Tag Archives: Grace

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).



Meditations on the Psalms

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Psalm 2:4 ESV)

Who is man that they should mock God? Who is God that He should allow anyone to mock Him? This verse is a parallel statement describing God’s reaction toward those who do not accept how they were created. God responds to rebellion, especially those who think and believe they can ever abdicate their place before Him, by throwing off the image of God and declaring themselves something other than His.

Laughs means to mock, jest, to make sport of. Derision means to mock, deride, to laugh at contemptuously. People mock God with the thinking of their hearts, so He returns their mockery.

God is Creator. He created man in His image out of dust. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 ESV). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word of God, is God. Through Him all things were created. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3 ESV; see John 1:1-3). This means, as the Creator of all things, especially people created in His image, God owns everything and may do with His creation as He wishes. He desires relationship with all people and would not have given them His image otherwise. This does not mean anyone can separate themselves from Him at their will. That which is created and sustained by God is also governed and given purpose by Him. “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 ESV).

Man is created. Though given the image of God for intimate relationship with Him, all are corrupted by sin and hate Him who created them. Sin views the truth as a lie and accepts the lie as truth. “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding?’” (Isaiah 29:16 ESV). Paul confronts the world’s thinking in the book of Romans, declaring God’s mockery of those who think He is nothing, or less than nothing. “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:24-25 ESV). No one has the right to rebel against God.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. (Jeremiah 10:1-10 ESV)

How vain and absurd are the machinations of those who rebel against God. He will not be mocked. None can separate themselves from Him. Yet, He will separate them from Himself if, at physical death they have continued in their rebellion, refusing the prompting of the Holy Spirit to repentance and the offer of His grace through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

Before He Created Me

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

When was the last time you considered the price of your redemption from sin?

Jesus, God in the flesh,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Philippians 2:6-8 ESV]

He decided to do this before He created the universe, before He combined dust particles to make Earth, before He separated the waters and set the lights in the heavens. Before He molded and made the plants and animals of Earth. Before He created man in His image and set him in a garden to rule over the Earth and subdue it. Before He commanded man to marry and have children and fill the earth with those who bore His image. He decided to create man, with whom He wanted an intimate relationship, knowing man would sin and rebel, corrupting everything he touched, rejecting God and be separated from Him. He decided from before creation to take upon Himself the sentence and penalty for the sins of all.

Yet, not all are redeemed. It only takes one sin to separate the one God loves from God’s love. Adam’s sin, inherited as the sin for all people, was the one sin of disobedience. Now, having taken upon Himself the sin of all and making Himself a sacrifice, after paying the redemption price for all, it still takes only one sin to separate a person from God.

God commands each person come to Him, accept the gift on the altar, the gift of grace, and have an intimate relationship with the One who created them in His image, redeemed them from sin, and recreated them in the likeness of His Son. It still takes only one act of rebellion, one sin, to separate a person from God. That act of rebellion is to disobey the command to come to Him. Obedience carries no merit but brings life and peace with God. Disobedience carries the dire, justified consequences of eternal death, which is separation from Him who gives life.

One sin, Adam’s, brought death to all. One sacrifice, an act of obedient devotion by Christ, brings life to all. One sin, committed by all who flout Christ’s sacrifice, brings death to those who disobey.

Before the creation of anything, Christ loved me.  Knowing about my rebellion and all of my sin before I was, He decided, because of His love, to take upon Himself my sin. This decision brought upon Him indescribable suffering and anguish and cost Him His physical life. Wanting to have an intimate relationship with me, the one He loves, He was willing to take upon Himself, not just my sin, but the truth I would continue to rebel and disobey, reject and ignore Him whom I was created to love. God knew that to love me is to allow me to continue to hurt Him. Yet, still He loves me.

A sacrifice of love, the only true gift worth giving, means suffering and anguish for both the One who loves and the one being loved.

What does God ask in return? Nothing.

God never asks. He commands obedience, a demonstration of love. “If you love me you will keep my commands” [John 14:15 ESV]. This demonstration of love brings incomprehensible suffering, anguish and mourning to those who bring themselves as a gift to God’s altar. He knew my redemption would bring a suffering which would strike at the core of myself, destroy the sinful foundation upon which my life was previously built, empty and crumble my heart of its worldly passions and desires and bring a defeat, a helplessness and hopelessness to my existence. Here is what happens when I see exactly what sin is, what it has done and the consequences of its presence in my life. What is left for me to offer? There is nothing I have, nothing I can give, nothing I can do.

