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28
Aug
2016

Extravagant Grace and Mercy

by Dudley Hall

Recently, I was walking on a Texas ranch filled with wildflowers. The blues, reds, oranges, yellows were so bright they almost hurt my eyes. I stopped to examine my favorite: the deep purple Wine Cup. (At least that’s what we call them on this ranch.) I sat beside it and looked carefully at the intricate design inside the cup. Fantastic! Unbelievably beautiful in every detail! I contemplated again the thought that there were millions of them blooming all over the Southwest, and most of them would never be seen by a human eye. “That’s extravagant!” I blurted out. Immediately I seemed to hear a sound from heaven saying, “I can afford it.”

It is no wonder that the Bible tells us that both the existence and eternal nature of God can be seen in creation (Rom. 1:19-20). The human dilemma exists not because God is too small or too reticent, but because mankind has refused to embrace what can easily be seen. Refusing to acknowledge how big and good He is, we have created gods that more easily fit our limited understanding. If we really knew how good He is, we would enthusiastically worship Him. It is blindness that prevents such a view. We desperately need new sight.

In truth, He is always extravagant in his expression of love. He wants us all to know a kind of love that does not give in order for the sake of getting. It was such extravagance that moved Him to create. He was completely happy within His own three-fold unity, yet He delighted to create beings who could enjoy what He enjoys. When the first couple chose to trust another’s explanation of reality, God was extravagant in covering their shame and providing a way for them to live, even in their exile. Later He was extravagant in revealing himself to Noah who saved the race by following God’s instructions. His extravagance was again seen in His promise to Abram that he would bring blessings on the earth rather than curses. He was extravagant in the mighty miracles of deliverance of Abraham’s descendants from Egypt. He fed them bread from heaven and water from a rock, and He defeated their enemies. He was extravagant in blessing the kingdom of David and in granting wisdom to Solomon. When both Israel and Judah went into captivity because of their refusal to respond to His extravagant love, he again displayed His love in moving Cyrus to release a remnant to rebuild their city and temple.

But all that was a small foretaste of His grandest display of extravagant love. God gave Himself to become a man so that He could endure the death sin had earned us all. As the “Son of Man” Jesus lived to show what love looks like in human form. He fed thousands with a few pieces of bread and fish — and had basketfuls left over. He healed every kind of disease. He cast out every level of demonic power. He forgave the worst of sinners and opened the eyes of the blindest people on earth. And He forgave! No sin was too great. No stronghold was too secure. He set people free — many of whom never turned to follow Him. He could afford the mercy.

 

Then he carried out the plan of the Godhead. He died in our place so that we could live. After His resurrection, he ascended to the throne in heaven, having all the spoils of his victory; and again He extravagantly gave gifts to His people. These were not just trinkets or toys. The gift was the Spirit — the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. God again gave Himself to live inside believers so that each could enjoy the continual fellowship of shared life with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

All of this is truly unthinkable to the human mind. God has extravagantly given us the privilege of unbroken fellowship with Him. Forgiven of our sins, freed from our shame, empowered by His Spirit, we live with the dignity of being His partners on earth in the business of displaying the extravagant love of God for His creation.

It would be the epitome of mockery to define this extravagance primarily in terms of financial or material luxury. There are some who justify their own gaudy excessiveness on the basis of God’s extravagant love. They reveal a misguided appraisal. God’s extravagance is shown in giving Himself, not in boasting in His resources. His was rich and became poor so that we could have the riches of reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 8:9). Those who know his extravagant love are so enamored with Him, their earthly possessions — whether great or meager — are mere tools with which to carry out His mission. They are never used to measure success or exercise power over others.

All this takes some getting used to. Living with an extravagant God stretches our perspective of realty. We who have lived so long in spiritual poverty tend to think God is a penny-pincher. If you doubt that your particular sin could be forever forgiven, or that your request is too much to ask, I remind you that God can afford it.

Dudley Hall is the founder and president of Kerygma Ventures, author of numerous books including Grace Works, Incense & Thunder, and Glad to be Left Behind, and a frequent contributor to The Stream.