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The Goodness of God's Love

God is Love  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:18
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The privilege of God’s grace and love are not to be taken lightly. With greater privilege comes greater responsibility; and those who sin against God’s goodness will only deepen their condemnation.

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God’s love is consistent with His character.

Our concept of God must match Scripture.
A proper concept of God provides the foundation of all that is absolutely essential to spiritual life and health.
Because of this, a distorted concept of who God is makes genuine faith utterly impossible and the results are spiritually fatal.
This is the real danger posed by the contemporary misunderstanding of God’s love: millions are kept in spiritual darkness by a notion of God that is completely out of balance. They want a God who is loving but not wrathful.
Their view of God is self-defeating, in an effort to have a loving-only God, they strip any and all meaning away from God’s love.
However, this is not the God of Scripture. Therefore, they are worshipping a god of their own making and their concept of God constitutes idolatry.
We must balance our view of God’s love with His other attributes.
Throughout this series, I’m going to harp on one major point over and over and over; until you roll your eyes every time I say it. Every lesson, we are going to talk about, reinforce, and connect everything back to one major point that summarizes everything:
It is crucial that we maintain the biblical balance of God’s love and His other attributes in our understanding of love.
Biblical love is not an overpowering, all-consuming fit of passion; it is a complementary characteristic that guides and is guided by our Christian character.
Hebrews 7:26
Therefore, while we study God’s love, we must keep in mind Hebrews 7:26:
Hebrews 7:26 ESV
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
and
Psalm 7:11-13
Psalm 7:11–13 ESV
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.
and
Hebrews 12:29
Hebrews 12:29 ESV
for our God is a consuming fire.
and
Exodus 20:5
Exodus 20:5 ESV
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
God’ love for the righteous demands His wrath for the wicked.
God’s wrath is not inconsistent with His love.
It is precisely because He so completely loves what is true and right that He must hate all that is false and wrong.
Because He so perfectly loves His children, He seeks what blesses and enlightens them, and hates all that curses and debases them.
Therefore, His wrath against sin is an expression of His love for His people; and when He exercises vengeance against the enemies of truth, that reveals His protective love for His chosen ones.
Genesis 10:8-12
One example of this is Nineveh, a city that was Israel’s nemesis for several centuries. Nineveh was an ancient city founded by Nimrod, and first appears in the Old Testament in Genesis 10:8-12. In a nutshell, it was the centerpiece of the kingdom of Babylon; an empire famous as the source of virtually every false religious system.
Revelation 17:5
That is why Revelation 17:5 condemns:
Revelation 17:5 ESV
And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”
From its very beginning, Nineveh was steeped in wickedness and opposed everything the true God stood for and visa versa.
Consequently, in Nineveh, both the goodness and severity of God were put on full display. In fact, in all of the stories of the Bible, God’s love and His wrath are never contrasted so clearly as they are in Nineveh.

God’s love is patience, compassion, and grace.

God is steadfast in His loving plan of redemption.
Enter the Book of Jonah. It’s likely that we are all familiar with the story, but humor me to briefly recap.
Commanded by God to go to Nineveh, Jonah boards a ship in the Mediterranean, which is headed in the opposite direction of God’s destination for him.
God causes a deadly storm to come upon the ship which leads the crew to discover that Jonah had disobeyed and angered God and, upon Jonah’s own instructions, they threw him overboard.
A great fish, sent from God, swallows Jonah and the prophet spends three days praying his repentance before God. Jonah is miraculously spared and the fish vomits Jonah up onto dry land.
Jonah 3:1-2
Jonah 3:1-2 tells us that God is steadfast in His loving plan to redeem Nineveh:
Jonah 3:1–2 ESV
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
God’s love for sinners and His desire to save them is genuine.
Have you ever wondered why Jonah attempted to avoid going to Nineveh?
It certainly was not because he feared the city’s people. He was not intimidated by the thought of preaching God’s Word to pagans. There is nothing in Scripture that indicates that Jonah was the least bit timid in the face of the Lord’s enemies. In fact, what little we do know about him suggests he was not a shy man by any means.
Jonah 4:2
Consider the explanation he gave God:
Jonah 4:2 ESV
And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
Basically, because Jonah knew God loves sinners and seeks to save them, Jonah did not want to warn the Ninevites.
He would have been happiest if God had wiped the Ninevites from the face of the earth without any warning whatsoever.
In fact, what Jonah did fear was that the city would actually repent and then God would show patience and love to them and forestall His judgment. Which is exactly what happened.
Humanity’s perspective of good and evil is flawed.
Nineveh was huge, it took three days to walk from one side to the other; Jonah 3:3 tells us:
Jonah 3:3 ESV
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.
Most historians believe Nineveh’s population at this point would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000 people total. Yet Jonah had barely been there a day, preaching the most simple message of repentance ever, and this happens in Jonah 3:4-6:
Jonah 3:4-6
Jonah 3:4–6 ESV
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
In fact, I feel like Jonah was a bit disingenuous. He really didn’t even preach repentance, He just went around screaming at people that God was going to destroy them.
Nevertheless, it was the most extraordinary spiritual revival the world has ever seen.
Jeremiah 18:8
Jeremiah 18:8 explains what happens next:
Jeremiah 18:8 ESV
and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
Jonah spoke a prophecy of wrath and judgment against a people who were egotistical God-hating pagans.
The revival utterly changed the people of Nineveh and transformed them into humble penitents, so God stayed His hand of judgment and forgave them out of His love.
From a human perspective, it is certainly understandable that Jonah, and probably all of Israel, would have preferred that God simply destroy Nineveh.
But the human perspective is flawed. Oh, what trouble we would all be in if God operated on a human perspective!
However, God is a God of patience, compassion, and grace. Because God was willing to show mercy to a wicked society, He was glorified in an unparalleled display of His great love for sinners.