He set aside everything and gave His life. I have nothing to give, only the dry dust of what is left of myself, easily blown away by the casual breath of God. He does not blow away but blows upon and those dry bones come together again, flesh and blood are recreated and life, true life, eternal life is breathed into the nostrils of one recently dead. (See Ezekiel 37.)

After His suffering, a suffering demanded by love known through eternity, is the gift from Him of eternal joy for Him. He created all for an intimate and eternal relationship with Him. He does this by using suffering to make those who are His whole and then completes them with Himself.

He promises eternity free from sin and suffering for those with Him.


What is theology? For most, theology is seen as a dry academic pursuit leading to wordy, intellectually philosophical conclusions which have no impact on real life. However, theology is the study of God, or studying the Word of God.

Let me give you a more easily understood definition of theology. Theology is friendship with God. Everyone, whether or not they admit it, has a relationship with God. Everyone either pursues Him or runs from Him. Everyone has an idea of whom or what God is. Even when people don’t think about God it is because of what they think of God. Christians, those who are identified with God through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the guarantee of the Holy Spirit, spend their lives learning about God.

In Matthew 5 Jesus tells us the only way any become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is for God to make them one. Our lives become the evidence of God’s work in us. God’s grace makes us a citizen. His grace does not absolve any of the demands and responsibilities of the citizen. We are required and inspired to obey the inner reality of His eternal law in our every action, motivation and attitude.

Grace is misunderstood by many and misapplied by all at some time. Grace is not receiving punishment due for crimes committed but being given eternal life. Eternal life is not earned. With eternal life are privileges and responsibilities. Grace is not being given death which is deserved and being given life which is not deserved.

God places a standard of excellence upon His citizens which reaches far beyond anything recognizable by the world. Though He has covered those who are His with the righteous blood of His Son, viewing us as righteous who are not, He also demands we conform to His standard of excellence. Our conforming to His standard, exemplified in Christ, is unattainable without His strength, direction and grace. At no time during our lives in the world, encumbered with the old, sinful self, does He expect us to attain perfection. He does expect us to work on and reach for holiness.

God expects His citizens to be teachable throughout their time in this world. He uses the world, the tugs and pulls of temptation to prepare us for eternity. If He were not going to use the world in such a way there would be no reason to leave any here. Too many fail, succumbing to the temptations and giving themselves permission to sin. We do not have permission to sin. Not even those who are unsaved have permission to sin.

When Jesus states He has not come to “abolish the Law or the Prophets” He is forcing us to acknowledge God’s Word to us is absolute, unbendable and unbreakable. When He says He has come to “fulfill them” He is stating we cannot, that He is the only One able to keep God’s Word. When He states “heaven and earth” will not “pass away” until “all in accomplished” He is telling us God’s Word is eternal. This Word, the Law and Prophets of God, impact every area, every thought, every emotion, every action, every piece of creation, every molecule of life.

We are made in His image to have a relationship with Him. Thus, obeying Him is never an obligation because it is integral to our deepest being. Being recreated in the likeness of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit opens the battlefield of our souls to the war between righteousness and unrighteousness, between truth and lie, between purity of holiness and the blackness of sin.

Is it ever appropriate to set aside sound theology for the practical living? “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:19 ESV]. Our answer has to be “never.”

Sound theology is practical living according to God’s standards of excellence, not according to the standards of the world in its rebellion against Him. There is a danger. Misinterpreting God’s truth and turning it into a lie and then following that lie which leads deeper into sin and away from truth. We do not have the right to determine our own righteousness. Jesus declares our righteousness must “exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees” or we “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” There is only one standard we must meet. God’s standard. It is met in Jesus Christ.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:17-20 ESV]


God’s Revealed Attributes

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. [Matthew 5:17-18 ESV]

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:27 ESV]

All God created was done according to His will and for His purposes. His purposes are mysterious but His will is not. Truth flows from God. Not only did He create all which exists He also sustains all which exists. He sustains the physical lives of those who war against Him. As the only One who intimately knows all which exists, insuring all which exists continues to exist, He governs all under His authority, guiding and preserving creation toward His ends, for His will, according to His rules. Only He gives purpose to creation. We do not get to make up truth. We do get to live according to truth.

