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About this series
The Real God
How He Longs for You to See Him
There is a deep sense of unease in our rapidly changing world. Popular culture says that love means self-satisfaction and that status and appearance are what count. Social media reinforces that It’s all about me. This ultimately self-destructive perspective has thoroughly infiltrated the Church as confusion replaces conviction. At the root of our problems lies a distorted view of God. We’ve created a god in our minds that comforts our emotions but is powerless to deliver us from evil or transform our lives – because our creation is actually an idol based on who we think God is, not who He says He is. The way back to truth and hope starts with knowing God as He declares Himself to be. The Real God is an in-depth study of seven attributes of God – His goodness, sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, justice, love, and faithfulness. You’ll see and understand Him in a whole new light. It will revolutionize the way you think about God, others, and yourself. Are you ready for a new adventure? Join Chip on this journey to discover the real God.More from this series
There’s a private battle that every true follower of Christ must face and you must win. There are no exceptions. The battle is for your heart. It’s for your affections. It’s for your loyalty.
We call it a lot of things. Some people call it surrender. Others call it being all in. Others say it’s being totally committed. Jesus said it’s picking up your cross, denying yourself, and following Him and saying that He and He alone is the Lord of your life.
And there’s lots of competition. There’s an entire world system that is designed to woo your heart away from your Savior who loves you.
The barrier is FOMO. F-O-M-O. It’s gotten a lot of press lately among Millennials. Fear of missing out. If you Wikipedia “FOMO” you’ll find just all kinds of information about Millennials and they are online and they are so afraid that while they are online over here, they are missing something here. Or there is a party going on that they don’t know about and there’s this idea that somehow FOMO is this thing that keeps us not enjoying the present, not being who we are supposed to be, living with this fear that we are going to miss out.
Well I’ve got news. It’s not new. And it has not just to do with Millennials. The very first sin by our first parents was FOMO. “Eve, don’t you understand that he is holding out on you? Don’t you really want to be wise? Don’t you want a better life? God is not really good. Has God really said…?” The first sin that ever occurred was a belief that God was not a good God, that He was holding out on us, and that you are going to miss out by allowing Him to be the Lord of your life.
The breakthrough, I am convinced, for all of us, is not trying harder, not seeing someone who is more committed, not saying, “This time I am really in. I’ll do anything! I’ll go anywhere!” And out of your flesh and energy say, “Okay, I am really going to be committed, even though…” Because we have all done that and what happens? You cycle back, cycle back, cycle back.
The breakthrough, I believe, comes when you actually believe that God is good, that He is for you, that the path of His will, though difficult on the front end, is the good, the acceptable; that the highest good that you will ever receive, the best relationships, the best decisions, the best future – that, literally – that surrender or total commitment because God is good is the channel through which His biggest and best blessings flow. And that the most intellectually feasible, the emotionally fulfilling path that you could ever take would be do exactly what God says because all His commandments are for your good.
And rather than being prohibitive, His commands are like guardrails on a winding path and if you would break through the guardrails, there’s a thousand-foot drop and He so loves you and so loves me He gives us guardrails about relationships and sexuality and money and decision making. All so that we land and experience the very best because you’re the object of His affection.
But I am deeply convinced that many of us don’t believe in our hearts that God is really good.
Tozer said what comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about us, and that there is a secret law of the soul that you and I will move and make decisions, consciously and unconsciously, toward our mental image of God. And if God is not good, if He is not for you, if you don’t believe that at the core of your being, then you will constantly struggle with commitment, constantly struggle with manipulating, constantly struggle with: How can I get as close to sin as possible but not fall in? And then ultimately never really fully trust God.
The thesis of this whole study is that our distorted view of God is at the root of all of our problems. Your fears, your anxieties, your relational breakdowns, your sense about the future, your conflict in relationships – at the root of all of our problems, it goes back to a distorted view of God that gives us a distorted view of ourselves, a distorted view of the future, a distorted view of relationships, so we have this scarce pie mentality. There’s not much to go around. I better get mine. If I don’t have this position, if I don’t have this, if I don’t look like this, if I don’t own that, if people don’t think this about me…
And we have all this stuff going on and then we are bombarded by media and a world system that says, “If you look like this or if you have this or if you own this or if you have accomplished this then you are a somebody.
