Monthly Archives: June 2018

Peter’s Bold Request

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus walked on the lake during the storm, in the early morning, acting as if He would pass them by. His disciples thought He was a ghost and were afraid of what they saw. “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’” (Matthew 14:27 ESV).  When Jesus spoke to them, they did not recognize Him, even as He walked toward them in the early morning light because they were not expecting Him to walk on water. He told them to take heart, that is, to cheer up and be courageous. Then He commanded they not fear Him or be alarmed at what they saw.

At first, Peter did not believe he was hearing Jesus speak. He uses the word if, the same word used by Satan during Jesus’ temptation. If is part of an “if-then” statement. Logically, if and action is true then its consequence is also true. If you put your hand in a fire then you will be burned. If you jump into the lake then you will get wet. So, Satan demanded Jesus prove His divinity. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3 ESV). If you really are the Son of God, feed yourself because you are hungry. Do a miracle. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down” (Matthew 4:6 ESV), then your angels, whom you command, will come rescue you. Satan then suggests that it owns the world and can give it to whomever it pleases. “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9 ESV). If you worship me then I will reward you. In each instance Satan challenges Jesus’ divine power. It knows who Jesus is and, in typical rebellious fashion, sought to undermine and destroy Jesus’ authority.

Peter was not sure it was Jesus. He could see Him and hear Him. Peter had seen Jesus perform miracles. But, his natural self was unsure.  “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28 ESV). There was no intent to undermine Jesus’ position or authority. Peter needed proof Jesus was there. If it is you, then I, too, can walk on water. Peter didn’t want to be afraid. In normal Peter fashion, he went to the extreme. He was learning that Jesus never asked people to do His will. He commanded they obey. When Jesus called Peter and the others, He did not ask them to follow Him. He commanded they follow Him. When He healed people and cast demons out of people, it was by His command. Peter, knowing this, asked Jesus to direct him to walk on water. He knew he could do the impossible only at the direction of God.

Jesus called Peter to come to Him and, like the call to follow Jesus after the miraculous catch of fish, Peter immediately complied. “He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29 ESV). None of the others asked to get out of the boat and follow Peter. Only Peter exited the boat and stepped out onto the water, walking toward the Man he served. Peter walked on water.

But then Peter became distracted by his surroundings. He, the fisherman who intimately knew the lake, saw the danger of the lake and became afraid. He was not afraid of Jesus. He was afraid of the world. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (Matthew 14:30 ESV). Peter doubted that he could actually do that which he was doing. He did not doubt Jesus. He doubted himself. He took his gaze off the One he followed and focused his attention on the impossibility of the action in which he was engaged.

Peter began to sink. He’s knows how to swim. The seas are rough and wind is strong. He had been doing the impossible. His fear stopped his faith. Faith is believing the evidence of the work of God, trusting the object and obeying the command. Peter saw Jesus walk on water, trusted that he, too, could walk on water and obeyed the command to walk on water. Then, he stopped believing and trusting Jesus and was unable to obey. Jesus didn’t change. His trustworthiness was not compromised. He commanded Peter do the impossible so His direction was not unreasonable. Peter’s faith ceased, he became afraid, and sank. If he had drowned it would have been because of his unnecessary fear and panic.

Jesus reached out and saved Peter from a situation that was neither dangerous or unreasonable. “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31 ESV). Jesus recognized Peter’s faith became distracted and useless because of his doubt. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus recognized Peter’s leadership and constantly challenged him. He groomed Peter, holding him to a high standard. He holds all those who follow Him to the same high standard.

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Honor

Meditations in the Psalms

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? (Psalm 4:2 ESV)

Jesus’ prayer, cried out in this Psalm, and the prayer of the Psalmist, is inspired by the thinking of the hearts of the people who rage against Him. They are wicked and ungodly people, the kings and rulers of nations, who surround Him, intent upon inflicting violence against His person. Their unrighteousness wars against His righteousness. God gives Him both grace and mercy when He answers His prayer and relieves His distress.

