The Bible paints a stark picture of our spiritual condition before Jesus shows up; that picture is both bleak and black . . . but thank God the Bible doesn’t leave us there! In the midst of this desolate picture, God gives us a word of tremendous comfort: BUT. Here are a few of what I call the “Beautiful Buts” of the Bible:
You meant evil against me, BUT God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
My flesh and my heart may fail, BUT God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
When they had carried out all that was written of [Jesus], they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. BUT God raised him from the dead . . .(Acts 13:29-31)
By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. BUT now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Romans 3:20-22)
You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5)
We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. BUT when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:3-5)
We are unrighteous, BUT God provides our righteousness. We are in darkness, BUT God sends His Light. We are lost, BUT God sends our Great Shepherd to find us. We are in prison, BUT God has come to set the captives free. We are dead, BUT God provides life. We are utterly ruined, BUT God provides our rescue. There are so many beautiful “BUTS” in the Bible that are designed to free us from the helpless and hopeless feelings that beset us all apart from Christ.
You don’t have to be a believer to know that something is radically wrong in this world. BUT you do have to be a believer, by God’s grace, to understand what God has done about it. What makes God’s provision so incredible is that we do absolutely nothing to secure it. That was done on the cross by Jesus Christ on our behalf. How incredible to know that in our rebellion and lost condition, God shows up with the keys to the Kingdom! We were once objects of His holy wrath, BUT now we are objects of His unconditional love and deepest affection.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!