Lavished with abounding love

We saw God as demanding, requiring and exacting His price,
yet His only desire has been to will and to work within us. 
We imagined that God was denying us good things, 
yet He stands willing to give us a superabundance of good gifts.

 

Seeing a harsh, angry, unforgiving God who wants to severely punish us is not only a story that natural man has told. But it is also a story about God that Christians have told.

Fifteen hundred years ago, a Christian theologian (Augustine) told a story about how God only loves some people. According to him, those who he doesn’t love, he wants to punish. Yet scripture says, 

“God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son…” (John 3:16).

and

“He is the propitiation for …  the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

A thousand years ago, a Christian theologian (Anselm) developed a theory of atonement called “appeasement.” This theory pictures God’s justice and His love to be separate. It teaches that God’s honour was so offended by Adam’s sin, that His justice required punishment in order for Him to love humans again. In other words, Jesus’ death on a cross enabled God to overcome God’s own internal conflict between justice and love.

The idea that Jesus helped to satisfy a conflict within the heart of God is an awful idea. And it tells an awful story about the character of God. It is extremely unbiblical, for scripture tells us:

“God … reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

God was actively loving us and reconciling us to Himself through Jesus. Yet the idea that Jesus sacrifice was designed to appease the anger of an angry God has influenced theologians, preachers and teachers even down to today.

Last century, a pastor became famous preaching for preaching sermon named, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In this sermon, and others, he told the story of how God’s wrath and justice was completely disconnected from God’s love. He told how God’s justice wants to torture and punish people. He said,

“the God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire” (Johnathan Edwards).

All over the world, there are Christians worried about God. They worry about whether they are facing an angry God. They worry because they’ve learned that God is angry and severe, and wants to punish them. While this story has been dressed up as Christian, it flies in the face of the knowledge of God we find in Jesus Christ.

The gospel

When writing to the Colossians, Paul described the beautiful truth about Christ’s gift of salvation to you.

“For in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Galatians 2:9–14).

We’re going to read this carefully. But we’ll change the order a little bit.

Dead in trespasses

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh…” (Colossians 2:13a).

Here Paul tells us there are two reasons why we were lost. We were dead in trespasses, because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The “wages of sin” simply mean the consequences of sin. The consequence of sin is death, because when sin reigns unchecked, it rapidly escalates to violence and murder. The consequence of sin is death.

We were also dead because of the uncircumcision of our flesh. The uncircumcision of our flesh means that natural man—human nature—is not holy to God, but it is resistant to the things of God. The uncircumcision of our flesh leads us to:

“… sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry… anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk…” (Colossians 3:5b, 8b).

Alive in Christ

“…God made [you] alive together with him…” (Colossians 2:13b).

To hear that we were dead, but we have now been made alive, is terrific news! That’s fantastic news! We must rejoice, and praise god, and thank His Name for this terrific news!

How did God make me alive?

If the wages—the consequences—of sin is death, then it seems that the outcome for everyone is death. 

But then God intervened. 

“…having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13b, 14).

Yet God tallied up all of Man’s indebtedness to death. He tallied up all the sins you have ever committed, and all the sins you are ever going to commit. He added that to all the sins I have ever committed, and all the sins I am ever going to commit. He made a huge long list of all these sins. Then He nailed the ledger containing all the indebtedness of the sins of the whole world to the cross, in Jesus’ body (cf 1 Peter 2:24).

And Jesus, when He last spoke, said,

“Paid in full!” (John 19:30).

“Completed!” (John 19:28).

“It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Jesus paid death. He paid in full the debt of all the sins of the world. He filled death’s account with something infinite: His very own self.

“Paid in full!” (John 19:30).

Your debt to death is paid in full, if your life is hid in Christ Jesus.

Immersed in Christ

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11, 12).

Remember us talking about being immersed in Christ? Well, here is Paul’s description of circumcision and immersion of the heart.

While the uncircumcision of our flesh seals us away from the grace of God, preventing Christ from immersing us. But, praise be to God, Christ is able to circumcise our flesh, through the baptism of His Spirit in us (Colossians 2:11).

If you are immersed in Christ, you are not only immersed into His death, but also immersed into His life. If you are immersed in Christ, then you are filled with “Christ’s substance,” and your heart will overflow with streams of living water (John 7:38).

God raised Christ to life, and when He did so, He raised you, in Christ, to life (Ephesians 2:5, 6), so that He could show you immeasurable kindness in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).

God is united in you

“For in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:9, 10).

God filled Christ, so that God reigned in Him. And you have been filled with Christ, so that God reigns in you too. The destiny of the universe is for God to reign “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). But if you are Christ’s, this has already come true in you.

It was Christ’s prayer that we should be united with God—“perfectly one” (John 17:23). And if God reigns in Christ, and Christ reigns in you, then indeed you are “perfectly one” with God.

So, through the sacrifice of God in Man, God was able to reunite Himself with you. But not only with you, but also everyone willing to repent, believe, submit, confess and praise the Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

But that’s not all

You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? You’d think, “How could I possibly have better news than being reunited with God?”

But the news gets even better. Because in addition to the gift of life, and unity, and completion and perfection in Jesus Christ, God comes bearing gifts.

After all, He’s the God who celebrated your return with a party. And at this party, He is ready to give you gifts.

“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:4–12).

We are immersed in Christ; we are filled with the same Spirit; we are empowered by the same God—yet each of is given different gifts.

There are unique gifts for me, for Shane, for Dennis, for David, for Paul, and for everyone else here. The Spirit of God is overflowing with gifts that enable us to bless each other.

For we are called to exercise these gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. It is our privilege to join Christ in helping everyone around us. And God has enabled us to do so with the gifts He’s given to us.

Truly, God is above all aboundingly kind, loving and generous to us. His love abounds.


References:

This message based on Colossians 2:9–14; 1 Corinthians 12:4–12.