Tongue in cheek, I’ve often said that “change is a constant” in this world. But something that will never change, are the attributes of God. God does not change.
Many in the world today only believe in a loving and benevolent grandfather image of God, who wants to bounce us on His knee and grant every wish we can conjure up. There are others who only preach that God hates sinners and is punishing America at this moment for those sins that do not match God’s high standards.
In review of the facts in the Bible – these are both distortions of the true attributes of the God I know, love and defend.
While studying Paul’s writings in Romans 1:16-2:11, I recently found a distinct and balanced description of God’s attributes that we must all grasp. God is a righteous and impartial judge. In the image portrayed by the scripture, an all loving and benevolent God sits at a seat of judgment, assuring that all who sin must pay the penalty of their actions.
“[God] will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil.” - Romans 2:6-9
In this study, I saw a righteous judge, leveling the playing field and coming down on three specific human behaviors.
The first human behavior God abhors is “suppressing the truth” (Romans 1:18). The implication is that mankind knows what is expected, yet chooses to redefine God’s standards, even to the point of redefining God. As I interpret verse 19, God has written His standards into our internal design, as well as His creation. He has put His attributes on the inside and the outside so we are without excuse. “For since the creation of the world,” the Bible says, “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20
The scripture continues, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” – Romans 1:21-22. Arrogant mankind willfully slides into sin when we think we are smarter than God.
The second behavior God abhors is unbridled sin. Once mankind “[exchanges] the truth of God for the lie” (Romans 1:25), God “gives us up” to a spiral of sin which ultimately leads to God’s judgment and wrath. In the nearly “X-rated” portrait of sin that is described in verses 26-31, I see a picture of twenty-first century America. Virtually every deep dark secret harbored in the minds and actions of our citizens is described in living color. Many of these sins are celebrated in parades, pumped into our living rooms on TV and internet cables, and defended in our courts as a “right” for all who live here. This land that I love and call home has adopted the Bill of Rights as a higher standard than the Holy Word of God.
The third behavior God abhors is the judgmental attitude of His followers. He says in Romans 2:1-2 “You are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.” I see this as a warning to believers, and those who feel they are immune to these teachings and look down on those who have strayed.
Finally, the Bible reinforces God’s loving and forgiving attributes which we should also know: “His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering,” which “leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). This is the good news of the Bible. While we all fall short of God’s expectations and all deserve His righteous judgment, He has made a way for us to have eternal fellowship with Him. This “good news” is, according to Romans 1:16, “the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”
All of us have sinned. We all deserve God’s wrath. None of us has, or can ever, earn our way into His favor. Salvation is being reconciled back to God’s favor. Paul reminds us, “… the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” – Romans 1:17
God will not change His attributes. We must a make a decision to change direction and meet God where He stands, through faith in His son.
I remember September 11th, 2001 receiving a news bulletin from CNN saying that a small airplane may have crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. It was one of those “I’m sorry for thinking that” moments when I recall all the cynical things going through my mind at the time.
My dad was visiting and we were going to the flea market, 20 minutes from home. During our drive to the market, I mentioned the news about the “idiot who crashed into the tower” earlier that morning. The gravity of the day did not hit, even when we started hearing more about the towers from people at the market. We continued to walk around, until we saw a crowd gathered at one of the booths. Someone had a TV playing a live news broadcast. We stood at the fringe of the small crowd, watching the towers burn and crash to the ground.
Someone said that they were going to close the schools. We had to quickly get back to the house, to be there for the kids when they got off the bus. I still see the horror on everyone’s faces at the market as we all dropped what we were doing to tend to our highest priorities. All day the phone lines were overloaded as we all tried to get a dial tone to call loved ones.
I was not comfortable seeing and feeling the fighter jets screaming up and down the coast and the A10 Warthogs and Apache helicopters continue the patrols for weeks later. We made a plan to leave if the action got too close. I remember my fear, the silence on the streets, tending to priorities, not knowing, not understanding - just waiting.
We watched the news all night and saw firsthand the tragedy - the dust, the faces, and cries of “Oh my God!”
I was crushed, hearing the stories of the first responders who rushed in while others were rushing out. Entire squads were lost - my heart broke as I imagined the grief of their families.
Loved ones of the lost taped pictures to walls and windows around ground zero, unwilling to give up hope. Within hours, crowds of fearless, determined people gathered to rescue those buried alive in that massive pile of smoldering rubble. Truckloads of donated food and water lined the streets as the entire nation fought for the cause. Crowds cheered the brave heroes along the way, encouraging the rescue workers, hoping and praying for one more to be found alive. America wept and cheered.
And then the work suddenly stopped. Every worker from every trade froze in place. The jack hammers – silent. The welders and torches – silent. Every engine, every voice paused, as each flag draped body made its way from the debris onto the street.
The president grabbed a bullhorn, shouting, “We will find those who are responsible!”
The places of worship were overwhelmed with people yearning to seek the truth and change their priorities.
I remember a nation united.
The first attacks on Afghanistan brought with them the new words Taliban and al-Qaeda. This was a new kind of war. We were not fighting a country with borders, but an idea. Their idea is that sinners must be eradicated and killing them deserves reward. That’s what brought about the attack on 9/11.
On that day, 19 terrorists selfishly committed suicide in hate for something they believed in, and changed the world in a negative way. 2000 years ago, Jesus chose 12 men who unselfishly gave their lives in love, and changed the world in a dramatic and positive way. Which way is right?
I have concluded that this is a spiritual battle, one that has already been fought and won. Remember what Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” - John 15:13. Jesus did just that. He laid down His life on the cross in love, for a world full of sinners. He died for those who believe in Him, but He also died for his enemies, those who drove the nails into His hands and feet and Yes, He even died for the sins of the terrorists, so that they might believe. Jesus preached to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44
Remember, 100 years from now when we have passed into infinity- “now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” - 1 Corinthians 13:13
Now, more than ever, we must unite in love.
Pastor Jay Merritt writes about God in every day observations.