Tag Archives: Fear

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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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.

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.

Unafraid

Meditations on the Psalms

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.(Psalm 3:6 ESV)

Jesus faced both great acclaim and heated opposition throughout His earthly ministry. Those who hated Him included the Deceiver, who did everything possible to frustrate, obstruct and stop His ministry, and the religious leaders of the nation. These religious leaders hated Jesus because He challenged their authority and position of leadership over the people. In addition, the Roman’s hated anyone, not particularly Jesus, who might incite the people under their dominion to rebel against Rome and the emperor.

Those who opposed Jesus were not just politically or religiously motivated. There were many who simply did not care about Him. Or, they cared about His words and ideas for a moment but when He confronted their covetous attitude toward what they considered their stuff, they would turn their backs upon Him and walk away. They cared more for their place in the world than their place in eternity.

God tells us to not be afraidof those who oppose Him because Jesus was not afraid of them. Afraid means to dread, fear, stand in awe, as well as to have reverence and to honor. To setthemselves against means to station, to take a stand, to lay waste, fix their mind in opposition to whatever Jesus represents or commands be done. Those who are hostile toward the authority of the King of kings, either actively fight against Him or passively ignore Him. In either case, their actions, or inactions, destroy the foundation of the relationship they have with God.

We have already seen those who mutiny against God will come to a physical and spiritual end. Their defiant words and works are judged and they are sentenced, then separated from God, the Giver of life. His judgment is a completed action from eternity, yet still works out in space-time history. For God it is done. For those living in the world it will be done but is not yet completed. Jesus was not afraid to stand before the religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, because He foreknew the outcome. He willingly endured the torture of crucifixion because He knew the final and absolute results brought the greatest glory to God.

During Jesus’ ministry, He chose and trained twelve disciples. These disciples, whom He also called apostles, were given responsibility to exercise authority in His name. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 10:1 ESV; see also Mark 3:13-15, Luke 6:12-16). As Jesus trained them He was forthright in telling them what they would face and endure. Their and our temptations and trials are myriad and used to test. God does not test anyone to discover what they know. He tests so we can discover what we do not know, especially about Him. Throughout our training we are His and there is no reason to fear.

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26-31 ESV; see Luke 12:4-7)

Jesus’ disciples, throughout history, whomever they are and whenever they live, stand before those in worldly authority and give testimony about Him. Instead of removing us from the world He leaves us to declare, through words and actions, the evidence of His grace in the gospel. He also leaves us in the world to train and fit us for eternity. Being a Christian in the world brings trails and persecutions. The thinking of our hearts is on full display before the world and before God as we face the same opposition Jesus endured.

Fear is both debilitating and freeing. When we fear we can see that which is in the thinking of our heart. Fearing the world tells us we do not trust God and want that which the world offers more than what God gives. When we fear God, by honoring Him as Creator, placing Him first, then nothing we encounter in this world can potentially or actually remove us from His presence.

Serve the Lord

Meditations on the Psalms

Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2:11 ESV)

People were created to serve God. Adam and Eve were servants given dominion over a world God created for them. They were given the image of God, a guarantee of an intimate relationship with Him. As physical beings, their purpose was to have dominion over the Earth to achieve His purposes and decrees.

Serve means to work or labor for another. Within the essence of each person is the natural compulsion to serve God. This does not mean they were slaves. God gave Adam a single prohibition, do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 2:16-17). Otherwise, the Earth was theirs to do with, to go, to dream and create, to fill and subdue as they could.

Then God said, “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 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)

Fear means terror or a warning while rejoice means to exult or be glad. When referring to a person’s relationship with God, fear means reverence, piety and respect. He is God and His eternal being deserves the devotion of those He created. We are to rejoice with trembling, which is to take great pleasure in our relationship with Him with the greatest, conscious awareness of His holiness and our service of devotion.

Such is the level of repentance God demands from those who have mutinied. He demands they turn away from their sin and turn toward Him, with the respect and wisdom that comes from intimately knowing Him, acknowledging His authority, and serving Him with all strength and understanding. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV; see Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 30:6; see also Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27). God, speaking through Jesus who gave the words to Moses, tells people their nature is to love God and each other. Sin has taken this truth and bent its precision out of shape, making it something other than what God clearly stated.

Jesus was a servant, who demonstrated His essential character by washing the disciple’s feet before His passion.

Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17 ESV)

Though Jesus’ purpose for coming was to die for our sins, He also left us an example. He did not come to just be an example of how to live and love God.  Jesus states that He has given us an example to follow. Peter echoes Jesus words in his first epistle. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21 ESV).

Those who are kings and rulers in the world are God’s representatives, given authority by God. They carry a greater responsibility before God and much is required from them. For them to teach and train the people for whom they are responsible to rebel against God is to invite God’s judgment and wrath. God compassionately commands they turn form their wickedness toward His righteousness and, beginning in the thinking of their hearts, to respect and revere Him. They are designed to serve God and fulfill His purpose, not to rebel against God and find destruction.

Hiding from God

Studies in Genesis 3

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 3:8

When Adam and Eve “heard” God walking in the garden they “hid themselves” from Him. What they heard was the “sound” of God walking. Yet, the word for sound can also be translated voice or noise. This means God was not silent as He walked but was either deliberately making noise, something they were used to and knew to be God, or talking and singing to His creation. Perhaps He was humming. Nevertheless, they heard God and knew it was He.

They did not come to greet Him, which is what those with clear and wholesome relationships will do. Instead, they found a place where they thought He would not see them. This is what children do when they know they have done something they should not have done, when they have done something wrong. They will hide themselves from those whom they have wronged in the vain hope their wrongdoing will not be discovered.

Instead of greeting Him face to face they hid their faces from His. They ran away from His presence. Here is the evidence of wrong done and the evidence of a broken relationship. It is not God who runs and hides from them but they from God. It is never God turning His back on those He created for relationship but always those He has created to know Him turning their backs on Him.

Did our first parents not know God even a little to think they could hide from Him? What did they know about God? How intimate were they with Him?

God created them in His image. They could look at themselves and know what God is like. Not their physical likeness but their intellectual, emotional and willful likeness. Yet, they are not God so could not know Him completely. And they were young, still learning about God while maturing in their thinking and feeling. But God had given them enough information, the tools they needed, to know Him both intellectually and intimately.

As the first sound of Him in the garden reached their ears, I imagine they were startled, gripped with fear, immediately hiding because of the danger in which they found themselves because of their act of rebellion. These were new emotions. Before their rebellion, they did not fear death even though God had introduced them to death. Adam, at least, knew the command of God to not eat, and the judgment of eating, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His rebellion was unthinking and unfeeling, a reaction to what Eve had done. Hid from God is also a reaction.

When they hid from God, when anyone tries to hide from God, there is enough of an intimate understanding of God to know they are facing, not a Friend but a Judge.

July 3, 2017

Fear and Mercy of God

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [John 14:27 ESV]

There are many features of fears. At the top of the list is a fear of death. With the assurance of God’s grace and the unchangeableness of His nature Christians should never fear death. Yet, we are human, sinful, and for many Christians it is the process of dying not death itself which is terrifying. For the non-Christian death brings an unknown, or a refused to know, truth. All of the wishful thinking and fanciful imagining of life is dashed against the reality of God’s presence. Perhaps this is why those who are confronted by God while in this world are terrified by His presence. They face both judgment and death.

In Scripture the word “fear” is used in two ways. Those facing the dangerous known or unknown fear for their safety. It is the heart stopping, thought stopping, adrenaline rush to flee, freeze or fight that grips a person when they come face-to-face with ultimate danger. If they are unprepared, blind-sided by the danger it could kill them, either physically or spiritually. Most of the danger we face does not end in physical death. It may, however, end in spiritual death. God uses danger to show us our need for Him. Those who turn away from God, refusing to trust Him for their ultimate safety run away in their thinking and believing. It does not matter what the danger is which causes such fear. Either the person who rejects God freezes, refusing to see Him, flees from Him, or fights against Him, because of their fear of Him because they do not know Him.

Secondly, “fear” is used is of our attitude toward God. Not a fear which gives up or runs from or fights against Him but a fear which acknowledges His presence and power and authority when faced with personal sinfulness. It is the fear of God mentioned so often in the Old Testament. This fear is real fear, being afraid and terrified of God because we, made in His image, rebel against the Creator. It is fear which acknowledges the truth of our position before God and humbly seeks His mercy, knowing His righteousness and justice. It is a fear caused by disappointing someone who truly loves us, of realizing even slightly what our individual and corporate sin costs God and that nothing I do will repay His love for us. It is as deeply personal as a parent with a small, disobedient child who suddenly realizes, truly realizes, that they have done wrong. This fear of God is the devastation of our sinful practices, the undoing of our worldly position and the complete assurance of our place in God’s eternal love. Fear of God as reverence is unexplainable to those who do not fear Him.

