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Appreciating God's Goodness

Introduction:  

      I imagine some of you other men have gone through what I experience on at least a weekly basis. I donít know how many times Iíve come home oblivious to any special thing being done around the house. Iíve eaten dinner, played with the kids, watched tv, read books and finally gone to bed only to have Marita say, ďDid you even notice that I did such and such?Ē Ooops. I finally got her back a few weeks ago when I snuck out an old broken computer that had been sitting on our kitchen counter about which Marita had been complaining for weeks. She didnít say a thing about it until I finally asked if she noticed. Iím sure we all have dozens of stories like this in our own families. When we fail to mention or even notice the kindnesses of our spouses, children and parents, it can seem like we are unappreciative. Lack of appreciation is bad within our families, but even worse when it is in our relationship with God. In Romans 2:4, Paul explains how we show appreciation for Godís goodness. Examine the verse in context to learn how God has treated us and what we are to do in response.

Discussion:

I.         The goodness of God

A.      Before examining how we should respond to Godís goodness, we should examine the goodness God bestows. Romans 2:4 uses three terms to describe what God has done and continues to do for us: kindness, forbearance, patience (ESV).

1.       Kindness: This refers simply to the good things God has done for us. James 1:17 helps us recognize the extent of Godís goodness to us. ďEvery good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lightsÖĒ (ESV). This includes the food we have eaten, the clothes we wear, the health we have maintained, the homes we live in, the friends and family we have, etc. Of course, the ultimate display of Godís kindness is the sacrifice of Jesus (Romans 5:6-8).

2.       Forbearance: This refers to maintaining self-control even when subject to provocation. Turning the other cheek is an example of forbearance. When someone is trying to get you to react negatively or violently and you maintain calm and kindness, you are being forbearing. This takes Godís kindness to another level. Not only is He kind to us, but He continues to be kind to us even when we provoke Him through our sins. Consider Matthew 5:45 in which God sends the kindness of rain and sun on the righteous and sinful alike. Romans 3:25 describes the forbearance of God who passed over former sins in order to bring Jesus into the world as a propitiation for our sins. That passage speaks on a big picture level of God not judging the world for sin but waiting to bring Jesus in. We can bring the principle to a much more specific level in our lives recognizing that God did not destroy us when we first committed sin, but has waited and given us the opportunity to hear about and respond to Jesus. 

3.       Patience: This is very similar to Godís forbearance. According to Thayerís Lexicon, this is the ďself-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.Ē[1] II Peter 3:9 demonstrates the importance of Godís patience. He is not slow about keeping His promises but rather is patient giving everyone time to come to repentance. An illustration of His patience is given in Luke 13:6-9. God is like the vineyard owner who allows a fig tree to go years without bearing fruit before bringing punishment.

B.     Notice Paul doesnít merely claim God has bestowed kindness, forbearance and patience upon us, but has done so richly. The idea is that God has bestowed these mercies and goodnesses upon us in superabundance. We have no lack of kindness, forbearance and patience from God. The question, of course, is do we fully appreciate the goodness of God?

II.       Presuming on Godís kindness.

A.      Within the context of Romans 2, Paul is rebuking the Jews in general for despising the goodness of God. I particularly like the English Standard translation of this verse claiming his Jewish readers ďpresume on the riches of his kindnessÖĒ The idea is they were making false presumptions about the kindness, forbearance and patience of God.

B.     I like this translation simply because I have seen numerous examples of those who made presumptions and yet, didnít seem to despise Godís goodness. They just used it to lead them down erroneous conclusions about their lives. In what ways do people presume on the riches of Godís kindness, forbearance and patience.

1.       View blessings as ďproofĒ of Godís approval: Have you ever talked to someone who doesnít accept what the Bible teaches about issues of salvation and serving God, but they use their good job, nice home, good clothes, cool car, etc. as an indication that they must be right with God? They allow all the seemingly good things that have happened to them to rest in their own form of religion instead of getting into the Bible and serving God His way. Consider again Matthew 5:45. God blesses both wicked and righteous with good things. We must not presume that the kindnesses of God means our heart is right with Him.

2.       View lack of immediate judgment as Godís approval: Perhaps stories like Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10), Uzzah (I Chronicles 13) and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) have led some to believe that when God disapproves of something He will bring immediate judgment on someone. Have you ever heard someone justify some action by saying, ďI did such and such and no fire came from heavenĒ or ďI did such and such and the roof didnít cave inĒ? They are presuming on the forbearance and patience of God. We need to recognize Nadab, Abihu, Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira were the exception, not the norm. God does not immediately judge all sins. Just read through Kings and Chronicles and see how often God allowed sins to go unpunished for a time. Judgment always eventually came, but a lack of immediate judgment did not equal approval.

