Tag Archives: Grace

Servant

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5 ESV)

All of God’s creation serves Him. God created for His pleasure and according to His will. Everything He created He declared in the physical universe and world very good.” “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV). Can anything God creates surpass His own expectations? The word very means much or exceed. God’s creation was perfect in every way. Perfect does not mean complete.

God tells us Jesus, in His eternal being, has those exact characteristics and qualities that define the essence of God and the essence of a Servant. Jesus had the morphe of God and of a Servant. Jesus carried the likeness or fashion, the scheme, of a man. Jesus is both completely God and completely Man, as God originally intended. Jesus is completely sinless, unlike every other person who has ever lived.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form (morphe) of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form (morphe) of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form (scheme), he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)

Adam and Eve were given dominion over the Earth. They did not own the Earth but were given responsibility to care for and populate the Earth. Our first parents were God’s servants, given a perfect home, and blessed by God to fill the Earth and fashion the Earth after their pleasure and will (Genesis 1:27-28). God placed a single prohibition upon Adam, the first human. Adam violated that prohibition, rebelling against God, the image of God in him, and his place of responsibility and service. Adam was the first and head of the human race. As the head, that which he did affected all those who would follow. Because he sinned, all sin. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19 ESV).

Jesus came as the perfect head, the divine authority, of those who are His. Where Adam brought death to all because of sin and rebellion, Jesus brings and gives life to those God has chosen. Seven times in Romans 5:12-21, Paul tells all that through Adam came death and separation from God but through Jesus Christ comes life and restoration with God. Paul states all people are separated from God. Paul does not state that all people will be reconciled to God but that God offers the grace to all people to be reconciled. Many reject that gift and spend eternity outside of God’s life giving presence. Jesus came to serve God by serving those who receive God’s reconciliation. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 ESV; see Mark 10:45).

All physical creation is designed to serve God but, because of sin, does not. We cannot declare all created things corrupted by sin but only those things created by God contained on the Earth. We cannot know about the universe. We can know about the fall of some angels. All angels were created as servants of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that some angels are servants God sends to serve those who are His. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 ESV). When Jesus confronts Satan at the beginning of His ministry, He tells the Deceiver that only God should be worshipped and served. “Then Jesus said to him, ’Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve”’” (Matthew 4:10 ESV; see Luke 4:8).

Those who are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ cease living for themselves and, for time and eternity, live for God. 

God’s Majesty

Meditations on the Psalms

O LORD, our Lord, 
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1 ESV)

Psalm 8 begins with the name of God, YHWH, the Everlasting One. God is the only One who is and was and will forever be. Standing outside of space and time, God has neither beginning nor ending. God, ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, created all things. “In the beginning, God (‘ĕlôhı̂ym) created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 ESV).  He who created the heavens and the earth gives Himself a name, YHWH“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD (YHWH) God (‘ĕlôhı̂ym) made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4 ESV). God tells His people that they will not have any other god (‘ĕlôhı̂ym) other that He (YHWH). “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3 ESV). 

Many Scripture passages announce that God created the heavens and the earth and all contained in the physical and spiritual realms. “My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together” (Isaiah 48:13 ESV). 

Psalm 8 demonstrates the proper attitude those created in the image of God show toward their Creator. Those who are His abandon themselves in worship of Him. He is majestic, which means great and excellent, mighty and noble. God, Himself, cannot be compared to anything in creation. There is nothing in all the earth, the physical planet upon which people live, that can overshadow Him or anything He has done. He is God and there is no other. “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other’” (Psalm 45:18 ESV). All those created in His image have the natural inclination to intimately know Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth.

God is unique because He is not created. If anything is excellent it is because He created it excellent, based upon His eternal, holy character. When God finished His work of creation He regarded and pronounced what He had accomplished “very good.” “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV). This phrase means exceedingly rich, pleasant, excellent and morally superior. God cannot create that which does not reflect His eternal character. 