David, speaking for Jesus in this Psalm, asks those who dishonor Him with their lies, pointed, parallel questions. Honor means glory, glorious, abundance.Shamemeans disgrace, reproach, confusion, insult, ignominy, discredit. These combative people use propaganda to attack Jesus’ character and person. They embrace vanity or vain words, which are empty and idle speech, that lifts themselves up while tearing Him down. They seek and desire to believe and espouse lies, false, deceptive, untrue teaching and training. These are the same people who “plot in vain” (Psalm 2:1 ESV) against the “LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:2 ESV). How long are they going to continue their rebellion and vilify, belittle and slander Him?

Throughout the Jesus’ earthly ministry He consistently confronted and opposed the Jewish leaders and teachers of the law. They saw Him as a threat to their power and authority over the people. He viewed them as false teachers, who led people away from God.

Jesus performed a miracle, raising Lazarus from death after four days in the tomb. Lazarus’ body naturally started to decay and decompose. People reacted to Jesus’ miracle in two ways. Either they embraced Jesus, convinced He was who He said He was, or they did not believe Him and denied Him. What did Jesus declare about Himself? In the presence of the people, Jesus declared to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV). Even though Jesus’ miracle is undeniable, executed in public, witnessed by many people, some of those who could accurately testify to Lazarus being dead and then not being dead, denied Him. “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (John 11:45-46 ESV). They did not deny He performed a miracle. They denied His divinity, for only God can raise the dead.

How did the Jewish leaders react? “From that day on they made plans to put him to death” (John 11:53 ESV). But Lazarus was still walking around, a living proof of the miracle performed by Jesus. People came from all around to see him who had died and been raised. They wanted to see both Jesus and Lazarus. Not only did the religious leaders plot to kill Jesus, they also arranged to kill Lazarus, the living, undeniable evidence of the power of God flowing through the Man from Nazareth.

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11 ESV).

They plotted and schemed to murder two people who had done nothing against the law of God deserving of death. What was their motivation for premeditated murder?

“So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation’” (John 11:47-48 ESV).

They, who wanted the Roman occupiers to suffer the wrath of God, were afraid the Romans would remove them from power. They were afraid the Romans would remove their place, which is their temple, and their nation, already dominated by the enemy occupiers. Comfortable in their position in the world, the Jewish leaders did not really want to obey God and trust Him. People rumbled about making Jesus their king so He could defeat the Romans and feed them (see John 6:15). Jesus would not let them. This attitude of the people was not unknown to the Jewish leaders. They were afraid of Jesus, who represented a corrosion of their authority. At least under the Romans they had some control. They loved vanity and by their plotting to murder Jesus, sought to shame Him whom they should have honored.

Jesus Walking on Water

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Matthew 14:22-33

What seems impossible to us is easily done by God. God may give us visions of great things, followed by a command to carry them out. Most often, we talk ourselves out of doing anything because of the enormity of the task and our lack of faith in God. Either that, or we are just lazy and don’t want the work. However, some may begin to work, in their own strength. And then the great things envisioned become impossibilities, surrounded by impossible circumstances. What is impossible for us is merely commonplace for God. He places us in impossible times so we will rely completely upon His strength and not upon our own, and so we will know He has accomplished the task through us.

There are a number of stories found in all four Gospels. One of those stories is the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus asked His disciples to feed the crowd of people who had come to hear Him teach. “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16 ESV; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13; John 6:5). After miraculously feeding the five thousand, Jesus sends away His disciples in a boat and He climbs a mountain to pray. Coming down from the mountain, Jesus sees there is a pounding storm and high waves on the lake. His disciples are fighting in their boat against waves that are tossing them around. “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary” (Matthew 14:24 ESV). Peter, Andrew, James and John are there, experienced fishermen, who intimately knew the lake and the weather that roiled the waves and the sea.