We cannot constrain God. Perhaps we can say He is constrained by truth. Maybe it would be better to say He is free, unconstrained by anything which is not true. We live in a world of negative thoughts and concepts. We move between understanding more of the spiritual realm by describing what it is not because our sinful natures cannot grasp what it is. Paul, arguing for the gospel told the Corinthians the gospel was not the difference between positive and negative but always positive.

As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. [2 Corinthians 1:18-21 ESV]

God is the morphe of truth and goodness, complete in grace and peace, compassion and love toward all He has created. Everything He creates is perfectly good when He creates because He will not create anything which is not good. His uncorrupted creation is filled with grace and peace, compassion and love. Goodness is as integral to God as truth, as is His immensity, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.

Truth and goodness in no way preclude justice and righteousness but require them. God’s justice and righteousness are filled with His truth and goodness. Truth is the foundation of justice and goodness is the evidence of righteousness. We show a complete lack of understanding God when we limit His justice to a legalistic interpretation of revealed law within His written Word. We sabotage righteousness when we give ourselves permission to sin because of a misperceived outcome of Christ’s sacrifice for us and our covering by His blood. His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf is meant to usher us into God’s presence so we can begin to understand who He is and be changed for eternity by His truth and goodness and justice and righteousness. Our relationship with Him is not just for the here and now but for eternity.

Being gathered into His presence by the scars of Christ means, by fulfilling the sentence of death in our place, we are no longer separated from God. We are declared holy. Holiness is an eternal characteristic of God, like truth and goodness and justice and righteousness. Sin separated some of His creation from Him and His holiness. We and our world are separated from God, unrighteous, under His judgment, not good, living a lie. By Jesus’ wounds, the shedding of His blood, a deep and eternal mystery, we are brought back as a new creation into His presence. We are separated from the world and from sin for Him. We are holy not to do anything we want but to be all He purposes for us throughout eternity.

He does not want part of each person. He wants the whole person for Himself. Here, the teaching of Jesus in the first 20 verses of Matthew 5 shows His will for each for eternity. As he is whole and complete so He will make those who are His whole and complete. We are fitted for eternity, recreated and designed in the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God’s Fifth Statement

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  [Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV; see also Exodus 20:12]

Parents have children, and those children become parents and have more children.  This is an absolute in God’s design. He commanded Adam and Eve to multiply AND fill the earth and subdue it.

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 1:28 ESV]

Noah and his children were also told, after the flood, to fill the earth. (See Genesis 9:1.)

Parents have a primary job. They are to raise children to love and honor God. In turn, those children become parents who raise children who are taught to love and honor God because they have been taught to do so. Children emulate and copy their parents. From their parents children learn about God and how to treat others.

Parent who focus upon God teach their children to do the same. If the parent focuses upon themselves or anything other than God then the children are taught to do the same. Should the parent teach their child to sin then the sins of the fathers is passed onto the children and broken only through the grace of God. We honor our parents by being like them. Our parents honor God by living out His image in the world.

This places a tremendous obligation upon the parents. God placed this statement in the middle of the ten statements as a bridge between loving God and loving our neighbors. Those parents who know God intimately have no other gods or idols because there are none, speak for God with His given authority, and are resting in Him while looking forward to His final and ultimate eternal rest. They are unshakable in their faith and an example to their children.

What the parent does influences the child, but the parent is not responsible for the grown child’s relationship with God. When a child becomes a parent who they are reflects what they have been taught by their parents. They honor their parents who have honored their own parents and God by loving Him or they honor their parents by doing what their parents did.  To “honor” means to be heavy with, weighty, rich with or abounding with, and to promote. Psychologically this is what every child does, whether they seek God or rebel against their parents or Him. However, the question is not are children doing what they have been taught but have they been taught to love God.

Children do not have to be taught to sin. Sin is part of their fallen nature. Children are taught how to sin in various ways by many different people. Children must be taught to love God but can only be taught this by those who love God. Everything a person is exposed to teaches them something.

