The Goodness of God
told you a few weeks ago about how I first got a hold of my
wife's hand. You know,
I tried to figure out a way to hold her hand. Finally we were climbing these mountains in
northern California called the Trinity Alps.
They're called that because they're sharp, jagged peaks,
look like the Alps of Switzerland.
The only difference is they're not quite as tall.
But these gorgeous mountains, we were hiking and I
had got a hold of her hand to help her walk, climb, we were
hiking to the top of one of these. And they actually go to points, the mountains
go to points, I kid you not.
You know when you were kids you'd draw mountains with
points and the teacher would say, 'No, mountains do not have
points'? And I think
we've even got one at home, it came off in my hand. [laughter] It did. The
point came off right in my hand.
I'll bring it in some week.
It will illustrate something someday, sometime, somehow
we'll work it in. But we were climbing these Alps, these Trinity
Alps, and I decided 'Well, let's go, we'd better go back to
camp now, and we were way up there, I mean the lake looked
about this big from where we were.
Ok? There was this big lake and it looked like a
little tiny thing and we were way up high, and so we decided
that we would go down. I
thought, 'Well why go back the way we came up, that would
be boring, let's go down a different way. And I'm not a seasoned rock climber, and I said,
"This looks good", and there was this cleft in the mountain
which went down like this, and sort of turned, and you couldn't
see what was around the corner.
And I said, "Come-on Leslie, let's go this way."
And so we start scrunching our way down feet first.we
were going down and made that turn, and I didn't know what
was there, and so I made the turn and my feet went for something
and there was nothing there--a shear drop for 800 feet, or
600 feet. Anyway, it
was scary, and I said "I don't think we want to do this!"
got plans, I want to marry you someday.')
(I hadn't told you that yet.)
Anyway, she stopped and we had to climb back up and
find a different way out. But that was scary. You see, I thought I was perfectly safe. I had no idea what a dangerous situation I was
in. And that is where
the "moral person" is. Not that the "morality" is dangerous, but thinking
that you've got a good standing with God because you're a
good person is all wrong, because God doesn't see you as being
a good person [when you're not saved, covered by the blood
of Jesus, Yeshua]. He sees the mistakes you make. They flavor everything. It's sort of like if I saw I've got a little
skunk in my car. Is
there such a thing as a "little" skunk?
I mean, you know somebody smashed that skunk on the
highway, and how many thousands of cars have run over it?
And you accidentally got close to it.
You didn't run over it.
And you've got that smell in your car for the next
100 miles. What do
you say, a little skunk juice goes a long way.
And it's sort of like we're skunks.
And everything we do smells.
You can have a good skunk, I'm sure, but everything
they do smells like a skunk.
And that's the way it is with the human race.
Everything we do smells of sin.
And sure, you may be a "nice" human being, but still
you are a "lost" human being.
Sometimes people ask me the question, it comes actually
very often, about once a week.
Somebody asks me, "Well Mark, why is it
that I'm a good person and bad things happen to me?" And I guess it's an honest question. It's not always thought through, biblically,
because another question that can be asked 'Why do good things
happen to bad people?' I
mean, I know some really well off rascals.
Don't you? I know some pretty lousy, dirty dealing business
men that are rolling in the dough right now.
I know some pretty rotten people who don't have cancer. The other day I was thinking about this as I
saw this old drunk, he must have been 65 or 70 years old,
smoking his cigarettes, bottle there, you know, living on
the streets. And I was thinking, 'Why does a man like this
live so long? And some
dear precious brother who's never had a cigarette in his life,
never ever had a drink of alcohol dies of cancer when he's
I don't understand? You know, if good things happen because you're
good, bad things happen because your bad.' I'm sorry, that's superstition. That's not reality, and that's not what the
Bible teaches. Recently
channel 21, the TBN Broadcasting station here, has had to
go back on something they did about six months ago.
You know John Abenzen, the guy that waves his hand
over your offering and you'll get a lot of money back--this
guy's supposed to be an expert in biblical finances. [It's guys like this that give Christianity
a bad name!] He promised
the viewers about six months ago or so during one of their
beg-a-thon's, um, telethon's that 'If you just sent in your
offering right now, God has given me the permission to command
the 100-fold blessing on anyone who will give at this time.' 'Oh, this doesn't happen very often, this could
be a once-in-a-lifetime event!'
'Oh get those calls and pledges in, call them in! We really need your money.' (John, why don't you sell your bracelet, that
ought to keep you on the air a few days.)
I wrote him a letter once, but I won't get into that. Anyway, (he never replied), so the phone lines
were absolutely jammed, totally jammed.
And you know what?
The next six months people were waiting for their 100-fold
blessings. It didn't happen, because that's not what God's
Word teaches. In fact,
Jesus said it's more blessed to give than to receive, and
they [these crooks] teach that you should give to get.
