“But God” What a Concept!

Today in a parking lot, I stumbled upon this license plate and asked the driver if I could take a picture of it and if it was okay if I shared it publicly. He said “Sure”.

But God - Awesome, Terrifying and Hopeful

But God – Awesome, Terrifying and Hopeful

I love this license plate. I never really ever dwelt on the phrase or “Holy Conjunction” before but it is in the Bible a lot. In one search of the ESV on Biblegateway I find the words together 48 times. But wow. What a phrase!

His plate gave me a sense of comfort as a believer straight away. Then it got me thinking about the phrase. Think of the time your faith has been tried by circumstances that knocked you off your feet. It is those moments that “but God” means everything to you. Richard Wurmbrandt, who wrote tortured for Christ, only had “but God” to keep Him going in his darkest hours. You know what, though, “but God” is all he needed. To this believer, the phrase invokes the same feeling that this verse from Rock of Ages invokes:

Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling…

I’m a sinner. A reprobate with a wicked heart and mind. I have secret sins. I have selfish motives. Left to my corrupt nature I would perish in my angry, sinful state and spit in the face of the God who made me.. I had no hope on my own. No power to render myself clean. But God…  No ability to even desire repentance on my own. But God…

It is a phrase that is comforting to the elect, yes. But to those who aren’t secure in the capable and solid arms of Christ – it should be a phrase or concept of terror, of awesome fright. Sadly to many it isn’t though, it’s a phrase or concept worth cracking a joke at.

Romans 2 says:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus Romans 2:14-16 (ESV – emphasis added)

We may do good. We may help that little old lady across the street. We may be kind to puppies, as Hitler could have said. We may love our mothers as most cruel tyrants can say. We may pour all of our heart, time and money into the lives of others. But God.. God sees our inward heart. He sees through our fog machines, even when we’ve fogged over the internal view. He judges us. For our complete record, even our secrets. By us – I mostly mean me, but the Bible tells me it’s not just true of me.

I love this license plate – because this is such an important conjunction for all times – though it seems especially poignant to us today in This America at This Time as I blogged about earlier. But God works in our present age as he has in all the ages past and will in the ones to come.

for example on abortion… 

Just today, somewhere around 1,000 lives were extinguished in America inside the safest place for them to be – their mother’s womb.. But God is victorious over death and He makes His elect victorious as well:

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our  Lord Jesus Christ.

– 1 Corinthians 15:53-5 7 (ESV)

This month or week even a person will be murdered somewhere and the criminal justice system will not reckon with the murderer while they are alive, But God rights all wrongs and exacts his perfect justice in His time and in His way. The unjust will not escape His wrath. 

Today nations make their own plans and put God out of their planning and out of thought, out of sightBut God is sovereign over the nations and works all things together in the end. And all humanity will stand in judgment.

So many hurt. So many have needs But God is there with his missionaries being his hands and feet. God is mourning with those who mourn, God offers a living water which quenches the deepest longing and thirsts of the heart, the Bread of Life which heals corrupt natures from their sin sick states.(though the church could and should do so much more.. We’ll be called to account for this life of complacency the Church in America is found in) But God…

Just some of the places where “But God” is found in the Bible are below. I encourage you to study the phrase and its occurrence more. Words don’t have special meaning, there’s no code to the Bible. But explore some of the verses and their context. Look at the truths Scripture reveals to us.

I’ll start with my favorite set of verses and share a few other random verses to get you started. What do you think? What does “But God” mean to you? What hope do you find there? (all verses are ESV)

But God… saves sinners

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

But God… shows His strength through working through weaker vessels. He counfounds the wise through the mouths of the foolish – by the world’s standards.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 1 Corinthians 1:27

He gives us much freedom and love and grace and compassion But God... has standards..

but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Genesis 3:3

He judges. He deals with sins and is righteous and shows his righteous anger. But God shows mercy and tenderness to we who don’t deserve either:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. Genesis 8:1 (besides Romans 5:6 – I believe this is one of the sweetest, and most indescribably wonderful “But God” occurrences in the Bible)

But God.. can turn ash into diamonds

As for you, 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 (Joseph speaking to his brothers, who effectively left him for dead in a ditch someplace)

But God… sees through our selfish foolishness and is still willing to teach us through our stubbornness 

ButGod said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:9 

I could keep going. But you can explore the Bible yourself. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know why you are reading this post. But God knows you. But God knows your heart. But God knows your secrets and your thoughts. If you are a brother or sister secure in Christ already – I pray that you find hope in thinking about the “Buts” God has put into our circumstances and this world. The Bible tells us that if we are His – we already overcomers. We’ve already triumphed over the worst that the Prince of lies has to throw at us. We ought to use that victory, that freedom, for His Kingdom. We ought to use this grace to throw bombs of grace at those around us. We ought to live like we were bought from our bondage to sin. I’m speaking to me as much as I’m speaking to you. Let’s not waste all of these But God moments.We can rejoice in God and what he has done for us in spite of us even in our deepest pits.

If you aren’t His – I pray that you will search your heart. That you will be open to God’s call on your life if He is calling you. I pray that you will realize that your sins are many – maybe not as many as mine – but even one is more than God can look upon without judgment. I pray that you will realize that the most powerful But God.. concept is Grace. We are sinners. We are selfish. We violate God’s principles, But God was pleased to punish Christ and put our iniquity on Him – as Isaiah 53 tells us. But God remembered Noah – and He will not let His elect perish. I pray that you will see your sins and see your need for a Savior and that God would be pleased to call you unto Himself.

2 thoughts on ““But God” What a Concept!

  1. Caitlyn Harts

    Hi Mike –
    Great train of thought! Here are a few of my thoughts on the same ideas of But God in Scripture – and in my life…
    Reference to Genesis 20:3 (About Abraham and Sarah when they told Abimelech Sarah was Abraham’s sister – to keep Abraham from being killed):

    But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”. (Genesis 20:3)

    It’s about Abimelech getting the word from God to let Sarah alone. It resulted in Abimelech calling in Abraham and saying, “Hey, what are you trying to do to me – get me annihilated? Sarah’s your wife not your sister!”

    The thing I find fascinating about this is God not only saved Abraham from the wrath of Abimelech and Sarah from being defiled – and their marriage from being tainted – but Abimelech even gave them presents when they left. Seriously? But our God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or think. And I love that God protects marriage – even when we mess it up with our sin. He steps in, saving and protecting. I’m so counting on that!
    Genesis 50:20 (this is the verse about Joseph forgiving his brothers):

    As for you, 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)

    I love that even though Joseph went through a whole lot of trouble(s) moving from annoying little brother to second in command to Pharaoh, God didn’t waste one single trial during the journey. We may think all is lost if we only look at our circumstances, BUT GOD… brings us through and not only rescues us but uses us for mightier things than we ever would have imagined before our period of training.
    Matthew 19:26 (One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. It’s not exactly ‘But God’ – still close:

    But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)


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