Jesus corrects an incorrect assumption about the goodness of God. When the rich, young ruler asked his questions about how he might attain eternity, he greeted Jesus with the phrase “Good Teacher” (Luke 18:18 ESV). Jesus immediately corrects him. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19 ESV). Jesus is not saying He is not God. He is God. He is correcting the young man’s attitude. He viewed Jesus as a mere earthy, yet still wise, teacher, and revered Him as such. The rich young ruler wanted Jesus to give him something he could do to achieve his goals. Jesus penetrated the man’s unreasonable expectations to their core and gave him the eternal requirements of God. Only God is good and for you to know Him eternally you must abandon yourself completely to Him, relinquishing control of everything you think you possess, which is only keeping you from an intimate relationship with Him.

Those who know God spiritually recognize His eternal greatness and their indebtedness to His grace and mercy. God is good. He is also just and righteous. He is holy and true. Those who worship Him give Him, and only Him, praise and honor. They are His servants, not He theirs. Created for relationship, they take refuge in Him. Though surrounded by wickedness, those who are His give Him all praise. “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High” (Psalm 7:17 ESV). They can do nothing less. He will accept nothing less. 

Conclusion to Being Poor in Spirit

Poverty of spirit is truthful knowledge of self, reflected and exposed by God’s revealing light. This is the recognition of sin. Those who deny even one sin, one “little” or “inconsequential” sin are not truly poor in spirit. However, none of us can be poor in spirit under our own power or determination. Therefore, poverty of spirit is itself a gift, or grace, from God. Throughout, He must do everything. 

Those who are poor in spirit are characterized by a personal admission of and ownership of that sin. They recognize the reality of sin in themselves and in the world in which they live. This recognition is intellectual, leading to the emotional hatred for sin and conversely, a love for anything which is not sin, especially the truth. While the intellectual is the first step toward God, the emotional is the second. It is difficult to separate the two. However, the intellectual admission of sin and its reality is primary. There has to be an understanding of what sin is as well as what it does. 

Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with physical, tangible wealth. Nor does being in physical poverty indicate a person is poor in spirit. Someone who is extremely wealthy may have all the evidence of being poor in spirit while someone who is in the depths of physical poverty has all the evidence of being self-righteous and rich in spirit. 

Since God originally designed man to have a relationship with Him, and since that relationship was broken because of the introduction of sin, those who are rich in spirit will say they have no need of God. Need of God for all things physical and spiritual is the defining characteristic of being poor in spirit. No one can do anything for themselves. Everyone is dependent upon God completely for their lives. His common grace holds all together. 

This attitude of not needing God, or not wanting to need God, is called pride. Anything which refocuses our vision away from the One who provides all we need, want and desire, suggesting we can do anything for ourselves, is also known as idolatry. God demands those who are poor in spirit accept the depravity of all, including themselves. He also demands everyone recognize the animosity they have toward their Creator even though sin inhibits their ability to see that animosity. I don’t want to do what God wants. I don’t want to be with Him. I don’t want to even think I need Him. Still, God calls people back to Himself. Any who come to Him, becoming poor in spirit, do so under His direction and in His strength and at His will. Even this must be admitted by the person who is poor in spirit

Even those who have been called by God and are claimed by Him struggle with sin and its reality and hold on their lives. Every Prophet of God, while proclaiming the truth of God, were surrounded by the sin of the people. Even they sinned. Those who walked with Jesus while He was on earth, those who saw Him die and those who saw Him raised from the dead, continued to struggle with sin. While being poor in spirit is certainly exemplified by the six people mentioned, how they shut themselves up, called themselves sinful, fell on their faces, this need not be true for everyone. Being poor in spirit is admitting the reality of personal sin after a long life of living for God. 

Being a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven is a position given by grace, by God to those who first and foremost are poor in spirit.

Established

Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, 
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 
(Psalm 7:9 ESV)

Those who seek God and His righteousness are often troubled in their souls, mourning over the presence and consequences of the sin the see in themselves and in the world in which they live. They know and love truth and hate and abhor evil. Their prayers echo the prayer of Jesus in the Psalms that evil and wickedness would come to an end. To endmeans to cease, be no more, fail, as well as complete. God promises that sin, wickedness and those who rebel against Him, who are sinful and wicked, will come to an end. The wicked person will not cease to exist but will cease corrupting God’s creation with their evil.

