When God Sets His Heart on You: Part II in a Series
The apostle Paul is among that cloud of witnesses and he bears witness to God’s unlimited love for even "the chiefest of sinners."
Paul’s life and writings tell us he cursed the name of Christ.
He was a terrorist, hunting down God’s people and dragging them off to be jailed or killed.
But he did it all in ignorance.
Paul would say to us God is being patient with this present generation because there are many who are like he was, people who sin in ignorance.
Terrorists are trained from childhood to hate, just as Paul was and that hatred is all they’ve ever known.
They haven’t been exposed to the gospel.
I tell you, like Paul, there are many apostles and evangelists who’ll come from among the most evil of men.
The apostle Peter is also among this cloud of witnesses, and he too understands why God is so patient.
Peter’s life and writings remind us that he cursed Jesus, swearing he never knew him.
God withholds his judgment because there are multitudes still who curse and deny him, just as Peter did.
They’re backslidden and in need of mercy.
And the Lord won’t give up on them, just as he never gave up on Peter.
There are many like him whom Christ still prays for.
As I consider this cloud of witnesses, I see the faces of former drug addicts and alcoholics, former prostitutes and homosexuals, former gangsters and pushers, former murderers and wife-beaters, former infidels and pornography addicts — multitudes whom society had given up on.
They all repented and died in the arms of Jesus and now they are witnesses to the mercy and patience of a loving Father.
I believe all of these would say, in one unified witness, that Jesus didn’t judge them before they received his mercy.
God withheld judgments that should have fallen on them.
He delays his wrath, not willing that any be lost in hopelessness or despair.
And God has not changed in his attitude of hope for this world.
The depraved world today is abusing God’s patience.
Since Christ came to this world, humankind has waxed worse and worse, to the point that the cup of iniquity now seems to be overflowing.
You may wonder as I do how God can show such incredible mercy, such enduring patience.
How can he delay his judgment against sin for so long?
Why does he allow evil societies to continue dishonoring his name and provoking him in such perverse ways?
It can’t be that God wants to see the wicked descend into greater perversity so he could pour out even greater wrath on them. If that were so, by now we all would be history.
No, God isn’t waiting to judge so he can avenge his trampled glory.
Some people wonder if that is all God has in mind, to bring judgment on a sinful world.
Like many Christians, at times I have been all too ready to turn this wicked world over to judgment.
Many believers are understandably grieved over the pride and audacity of those who continually mock the Lord.
But it is different for our heavenly Father.
He doesn’t yearn to judge but to redeem.
Peter writes, "The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition [destruction] of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3:7).
Yes, there is stored up a consuming fire, reserved for an hour when the Lord will release it upon sinful men.
But Peter reminds us that God doesn’t measure time the same way we do.
A thousand years to him is as a twenty-four-hour day to us: "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (3:9).
So, what are we to make of these things?
Jesus tells us, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
The same is true for us.
If we see that everything in this world will be burned…that it is now the midnight hour…that the fire of judgment is fast approaching…that it is still a day for mercy, forgiveness and salvation…then we’re to do the work we have been commanded: to go into all the world proclaiming Christ.
God still loves this mad, immoral, unthankful world.
May he help us to love the lost as he does.
And may we pray to have the patience and love he is showing the world right now.
2. God still loves his church, blemishes and all, in spite of a flood of false teachers and foolishness in the pulpit.
The true church of Jesus Christ is the apple of the Lord’s eye.