God is good and wise, and sweet consequences are often experienced by men and women who submit to his good and wise counsel. His ways are best, and happy is he who hears and does that which is prescribed by the Lord.
In addition, God is good, wise, holy, jealous, and wrathful. It is equally true that sour consequences are often experienced by men and women who forsake God’s laws. Those who play with fire, they get burned. Those who mock God, they never win.
Sometimes, we are absolutely sure we are being cursed due to our failure to perform. We rehearse God’s laws. We become freshly cognizant of our stubborn rebellion and sin. We then consider the incredible pain and sour experiences we are enduring, and we come to the conclusion we are receiving the earned wages of our sin.
At other times, we are absolutely sure we are being blessed in accordance with our faithful performance. We note God’s rules, chronicle our attempts at obeying, count our many blessings, and conclude God must be paying-us-back for our good and pleasing worship.
However, at all these times, we can be absolutely sure we are absolutely wrong. This is the Gospel truth – Christians never receive what they deserve.
Consider the sermon from Moses in Deuteronomy 9:1-7. Listen and see if Scripture confirms that stated above:
Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. … Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you. Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, “It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,” whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. “Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.
Israel was described as a stubborn people. They were characterized as a congregation consistently provoking the Lord to wrath. From the first day of leaving Egypt until the present time, they were rebellious. They were not righteous.
Based upon their poor performance, they deserved the destruction of the Consuming Fire. From time to time, members of their community had experienced glimpses of God’s fair justice. Nadab, Abihu, Korah, Miriam, and Moses presented to their watching neighbors that which they had truly earned and deserved. Israel deserved the fate of the pagan nations.
However, despite their poor performance, they were God’s elect – his chosen people, and upon them God had determined to set his unwavering affection. And as the blessed of God, they were not going to experience God’s wrath like the surrounding nations. Instead, despite their poor performance, they were foreordained to march into the Promised Land and defeat God’s enemies. And this unique relationship and the accompanying benefits were not something they earned or deserved.
But, three times God wanted them to stay out of the “Prosperity Theology” trap. According to God, all of this was only due to his covenantal love, All of this was only due to his mercy and grace, None of this was a result of their righteousness. Israel was not receiving that which they deserved.
As Christians in the Covenant of Grace, we are privileged to enjoy much pleasure and profitability, and we deserve none of it. Therefore, let us give thanks and enjoy the sweet providences of the Lord. But as we continue to love God, his law, and our various successes in worship, let us keep in mind that none of our foreordained pleasures are earned or deserved. If God were operating with us in accordance with his Covenant of Works, we would receive and experience none of the delights which have come our way. We are not that good. We are not that holy. We never obey and perform well enough to merit divine blessings as payment for our works. Friends, let us not foolishly arrogant.
Also, as Christians in the Covenant of Grace, as we find ourselves experiencing sour days, seasons, and years, let us not despair. Our experiential woes are not in direct correspondence with what we have thought, desired, said, or done. If God were giving us our just deserts in accordance with his Covenant of Works, we would find we have not received one-tenth of one iota of the painful consequences we deserve. God does not treat us as we deserve.
In the Covenant of Grace, God is merciful. He does not give us the pain we deserve.
In the Covenant of Grace, God is gracious. He does not give us the pleasure we deserve.
In the Covenant of Grace, we who are identified, regenerated, justified, adopted, filled, sanctified, fruited, and preserved by Christ are every-day treated as Christ deserves. Therefore, though we find ourselves enduring the sour or the sweet, persecution or prosperity, loving and painful discipline or God’s overlooking mercy, all is merciful, gracious, all is blessing, and all is Good News for us.
Now, sure, I am aware that this makes the legalist nervous. He wrongly hears me saying it is OK to disregard the holy, wise, and good will of God. He is wrong. He should not put words in my mouth.
And yes, I am aware that this makes the licentious giddy with foolish delight. He wrongly hears me saying it is OK to disregard the holy, wise, and good will of God. He is wrong. He too should not put words in my mouth.
But I am OK if someone puts the words of Jesus in my mouth. To those who are a stubborn people, who have provoked the Lord your God to wrath, and have been rebellious against the Lord … Do not say in your heart … It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land … Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations … and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore … so Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness.
Christian, you are not getting what you deserve. Curses from the Lord are not coming your way. Only mercy, grace, and blessing abounds, and for this you can rejoice. Now, enjoy him and endeavor to give him the glory he deserves.