Daylight is coming. The fourth watch of the night is just before sunrise. It is no longer dark and the disciples can see in the gloaming light the fury of the storm. They also see Jesus walking on the lake. Or, they see something coming toward them on top of the water. In the natural world, following the natural laws emplaced by God, all objects not designed to float will sink in water. Boats, designed by people to float will sink when the structure is damaged and no longer does what it was created to do. Some birds, created by God, sit on top of the water and swim, floating and moving about. What the men saw was a shape of an object they knew was not designed to float.

Gripped by fear of the unknown, they thought they were seeing a ghost. “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26 ESV). This troubled them, agitated by the fear of the unknown and anxious for their own safety. They were superstitious, thinking what they saw was an apparition or specter, a ghost or phantom. A ghost is the essence of a person after they die. A dead person was approaching them and they dreaded the encounter. Contained in a boat on rough seas, far from shore, they had nowhere to run or escape from that which was approaching them.

Did they not know their Master? How He looked? How He walked? His mannerisms and shape? Jesus was walking on the water, doing something their minds could not conceive as possible. But, hadn’t they seen Him do miracles? Had He not just fed over 5,000 men, and women and children, from a pitiful, handful of bread and fish? Jesus was doing the impossible. They still did not know who He was, though all the evidence pointed to His being the Creator of the world.

When Man, Adam and Eve, was created, they were given dominion over the earth. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV). Dominion means control, to rule over and tread down.  Just as God had control over the universe, He created Man as His authority to have control over the earth, not just over those living things on the planet. The whole of the planet was under their authority and control.

Jesus’ walking on water was an exhibition of His authority and control over the earth. He, who is eternal God, came as a physical Man, having all of the qualities and characteristics of man the way God originally intended. Jesus was a Servant of God being found in the form and likeness of a man. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV). He walked on water because He was in control.

Relief and Grace

Meditations on the Psalms

You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

Those feeling distress look for relief. We do not know the circumstances which inspired the writing of this Psalm. Some suggest David wrote Psalm Four on the tail end of Psalm Three, as he was fleeing his son, Absalom. That the Psalmist is in distress is stated in this opening prayer to God, the only One who offers gracious relief.

Given me reliefmeans to grow large, enlarge or widened, as when the heart is filled with good things. Distress has the opposite allusion, meaning tonarrow, tighten, to find one self in a narrow, indefensible strait or place, by an adversary, foe, enemy or oppressor, whose attack is hard as flint. Gracious means to show favor or pity. Both David and Jesus, as with many Christians throughout history, found themselves in places where they were attacked on every side, hemmed in at a place which is indefensible, by an enemy whose intent and tack are meant to utterly destroy. Who is the enemy? They are the Deceiver, death, the wicked, rebellious nations lead by kings and rulers, those who surround the godly with the evil goals of usurping God.

Many of David’s writings are prophecies of Jesus Christ’s life. The thinking of the heart of this Psalm shows the thinking of the heart of Christ while living as a man among the people of Israel. Any number of Jesus’ situations and experiences are described here. One specific episode comes to mind.

Psalm Four describes many of the occurrences in the story of the death and resuscitation of Lazarus of Bethany, whose sisters were Mary and Martha. Jesus loved this family. He was raised from death but then died again and has been resurrected to eternal life. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5 ESV). When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick He stayed where He was, several days journey away from Bethany. Knowing what was to happen, Jesus directed the attention of His disciples toward God, not toward the illness of the one He loved. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 ESV).

Finally, after two days, Jesus decided to return to Bethany. This frightened the disciples, who knew many people there wanted to murder Him. Jesus then declared Lazarus had died, using the metaphor of falling asleep. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Not understanding Jesus’ words, the disciples question Him about returning for a man who is simply asleep. Jesus revealed why He waited. “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14-15 ESV).