Jesus’ disciples were confronted with dangerous situations and were, in our thinking, reasonably terrified. Twice they are in a boat in the middle of the raging Sea of Galilee where even the hardened, experienced fishermen of that Sea quaked with fear. Jesus was unafraid for He is the Creator and controls the wind and the waves, and even walked on the tumultuous water. Both times He rebuked His disciples for being afraid and not having faith. Three times He rebuked Peter for his lack of faith. In what object is their faith placed? The boat in danger of sinking? Those in the boat who cannot control it? Or, in the One who Created the wind, the water and waves, who stood with them unafraid, even slept during the storm?

Following one of these not-so-terrifying dangerous times on the lake Jesus takes three disciples up a mountain where He is transfigured, metamorphed, into His true self. Three of His disciples saw Jesus, Moses and Elijah, then heard God speak, and they were terrified.

“When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. [Matthew 17:6-8 ESV]

Jesus did not rebuke them for a lack of faith. Like Moses and Elijah, these three had been in the physical presence of unchangeable God, hidden from His face by the transcendence of Jesus glory. They heard God speak. It is only natural for sinful people to freeze in terror when in the presence of Holy God. They were accompanied by their Intercessor, the One who carried their sins on His shoulders, encompassing them in His grace and mercy so they would not be destroyed. They had better fear.

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. [James 2:12-13 ESV]

We fear God in honoring Him and in being terrified of Him. He is the One, the only One, who can have mercy on anyone. We fear He may withhold His mercy, terrified of the consequences of separation from Him. We honor Him when we recognize the reality of sin, realize its consequences, and allow ourselves to be drive toward Him while relinquishing control to Him.

Many do not fear God, instead placing their dread, accompanied by their honor and worship, in a figment of their imagination. They fear an idol, a piece of wood or hunk of metal or natural wonder. They fear losing the dead thing because of the control it has on their lives, bodies, traditions, and cultures. It is the familiar they fear losing. They fear the imagined consequences of rebelling against man-made or demon-made demands. Like the Israelites rebelling against God during the Exodus they would rather be enslaved to what they know, however horrible, than freed for what they don’t know. God’s promises mean nothing when He is not feared for who He is.

Yet, true knowledge of unchangeable God is close to all and all of the inherent ability, found in the image of God in them, of knowing Him both intellectually and intimately. Truth is even closer to those who can pick up and read Scripture. Truth is intimately close for those who have the Holy Spirit to open their minds and hearts to it. When seen through recreated eyes and revealed by the Holy Spirit truth devastates and undoes. Jesus tells us the truth will make you free. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” [John 8:31-32 ESV]. He said this to those who believed His words. We are freed from sin only when we are drawn, tugged and pulled, relentlessly driven toward God’s mercy, toward God Himself.

To receive His mercy we must first be afraid. Fear of God burns away the desire to sin, exposing the raw nerves of the re-created spiritual self. Mercy covers the wounds made by fear, heightening the sensitivity of the spiritual nerves while healing those exposed by the fire. Instead of the rough, unfeeling calluses of the world, we have the smooth, spiritually sensitive skin of eternity. Let sin touch this new skin and it will recoil in pain and grief and fear. For the new, spiritual self cannot sin without plunging headfirst into mourning. God’s mercy allows us to share a little of the pain He feels as He confronts sin.

Was not Jesus’ sacrifice as a man, the morphe of a bondservant, the morphe of God, tortured to death? He bore our sin, every second immersed in agony, every moment feeling the wrath of a just God. Mercy is active love. In Christ’s sacrifice God actively loves us.

Fear God. He excuses no sin. Honor Him by accepting His gift of mercy. God, the righteous Judge has released us from the sentence of death. For those who fear God, sin needs to brings fear. For those who fear God, mercy needs to bring brings assurance, peace and perseverance. Before we can show mercy to others we must first embrace the full extent of His active love, mercy, for us.