God spoke about what will happen to His sinful enemies. They are excluded from His eternal presence and with those whom He has declared righteous. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5 ESV). Those who continue to rebel, even after commanded to repent and turn toward God, are given a warning about what will happen if they do not submit and serve Jesus. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who do not repent, continuing to fight against Him, in word and action, are eternally silenced. “For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7 ESV). Those who would murder God, continually lying about Him, are consigned to a place of destruction, away from His presence. “You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6 ESV). Though Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for sin, the wicked reject the command of the Holy Spirit to accept and abide in His grace. The evidence of their rejection is their continued, blatant sin. “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you” (Psalm 5:10 ESV).

The wicked will come to an end and He will establish the righteous. To establish means to make firm, to stabilize, to fix and secure, to make enduring. Those who are righteous in Christ will enter His presence in eternity and never again face the corruption of sin and rebellion.

God knows the difference between those who live and revel in their sin and those who are drawn into His presence, who take refuge in Christ. To test means to examine and prove, to be put on trial and thoroughly scrutinized. Only God knows intimately the thinking of the hearts of all people. He tests the minds and hearts. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6 ESV). Peering deeply into the hearts and intentions of all people, God knows and sees the difference between those who hate Him and those who love Him.

For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:9-10 ESV).

Jesus knew the hearts of those around Him, who challenged His authority and sought to murder Him. When He saw the faith of those who brought a paralytic to Him to heal, He forgave the paralyzed man of his sin. This irked the religious leaders who watched. They knew only God could forgive sin. To them, Jesus was simply a man and, they thought, sinful. Jesus knew their hearts. “And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” (Matthew 9:3-4 ESV; see also Luke 5:22). Jesus then demonstrated His authority over sin by healing the man. Many people saw His miracles. They believed He could perform signs and wonders because they watched Him do great things. But, Jesus knew their hearts and that they sought only what they could control. Jesus would not allow anyone to control Him.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25 ESV)

God is righteous and knows those who have relinquished control to Him and are righteous because of His Son.

God’s Enemy

let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, a
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.
Selah. (Psalm 7:5 ESV)

Who is God’s enemy? Enemy means a personal foe that may be an individual or a corporate group, whose main characteristic is hatred. God’s enemy is an adversary whose intent is to usurp God’s ultimate authority and destroy all which represents Him.

God alone is uncreated and created all things. Does this mean He created His own enemies? Before He created the heavens and the earth and all contained in the universe, there was nothing but God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV). We do not know, and He does not tell us, when He created the heavenly beings, mostly called angels, who dwell with Him in eternity. They are created beings. We are told He created Man in His image. 

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 his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

We are not told if angels carry the image of God. Angels are intelligent, moral, active beings, capable of making decisions. Yet, the theological assumption of many is that angels do not have the total image of God. This is an assumption which cannot be verified with Scripture or in nature. The writer of Hebrews tells us angels are God’s servants, as is all creation, sent to serve those created in His image. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 ESV). Peter tells us angels “long to look”into the grace and salvation offered to a rebellious people spoken of by the prophets of Scripture (1 Peter 1:10-12).

In the Garden of Eden was a creature, called a serpent, who was a created being who spoke to, lied to, and tempted our first parents. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). We assume the Deceiver, a heavenly being who rebelled against God, inhabited a dumb creature, a snake, and spoke to Eve, a person given the image of God. Within free-will, and within both Adam and Eve, was the possibility of rebellion, the ability to obey out of love or disobey out of self-interest. Within the Deceiver, a created being, was the desire to destroy the relationship between every person and God, who created all people for relationship with Him. Eve saw, and reasoned correctly, that the fruit of the forbidden tree“was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6 ESV). She reasoned incorrectly that God was withholding something from her. Her flesh, the intentions of her heart and her pride in desiring something not given to her by God, influenced her decision to rebel. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16 ESV). She was tempted and succumbed to the temptation and sinned. Because Adam followed her into sin, sin affected all their offspring, which includes all people except Jesus, separating everyone from God.

