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Why does God find it difficult to forgive? It’s called the profoundest of all problems and the basic riddle of the universe:

God is a merciful Father, but he is also a just Judge. How can God display the fulness of both his mercy and his justice without compromising both? God’s mercy and justice must be reconciled. Which is more unchangeable and irreversible: God’s mercy or God’s justice? The one cannot give way to the other. “Both must stand, else the pillars of the universe will be shaken.”

This video and transcript will explain the profoundest of all problems as the foundation for understanding the profoundest of all solutions – the cross of Jesus Christ.


Editor’s note: Slightly edited video transcript

The Gospel is a Message About God

J.I. Packer writes: “The Gospel is a message about God. It tells us who He is, what His character is, what His standards are, what He requires of us, His creatures. It tells us what we owe our very existence to Him, that for good or ill, we are always in His hands and under His eye, and that He made us to worship and serve Him, to show forth His praise and to live for His glory.”

Francis Schaeffer used to say, “He is there and He is not silent. Hear the good news.” We are not in a closed system. We are in an open system. This is starting with the Pagan of Pagans and the Atheists and the secularist. Good news, there is an infinite personal God who exists. This God has created all things. This God has spoken.

How has God spoken?

In two ways, primarily. He has spoken in general revelation and He has spoken in special revelation.

General Revelation

General revelation, it would be like Psalm 19 that God has revealed Himself in all of creation.

Special Revelation

Special revelation would be that God has broken through throughout redemptive history and shown Himself consummated in the ultimate revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ, the incarnate word and in scripture, the written word. He has revealed Himself in nature, in the creation. He has broken through throughout redemptive history and shown Himself at different times, but the ultimate breakthrough was in the incarnate word culminating in the written word.

We can’t focus on all of the attributes of God, but there are two attributes that are very critical to understand in light of the nature of the Gospel message itself: His holy justice and His holy love.

God’s Holy Justice and Holy Mercy

This concept of God’s holy justice is the revelation of God that He is holy as judge and; therefore, a just judge who must punish sin. He also manifests love. He is a gracious Father who loves to show mercy. The dilemma is not a classic dilemma that’s presented in most evangelicalism. The problem is God is up there and I’m down here. How can I ever reach God? Oh, no. That’s a serious problem. The greater problem lies within the very nature of God himself. It is the profoundest of problems. God is a gracious Father who loves to show mercy. I have good news for you.

In love, God created us in His image to know Him, to honor Him, to enjoy Him above everything, to cherish Him. God is also a just judge who must punish sin. Although God is merciful and does not want to punish us, see the dilemma? He is just and must punish sin.

Profoundest of Problems

A common question, “Why does God find it difficult to forgive?”

I’ve had one unbeliever say to me, “Come on. I forgive all the time. Isn’t it God’s business to forgive? What’s the big deal? Why does God find it difficult to forgive?” The real question I would propose is, “How can God find it possible to forgive when you understand His nature as both merciful and just?” In fact, it’s been found the profoundest of problems.

Forgiveness to men is the plainest of duties. To God it is the profoundest of problems. You see, there is a duality in God’s attributes. God’s holy justice is a just judge who must punish sin. God’s holy love is a gracious Father who loves to show mercy.

God’s duality is shown in Hosea 11.

“My heart is turned over within me. All my compassions are kindled. I will not execute my fierce anger. I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the holy one in your midst and I will not come in wrath.”

What you’re actually a glimpse into is the remarkable, mysterious, inter-trinitarian nature of God facing the profoundest of problems. “How can I be a just judge and at the same time be a loving Father?” How can God express His holy love? How can God express His love without compromising his holiness? On the flip side, how can God express His holiness without compromising His love?

Is the basic riddle of the universe how to preserve man’s right and solve his problems, or is the basic riddle of the universe how an infinitely worthy God in complete freedom can display the full range of His perfections, what Paul calls the “riches of His glory,” His holiness, His power, His wisdom, His justice, His wrath, His goodness, His truth, and His grace. What we’re saying here is how can God display the fullness of both His mercy and His justice? If you don’t understand that, if you don’t feel that, you will never understand the riches of the cross. God is a Father, but He is no less a judge.

Shall the judge give way to the Father or the Father give way to the judge? Which is the more unchangeable and irreversible? The vow of pity that He has taken or the oath of justice? Law and love must be reconciled, but one cannot give way to the other. Both must stand else the pillars of the universe will be shaken. Radical justice. He is more holy than you ever dared to believe. Radical love. He is more loving than you ever dared to hope. This comes from one of my previous mentor’s…

Here is Jack Miller’s influence you can now see through Keller:

“The Gospel is that you are more sinful and flawed that you ever dared believe, yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope at the same time, because Jesus Christ lived and died in your place.”

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Does Your Gospel Sound Like Jesus’ Gospel?

  • How close is your gospel message to the gospel message Jesus preached?
  • The gospel message Jesus preached almost always includes good news about God’s kingdom.
  • Does your gospel message almost always include good news about God’s kingdom?
  • Is your gospel message only about personal salvation?

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“Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered the gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty.” – J.I. Packer, Introductory Essay to Owen’s Death of Deaths

In this video, you’ll learn that the Gospel Jesus and Paul preached is more than good news about forgiveness and personal salvation.