3.       Relies on Godís patience to let them repent in the future when they have sinned all they want: Have you ever met anyone who says they will become a Christian some day, but right now they are just having too much fun? They want to enjoy the world and its fleshly lusts as long as possible. They hope they will eventually get to a point where the sin will no longer exert its pull on their hearts and then, when they can more easily overcome sin, they will turn to the Lord. Paul deals specifically with that in Romans 2:5. What few of these realize is the more they give themselves over to this sin, the harder their heart becomes, the less likely they will ever respond to the gospel call. Impenitence does not bring us to a time when overcoming sin is easier. It makes it harder and harder to overcome. Paul describes what happens to those who take this approach in Ephesians 4:8-19. These are presuming on Godís patience to mean they will always be able to easily accept His message of forgiveness. But the more they sin the more calloused to the gospel they become and they are merely storing up more wrath for themselves.

4.       Relies on outward rituals to grant salvation: Have you ever met someone who got baptized and ďgoes to churchĒ regularly but lives like the world the rest of the time? They can answer the doctrinal questions correctly. They declare they want to go to heaven and believe they are, after all they give money to the church, they take the Lordís Supper every week, etc. The problem is, these people have not truly repented. They have not changed and become spiritual people whose lives are governed by the Spirit. They are still fleshly and impenitent. They are presuming on the kindness of God that He is too kind to let them go to hell, after all, look at all the good things they do. These are like the Pharisee of Luke 18:9-14 who can point to a myriad of outward signs of righteousness but will go away unjustified because his spirit was not affected.

5.       Allows grace to be a license to sin: Have you ever been in a discussion with someone who doesnít submit to God in some issue and the response you receive is, ďThatís why Jesus died?Ē Or others who act as though all the differences in interpreting the scripture are covered by the grace of God as if we do not really have to study and grow? Iím not here referring to the mistakes of maturing Christians as they grow and change their lives in accordance with increased knowledge (cf II Peter 1:5-8), but those who allow the grace of Jesus to be permission not to study and grow. They sweep differences under the rug, they cover up sin and fleshly desire with a wipe of the grace cloth. These are presuming on the riches of Godís kindness thinking His grace means they donít have to understand and obey His will. Paul dealt with this in Romans 6:1-2. Godís kindness is not a license to sin. Rather, it is a reason to obey.

C.     Letís make sure we do not presume on the riches of Godís kindness, forbearance or patience. When we do, we arenít just making a casual mistake. We are actually despising the goodness of God.

III.      Appreciating Godís goodness.

A.      According to Romans 2:4, the kindnesses of God are meant for one purposeóto bring us to repentance. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action. How often have we heard that repentance literally means to ďthink through againĒ? As sinners, we have lived based on one mindset. God is bestowing His kindness, forbearance and patience that we might think differently. He wants us to have transformed minds (Romans 12:2). He has bestowed the blessings of His Son and Spirit that we might think differently. He has bestowed His forbearance and patience that we might have time to rethink. But all of it is for this purpose, to rethink and repent, submitting ourselves to Him as righteous (Romans 6:16-18).

B.     God has not granted these kindnesses so we may wallow in our sins. He has not granted these kindnesses as excuses for sin and continued immaturity. He has granted this kindness that we might change and grow in His grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18).

C.     How do we show that we appreciate Godís kindness? Not by defending the divisions of the modern religious world, not by saying no one is allowed to judge, not by saying the way we live doesnít matter because that adds to the sacrifice of Jesus. We show appreciation for Godís kindness by actually changing. By getting into His word and letting it transform our lives producing the fruit of the Spirit.

D.     Have you ever known anyone who was a big mooch, but never seemed truly grateful? They always hang around those they can get the most out of, but they never give anything in return. They rarely even offer a thank you. This is the kind of person we are to God if we get dunked in baptism, ďgo to churchĒ and then live however we want while trying to meet some minimum requirements we think will bind God to let us into heaven. If we truly appreciate the blessings of God, we will change. It may be a long slow process for some of us, but we will go through the process.

Conclusion:

      This brings us down to some introspection. Do we appreciate the riches of Godís kindness, forbearance and patience or are we presuming on them? Are we letting His kindnesses change our hearts, minds and lives? Or are we hoping to cash in on His gifts while selfishly doing nothing in return? Where are you in this?



[1] Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for makrothymia (Strong's 3115)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008. 14 Feb 2008. <http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3115&Version=kjv >

 


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Franklin Church of Christ