God's Character: What He is Really Like

Chapter 51 - Portrait of God #3

I have a message for you on another facet, two facets of God. We're continuing this morning on the portrait of God. The picture that God Himself beams to us to let us know what He is like. I mentioned last week that this will be my final message on the portrait of God. But people have asked me, Pastor, where does God's wrath fit in? What we're hearing is the goodness, the love and this is exciting, this opens up hope, this gives a light and a warmth to the nature of God but where does His wrath fit in? And so this morning, I'm taking these two facets that God uses together, and my text for this, actually just one verse of a text here, and then we're going to use a lot of scriptures we will move along here.


In Romans chapter 11 and verse 22 the Apostle Paul is speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And he speaks about a whole nation being cut off, and then he speaks about the possibility of others who fail to recognize God and His plan and them being cut off. Verse 21, "for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God." If you have a pen I would underline those two words here. Behold the goodness and the severity of God. And in these messages, I'm pointing out here the difference between what God says to an unbeliever and a Christian. To one who knows Him there is a distinct difference, drawing a line, but in seeing this you'll be able to reach out and have a deeper appreciation of God's feeling toward you and you'll also have a great fear and a hatred in moving into that area of God's frown and God's wrath.


"Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God, on them which fell, severity, but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness. Otherwise thou also will be cut off." Now I'd like to read Romans 2:4-11, "Despise thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that His goodness leads thee to repentance?" God's goodness you see is beamed out to the whole world. It's beamed out to men and women who don't even know Him because God wants to lead them out of the area of His wrath. The goodness of God leads you to the gateway where the sunshine is. It's God's goodness that is leading you. And he says, "Despise thou the riches of His goodness?" Would you let God bless you and supply your needs and give you health and strength and let His sun shine upon you and not recognize and not honor Him? This is what he's saying here.


In despising, there are many, many people today that God has blessed abundantly. Men and women pull away from God that God has blessed, but they're despising. The word despising here means to count it insignificant, to count it unimportant, or to put it in an area of little respect. But he tells us that His goodness has purpose, a reason in it. Because God's plan for men and women, God's intention, God had more in mind then just giving people a good crop at a given time or helping them at a certain time. God had more in mind. God said, "Everything that I'm doing, I'm prodding and helping and opening up doors so I could get that person back in fellowship with Me." This is what He wants; this is God's plan, God's pattern.


So we read on here, "despises thou the riches of His goodness and the forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart you are treasuring up for thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. But unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil of the Jew first and also the Gentile. But glory, he's given you the end now of the path of repentance, the path of the impenitent, but glory, honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile for there is no respect of persons with God."


All right, now we're going to show you first of all this mercy of God, how it's seen, and the path that God has opened of His mercy. We want you to see this facet of God's face as it shines upon us so we can recognize His care, His concern. And we who are believers and I believe most of us are this morning; need a continual glimpse of God. We need to see God as He is, then we're going to be able to help other people to see Him as He is. I would like to have you turn to Deuteronomy chapter four way back in the Old Testament here. We're going to look for areas of mercy, glimpses, and portraits of God here. We're going to see mercy declared, mercy revealed, and mercy extended.


Here in mercy declared, notice first of all I'm going to drop clear back to verse seven, I'm just going to pick a couple of these verses and then over to verse 23. "For what nation is there so great who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all of the things that we call upon Him for? Our God is great, He's doing it. Only take heed to thyself and keep thy soul diligently lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life. But teach them to thy sons and thy son's sons." Now we're reading from verse 23, "take heed unto yourselves lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make you a graven image or the likeness of anything which the Lord thy God have forbidden thee. For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. When thou shall begat children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land and shall corrupt yourselves and make a graven image or the likeness of anything and shall do evil in the sight of the Lord thy God to provoke Him to anger. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land, where unto ye go unto Jordan to possess it, you shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.


Now he's telling us here that this is God's truth, God's indictment upon people who fail Him, who remove themselves from Him. But read on down now, the mercy of God is something that God does not enact that something we can claim but rather plead for. His truth states the condition, God's love, God's indictment, and God's demands of us. But notice as we go along here how the mercy of God is seen, "and the Lord shall scatter you among the nations and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen wherever the Lord shall leave you. And there shall ye serve gods, the works of men's hands which neither see nor hear, nor smell." Listen now, "but if from thence, thou shall seek the Lord thy God thou shall find Him if thou seek Him with all of thy heart and with all of thy soul. When thou art in tribulation and all of these things come upon thee, even in the latter days if thou turn to the Lord thy God and shall be obedient unto His voice," now He's telling you why, He can make a definite statement that you're going to be destroyed and still help. Here's the reason, "for the Lord thy God is a merciful God. He will not forsake thee neither destroy thee."