This does not sound like Jesus felt either destress or fear to journey to a place where His enemies would attack Him. Jesus was not afraid to walk into circumstances where His life was threatened, knowing no one could harm Him until God’s purpose and plan were ready for fulfillment. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He did experience distress over death. In the eyes of the witnesses, Jesus, a man larger than life, was enlarged even more by His public actions and public prayer.

It is the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35 ESV). Why did Jesus weep when He stood in front of the tomb of His friend Lazarus? Mary and Martha and others were weeping at the tomb because they would never see their brother and friend again. Jesus wept because of death, knowing the eternal consequences of dying. Jesus sobbed, bursting into tears, because He understood more than anyone what death means and why death happens. He will soon face His own death and feel such stress His sweat will drop like blood. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Jesus felt deeply the effects of sin without sinning.

Jesus prayed. He knew what He would do days before. He knew what was happening and would happen from eternity. Lazarus was dead, but death means nothing to God, who cannot die. God controls death, having made it a natural part of the process of creation. Lazarus died, but there is nothing which can stop God from giving him back life.

Jesus commanded the people to open the tomb. Then He prayed. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42 ESV). He commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb and out he walked. He who had died several days before emerged from the grave, fully alive. Only God can raise the dead. This is God’s grace on full display.

Jesus confronted the enemy, death, an enemy no one but God can conquer. Soon He would confront death again, with His own life, and conquer forever an enemy who claims all, claiming all for Himself. God has answered Jesus’ prayer. God has relieved His distress.

Peter Following Jesus

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 5:1-11

Peter feared Jesus and what He represented. Even though Peter had not thought through all of the implications of Jesus’ commands, telling him to fish and then catching fish when the should not have, and how His presence would affect his life and world, Peter intuitively feared Jesus. This fear of the unknown is normal for all people. Fear, in Greek, means to put to flight and flee, to be seized with alarm and startled. In Scripture, fear also means to hold with reverence, to venerate, to treat with honor and deference. Peter’s reaction to Jesus included all of the above feelings. How do we know Peter was afraid? Jesus told Peter to not be afraid. “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men’” (Luke 5:10 ESV). Jesus did not want Peter and those with him to be alarmed and run away but to follow Him.

God wants those He created in His image to fear Him but to not be afraid of Him. They are to honor Him as God. He created people for relationship, so they might be with Him, not run away from Him. While the image of God in people draws people toward Him, sin drives them away in a panic. Sin causes people to be afraid of God. After Adam and Eve rebelled against God they hid themselves when He came to enjoy His creation.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:7-8 ESV).

God does not want people to hide themselves from Him but to comfortably and naturally come into His presence because He loves them. Part of the image of God given is the desire to serve in the full capacity for which we were created. Jesus came as a complete, perfect Man and did that for which man was created. He served God and all people created by God. His presence on earth is the bridge God uses to draw a rebellious people back into His presence. Those who respond in obedience, even while fighting the urge to run and rebel, are changed and given the image of Christ as well as the uncorrupted image of God. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 ESV). He became like us so we may be made like Him.

Jesus called these men to follow Him. He did not ask them to come and follow Him. According to Luke, Jesus never actually said the words “follow me” as He does in other gospels. “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20 ESV; see Mark 1:17). Jesus’ call is not a suggestion. He commands all people follow Him. Those who do not obey His command are in outright rebellion against God.

Instead of catching fish with nets they would catch people with the gospel. While they would remain fishermen, occasionally returning to their occupation, their main focus is to intimately know Jesus Christ, to learn about God’s grace and mercy and then present to those they encounter the gift of Jesus Christ. To do this, Jesus begins training them by instructing them to follow Him wherever He goes.

Their response to Jesus’ simple command is profound. They saw people flock to Jesus, enthralled by His teaching. These same crowds of people were still present when Jesus did the unimaginable, showing His dominion over creation. They caught fish when and where they should not have caught anything. Peter, the obvious leader of this group of fishermen, reacted in fear while the rest felt astonishment. “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:10-11 ESV).

