It took me years to overcome the thought that God was a frustrated and irritable Father that was constantly disappointed in me. I would see other Christians casually walk in faith and sweet spiritual bliss while I was burdened by the thought of Sodom and Gomorrah – divine punishment that all sin deserved. But then, much like Lydia in Philippi, God opened my heart and I beheld the wondrous glory that God delights in redemption! In that one truth, I discovered joy, hope, and most importantly, confidence in God’s approval. Let us consider a few ways in which we see God’s delight in saving sinners.
1. The Pursuit of Sinners
In Luke 15:1-10 we find two wonderful parables that Jesus shares. In one parable we find a man who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in pursuit of one lost sheep and in the second, a woman who diligently looks for one lost coin although she still has nine others left. These two characters leave the majority in pursuit of the one lost sheep or the one lost coin until they find them. The main point being “until they find them.” It is a diligent seeking that will not end until what is lost is recovered.
In a similar way, God pursues us with unrelenting commitment. He is devoted, diligent, precise, and efficient in retrieving the lost souls of humanity. Such a pursuit can only communicate a serious desire. It is a desire that those who are wandering be found and freed to the enjoyment of God. It is a liberating and confidence-inducing thought to realize that God wasn’t forced to save us, but actually desires to save us. And since He does have this desire, we can have confidence knowing that nothing will quench that desire or prevent it from being completed (Job 42:2 cf.).
At the end of the parables in Luke 15, we also find a repeated truth of great significance. When the shepherd finds his lost sheep and the woman finds her lost coin they both call together their neighbors and friends to celebrate. It is a joyful response that originates out of their extreme desire to find what was lost. The inclusion of the neighbors and friends means it is an unashamed, public, and grand celebration.
At the end of this parable, Jesus offers an explanation. He says that this is the kind of celebration that happens in heaven when one sinner repents. In other words, God finds great joy and delight when sinners are saved! He has a celebratory joy that bursts forth from His heart when those who are lost in sin are finally found in Him. When we consider the seriousness of our sin we see the enormous and amazing reality that God would delight in saving sinners – the very ones who have scorned His law and rebelled against His will.
I long to see God pleased. And knowing that my redemption pleases Him, a work that He accomplished Himself, allows me to have much more confidence in relating to Him, enjoying Him, and serving Him.
2. The Willingness to Die for Sinners
One of the more startling truths of salvation comes from Romans 5:6-8. Most believers know these verses and the wonderful truth they teach. I simply want to focus on one word in verse 6. It is the word “ungodly”. There is so much significance packed into this one word. It tells of our condition before Christ died for us.
Ungodly means everything that is the opposite of and different from God. This includes morals, character, and goodness. All that we know and enjoy of God, not just His divine attributes, but also His person, is not found within us – we are ungodly. And yet, God would love us enough to send Jesus to be a sacrifice for us. What kind of love must God possess to desire to redeem those who are totally opposite of Him? Where He is good we are evil. Where He is righteous we are unrighteous. Where He is kind we are ruthless. The comparisons could go on and on. And yet, in the midst of all of this offense to God, He desired to save us and redeem us. This can only be attributed to the fact that He delights in doing so.
God was never obligated or tricked into saving sinful men. He desired to do so because it delighted and thrilled His heart to display His glorious love, justice, and mercy to sinful humanity who would have otherwise never have known Him. God receives an abundance of glory that we would not have recognized if it hadn’t been for the cross. This brings joy to the heart of God.
The proof of God’s delight in saving sinners is the investment of His Son on the cross for our redemption even when we had nothing to offer Him. Our salvation doesn’t make God more loving or kind. We brought nothing to the table. The salvation He offers is the expression of a love and kindness that were already present. He delights in showing off those attributes through saving us.
John Piper often quotes Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all the He pleases.” This wonderful verse applies to the saving of sinners. It pleases God to issue redemption and forgiveness. It pleases God to display grace and to show mercy. It pleases God to take the ungodly and make them godly. Whatever may cause doubt in the believer’s mind, the truth that God has joy in saving the guilty and ungodly, doing all that He pleases, should grant us great confidence in the security, reality, and blessing of the gospel.