What is it God here, you say you're going to destroy and now you say you're not going to destroy. God says in My truth and in My justice I must destroy, but because I'm God in My grace and mercy I can provide a way to escape. Praise God. One of the things that God has helped me do in this community is open a door of hope for men and women who have refused God. They've gone their own way, they feel like they've been cut off and others have told them the same thing, but He in His mercy says, "I will not destroy you. If you'll call unto Me, I'm leaving you an option. I'm leaving you a door open," Hallelujah, can you see God, can you see Him?" He is not the rigid God, that many people paint Him to be, and hold Him out to be, that one trip up or a dozen or fall into the very lowest depth.


This area that he spoke of here was the farthest point away from God a person could get, but He said if you call unto Me from thence I will hear you. His whole key is call. Then He went on to say He will not forsake thee neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which He swore unto thee. Well, praise God. I just wanted to give you a little picture of His mercy there, and here He is revealing His mercy and He's extending it clear to the farthest end. He's given a guarantee. This is part of His restoration strategy; this was written right into His plan and His purpose.


Now I would like to have you turn over to Psalm 125 beginning with verse eight. The whole book of Psalm is so beautiful, a lot of extolling God for what He is and for who He is. But I'm going to read beginning with verse seven, "They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness and sing of Thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all of His works. The Lord is nigh unto all them who call upon Him, who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them who fear Him also He will hear their cry and save them." I'd like to go back to Psalm 86. These are verses that can be a message, a voice from God to your heart. Verse five, "For Thou O Lord art good and ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon Thee. Verse 15, "But Thou O Lord art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, plenteous in mercy and truth. Now these verses that were given are stating God's position. They're letting us see God and giving tees to find Him.


He tells us, "If we call unto Him, mercy will be open. Now He tells us if we confess, in Proverbs 28:13, "He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy." Praise God. He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesses and forsake them shall have mercy. Psalm 103 verses eight to 18. There are some beautiful things to underline here. David discovered this. Though David fell into some deep gross sin, David felt the cold rays of the dark side of God upon him. Now he cried out in verse eight, "The Lord is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, plenteous in mercy." And here's how it's seen. "He will not always chide, neither will He keep His anger forever." He will not, so there's anger that rises in the heart of God through the wickedness and rebellion and all these things. When a man turns toward Him and confesses and forsakes, He will not hang on to that anger any longer. He will not keep that anger forever. "He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far is the east is from the west so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him for He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass. As the flower of the field so he flourished for the wind passes over it and is gone. And the place thereof shall knoweth know more, but the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon all them that fear Him and His righteousness unto children's children."


Now He mentioned the goodness and the severity of God. God in His own declaration of what He was like to Moses over in Exodus 34 verses 6 and 7. He gives both sides of the picture. And he tells them regarding His love, His goodness, the bright side, His intention for man. The thing He desires for man is His grace, His mercy, His love, and His peace and so on. But He does tell us that there is definitely a dark side and here where He showed Himself to Moses and proclaimed what He was like and declared what He was like, the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, "the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth." God said this is first to Moses. This is first, this is what I, my intention I'm giving you first. But this does not erase the fact that there's something else. But where mankind has made such a mistake and gotten himself into such trouble, man has reversed the order and they have started in on the wrath of God and the darkness of God and destroyed the hope and the possibility of people really seeing Him. And so many, many times people live all their lives in torment because their view of God is one that is of His wrath first, that they themselves must appease the wrath of God and Christ has taken care of that for those who call upon Him. But then He does tell us that even those who are away from God, God keeps mercy for them. He beams His goodness upon them and His truth, and His ministry and His love He beams unto them. He says that because He shows His mercy, because He shows His goodness does not clear them. They still must accept.


Now there are a lot of people that feel that because God hasn't smitten them, hasn't stricken them dead, that they're okay. And there are messages that, and philosophies that because God isn't willing that any should perish and because He has every name recorded down waiting for confirmation, that everyone is just automatically part of God's big family and is going to make it without any particular act on their part. God Himself gives His picture here, He says, "because I keep mercy for 1000's, forgive iniquity, transgression and sin, because I do that, this will by no means clear the guilty." They're going to have to come and take it. He's keeping it for them and He's showing it to them and He has it ready for them. He's made provision for all of them, but He says, "You're going to have to take it. I want you to want what I have for you like I want to give it to you." Praise God.