They left everything. Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus talked about how hard it is for anyone to be saved, but that all things are possible with God. Peter reminds Jesus that he left everything to follow Him. “And Peter said, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you’” (Luke 18:28 ESV). Peter was married. Did he have children? Did not his family depend upon him for support? When he followed Jesus, did he discuss it with his wife first? We do not know the answers to these and many more questions. We do know that following Jesus demands we abandon that which is in and of the world. By the end of his life, Peter showed he was willing to die for Christ. He left everything and followed Jesus.

Growing Up Over There

Growing up in a military family in the 60’s meant traveling—almost every year. Not from one city to the next but from one country to a different continent. Dad would come home from work and try to excite us about being transferred. Usually at the end of the school year, but not always. He never had a choice of duty stations except once that I can remember. He asked if we wanted to go to Germany or Taiwan. I couldn’t find either place on a map. We went to Germany.

We would find out we were moving a few months ahead of time. Staying in one place for more than a year happened rarely. By the time I graduated from High School I had attended 13 schools. Summers were never relaxing. I thought everybody grew up like this and was mildly surprised and perplexed to discover, when talking to some of the kids I met along the way, they had lived in one place all their lives. I envied them.

Moving meant a few inconvenient things. One was going through our belongings and chucking anything we really didn’t want. Actually, I wanted to keep everything but could not. Another was shots. Going overseas always meant getting shots. Shot day was dreaded and dreadful. Sometimes we would have to go in multiple days, there were so many shots. So not only did I have to throw away my stuff, they hurt me to boot. Finally, was losing friends. The physical pain of the shots was easy to handle. The emotional pain of losing friends was not. After a few moves I simply stopped making friends. There was no sense to it.

In August of 1967, just before I turned 14, we moved from Belgium to Holland. Our move was less than 80 miles. At least we stayed on the same continent. People spoke a different language and did not dress the same. Even the geography was different. Belgium was filled with woods while Holland was flat and open. The summer before we had moved from California to Belgium, driving across most of the United States to get to an airport to catch a plane that would get us overseas.

Even at a young age I knew distances. From our house in Holland to Prague, Czechoslovakia was about 780 miles. That’s a day’s driving. It is only a couple of hours in the air. It is not far.

We were still unpacking when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1967. Against my will and rebellion at moving, I became, to some extent, politically aware. The US was deeply embedded in the Vietnam war which touched us a half a world away. We were stationed at military bases with ominous acronyms like SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) and AFCENT (Armed Forces Central Europe). The whole reason we were there was to support another acronym, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).  I didn’t know what a cold war was but had seen the effects of a hot war. I did know moving. When Russia invaded Czechoslovakia the entire European continent watched and prepared themselves for a horrible conflict. We made ourselves ready to move quickly, evacuating back to the States. We did not evacuate but stayed in place. I remember the tension and fear.

In Germany we lived at Ramstein, the US Air Force Base and a village of the same name, less than 20 years after World War II. I remember exploring the streets of the village and would see bullet holes notched into the Cathedral. Dad took us to a death camp. I’m not sure which one. I remember staring into ovens used to incinerate the bodies of the people murdered at that camp. Without having been through the trauma of war as a young boy, I knew enough to be afraid. Our next-door neighbors in Holland spent eight years in a Japanese POW camp. They thanked us for being there. Too much for a young, barely teenaged, boy.

Looking back at what happened that summer is substantial evidence, in my mind and heart, that God is in control. I didn’t like what He was doing and would have done things differently. I would not have moved as much. I would not have been exposed to the aftereffects and possibilities of war. I would have kept all my stuff and avoided shots. I would have grown up with friends. There are a lot of things I would never have learned. The value of friends and people. The idea of war. The not holding onto that which has no eternal value. Most of the lessons I’m still learning.

Now for some self advertising.