And so our significance, our security is all wrapped around chasing the wind as opposed to realizing there is a good God who is completely for you and it brings rest to your soul. And you can trust Him. But I will tell you, it’s a battle.
So in our study, we are going to start with the goodness of God because it is foundational.
The theologians call God “simple,” and what they mean by that is, think of the character of God as a diamond. And that as you would tilt the diamond and put light on it, it would reveal different facets. But it’s one diamond.
It’s not like God is holy and then on some other days He is loving. His holiness, His infinitude, His self-sufficiency, His justice, His compassion – they all work as a simple unit. He is always holy in all of His love. He is always loving in all of His justice. He is always compassionate, even in judgment.
But I think one of the things that we miss and is foundational is the goodness of God. If God isn’t good, life makes no sense. As Tozer would say, “Heaven can become a hell and hell can become a heaven.” There is no values if there is no goodness.
And so often if you want to study something, go to where the concept first pops up in Scripture. And so I am going to ask you to turn with me to Exodus chapter 33 and chapter 34.
And as you turn there, I will give you the context. Moses has seen God’s power. He has seen the miracles. He is a reluctant servant. “Lord, send somebody else, not me.” But he has now seen the Nile turned to blood, he has seen the parting of the Red Sea, there’s a fire by night, there’s a cloud moving by day. He has seen miraculous things.
And as he has now an intimate relationship with God, the psalmist gives us some insight. Psalm 103, verse 7 is one of those interestingly hinge verses. It says, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.” His ways. All of Israel saw His acts, right? Power, deliverance, power, deliverance.
How many of those people who saw all of His acts entered the Promised Land and believed God? God’s acts will never sustain you. Everyone in this room, we all probably have a big challenge – one of our kids is in a jam or we have a health issue or a financial issue or something is upside down or you have a big fear about something.
And all of us – what? We pray, this is human, Oh, God, if You would just do this. And let’s just say, hypothetically, whoo, He miraculously did that big thing in your life. I will guarantee, thirty days from now, I could sit down with you and you would be asking for the next big thing. Oh, if You would just change so-and-so’s heart. If You would only…
And God, supernaturally, if you would look in the rearview mirror in a group like this, He has intervened in your life in supernatural ways, acts that are deliverance are evidence of His kindness and His goodness.
But God’s acts don’t sustain us. His ways do. And Moses, after seeing all those acts and in interacting with God, he makes this outrageous, bold request that I think thrilled God’s heart. “Show me Your glory!” he says. “I want to see You face to face. I want to know all of who You are.” And God says, again, some of these translations are sort of the Ingram telling the story through my lens. So don’t look for this right in the Bible.
But I think God’s response, in essence, was, “You have no idea what you’re asking.” And what He actually did say is, “No one can see Me and live.” But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I think when God sees a seeking heart, He says, “Moses, you get over there, edge back in those rocks and what I am going to do is I am going to pass by you. And then I am going to give you just a glimpse of My back.”
And then notice in your notes, when God wanted to describe His passing by, “All My goodness will pass before you.” Isn’t that interesting? Not, “All My holiness.” Not, “All My compassion.” “All My goodness will pass before you.”
And then God answers his prayer. Exodus 34, we pick it up in verse 5. “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and He stood with him there and he proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord. The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgressions and sin.’”
And then, in all that love, compassion, and goodness, “By no means declaring the guilty innocent, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and to the fourth generation.”
J.I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, comments on this passage. He says, “Within the cluster of God’s moral perfections, there is one in particular, the term ‘goodness’ that points to a quality which God especially singled out from the whole when proclaiming His goodness to Moses. He spoke of Himself as abundant in goodness and truth.”
And then Packer makes this comment that, as he studied this word, this idea of goodness at its heart is the generosity of God. Have you ever thought of God as generous? Have you ever thought of God as, no matter, He just wants to lavish, He longs to give, that that core of the character of God in all of His attributes, that He is generous.
No scarcity. When He sees you, when you come to His infinite mind, He longs to bless, He longs to encourage, He longs to create a path, He longs…
In fact, Packer, I love this next line. He says, “Generosity expresses the simple wish that others might have what they need to be happy.” Have you ever thought of God like that, thinking of you? That you might have what you need to be happy?