There are now three enemies of God, actively fighting against Him seeking to destroy anything created and designed to serve Him. First, people are God’s enemies. Yet, God created people for relationship by giving them His image. He, therefore, offers a means to reestablish that relationship, changing those who are His enemies into those who actively serve and love Him. Secondly, sin is His enemy. Sin acts like it has a personality by taking on the personality of the sinner. God told Cain “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV). Sin enslaves people. Finally, the Deceiver is an enemy of God. One of God’s promises is to destroy the Deceiver. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). The fulfillment of this promise is in Jesus Christ. 

We were enemies of God but are now servants. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10 ESV). Sin will finally and ultimately be destroyed. The Deceiver will be cast away from God’s presence. “[A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 ESV). God’s enemies cannot succeed.

Peace with God

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. (Psalm 6:2 ESV)

These words describe part of what Jesus endured as He was executed, hanging on the cross. When He was given to the Roman executioners, His physical torment began. They tortured Him to death. Roman executions began with the humiliation of scourging and ended with the beaten and broken body of the condemned hanging on a cross, exposed, until death. Pilate released a known criminal and Jesus, an innocent man, having never sinned, was murdered. “Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26 ESV; see Luke 23:25). 

Jesus knew what would happen to Him. On many occasions, He predicted His manner of death. “They will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified” (Matthew 20:19 ESV). During His execution, Jesus was so physically battered and weakened from the scourging He could barely walk, let alone carry the beam to which they would attach Him with spikes. “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross” (Matthew 27:32 ESV; see Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26). 

Jesus died on the cross, but the two crucified with Him remained alive. Passover was near, so the religious leaders asked the Romans to break the legs of the others so they would die before Passover. The Romans did not break Jesus’ legs. His bones, His limbs and body, was troubled, stressed by the turmoil of the experience, but not one of His bones were broken. “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken’” (John 19:36 ESV; see Psalm 34:20). 

David’s words perfectly describe Jesus’ experience. His body was abused to the point of exhaustion and death. He had no strength left to live, which was the intent of the Roman executioners. His bones were disjointed. But more than the physical torment of His body, He faced the immediate presence of sin and its eternal consequences, which is separation from God. Jesus bore the brunt of our condemnation for sin, both physically and spiritually. Jesus did not remain separated from God. He fulfilled the just sentence for rebellion, and then was resurrected by God and brought into His presence. 

God showered His grace and mercy upon Jesus once His sacrifice accomplished the purpose of God. Gracious means to show favor and pity, to have mercy upon. Healmeans to make healthy and restore to wholeness from the sufferings and injuries inflicted. Jesus died. Jesus was raised from death. Jesus now sits at God’s right hand making intercession for those who are His. “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV). 

Paul also declares our Intercessor has God’s ear.

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”

(Roman s 8:33-34 ESV)

Isaiah, 700 years before the birth of Messiah, tells us the same.

“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12 ESV).Though physically assaulted and executed, Jesus’ death purchased peace with God for those called by God into His presence. God is gracious to Jesus and those who have taken refuge in Him.

Mercy

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. (Psalm 6:1 ESV)

Scripture is filled with mystery. Perhaps the greatest spiritual mystery given us in Scripture is the eternal fact that God judicially covered the sins committed by His people against Him with the righteousness of His Son. How does God do this? Everything we do is bent by sin, the desire to control and be over God. We cannot know how He does what He does. We can know that He has covered us with Jesus’ righteousness because He tells us He has. Still, it does not make sense to our finite minds and corrupted logic.

This mystery captures the essence of God and of His Son. God reveals to us what He has done throughout Scripture. Isaiah tells us “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”  (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Paul continues Isaiah’s prophecy by declaring, “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). Jesus is the eternal Servant and ultimate Authority. The mystery of following Him encompasses our whole lives, our motivations, our words, our thinking and feelings. Jesus came in the likeness of human flesh (see Philippians 2:7-8) to ransom, which means to redeem and to liberate from a criminal sentence for crimes committed against God.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28 ESV; see Mark 10:43-45)

In return for His righteousness we are made new and set apart for service and to have an intimate relationship with God.

