How often do you think about God being satisfied and taking pleasure in showing grace? It’s not uncommon in evangelical churches to hear sermons about the justice of God needing to be satisfied by punishing sin or the need for divine wrath to be propitiated through sacrifice. Such are true and essential aspects of the gospel. Yet, we need to realise that the same underlying reality that enables us to speak of the justice of God needing to be satisfied also enables us to speak of the grace of God needing to be satisfied. In the same way that God is glorified by showing himself to be righteous and just in the face of sin, He is also glorified by showing himself merciful and gracious in the face of humility and need.
To understand this, we need to appreciate what theologians label the attributes of God. An attribute is an inalienable trait of God. It is something that is so true of God that we cannot think rightly about Him without keeping this in view. Now, one of the attributes of God that is revealed very early in the Bible is the graciousness of the divine nature. When Yahweh passes before Moses, the name proclaimed is “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34). This beautiful star shines brighter and brighter as the Scriptures unfold until, by the time we get to Jesus, it is blazing like the sun in the sky overhead. With John, we can say, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Looking on the cross, we see that grace is every bit as essential to the being of God as are other tremendous attributes like omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. God is gracious just as He is powerful and wise, and His nature is satisfied in showing forth grace just as it is in showing forth any of the other excellencies of His being.
All of this may sound heady and academic. It is anything but. One of Satan’s favourite tactics is to convince us that we’ve exhausted God’s willingness to show grace to us. We imagine that the grace of God is a finite reservoir. To draw from it is to deplete it, and to deplete it is, eventually, to run dry. Yet, to think this way is to twist the beauty of the divine nature into a ludicrous gargoyle. With God, grace is not finite, but infinite. Likewise, for God to display grace is not depleting, but glorifying. God delights in nothing more than being seen and known for what He is. For us to experience more of His grace is not disappointing for God, but pleasing. To retweet John Piper’s favourite phrase, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him – and this means, in part, receiving joyfully another daily dispensation of divine grace.
One of my favourite ways to meditate on this wonderful truth is by thinking about a hymn by John Newton. I’ve copied it below. Take a few minutes this week to ponder these words. I can guarantee that they will lift your heart to a higher plane of joy and praise.
For mercies, countless as the sands
Which daily I receive
From Jesus, my Redeemer’s hands,
My soul, what canst thou give?
Alas! from such a heart as mine,
What can I bring Him forth?
My best is stained and dyed with sin,
My all is nothing worth.
Yet this acknowledgement I’ll make
For all He has bestowed;
Salvation’s sacred cup I’ll take,
And call upon my God.
The best return for one like me,
So wretched and so poor;
Is from His gifts to draw a plea,
And ask Him still for more.
I cannot serve him as I ought,
No works have I to boast;
Yet would I glory in the thought
That I shall owe Him most.