See, it’s interesting, the world says, “Here are all these things that will make you happy someday, someway.” God says, “No, no, no. Follow Me, worship Me, I have made you. I want to give you a life from within and in relationships, in a path with Me that would bring delight to My heart and make you happy as a byproduct.”
But that’s how God thinks of you.
The Hebrew word here, means pleasant, joyful, agreeable. When it’s translated into the Greek text It’s noble, admirable, worthy. It’s good. It’s the standard of goodness. Goodness isn’t something that God possesses. He is the standard. It is how He is.
And, again, I have given you a thought by Tozer. He says, “Goodness, the goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men; He is tenderhearted and quick of sympathy.” Is that how you think about God?
When you bow your head, do you think, Oh, He is for me. He is glad to see Me. He is full of good will. He wants my best. He is orchestrating people and circumstances in my home and in my job and in my heart to bless my life. He is quick of sympathy.
I have got a lot of little grandkids as you kind of know right now. And I have got a little grandson that just, he is three years old and he just is Mr. Noah. Bam! And he will fall and he is just like a little fullback. And when I just watch and he hits and, “Ahh!” And the moment and I just watch his mom, “Oh! Come here, Noah.” And Noah gets up on Annie’s lap. She is quick of sympathy.
How many of you, when you hurt and when you mess up feel like God just moved away ten yards? God’s arms are crossed. God’s attitude is, Hm, again, huh? How many times are you going to go around this barn? So, oh, you think that thought, that lustful thought again? You are still envying her? Oh, you opened your mouth again and talked about a friend? Well, you know what? I call that gossip. Or, You know what? So, are you just possessed with greed? You have to get up and look at The Wall Street Journal before anything else? What’s with you? That show came on and you lingered a little bit longer and you didn’t click the thing so how many times are we going to deal with this issue?
How many of you have a view of God that His arms are crossed and He is basically down on you instead of a view that says the moment that you turn and go, Oh, Lord, You are mindful that I am dust. I am just a person of flesh. I get lulled into these, oh, I so don’t want to be that. And that when you would turn like that, He would be, I understand. I am for you. I love you.
See, the power of temptation, the power of the lust of the flesh, the power of the pride of life, the power of the lust of having and possessing, the power of what everyone thinks matters so much is behind it is a belief that God isn’t for you, that the real action is over there, that the real success, the real fulfillment, all the things you’re looking for are someway out there.
And that’s why in 1 John, the apostle of love would say, “Love not the world or things that are in the world and all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, it’s not from the Father but it’s from the world. And if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father isn’t in him. But the world is passing away. But God’s love abides forever.”
See, what Tozer wanted us to get our arms around is that’s what God is like. The last line, he says this and I have this underlined, like, forty-five times in my little book that I have been reading.
It says, “He, by His nature,” circle that in your notes. “By His nature,” not by your circumstances, not by whether you are doing good or doing bad. God isn’t good to you because you are good. God is good because He is good. It’s intrinsic. He can’t not be good. You have good days, bad days, obedience days, not obedience days, it doesn’t change the character of God.
Actually, there are times that it’s out of His goodness, some of the difficulties that some of us have in our life, the difficulties I had in my life, that eighteen months when I was in a relationship that was sinful and when I had an idol in my life, in the goodness and kindness of God, the velvet vice of discipline started.
So, I pulled my quad right out of here to here. Wow! I couldn’t play twelve, thirteen games. Then, pretty soon, as I rehabbed and so I went again and then I had a stress fracture in my foot. Every year it was like God going, Well, you know, Ingram! You can worship basketball or you can worship Me. But I love you so much.
Finally, my surrender was not like some noble, I will give You everything. Literally, mine was, If you can’t lick Him, join Him. Literally. God, I am bankrupt. You frustrate my plans, this relationship isn’t what I know it is, I don’t like the guilt, I don’t like the shame. I don’t like living a double life. I look in the mirror and I don’t like me. I appear to be one person I know I’m not. You frustrate, frustrate, frustrate, frustrate my plans. You know what? And You won’t leave me alone. I’ve tried to quit the Christian life a couple of times. You won’t leave!
When you receive Christ, it’s like in a marriage you said, “I do.” Lord, come into my life. Guess what. He said, “Yes.” And then He sealed you with His Spirit. And He lives in you. And He permanently came in. And you can grieve the Spirit, but out of His goodness, some of the most difficult things in our life is Him saying, I want what is better for you so I am not going to allow you to keep going down this path.