This mystery is not cheap. God covering us with Jesus’ righteousness means God laid upon Him our sin. There are many illustrations of this truth but no one can know the depth of the cost and agony experienced by Jesus. We can imagine but must be careful in our imaginations. For we, as long as we are in this world, in this flesh, assaulted by the Deceiver, must rely upon the work of the Holy Spirit to know truth.

In the first verse of Psalm 6 we see a man begging for mercy. Our assumption is God’s wrath is justly exercised against the speaker because of their transgressions against His law and person. The writer of the Psalm was a sinful man. Yet, the writer of the Psalm is speaking for Jesus, who did not sin and lives in God’s eternal blessing. How then can Jesus beg for mercy? When God laid upon Him our sin He felt the full wrath of God. 

Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, knowing His executioners awaited Him. He did not deviate from His course or linger in places to avoid facing His responsibility. He ministered for many years before His final journey to Jerusalem. His intent was purposeful, drawing people to Himself and teaching them the meaning of citizenship in God’s eternal kingdom. Then, when the time was right, according to the eternal will of God, He faced His death, offering to God His body, the sacrifice for our sin.

Read the words of Psalm 6:1 as coming from a righteous Man bearing the unrighteousness of all men. Rebuke means to decide, reason, chide and reprove, to judge, convince and convict. Discipline means to chasten, admonish and correct, to teach. Anger means nose or nostril, or face, and wrath means fever, heat, burning rage. God’s face reflects His anger and judgment toward sin, which He hates. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  (Psalm 5:4-5 ESV). Those who sin, who cannot stand before Him, are driven from His presence. God’s anger toward sin is characterized as a snorting, burning rage, justly executed against those who rebel against Him.

Jesus did not rebel against God but felt and experienced God rage against sin. Jesus is the only righteous person who has ever lived, refusing to walk in the way of the world, accept the lies of the Deceiver, or allow His own flesh to tempt Him and move Him to rebellion. Hanging on the cross, He endured the just wrath of God against sin. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46 ESV; see Mark 15:34). Jesus was for a brief time, forsaken by God. This does not mean Jesus sinned, for He could not sin. Jesus is God in the flesh.

Jesus’ purpose for coming as a man was to take upon Himself the sins of man to bring people back into relationship with God. Peter also declares his understanding of why Messiah came as a man. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”  (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). 

When Jesus took upon Himself our sin, He was, is and will always remain, sinless. He is eternally righteous. God, when He saw Jesus on the cross, saw His Son covered with our sin. Jesus bore the burden of the sentence for sin. Conversely, when God looks at the Christian, those who are in Christ, He sees the blood of Christ covering them, hiding the obvious sin they carry in their whole being. We are no more righteous than He is a sinner. What God declares He sees, because of the sacrifice of His Son, is Christ’s righteousness covering us as a cloak, a shield, surrounding us as a hedge and impenetrable wall, a refuge. He leaves us in this world to prepare us for eternity. While in the world, those who are His are safely held for eternity.

Unreasonable Expectations

Meditations on the Psalms

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” (Psalm 4:6 ESV)

We are faced with a paradox. In this Psalm, Jesus now speaks in the second person, telling us one aspect of the thinking of those who rebel against Him. People who dishonor God, who love to hear themselves talk, speaking vain words and lies, want God to listen to them and give them their desires. Built into the thinking of their hearts is the false idea God exists to serve them, not they Him. They believe they control God by offering sacrifices. In the space-time history of creation and the earth, people look to any who could offer them refuge and benefit from the constant presence of the danger they face because of sin.

Those same peoples who rage against God, the kings and leaders who conspire against Him, demand He bless them. They wonder why God has abandoned them and not given them that which is good, or pleasant and becoming, making them happy and glad, rich and secure in their welfare, given prosperity. They want Him to lift up the light of His face, to shine about them and on them, revealing the wonder of His countenance, blessing them and giving them all they desire. They are self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish individuals who care nothing for God, but still want Him to give them all they want and need and then leave them alone.