Editor’s note: Slightly edited video transcript

The Bible presents the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, to us from two perspectives. Both perspectives are found in Scripture so both must be affirmed. One perspective looks at the good new about Jesus Christ from the perspective of God’s redemption in history. This is the good news that the Father’s creation, ruined by the Fall, is being redeemed by Christ and restored by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God.

The Bible also presents the gospel to us from the perspective of personal salvation with an emphasis on what happens to individuals within the bigger historical cosmic salvation in history. This perspective presents the gospel in terms of key categories like a message about God, sin, Christ, and faith, and emphasizes key biblical concepts like personal justification and adoption.

These two perspectives need to be integrated in our thinking as they are in the Bible. This involves seeing God as the creator of all things, but especially humanity as the apex of his creation. It also means seeing the historic fall of humanity as linked to the biblical doctrine of sin that separates humanity from God. And God’s historic work in redeeming all things lost in the Fall through the person and work of Christ, should be linked with God’s individual saving work of believers through his sinless life, sinners’ death, resurrection, and ascension for them.

Notice in Mark 1:15 Jesus proclamation of the gospel saying:

“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”

When you find Jesus using the term ‘gospel’ or ‘good news,’ it is almost always used in the same breath as the concept of the kingdom.

The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:

“For God was pleased through Christ to reconcile to himself,” not just fallen people, but notice, “to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

This concept of a theology of the kingdom or a gospel of the kingdom includes the good news that our God reigns through Jesus Christ. And he is now making all things new, and he’s calling everyone everywhere to repent and to be swept up in this cosmic renewal that includes the renewal of human hearts and the fulfillment of the promise of the new covenant of the prophets, that he will forgive our sins and take our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh and put his Spirit within us.

The two-fold impact of the fall was guilt and corruption. And the consummate fulfillment of the good news is ‘our God reigns.’ The new covenant in all of its riches is now here. You can be forgiven and you can have a new heart and a new spirit put within you as a part of God’s cosmic renewal of all things.

These are the categories we’re going to be looking at in this course. Tim Keller summarizes these categories this way: “God has entered the world in Jesus Christ to achieve a salvation that we could not achieve for ourselves which now converts and transforms individuals, forming them into a new humanity, the church, and eventually will renew the whole world and all creation.” Notice the personal salvation perspective of the gospel. And notice the cosmic sense of the good news.

When you ask a lot of people “What is the gospel?” they will often respond to you with a 1 Corinthians 15:3 and 4 kind of answer. My encouragement to you is to see that kind of answer as true but incomplete. This means the gospel is more than simply the gospel events. It’s more than simply Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return.

It’s also the gospel affirmations that God now makes about Jesus Christ because of what he did. God says that because of what Jesus did God has now made him Lord and Savior.

And what is the highest blessing of the gospel?

Most people would say forgiveness. Others would say adoption. The legal, forensic good news of justification is wonderful. It’s wonderful to be declared legally right before God as our judge in the heavenly court.

But it’s another far greater thing for the Father to take you to his home. So the highest blessing of the gospel is not forgiveness through justification but it would be adoption.

In his classic book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer argues that adoption is the highest blessing. But Calvin trumps Packer saying the highest blessing of the gospel is union with God through Christ. The truth is Packer would also affirm this. He was just trying to say that adoption is a higher blessing than justification. Justification is forensic and legal. While adoption is deeply personal and familial.

Make no mistake that the highest blessing of the gospel is being in Christ.

Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

We’ll see later that those blessings include a new record, a new heart, a new world.

But the highest blessing that you could ever have is that, through faith, you are now in mystical union with the triune God, in Christ. You are in Christ. Therefore, the inner Trinitarian love and fellowship is now yours. It’s astonishing that you’re now a part of the deepest love in the universe.

What will really blow your mind is when you realize that the same love the Father had for eternity for the Son, and reciprocal, with the Spirit as well, is now the love that he has for you because you are in Christ.

It is impossible to break this love. That’s the depth of what being “in Christ” means. You are in the Trinitarian relationship, and from that flows every spiritual blessing.

What we’re celebrating in this course is the triple blessing to all who are in Christ by faith:

1) a new record countering guilt

2) a new heart replacing a corrupt heart

3) a new new world replacing the corrupt world when Jesus returns

Later we’ll also look at what John Stott calls “the gospel demands” that answer the question, “How do I appropriate these promises?” We’ll see it’s through gospel repentance, faith, and obedience.

Learn More About The New Evangelism Course!

Registration closes April 15

Help under-served church leaders
develop churches that transform lives and communities.

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  • How close is your gospel message to the gospel message Jesus preached?
  • The gospel message Jesus preached normally includes good news about God’s kingdom.
  • Does your gospel message normally include good news about God’s kingdom?
  • Is your gospel message only about personal salvation?

We’re Losing the “Authentic Gospel” – J. I. Packer

Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered the gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty.” –  J.I. Packer, Introductory Essay to Owen’s Death of Deaths

In this 6-Lesson Course you’ll be equipped to:

      • Understand the biblical goals of evangelism
      • Explain three Scriptural motivations for evangelism
      • Describe Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom
      • Articulate what the Bible teaches about God and Sin
      • Proclaim the good news of Christ and salvation
      • Understand true repentance and faith in Christ
      • Explain essential methods of evangelism

This brief video (8:15) will show you that the Gospel Jesus and Paul preached is more than good news about forgiveness and personal salvation.

Preview New Course: Evangelism

Registration closes April 15

Help under-served church leaders
develop churches that transform lives and communities.
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