God’s love is shown through the gift of repentance.

God’s love for sinners does not mean he will overlook their sins.
Furthermore, God’s love and mercy generously offered to such an evil culture give us insight into the very heart of God.
It is His nature to love, to show mercy, and to have compassion.
However, I want you to be careful to remember this: when God stayed His hand of judgment on Nineveh, He did not merely overlook the sins of that society, allow them to continue their evil, and just love and accept them anyway.
There was a very real threat of God’s wrath destroying every single one of them, down to the youngest infant.
As a result, even the king shed his royal garments, put on sackcloth, and proclaimed a fast.
The ability to repent is, in itself, a loving gift from God.
It is astonishing that a culture of wicked arrogance and bold rebellion against God could be instantly reduced to the lowest humility, repenting in sackcloth and ashes.
The only explanation is that the revival was a miracle of God; He reached into their hearts and changed the Ninevites. As Lamentations 5:21 says:
Lamentations 5:21
Lamentations 5:21 ESV
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—
God must restore us if we are to be restored at all. True repentance from sin is always a gift from God.
The very act of the Ninevites repentance was confirmation of the sovereign grace and loving mercy of God. Had He not turned their hearts, they would never have turned.
Hugh Martin comments on the story of the Ninevites:
Doubtless, the hand of God is to be traced in this, and His power and gracious influence on their hearts. And a very wondrous work it is of the grace of God, that a city such as Nineveh - great, and violent, and proud, and of haughty spirit - should have been so greatly, so suddenly humbled to believe the message of God. Surely God’s Holy Spirit was with God’s holy Word among them: and very powerful, though secret, were his operations. It is impossible to account for their faith without attributing it to the operation of God upon their hearts, and the sovereign mercy of God towards them.....When Nineveh believed God, was this not a faith which was “not of themselves”? Was it not “the gift of God”?
We cannot falsify our faith before God.
In opposition, some suggest that the faith of the Ninevites was not true, saving faith.
However, you would have to have a very distorted view of God to believe that we are somehow capable of deceiving Him into forgiving the unfaithful.
In addition, it seems obvious to me that Christ’s own testimony is that the conversion of the multitudes in Nineveh was authentic. In fact, Jesus cited Nineveh’s repentance as a witness against His own generation in Matthew 12:41 (Luke 11:32):
Matthew 12:41 (Luke 11:32)
Matthew 12:41 ESV
The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Therefore, an entire generation of Ninevites was brought into the kingdom of God solely by His loving grace.
What were the long-term effects of this revival though? Admittedly, what little we know is not encouraging. Sadly, within a generation or so after this revival, the people of Nineveh revert back to their old ways.
God’s love and His gift of repentance are not to be taken for granted.
This brings us to a crucial truth about God’s love and goodness:
Luke 12:48
Luke 12:48 ESV
But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
The privilege of God’s grace and love are not to be taken lightly.
With greater privilege comes greater responsibility, and those who sin against God’s goodness will only deepen their condemnation.

Conclusion

The history of Nineveh illustrates this truth in a graphic way. One blessed generation received the goodness of God when what they deserved was His wrath.
But the glory soon departed. The mercy of God to that generation of Ninevites was soon forgotten. A new generation returned to the extreme wickedness and sin of their forefathers. God’s goodness to the city of Nineveh became a distant memory.
Those years after Jonah’s revival were the very years when the Assyrian empire became the dominant world power, increasing in military might and political influence.
Taking advantage of the gift of God’s mercy, Nineveh became the most powerful city in the entire world. Meanwhile, Assyria continued to wage open war against the people of God.
Soon God was once again more hated than feared by the Ninevites.
But, as we will learn next week, God was not through with Nineveh.
That wretched city, which had been blessed with so much of God’s goodness and love only to reject God Himself, was about to learn all about Hebrews 10:31:
Hebrews 10:31 ESV
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

PRAYER

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