That's not what Jesus said.
So anyway, people are writing in and they're getting
close to suing them because they just can't stand the idea
that they're not getting their '100-fold return.' And so now these guys had to come back on the
air and say, 'We consulted Vines' Dictionary, Bible dictionary,
and the real meaning actually didn't mean 100-fold.'
I'm sorry, you sold it to me with the promise of 100-fold. These guys are on the take, ripping people off. God doesn't give you $1000 because you give
$10. He's not going
to do that, it's not the way the Kingdom operates.
Yes, there are blessings to serving the Lord, but it's
not necessarily a big bank account, or health, or prosperity
as we would count prosperity. [Not in this life, but there are plenty of promises
that what we give in this age of ours will be repaid plentifully,
with interest, in the age to come, in God's Kingdom when Eternal
life is bestowed on us. That
is what the Bible teaches. The point Pastor J. Mark Martin is making is
quite accurate, showing that this "health and wealth doctrine"
is not of God's Word, but a distortion of God's Word.] Let's
get real. The Scripture we read earlier this morning,
that Dave read to us, was 'Hey, don't be surprised by the
fiery ordeal that comes among you, as some strange thing were
happening to you. But to the degree that you share in the sufferings
of Christ, keep on rejoicing.'
And so, it's not strange for a Christian to be hurting
or suffering or in poverty, under trials.
That's pretty common, because that's God's way of refining
our lives [and building Godly character].
He wants to refine you. So anyway, the question we ought to ask in not
'Why is this bad thing happening to good old me?!' But what we ought to be asking is 'Why does
anything good happen to bad old me?'
I don't deserve anything but the worst.
And so if I'm not in hell right now, I got a real good
deal right now, because I deserve hell.
You deserve hell. Hmm,
I know Robert Schuller doesn't agree.
'Positive thinkers' today don't agree with that, do
they? 'Me, deserve
hell? Not me. I'm a great big bundle of potentiality.' The Bible says you're lost and going to hell.
You have no potential apart from Jesus Christ.
The only potential facing you is a life of eternity
separated from God [unless you're saved, then all that changes].
And you don't need any more self esteem than you have
right now, we're all born with a great big self esteem.
Ask any baby. All a baby thinks about is itself. Look at the big babies around, too. All they think about is themselves. "Well my self esteem is so low I'm about to
kill myself." That's
because all you think about is yourself.
If you were thinking about those who loved you, you
wouldn't kill yourself, thinking about those whom this would
hurt. "Well, (sniff,
sniff), I'm so ugly, I don't have any self esteem." Well, stop looking in the mirror all the time,
you'd probably forget how ugly you are [laughter]. And don't write me letters, because I'll know
who wrote them [more laughter].
I'm only kidding, I'm not looking at anybody in particular. Why don't you just thank God that you've got
all your limbs and everything, you've got 10 fingers and 10
toes and you have everything you need.
The point is, we need Christ's esteem, we need to hold
him up a lot more than we hold ourselves up, think more highly
of his reputation than we think about ours, think more about
how our life reflects on him, than on how "we are". You see, if we thought more of Jesus and less
of ourselves we wouldn't have a lot of these "self" problems
that we have.
The moral person definitely has some blind
spots. The moral person
[that is without Christ, not born-again] is going to go to
hell just as surely as the pagan person.
The only person that escapes that destiny is the born-again
person, somebody with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
There's only one way to escape
the wrath of God, and that's to flee to Jesus, to run
to Christ, and you have a new beginning.
You can have all the wrong things that you've ever
done washed away, blotted out of memory forever, and you can
begin again. The very
fact that we, before we are saved, have some time to get saved,
shows the goodness of God.
That's the point of verse 3 & 4.
Verse 4, "Or
do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and forbearance
and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you
to repentance." He says, 'Don't think lightly', the Greek
means 'Don't look down your nose at.'
It means, 'value, value the fact that God is dealing
with you right now, first of all, out of his kindness.'
I was thinking just how good God is in the world he
created, it's a good place to live.
I mean, we were picking peaches.
Where do you pick peaches?--in Chandler they were this
size, I was a little disappointed, they looked like apricots,
but we're in Arizona, right?
But even in my back yard we had some nice pear peaches. We just picked them this week. And we found Boysenberries, thorn-less boysenberries,
we go back there and we found four of them [bushes] that were
hidden, they'd crawled into the peach tree.
And that was sort of cool, because here are these four
huge boysenberry bushes, and there just happen to be four
of us out in the backyard, and we gobble them down.
You know, God could have just put nutrition in dirt,
and said, 'OK, eat dirt. I
made you out of dirt, dirt will keep you alive.' And so we'd eat clods of dirt, you know. And we would have never known anything different.
We'd probably be thanking God.But instead he made all
this beautiful stuff and packaged it so neatly.
