Summary: The LORD’s reputation has been much maligned by the devil and the accusations he is bringing against the Christian society of today. What kind of a reputation does God deserve? Where does it come from? Find out.
March 28, 2004 God’s Kingdom Stands and Falls on His Reputation
I. The need for a good reputation
In the 1980’s a young lady dressed in leather by the name of Joan Jett sang a song singing in more vulgar language than this - “I don’t really care about my bad reputation.” She and her “blackhearts” had a heavy influence on the attitude of several of my classmates. They wanted to emulate her song. It wasn’t that they didn’t care about their bad reputation - it was worse than that - they wanted to have a reputation that said to people, “I don’t care what you think of me.” It’s the same attitude you can read in many people who are into body piercing today. They are trying to say to society, “I’m different and I’m not going to succumb to your norms.” They may not want a bad reputation, but they don’t exactly want a good one either.
God wants you to have a good reputation. He is so concerned about your reputation that he even attached a commandment to it when he said, “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” One of the worst crimes you can commit against someone is not to take their car, their money, or their clothing - but their reputation. In the story of Naboth, he had done nothing to harm his own reputation. He was simply a faithful farmer taking care of his inherited vineyard. However, when Ahab the King coveted the vineyard, his wife Jezebel set up two scoundrels to ruin Naboth’s reputation. 1 Kings 21 says that, They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. When Naboth lost his reputation, he also lost his life. Reputations are important.
The presidential candidates understand this very well. In order to win they are both going on smear campaigns in an attempt to ruin the reputation of the other. President Bush has accused John Kerry of being two sided. John Kerry has accused President Bush of lying about weapons of mass destruction and not doing anything about September 11th. Both of them are both vigorously trying to ruin the reputations of the other while defending their own. That’s the way the world works. They realize that reputations are all important if you want to move up in this world.
When we look beyond ourselves and our presidential campaigns and politics, and focus our eyes on the heavenly things - we can see the same struggle occurring in the spiritual realm. In order to convert and rule the world, God doesn’t use guns, spears, money, or armies to gain control of hearts. The kingdom of God rises and falls based on one main thing - and that is His REPUTATION. If He has the right reputation - then people will naturally be drawn to Him and want Him to rule their hearts and lives. There are several key verses in the Scriptures that I believe demonstrate God’s character in the most concise way. The first one is when Moses begged to see God. As God revealed His “back side”, He also revealed to Moses who He was with these words in Exodus 34 -
“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Here we see God vividly describe two things about Himself - that He is compassionate, gracious, and forgiving. But He is also just and punishes those who hate him. (Exodus 20) All of this is clearly seen when we look at the cross of Christ. There God punished sin. There God showed his hatred of sinners. But there God also showed His unconditional love for the sinner. The other passage that eloquently describes God in Christ then is found in Romans 5,
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Here you see that our God is far more compassionate and gracious toward us than we deserve. On the cross He maintains His justice, but He also displays His love and forgiveness - which overtakes His justice. God’s grace is so great that He would send His only Son to die for us. So God wants to be known as a God who doesn’t wink at sin, accept sin, or excuse sin. He is a just God who punishes sin. But He is also a God who punished sin in His Son. He wants the world to know that He is a forgiving God - one who wants ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. This can only be found at the cross. That’s the reputation He wants. Just and forgiving. If people can see this reputation of God - the Holy Spirit will naturally work through it so that they want to say, “Jesus is my Lord.”