The Scripture says that God disciplines every son, every daughter that He really loves. It’s out of His goodness, it’s out of His kindness. He doesn’t want you to miss out. “He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”
The breakthrough came for me when a passage came from my intellect to my heart and then I later claimed a promise. It’s Psalm 84:11. I have a little card that is about thirty years old and it says, “The Goodness of God.” And on one side I have written my fears about the future and on the other side, after it says, “Stop being afraid of the future; you won’t miss out.” On the other side it has Psalm 84:11: “The Lord God is a sun and a shield. The Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold form those who walk uprightly.”
Now, think about this. And, by the way, it’s “The Lord God.” It’s “Yahweh Adonai” – the I AM that I AM. The One who spoke the world into existence, “…is a sun,” unlimited source, “…is a shield,” unlimited protection. “He gives grace,” what you don’t deserve, blessing, lavish, love, goodness, kindness, mercy. What is mercy? He withholds the due judgment that we ought to get in so many occasions. “No good thing,” here’s the promise, “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
As you have the crisscross of this path is God’s way or this path in small and big situations, as you say, “I am going to go on Your path,” here’s what you can say, “I do not fear missing out because on this path, God will never withhold what is best for me.”
That’s a statement of faith. That’s a promise to claim. It will change the course of your life.
How has God revealed His goodness? First, it’s through natural blessings. Psalm 145:7 through 9 says, “They celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.”
Does the “all” include you? He is good to all. This little phrase is repeated all through the Old Testament. “He is gracious, compassionate, abounding, multiplying, exponentially available, lovingkindness.” The word is hesed. It’s a steadfast, loyal, commitment love to give you the best. That’s how God is with His creation.
Later, in the same psalm, verse 16 says, “You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all that He does.” And here’s what I would say is pause to look around. We get so busy, so focused.
In fact, I took it out because I didn’t want it to buzz. But just observe people. Observe people at a restaurant, observe people walking on the streets now. The whole world does this. A family sitting together in a restaurant. There are four phones out.
When was the last time, now, I’m serious. When was the last time you saw a sunset. You. When was the last time you saw a sunrise? When was the last time you, I am going to take a walk and God has displayed His goodness and His glory. When was the last time you took a walk in nature? When was the last time you said, “I don’t need to be in a hurry”? When was the last time, in the traffic and the hustle and the bustle, instead of: Let’s see, if I go here, I go here, if I get off this ramp, then I get over here, then I cut across here. Gosh, I’m going to save two minutes and add all this stress to my life. That you said, Maybe I’ll just get in the slow lane and put on a song about the glory of God and realize all these other crazy people that are commuting, I’m just not going to be a part of that.
When was the last time you went to a park or even the mall at one of the little playgrounds and you just sat down and you watched kids play? And just the [laughter] innocence. They are not worried, they are not stressful, they are not going, I wonder what I will wear tomorrow. Or, I wonder if there is going to be any food tonight. Or, I wonder what profession I am going to have when I grow up. They are just having fun.
And when was the last time you remembered and you just held a brand new baby in your arms and just thought, This is miraculous. This is amazing.
Where I live I can drive about thirty minutes and just park in front of the ocean. And just watch those waves come in. Watch the waves come in. There is something good about being small sometimes. You’re just one, little person. I’m just one, little person.
You’re so valuable on the one hand and take this the right way, you’re not all that important.
I’m not wishing for this but if we end this conference, I have a heart attack, my wife will be pretty sad, my kids will go through some stuff, my grandkids will miss me, I hope. Some people will probably say some nice things, at least the people who are a couple layers away. Maybe they will keep a few messages for a couple of years or so. And you know what? Life will just go on.
God’s Word, God’s truth, God’s agenda – it won’t even be a blip on the screen. And, yet, left to myself, I can start to feel like the whole world is dependent on me and every decision and every issue and all this. If you don’t bask in the goodness of God, in the natural surroundings, then you unconsciously, we will become the center and the focus. And you will believe life is about pressure and productivity and getting things done.
And there is a place for that. But the place for that is this, it’s living, it’s Tozer’s great words, “It’s living under a sky that is friendly and knowing that this God, though exalted in majesty and power is eager to be friends with you.”
Even for some of you, if you’re like me, we are so productive oriented. If I am not praying and talking and interceding it’s like even when I’m with God, I’ve got to get something done. Anybody like that?