Jesus has devastating words for all people.

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [Matthew 18:5-7 (and following) ESV]

What we do right now counts for eternity for ourselves and for those around us. If what our children do reflects who we are and how we honor God then our relationship with Him is of utmost importance. If our parents were not godly we may honor them by being as they are. But then, we will not honor God by being as they are. I was struck with fear when I realized the great responsibility God placed upon my shoulders when I became a parent. My fear has driven me toward God. I am far from perfect, my sin showing black against the brilliant white of His righteousness. I live by His grace and pray my children will do the same.

Those who persecute the righteous because of their relationship with Jesus Christ have been taught to do so. Their parents, or those who have the influence of parents, have raised them up to view a lie as truth, and to view the truth as a lie. Even within the organized church are those who lead people, not toward God but toward an idol.

Those who are citizens of the kingdom of God show the evidence of citizenship as God works out in them the characteristics Jesus has given in the Sermon on the Mount. Being a citizen of God’s kingdom invites the persecution of those who hate God. Persecution does not relieve us of the responsibility of loving and obeying God and teaching our children to do the same.

Purity Through Grace

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24 ESV]

God’s grace toward sinners is the driving force for any who become pure in heart.

Only one person has ever lived who could claim a pure life. He is the One who offers grace to everyone, even those who refuse His offer. His life is an example though His purpose in coming was for sacrifice. “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]. His purity and righteousness cannot be duplicated by anyone.

As we begin to understand His life, His motives and demands, and the grace which drives us toward Him, we will cringe at our twisted and corrupted nature. No one can look at Him without seeing themselves. Our purpose it not to be Him but to be made by God into His likeness. Each hidden in Him are made by God into an eternally unique person.

From God’s eternal perspective He has finished His work in us. This does not mean He has stopped working in us or He has let us go to live by our own devices, winding us up to let us run down until He winds us up again. He does not hope we use the tools given or that we will grown into maturity. It means nothing will thwart our being finished and complete. What He has done is done for eternity and cannot be undone.

Yet, we are constrained by time, by each moment in history. If we comprehend the completed work of Christ then we know the absolute of God’s decree. Still, our moment by moment is plagued by sin, requiring deliberate consciousness of God, a continual growing in Christ, and an abandonment of self to the Spirit. Anything less and we risk temporary defeat and loving discipline. God will make us pure.

Testing may be seen as a purifying fire. Those unwilling to submit to the testing fires of faith, rejecting His grace, will suffer the eternal “fires” of separation from God.

If I am correct in my thinking then there are two basic activities, or responsibilities, we have, and two purposes He is accomplishing in us. These are fueled by His grace and nothing else. He requires (for want of a better word) both obedience and sacrifice. Our purposes are living the evidence of His grace before the world through obedience and sacrifice, and preparation for eternity. His Son fulfilled these activities  to His satisfaction. Does He expect anything less from any who are His?

Grace continues where personal strength and effort fail. At the instant my strength fails, before I even began to try, God’s grace and its inherent power, succeeds. For God’s grace is His power to overwhelm and destroy the power of sin.

In Mark 9 (and Matthew 17) Jesus once again confronts the power and consequence of sin. Coming down a mountain after His transfiguration He encounters a man whose son is demon possessed. Though His disciples were given explicit authority to drive out demons (see Matthew 10:8 and Mark 3:14-15) they could not drive out this one.

Commenting on the bent, twisted and powerless condition of all, on their complete lack of faith, their unbelieving, untrusting, disobedient posture, Jesus laments, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me”[ Mark 9:19 ESV]. I do not know if He is speaking about His disciples are the people in general. They have all seen His work, experienced His faithfulness, seen the evidence of His life and love for them, and still they have no faith. Jesus does not say “little” faith as He does elsewhere. They are “faithless.”

Finally, the father, driven to his knees, hopelessly unable to do anything, exclaims, “I believe; help my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24 ESV]. His cry did not release Jesus’ power as if faith activates God. Jesus decided to heal the boy and strengthened the faith of the father. Just as He decided to come and sacrifice Himself for us giving us grace.

Those who are pure in heart live faith as a whole person before God.