These stories are works of fiction told in the style of first-person oral histories. Imagine someone telling you the story of their life or of an experience which changed their life.

Read one of the stories here.

I have been interested in oral histories for many years. These stories are my imagination of what might have happened. Most of the people are fictional characters, but the circumstances they live are historically possible. I have thoughtfully tried to imagine words and conversations, carefully placing those statements in the mouths of a people from two millennia ago, in a culture and with a way of thinking discovered through years of research.

Several people in the stories are real. John, the Baptizer, Thomas, the disciple and Jesus, the Christ are real people. There were real shepherds who visited Jesus on the night he was born. Other characters are those we see in the Gospels. They include Pharisees and lepers, slaves and tax-collectors, disciples and the demon-possessed.

Jesus, the Christ, is a real person. I have not put words into His mouth. Everything He says in these stories is recorded in the Gospels.  Putting words in God’s mouth is dangerous and I would even say forbidden. When Eve was speaking to the serpent, she did not quote God exactly and then added her own words to what He had commanded. Doing this made certain her fall.

Read one of the stories here.

My intent in writing these stories is to understand God’s grace and His amazing gift. You may purchase a paperback through amazon.com here.

Be Holy

Meditations on the Psalms

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

Jesus prays, speaking intimately with His Father. Jesus is fully human and without sin. God is His measure and standard of righteousness. As the Son of God, Jesus kept all of the laws of God completely, without fault, because He was our sacrifice. He took upon Himself our sin so He might cover us with His righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). When Jesus prays, He knows God will answer.

While Jesus taught in the temple during the Feast of Booths, the Jewish leaders declared Him a menace and threat. They sent officers to arrest Him because they thought He was deceiving the people. Jesus challenged those who accused Him of sin to tell Him the evidence. “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?”(John 8:46 ESV). They had no evidence. He healed a man on the Sabbath, which the Jewish leaders considered breaking the Sabbath law (see John 5). He declared He descended from heaven and was the One who gives life. “So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’” (John 6:41 ESV).Many asserted His sayings difficult and no longer followed Him (see John 6:60-66). But no one presented evidence He that sinned.

God does present the evidence that all people sin and rebel against Him. In the Hebrew Scripture and the Epistles of the New Testament, God commands us to be holy because He is holy. Jesus also declare we are to be perfect because God is perfect.

“For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 ESV).

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV).

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV).

There are none, other than Jesus, who can declare themselves either holy or righteous before God. Holiness in an attribute of God, an eternal, essential characteristic, just as are righteousness and justice. Holiness means set apart for a specific use and function. When God created Man in His image, all people were set apart, or separated from, the rest of creation, to serve God in the tangible way of taking care of the Earth under His authority. Man was given dominion over the Earth.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

Because of sin, holiness, like righteousness, must be given and placed over us, because there are none who are either righteous or holy and all are facing God’s just wrath. God tells us throughout Scripture the people He created in His image are set apart for Him, for service and intimate relationship with Him. That none want or have an intimate relationship with Him is ample evidence for sin.

A war rages within each person. On one side is the image of God, the natural inclination to know God intimately and to do that for which they are created. Fighting against God, and the image of God within each person, is sin. Each person has, because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve, a sin nature which wars against the image of God. Though the vessel, the body and soul are corrupted by sin, the image of God is not and cannot be corrupted. People are torn apart by sin, which drives them away from God, while conscious of the tug and pull of the image of God driving them toward Him. People are aware of God until they drive out that awareness from their consciousness, refusing to acknowledge the guilt over sin brought on by the image of God in them. No one has the strength or disposition to fight this war. All cave to the sin nature and run away from God, while He constantly and methodically urges them to turn from sin and run toward Him.

He is the God of our righteousness when we abandon ourselves to Him and allow ourselves to be covered with the blood of His Son. Because Jesus is righteous we are declared righteous. We do nothing. He does everything.