Have you ever just been listening to a song, or this morning I put Chris Tomlin and just various songs and a couple came up that my son wrote. My son wrote that song. And I just thought, I got to adopt that boy. Man, that kid was, we went through, and it was like, Oh, God…
The song that we sang earlier comes out of Psalm 27. David says, “This one thing I will do that I will seek to behold the beauty of the Lord.” Literally, the word is the delightfulness. To meditate in His temple.
There is part of the goodness of God you just have to stop and I wrote a couple things down here. I wrote: “For health, for food, for love, for people, for beauty, for life, for air, for opportunity, for the talents, for the education that you have, for the opportunities God has given you, that you live in this country.
One of the things I do, I lose perspective often. I seem to have a lot of issues. But I think God uses my issues because when I share them it seems like you guys have them too, which makes me feel really better.
This was a Friday night about three weeks ago and it was nine p.m. and I wrote in my journal, “I rarely, if ever, write at night but I am much at peace and very, very thankful. After another very intense week and two nights with just a few hours of sleep, the Lord my Shepherd had me lie down in green pastures and He restored my soul. I restored all my work, my sermon outline is done, I interviewed a new CFO candidate who I think is the right one. I met with a fellow pastor, Steve, and it was such encouraging to share at a very deep level. I laid out all my issues and his wise counsel. I went and swam and did my workout and didn’t count the laps but tried to enjoy the process.
“My son, Ryan, just dropped by to pick up his kids and came to my office and we had a blast. He asked me how I was doing and how my back was and I shared pretty honestly. He started to tear up and I thought to have a son with that kind of compassion. I fell asleep and had his boys over that night – they slept at the bottom of the bed. My grandson fell asleep in my arms. God, thank You. Thank You.”
Those are little things. But God reveals His goodness through natural blessings.
The second way He reveals His goodness is through deliverances. And I am going to ask you to turn to Psalm 107. It’s a very long psalm. I want you to study it, but I am going to give you the structure of the psalm. It is the classic passage on the goodness of God in the Old Testament.
The psalm will open with a call to honor God’s goodness and then what you are going to see are there are four specific vignettes and the author is going to say vignette number one, vignette number two, vignette number three, vignette number four. In each one of these vignettes, people find themselves in an impossible situation. They are desperate.
In three of the four, they are in an impossible situation because of their own doing, their own sin. In the fourth one, God sovereignly seems to be working through some sailors.
After, so there is a vignette, it talks about a situation, it’s really bad, it’s impossible. Then the process in each one is the same. They cry out to the Lord in the midst of their desperation, in the midst of their trouble, and then God delivers, delivers, delivers.
And then there is a repeating phrase that says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for He is good.” And then vignette, vignette, vignette. It’s really powerful. Have you got it? Psalm 107.
Look at verses 1 and 2. He says, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.”
Now he is going to give four pictures of trouble, look at verse 4. “Some wandered in the desert waste, finding no way to a city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty; their souls fainted within them. They cried to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them from their distress. He led them by the straight way, until they reached a city to dwell in. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing of the soul, the hungry soul He fills with goodness.”
Vignette number two: “Some sat in darkness and and the shadow of death – prisoners in affliction and irons – for they rebelled against the Word of the Lord and they spurned the counsel of the Most High, so He bowed their heads with hard labor and they fell with none to help them. They cried to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and out of the shadow of death and He burst their bonds. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love, His wondrous works for the children of men. He shatters the doors of bronze,” talking about breaking through judgment.
Seventeen, “Some were fools through sinful ways and because of their iniquities, affliction,” and we’ll find out it becomes physical affliction. He delivers them, verse 21, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His wondrous works.”
Skipping down to verse 23, “Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters. They saw the deeds of the Lord, for His wondrous works in the deep. He commanded and raised up a stormy wind; He lifted up the waves of the sea.” And then the sailors cry out in their distress, God delivers them, verse 31, “Let them give them give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love; His wondrous works to men.”
And then notice he will begin and say, “Let them extol His congregation of the people, the praise of the assembly of the elders,” and then verse 33 through the end of the chapter, he is going to reach back and take the deliverances of God, historically.