All right, let's turn to Isaiah chapter 55 verse seven. Here He speaks about the abundant pardon that God has provided for those who love Him and walk with Him. "Let the wicked forsake his way, the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord and He will have mercy." There's that word again, "upon him and to our God for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither My ways are your ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." It's God in His mercy who is drawing people to Himself. In Jonah as God spoke to Jonah God said He was slow to anger and pleasant, plenty in mercy.


Micah 7:18, He said He would not retain or keep His anger; we brought that out in another verse as well. I would like for you now to turn to Nehemiah. Nehemiah chapter nine verse 16. Now God is speaking here about a people that had pulled themselves away from God, but God said that He was ready when they would cry, listen to it here. "But they, and our fathers dealt proudly and hardened their necks and hearkened not to thy commandments, refused to obey, neither were mindful of Thy wonders that Thou didst among them but hardened their necks and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage. But thou are a God ready to pardon," underline that little clause ready to pardon, "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and a great kindness and even in all of this Thou forsook him not." And he went on, speaking of these things, verse 18, "yea when they had made them a molten calf and said, "this is thy god that hast brought us out of Egypt and had wrought great provocations, yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsook them not in the wilderness. And the pillar...to testified against them to turn to Thee and they wrought great provocations. Therefore thou delivered them into the hand of their enemies who vexed them, and in the time of their trouble when they cried unto Thee, Thou heard them from heaven according to Thy manifold mercies.


Can you see those rays, those flashes of light of God's mercy? Can you see it? Verse 30 and 31, "yet many years didst Thou forbear them and testified against them, by Thy Spirit and the prophets, yet they would not give ear, therefore gave thou them into the hand of the people of the lands. Nevertheless for thy mercies sake, Thou didst not utterly consume them nor forsake them for Thou art a gracious and merciful God." I wonder how many of you can relate to that today. How many times did you defy God, did you turn from God? How many times in your own heart did you wonder, "How can God have anything to do with me?" I wonder if there's anybody here this morning that ever felt like that. Let me see your hands, okay there's a lot of you. God in His mercy, God in His mercy kept after you, kept after you, kept after you, because His mercies were from everlasting to everlasting and He wanted to bring you to that place of renewal. He wanted to bring you to that place of reconciliation more than He wanted to destroy you. In His plan, all of these things, He said that there's still a little bit of hope, it's like a little fire that has gone out but there's still a little bit of smoke there. He says, "I'm going to fan it so I can get a blaze. It's like the reed that was broken, bruised and it's lost its stiffness there. He said, "I'm going to see if I can make that reed grow again." This is God's mercy that's extended to us.


With all of this mercy God gives now the other side. He said don't despise this mercy, don't despise it. When I think of a little verse over there in Micah the sixth chapter and the eighth verse, He said, "Son of man, what is it that God requires of you?" Have you ever in your heart as you've heard so many different things going out that were God's requirements, have you ever wondered, "God what in a nutshell, what in a capsule of truth do you really require? What could I ask my heart and answer that You require?" And here God told Micah what He required of the sons of man. He said, "I require that you love mercy first of all, that you be so thankful that I've shown mercy to you, that you love mercy. That you walk humbly with thy God, to do justly, to be fair to God, fair to your own soul, fair to others, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. God has shown us what to do: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. When God shows us this mercy, and I'm giving this to you this morning, it may be somewhere along the line that the enemy will want to tempt you to turn away from God and you will discount, feel tempted to discount His mercy. But I trust this morning that we will appreciate that we will thank God for that mercy that He has shown to us over and over and over and over and over again. If God didn't show mercy to us today where would we be folks, where would we be?


Would you like just to take a minute right now and give God a great big audible word of thanks for His mercy, would you do it? Let's everybody right here, let's just lift our hands and thank God right now for His mercy that's been extended. "Jesus we do thank you, we do praise you for the mercy of God that has brought us to this place this morning. The mercy that has been beamed from your heart to us. Oh Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, may your mercy be sensed and felt and appreciated by every one of your children this morning. Oh Hallelujah, we love your mercy today. Praise God forever. Praise God."