In our backyard it's so neat.
In our backyard we have this nightblooming cirrus cactus.
Years ago, brother John Strot gave it to me, just a
precious old guy, he's with the Lord now.
This flower only blooms at night, and it's a beautiful
big flower, I mean, it really was this big. And I mean, in the middle of the night these
things open up, these beautiful white petals, they're the
most lacey, frilly looking things.
And you think, 'Well, who's out here to see them?
I'm in bed by the time they wake up and bloom.'
And the Creator, he just did it, let's create this,
you know--the goodness of God.
What if God just said, 'OK, there's water, but you're
going to have to haul it all over the earth to where you want
it.' I mean, by the
truckloads we'd be hauling water.
But instead God had this idea.
'I'm going to turn the water to vapor, and I'm going
to move millions of tons of water [more like billions or trillions
of tons]--I'm going to make it float in the air. And I'm going to just have it go to wherever
I want it to go. It
will fall on the mountains like snow, and I'll preserve it
there, because you're going to need more at certain times
of the year.' God has
got this all figured out.
And then it goes to the ocean and evaporates again
and it comes back! It's neat. The
goodness of God, we see it in creation, we see it in our bodies.
I was thinking, living in my house is like training
for the Olympics right now because we have a 15 month old
and a 3 year old, and they drag everything out, and it's all over the
place. And I was thinking
of the wonder of our bodies because just trying to walk down
the hall, over the child gates, it's like a Triathlon.And
I was thinking the other day how much I was doing, not even
thinking about it, squeezing through this, oops, tight chair,
here.I was thinking it's awesome, how it is being an uncoordinated
person like me and not killing myself, and I can be thinking
about something else and making my way around.
I mean if NASA could have something like us they could
put on the moon or a planet to do all the complicated tasks,
they'd love it. God
created us this way. And
he even gave us eyebrows.
Eyebrows are neat. I was thinking about eyebrows this week too.
You know, without eyebrows the sweat would run right
down into your eyes. But
they're there so that the sweat runs around your eyes [or
that tricky? If he would have made a mistake the sweat would
have just come right in your eyes.you know just the little
things, the goodness of God.
then he goes on to say how God has been good to you with his
forbearance. Forbearance means holding back what you deserve.
It means you deserve that whipping, you deserve that
death penalty, you deserve the punishment, but God holds back.
Now he's holding back for a reason.
This happens at our house too, with two little girls.
They're so precious, they really are. Ellie and Emily,
they got into it the other day, and it was quite a day.
We decided before we went to the pastor's conference
we'd put them both in the stroller and see how it worked [chuckle],
(they were beating up on each other). And little Ellie, she would grab Emily's hair,
and Emily would scream, and so Ellie bit Emily I guess, and
then Emily bit her back, left teeth marks on her face, and
so, you know, I kept forbearing.
"I'm going to spank you guys, Knock it off!"
Of course Emily knows what that means, but Ellie, she
doesn't know what that means. She just learns by doing and she learns this
is a great way to get her sister's attention I guess, great
way to get Mom and Dad's attention.
And finally at the dinner table Emily did one thing
too many and I said, "OK we're getting the spanking stick
(it's just a little paint stick that we use at the right spot,
the biblical spot in the biblical manner.
We try not to do it in anger, not to bruise.
You know I don't want to, it's not child beating or
anything like that.) But
it was time. "I'm getting the spanking stick" I said. Of course that usually has an effect all by
itself. That's usually
good for one. But this
time it was time to get it.
I got it, and just as I was about to give her what
she needed she says "Look Daddy!
Ellie's being silly!"
And these kids, at an early age, they work for one
another. Ellie had taken her spoon and put it in her
mouth like this [side-ways], and we got the giggles, all of
us, and there was no way, it just wasn't going to work.
But think of God's forbearance.
After you're a Christian, God's forbearance, many times
you know what you deserve, a little spank, instead God hasn't
given it to you. He wants you to change without that. And if you're not a Christian this morning,
all the forbearance of God, waiting for you to change your
way, waiting. And then it says "and the patience of God."
The old King James Version calls it "loving-kindness".
The patience of God was shown in the pre-flood world
where God saw that the wickedness of man was exceedingly great
[had reached the point of universal evil] and that every intent
of man's heart was evil continually [cf. Genesis 6-7]. That's what Genesis 6:5 says. The Bible says that God saw that man was wicked
as man could be, and the only way to get rid of the sin was
to flush the whole thing, basically.
That God, rather than doing it, gave men a hundred
and twenty years to repent. He chose a man named Noah and he said to Noah,
he said, 'Noah, you preach and build this ark, and warn this
world of what is coming.'
And for a hundred and twenty years, 12 decades, God
was patient, hoping the world would turn [to him].