Because this psalm is written to a group of people who have missed God’s goodness and their focusing on circumstances and their lives aren’t working. And the only way, it’s to pull back our perspective and to realize, Oh! In the midst of our trouble in the past, one of the ways that God expresses His goodness is He delivers us. He reaches in and delivers us when we don’t deserve it.
The first three times it’s because of their sin. In fact, in your notes, I put a little summary. He rescues us from our enemies, He rescues us when we are spiritually adrift, He rescues us from the shadow of death, He heals our diseases, He saves us in the storms of life, and then notice at the very end, after he highlights these big moments in Israel’s history, when they were in the desert, when He delivered them from the enemies.
Verse 43, “Whoever is wise,” by the way, in biblical literature, the word wise, especially in the Old Testament, it’s not intellectual. Wisdom, the book of Proverbs, or even the New Testament book of James, wisdom is understanding how God designed life to work. It’s a skill. And it’s following that.
So this is the pattern or the path of God says, “This is how relationships work.” Wisdom is: I am going to follow that path. Wisdom is: This is how God designed money to work in our life. I am going to follow that path. Wisdom is: When I have made a mistake, here’s the path for reconciliation and forgiveness. I’ll follow that path.
So he is saying, “Let he who is wise attend to these things. Let them consider, let them ponder the steadfast love,” that’s our word – lovingkindness – “of the Lord.”
Can I ask you to do just a quick glance in your rearview mirror, in your memory bank? When has God delivered you or delivered someone you love? Anybody been in just a horrendous situation? Maybe you did something really terrible. Anybody had one of your kids in the hospital and you begged God for their life and He delivered? Anybody here been through cancer? You’re here.
Anybody here been upside down, financially? Anybody here had a moment in your marriage that you just thought, No. I get the covenant stuff. This person makes me so crazy. Divorce is not an option but…
And you just, you grit your teeth and say, God, I want to learn to love this person. And you are sitting here now with your mate and He delivered you. See, that’s God’s goodness. It’s His mercy.
I thought back in my little life, I thought, I think I was the most arrogant person that I had ever met. And it was all rooted in insecurity but the only way I knew, growing up, was just to act like the tough guy and recruit the tallest, biggest guy on the team to be my enforcer because I am kind of small.
And my mouth and my arrogance and my insecurity and I just look back; God delivered me. Now, I still have arrogance but at least it’s not the big, ugly kind.
I think of, my sister is here, of our functioning but an alcoholic family that messed up all of us. One rebelled, one became a workaholic, and one had an eating disorder. And God has rescued all three of us kids and we have all come to know the Lord. And God saved my dad later.
You’ve got to stop and look back and say, Wait a second. The God who did that, you think he can handle this big one? Right? That you’re facing?
I had a very, very troubled marriage. We both came from alcoholic backgrounds and my wife was a stuffer and I was a talker and we couldn’t communicate, we couldn’t resolve anger. And I praise God for Christian counseling, even at ninety-five dollars an hour. That’s a lot of money when you’re making a thousand dollars a month. And you’re in seminary, preparing to teach people about God and marriage.
You know the hardest part? I can vividly remember going into the Meier-Minirth clinic and sitting down and waiting for our time and just praying that no one came through that door that knew me. That’s how arrogant I was. I was so concerned about what other people would think.
And now I look back and think, we did twelve sessions. I have no idea where we got the money. And a few years later we needed a tune-up and went back and sat down with someone. You know when you get stuck, but God delivers.
It has been thirty-eight years now and I am so glad I didn’t bail out, so glad we didn’t bail out, so glad I can’t imagine. Is it perfect? Of course not. She is still married to me. And you laugh but I have got idiosyncrasies that are off the chart. I am intense off the chart. I would not want to live with me, but I am so glad she does.
And it’s better and deeper in every, I mean, emotionally, friendship, sexually – believe me, you name an area, we have struggled. And when I say, “We struggled,” I don’t mean it was a little problem. It was a problem. And God delivered.
I think of one of my sons in ICU and we didn’t think he would live. I think of one of my other sons in a twenty-seven-hour labor that we didn’t think he was going to make it. And we just begged God.
I remember six years of going through cancer with my wife and driving everyday to Stanford after the surgery and thinking, Is this what I get? And God delivered.
Just think. Just think. Ask yourself. Have our lives gotten so distracted with stuff and trivia and so focused on the future and, What about? And what about? And what about? And what about?