And He tells us not only to love mercy, not to despise it. But He tells us what causes His wrath to come. Ephesians chapter five beginning in verse one, "Be ye therefore followers of God dear children and walk in love as Christ also has loved us and has given Himself for us an offering as a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." Actually those two verses go with the last three verses of chapter four. He gives the walk of the Christian, of what God expects, of what God wants from His believers, beginning with verse 29, "let no corrupt communication precede out of your mouth but that which is good for the use of edifying that it may minister grace to the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God for by ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted forgiving one another even as God for Christ' sake has forgiven you."


You're going to be showing that you love mercy in this way. Now here's what He tells you to avoid, "but fornication and all uncleanness, covetedness, let it be not once named among you as becoming saints. Neither filthiness nor foolish talking, nor jesting which are not convenient but rather the giving of thanks. For this you know that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you of vain words for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience going their own way, refusing God. If they even hear, if they call upon Him, He said He would answer. He's listening but this is the path of the wrath of God and I want you to underline something in verse six there. There are a lot of people, do you know that every person who defies God and goes their own way has some way of justifying what they're doing? Many times they'll search the scripture and find verse after verse after verse and say, "well look," well satan can use verses too you know. If you're seeking for verses to justify sin, you're looking the wrong direction. But no man he said deceive you with vain words. So what? God doesn't really care. God does care and His Word is so plain. God cares, for these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. "Be ye therefore not partakers with them," then he tells us, "for you were sometimes in darkness but now are ye light in the Lord. Walk as children of Light. From chapter 4:29-32, He tells you how children of Light walk like. Turn over to Colossians chapter 3 and verse five through six, "mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil conscience, covetousness which is idolatry, for which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience."


Listen folks, we're living in a day, when satan is taking dead aim on people in one area, possibly more than any other area. And that's in the area of their mortal. He's attacking them, he has directed those who have sold themselves out to him and removing the sacredness and seriousness from sex and caused it to be something that's wide open, promisivness, and that anyone who takes a stand against this looseness of our day is just an old fuddy duddy. And some religious groups, they even tell us are trying to find ways and means of looking through the Bible. I read of one organization that is called PHC, to try and find out to put a new twist that sex is not part of the marriage bond. That it has no bearing upon that, in that people regardless of what their type of philosophy of life is, whether it's homosexual or whatever, that they have a right to their own. God says you don't, He said His wrath is going to come. So don't let somebody with some vain, empty words and some reasoning tell you differently.


I believe that today we ought to build a strong wall around our own lives, that wall of faith. We ought to determine before God that the enemy, though he comes, he's not going to find a place to get a hold of us in this area. I believe that you husbands and wives ought to band together in Jesus name. Take a new look at your own position, for God has told us that He is the author of love. He puts it in our hearts, but He asks us to make sure we control the focus of it. He said you can set your affection on things above. He said, "Husbands set your affection on your wives, love your wives." We can turn our affection, He said set them not here, and not here, but in that direction. He said the wrath of God for those that defy God, and with their empty words and reasoning justify it. We need to return, recognize God's mercy and also recognize the dark side here, the wrath of God that is reserved for those who turn away from Him. Turn to Romans chapter two. We're going to close on a note of victory because every one of us is going to slam the door on what the enemy is trying to do to us. Look at verse five. He's talking about those who would despise and turn away from the goodness and the longsuffering of God. He said but after thy hardness, and thy impenitent heart. Do you want to know what brings the wrath of God? It's when God reveals His light and helps you and deals with you and tugs at you and shows His mercy towards you and there's impenitence there. "But after thy hardness and thy impenitent heart, you're treasuring up unto thyself wrath. You're putting wrath into that bank account, stored up against the day of wrath, though God's payday is not every Saturday night, it's there. Some people may say that since an evil work is not speedily executed that God doesn't care. He does care, He does care. But the thing that I want you to know is that there are two sides, His mercy, His mercy, His mercy, His wrath, His wrath, His wrath, and He's calling, because of His mercy that He's beaming on these people that are storing up wrath for themselves, that mercy is not because He does not know their condition. That mercy is shown to them so they can repent. Aren't you thankful that there is the bright side of God? Wouldn't it be awful if we had to live in this dark side, just looking forward to nothing but wrath and judgment and fire and condemnation? We're still on this side where we can accept His mercy, call on Him and know that when we accept His mercy, when we're repentant toward Him, that those condemnatory challenges of His Word are not against us anymore. Right now let's all stand and worship the Lord. And in some way from your heart, express your love for Him.