ. We can lock arms together virtually or in geographical groups and all these kinds of fun things that are going on. So go over to the website and check that out.
Jon Moffitt: I just want to add, if you want to have a conversation like Justin and I just had about this, then that’s what the app is for. It allows you to connect with other people and talk like Justin and I just did.
Justin Perdue: So avail yourselves of all of that, and you can get that information at the website, theocast.org. For those of you who may not be heading over to SR, Jon and I will talk to you again, Lord willing, next week in this format. For the SR members, we will have another conversation with you in just a moment. See you.