And this unconscious desire to control and to manipulate and thinking in our little humanness we can determine outcomes. What would happen if you started to look at the natural blessings and you began to think and write and ponder: If He delivered, here’s my, I am pretty logical, if He delivered in all those areas, whatever is in the windshield of my life that feels painful, overwhelming, confusing, and creates fear in my heart, I can at least look in the rearview mirror and say, “That God is with me,” and that God is out there so all my question is, well, okay, I don’t get it emotionally but I am going to trust You. I am going to stay on the path.
There is a path or there is a way that seems right to men but it ends in death. And there is a path that is the Lord’s that is fullness of joy, where His pleasures are forever.
The third and most profound way, for sure, is God has demonstrated His goodness through His Son. Jesus is the proof of God’s goodness. And I love it, it’s His goodness before we did anything. It’s not a cause and effect.
There certainly is a clear relationship in Scripture between the blessings of God and obedience and the discipline of God and disobedience. But even the discipline of God is out of His goodness and out of His love. He disciplines not because He is mad or punishing us. All of the just wrath and punishment of God was placed on Christ at the cross.
If you are a son or a daughter, He may discipline you and bring you through very difficult times, but it’s out of His heart of goodness and love to give you the best.
I am going to ask you to do something. Stand up. You guys, we have been talking for a while. And get your notes with you. I’ll get mine so you don’t feel, okay? I just want you to do this. We are going to read this together. I want you to hear your voice, hear this truth. Are you ready? We are going to read Romans 5:8.
Way to go, gang. Some of you it takes a little time to get up, doesn’t it? I would be critical except I am in exactly the same boat.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [audience recites]
That sounded so good. Let’s do it one more time. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
You can sit down. Whenever you are discouraged, whenever you wonder if God is good, there is an historical moment, the cross is the greatest revelation of the goodness of God in the universe. The cross.
While we were yet sinners, not when you cleaned up your act, not when you did better, not when you didn’t have problems. While you and me were rebels and we could have been far from God and angry at God or we could be a rebel being passively indifferent thinking we don’t need Him. Both are rebellion.
In that moment, in that state, Christ demonstrated His love for you. He died in your place. It’s the proof of God’s goodness.
Jesus is the guarantee of future goodness. The proof of present goodness is the cross. The guarantee of future goodness is the cross. I won’t make you stand up but I am tempted. “He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up,” literally or, “over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” It’s called a priori logic.
In other words, if someone would forgive a five-million-dollar debt, you think you could trust him if you went out to lunch and said, “Oh, gosh, I don’t have my wallet.” Oh my gosh. You think he’ll pay for it? In other words, if God has demonstrated His love through the cross, how will He not with Him...?”
He has loved you, He has rescued you, He has paid for you. How will He not with Him give you wisdom to be in the right relationship, give you direction for the right job, give you grace in the midst of a difficult situation?”
Psalm 84:11 was the promise, but this verse, Romans 8:32, was why I turned from a path that was wrong, got on the exit ramp of repentance, and turned around and got on God’s path.
I was in college and had been a Christian about three years and I knew Jesus was Lord, but He wasn’t my Lord. I knew I was in a relationship that was wrong and I couldn’t trust God. And a young couple that had been a Christian about nine months or a year…
It was a small school, three or four thousand, out in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t, it had a red church, a white church, and a bar, not even a gas station.
And you couldn’t get anything decent to eat. So when you’re a college student and a young couple says, “Would you like to come to our house for dinner?” It was like, “Yes!”
And so we, I’ll never forget it. And so they were new Christians and looking back, they were very poor and they had a little farm. Picture Normal Rockwell, old barn, reddish, rusted door, white farm house, very simple. I think it’s cool and vintage now but remember the tables that are plastic on top and with the curved legs that are steel and then when you sat on the thing, you stuck to them? They didn’t have doors. They took a little wire and they put a sheet because they didn’t have doors. I think they only had two or three rooms in the house.
And they invited me over and a home cooked meal and, of course, they had a garden. And they were really old, like, twenty-eight or thirty. When you’re nineteen, they are completely over…they are still romantic? People that old?
And we talked around the table and I watched how these two people looked at each other. And there was this gleam and this love and she just reached over and touched his hand. A married couple really, really in love.
