God's delight in saving sinners

I have been reading a book called “Finding Joy” and I came across these words, “God is delighted to save sinners: he invites us into a relationship with him in which he gives that joy to us.”[1] God is not a reluctant Saviour. God does not feel beholden to save out of a sense of duty. God is not a cosmic autocrat waiting to pounce on our every mistake. He is not a God who simply thunders at sin (though he does do that). His decision to save is not forced on him reluctantly as though there was something in us that he grudging admits means he must do something. God is free to save or not to save as he so chooses. And here is the thing! He delights in salvation. He finds intense joy in saving those he saves. And for those who think this sounds overly sentimental remember that Jesus says that heaven, in effect, throws a party whenever a lost sinner is saved (Luke 15:7, 10, 32). There is in God a sheer unadulterated pleasure in our salvation.


And his delight is to save sinners. People like you and me. People who know they are not only not good enough to go to heaven, they are more than bad enough to go to hell. If the latter were not so, why would we need to be saved at all? I deserved hell. I deserved eternal condemnation. I did not seek let alone deserve salvation. God came calling for me because he delighted in my salvation.


And God calls us into a relationship with him. That is an astonishing thing. Think of the infinite distance between the eternal God, the supremely holy one, the all-powerful Creator, and us finite creatures still infested with sin. God none the less invites us, woos us, into a relationship with him. One that is both personal (it is for each individual) and communal (we are called to be part of a family made up of other believers).


Romans 5:1-2 tells me that if I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ then I have peace with God. Honeysett says, “Christians have been justified. We have already been declared right with God. Full stop. It is achieved. No sin or failure can ever alter that fact.”[2]


And God wants us to be joyful in this salvation that he has given us. The apostle Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always”, and that is God’s call to joy. He delights in our salvation and wants us to delight in it as well.


I was reminded of that scene from “A Christmas Carol” (the one with George C. Scott as Scrooge) when Scrooge wakes up in his bed, after the visit of the three spirits, and realises that he is alive. Truly alive! He had seen what he deserved to be as a result of his behaviour and the attitude of his heart. But a form of grace had visited him. He neither asked for it nor deserved it but he got it anyway. Now he laughed for joy and what he now had before him. Life! He felt as light as a feather. This is the joy of someone who has been offered something way beyond his desert and way beyond his expectations. And this is the joy that God wants from us at the unexpected, unsought for, grace of God in saving us. Like Scrooge we were all dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1) and, if we are his, have been made alive by him (Ephesians 2:5). We who were captives of death now reign in life! We are alive!


And life is to know God and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3). Our first parents lost life when they preferred to “know” without God. They failed to understand that true life, life to the full as Jesus puts it, is experienced in relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with God. So they lost that vital relationship with him. Death is separation from him. That is why we were dead before God’s grace made us alive. Life is knowing, relationally, the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent. And in this life we find the joy that God wants us to have. And in giving us this life, God takes great joy. “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT)

[1] Marcus Honeysett, Finding Joy: A radical rediscovery of grace (Leicester: IVP, 2005), 13.

[2] Honeysett, Finding Joy, 22.


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