Light is a major theme throughout Scripture, beginning with Genesis. Before there was anything other than chunks of matter, God spoke and said “Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 ESV). Light is the opposite of darkness, or the absence of light. Light is necessary for growth and health, for learning and understanding, for safety and security. Light exposes while darkness hides. Spiritually, God’s light exposes the darkness of sin while revealing His holiness. When many ask God to give them happiness without imposing Himself upon them, what they are asking is for God to bless them and let them live happily in their unrighteous behaviors. They want all the blessings of God without the presence of God.

When told by His disciples the religious leaders wanted to stone Him, therefore it was not a good idea to return to Jerusalem, even to heal a sick friend, Jesus responded with a metaphor of light. “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:9-10 ESV). There is no reason to fear anyone while living in the absolute will of God.

After raising Lazarus, Jesus told His disciples He would die, being lifted up, a righteous sacrifice for them. He had already called Himself the “light of the world” (John 9:5 ESV). Now He tells them to live and act according to the knowledge and wisdom given by God.“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36 ESV). They will be assaulted by darkness, by sin and sinful behavior. Yet, Jesus promises they will be transformed by light, the intimate knowledge of God, becoming light themselves.

Just before the Passover, the time of His sacrifice, Jesus declared the practical application of faith in Him. Either people believe in Him or not. Those who believe in Him walk in the light, while those who reject Him continue walking in darkness

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44-50 ESV)

God is not going to bless anyone because of their unreasonable expectations of Him. No one can demand He do anything, for He is not controlled by any created being. His righteous light reveals the unrighteousness of rebellion. We should expect wrath. In Christ, He has given grace, mercy and salvation.

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.

God’s Judgment

Meditations on the Psalms

Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, (Psalm 2:5 ESV)

God always speaks to those created in His image. This does not mean those to whom He is speaking hear what He is saying. We limit speech to that which is verbal. Yet, every action of God, every creative act, every act of sustaining creation, speaks about who God is and what He has done.

Jesus Christ is called the Word, which means the speech of God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). Paul is even more clear in his declaration the heavens shout out what God has done so everyone can see.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)

God does not hide Himself from those He created for relationship.

When God speaks, those He has created are commanded to listen and obey. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 ESV). Nothing created will usurp the place and authority of God.

This is why those who insist on rebelling against God, and teach and train others to resist Him, find themselves under God’s justified wrath. He will shout at them with all of the power and force needed to shut down their rebellion and declare He is God, their Creator. Again, God states His intent to not allow those who rebel to succeed in a parallel statement.

To speak means to declare, command, promise, warn and to put to flight. To terrify means to vex, dismay, disturb and be anxious. Wrath means nostril, as in snorting through the nose with disgust, while fury means heat and burning rage. The word is always used for God’s anger. When God speaks to these rebellious leaders they cannot ignore Him but will cringe in fear at His presence and words.

When God gave His commandments to Moses He spoke with them from a mountain and the people trembled in fear at His words.

The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said: “‘I am the LORD your God, brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:4-7 ESV)

From the time man first rebelled against God until the end of time, God’s wrath builds against the thinking of people’s hearts. In the time of Noah, God decided to wipe out all people, except Noah and seven others, because of the corruption of the thinking of their hearts. He will do this again at the end of time. Isaiah tells us about God’s final judgment.

For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. (Isaiah 66:15-16 ESV)

Before God’s wrath is God’s grace. Having given each the image of God, even housed in a corrupt vessel, everyone has the tools needed to intimately know God. His Spirit tugs and pulls people away from sin, toward Him. Sin tugs and pulls people away from Him toward anything which is not Him. Surrounding and embedded in the struggle everyone has with sin is the true desire and work of God to recreate and reconcile all to Himself. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). Repentance is a grace of God given to those who turn away from sin even while living in a body that continues to sin and a world that demands all sin.

Everyone will stand before God’s judgment and hear the thinking of their hearts, whether they rebelled against Him in their disobedience or obeyed His command to identify with His Son. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Revelations 20:12 ESV).