And then he said, “Excuse me, we are going to have ice cream and apple pie that she has made. And we will be right back but we are doing something new with our kids.” And they had a five-year-old, four-year-old, maybe a two-year-old. So they went over and I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop but it’s a sheet, you know?
And so you could see through the sheet and a little, single bed. And all four of them got down like this and they all held hands and they taught the little kids a tiny, little prayer, “Dear Jesus. Thank You for today. Thank You for Mommy. Thank You for Daddy. Thank You that You died for us.” And then the husband prayed and it was not all that long and then they came back in and they sat down at the table and I had great apple pie.
And I had a green, little Volkswagen at the time and the roads are really windy in West Virginia, so I came to our campus and it was called Bartell Hill. And it was just straight down and I lived in the dorm, Bartell.
I can still remember I was having a talk with God, God, that’s what I want. That’s what I really want someday. And I just heard the Holy Spirit whisper, Chip, I would love to give you that. But it’s on My terms, not yours.
And I said, Well, I just can’t believe that if I give up this girl that You have someone better for me. And I was with a group that was big into Scripture memory but I was not very big at sticking with the group. So I was slow. But I just started memorizing Scripture.
And Romans 8:32, as I was in the middle of that hill, came to my mind. Just out of the blue. I didn’t know the Holy Spirit did this stuff. Chip, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him freely give us all things?”
And I don’t know why, intellectually, it went, Oh. So You’re willing to die for Me, you could actually get me the right wife? And I got to the bottom of the hill and Jesus was the Lord of my life. Not because I was stronger, not because I made some big commitment. It’s because God is good.
There are three very specific responses and we will wrap up our time. Response number one is for those of you that may find yourself here and a friend brought you or you have an intellectual relationship with God and, Yeah, I will go, honey, or, dear, or, mister, or whatever it is.
But the fact of the matter is is that if I asked you, “Do you know for certain that if you died today you would spend eternity with the Lord Jesus because of His death on the cross and you receiving that free gift of God? And is He a vital, living part of your life?” You would just, just you and me with coffee you would look me in the eye and go, “Nah. I’m not sure. I don’t know.” This is for you. Repent and receive the greatest gift ever of eternal life.
Romans 2:4 says that it is God’s kindness and His goodness, His forbearance and patience that leads us to repentance. God has been so good and so kind and done so much in your life, it has all been for Him to say, “Would you come and let Me give you the best gift ever? You can’t earn it. I want to forgive your sin, I want to come into your life, and I want to change your life and I want you to become My son or My daughter.” And if you have never done that, right now, I would just turn Ingram off because what he says doesn’t matter.
And in my heart of hearts I would say, Almighty God, I had no idea You were so good. I had no idea You loved me so much. And right now, in this room, I want to turn from my sin and in the empty hands of faith, I ask You to forgive me based on Jesus’ work on the cross and resurrection and come into my life right now. And He will. And then tell someone and we will help you get on the new path.
Second is surrender your life and future fully to the lordship of Christ. This is God’s will. God’s will is not you’re a little bit better, moral person and you try really hard and go to religious services. God’s will is that, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, rooted in His goodness, that you offer your body as a living and holy sacrifice, pleasing to God. That is your spiritual service of worship.”
What God wants is not your money, what God wants is not your religious activity. He wants you – lock, stock, and barrel. He wants you.
And what that will do is that will reorient your time, it will reorient your life, it will reorient your money. But it will be out of a love relationship, not trying to earn His favor. If you have never fully surrendered, this is, He brought you in this room on this day or in that auditorium for you, from your heart of hearts to bow your knee and say, Lord, I want to tell You I am afraid, but on this day, at this place, I offer myself, all that I am, all that I have, all that I will ever be – You have full rights to my life. I am signing the bottom of a check, I am ushering it underneath the throne room of God, You fill in the top – whatever. Time, energy, money, future, location. You call the shots and I will obey because it’s the best and wisest plan because You love me, You are good, You are all-knowing, and You are all-wise.
And, finally, I would just encourage those of you who say, I’m a believer and I have surrendered. Claim God’s promise that you will never miss out on any good thing. Because you lose it, don’t you? Just because you have surrendered doesn’t mean you don’t fear that you are going to miss out, that you aren’t tempted. Claim today, Lord God, You are my sun, You are my shield, You are my grace, You are my glory. No good thing, ever, will I miss out on as I walk uprightly before You.