For forty years in the wilderness he bore with his
people while they murmured and complained. Once they got to the Promised Land he warned
them 'Stop living like the world around them.
Stop worshipping other gods.
Stop living in immorality.'
But they would not.
And God for eight hundred years warned them that if
they didn't change they were going to go into captivity.
Finally, 800 years later they did.
Now God is very patient, and sometimes this gives people
the wrong idea. They
begin to sneer and say "Oh, you Christians, you've been saying
that God is going to come, and that Jesus is coming.
You've been saying that for hundreds of years. It's just a big hoax. Somebody made a big lie, it's just the way you
keep people subject to you."
God even knew that people would say stupid things like
that. In 2 Peter chapter 3 the Lord says, look, 2nd
Peter, go to the right, you'll find 2nd Peter in
the Bible. 2 Peter 3:3, "Know this first of all," he says,
"that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking,
saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?
For since the fathers everything continues on just
like it's always been.'" And in verse 9 God gives his answer, 'You want
to know why the Lord hasn't come?
Here's the answer.'
"The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count
slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to
come to repentance." It's
just because he's dealing with us in love and mercy and patience
and forbearance and goodness that he hasn't returned.
But you see, Paul is telling us in Romans [2:1-4] 'Now
don't mistake his forbearance, the kindness and patience of
God for weakness. Don't mistake that. Because if you don't repent and turn to God,
you are storing up wrath for you in the day of his judgment. In other words, God is forbearing for one reason
and one reason alone, and that is to draw some of you to Jesus
Christ. He already
today, when we gathered with one group, already today God
has drawn people to himself. God is drawing some of you to himself, today.
It's not a chance that you're here.
It's not an accident. 'Oh, what a coincidence.' No, it's a Divine Appointment that you're here
today, because Jesus Christ wants
you. Jesus Christ wants you. Jesus Christ wants
you to be drawn to him. This
Bible says that you just can't decide to accept Christ. The Bible says that the only way you can accept
Christ is that if the Father draws you to Christ [John 6:44,65]. And that's why it's so important for you today,
that if you don't know if you were to die tonight where you
would go. Where will
you be? I tell you, apart from Jesus Christ, you will
be in hell. I would
be in hell apart from Jesus Christ.
Apart from Jesus Christ that's where you will be.
And the Bible says, unless you have a personal relationship
with him, you won't be in heaven.
You've got to come to Christ to be in heaven [the kingdom
of heaven]. And that's
why it's so important for you--today--if you sense the Lord
drawing you, to respond, because the day may come when God
will stop dealing with you.
And he'll say 'Hey, it's a lost cause, man.'
If you say, 'No' to Christ, and 'No' to the drawing
of the Spirit, you make it easier for yourself to say 'no'
a second time and a third time.
Some have said it week after week after week, for year
after year you've had loved ones trying to bring you to Christ.
You have people who write you letters, people who tell
you they're praying for you.
And you keep hardening your heart.
Well you're in a very dangerous spot, because right
now you're not coming to Christ because you don't want to, because you will not. But the day may shortly come when you cannot,
you see. It's just
God dealing with you in patience, longsuffering, and goodness.
He's given you life.
I was talking to a precious guy in my office on Wednesday,
before the evening service.
And as we were talking he was sharing his heart, it
was clear to me that he was not born-again, he was not a Christian.
He's a very moral man, a really neat guy.
And as we were talking I said "You know," I said, "If
you were to die tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven?"
He says, "No." I said, "I don't think you would go to heaven
if you were to die right now."
I said, "You know where you would go?"
He said "Yeah, I do."
And I said "Don't you want to change that?
We could pray right here, we could pray right here
and you could give your life to Christ." And I was so excited, I thought, 'Man, he's
gonna do it right in my office.
Mike [MacIntosh] always gets to do this with people.
I got one now! Neat
Lord!' And he says, "Well, you know, part of me wants
to,' and he said, 'Yeah, and another part of me doesn't." I said, "really?" I said, "You know what that is?" He says, "The devil?" I said, "You'd better believe it." I said, "There's a war going on for your soul
right now, because you're hanging in the balance." I said, "It's just the mercy of God that your
heart hasn't stopped beating, because if it did you would
die." I said, "Please pray with me right now, and
why don't you give your life to Christ?"
"I just don't know."
Well, part of me wanted to pressure, 'Come on, we're
that close, come on, what's the matter?
Come in,' and the Lord said 'Forget it, kiddo, no one
can come to the Father unless the Father draws him to me.'--so
I said, "Let's pray that God draws you to Jesus."
And let's pray God spares your life until that happens." And so we prayed that prayer and went out.
I had the service, and Wednesday night, crazy message
as it was, he made a decision and accepted Christ as his savior.
Isn't that neat? Praise the Lord. He made a wise decision, you see. Moral person, very moral man. But moral
men and women don't have an inside track with God, you must