Tag Archives: moral

Responsibility

Studies in Genesis 3

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12 ESV)

How can we blame God for our rebellion? Can we blame God for the temptations which befall us?  God could have stopped the Deceiver from tempting the Woman but did not. God could have intervened in the discussion between the Deceiver and the woman, but did not. God could have made known His will, as she was reaching out, to not eat the fruit, but did not. When the man ate the fruit, God could have made Himself known and stopped him from eating, but did not.

Does this mean that because God did not do all of these things He is to blame for the actions of the Deceiver, the thought process and decision of the woman, or the unthinking actions of the man? Or, as creatures capable of making decisions, are each responsible for their own thinking, motivations, moral understanding and actions?

Part of being created in the image of God is the freedom to learn and act normally within the natural boundaries God set for the creature. Scripture does not suggest the Deceiver was created in the image of God. Scripture tells us Man was created in the image of God. With His image is the ability to act and behave like God, constrained only by the physical limitations of a created being. God gave His image so Man would know intimately their Creator, as well as having intellectual and moral knowledge of Him. Man would act in a manner which emulates God’s eternal character by knowing God intellectually, morally and intimately.

When the man blamed God and the woman for his rebellion, for his actions, he not only refused to take responsibility but his heart froze toward both his wife and God. Intimacy was destroyed. No longer could either God or the woman trust the man to make righteous decisions based on a wholesome moral understanding of right and wrong. The image of God in him did not change but his ability to know God and act in a manner which emulated God in the physical world was bent and broken. His obedience was natural to him. Now, rebellion and separation from others is natural. That which is bent cannot be unbent. It can be straightened but will always have been bent. That which is broken can be mended but will always have been broken.

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Dominion

Studies in Genesis 1

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.” (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

God gave Man dominion. No other creature has dominion. Only God has absolute dominion because He is the Creator.

Man is a replica of God, created in His image, embedded with specific characteristics and qualities inherently God’s. Every person born has these characteristics. God’s image is not an exact duplication of His characteristics but working facsimiles, limited but true.

Man is created in physical space and time and is given a spiritual nature so that, once the physical ceases to exist, the spiritual will continue to live. God is spiritual and uncreated, living fully in eternity, able to enter His creation but unconstrained by anything created.

Some of the characteristics of God given Man include intelligence, the ability to be consciously aware and rationally understand the truth of creation. Yet, Man’s understanding does not come all at once but grows gradually in knowledge as each person examines and studies both God and nature.

People have a moral compass or standard, which includes intimately and emotionally knowing what is good, righteous and just. Conversely, people are able to differentiate that which is not good, righteous and just. God’s moral standard is interpreted for Man through the emotions. Morality and emotions are implied through God’s declaration of “good” when He finished creating a specific thing. What He creates is not only excellent but pleases Him.

People are also given a will to act upon that which they think and know is morally good. Man, like God, works and builds and makes and is pleased with what is accomplished.

God embeds another defining characteristic of Himself in Man which, to this point in creation, only He owns. He gives Man “dominion” which means to tread down or subjugate, prevail against, reign or rule over. Man is given ownership and responsibility over the Earth and everything on and in it. God has absolute control and ownership. He delegates to Man the power and authority over this piece of creation, not over all creation. There is no other created thing or being we know of from Scripture given dominion.

Evidence and Conviction

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

In these verses the word “accuser” means someone who has a justified claim or accusation against another. A “judge” is given the responsibility to uphold every law strictly. Finally, the “guard” is another delegated to carry out sentence.  Each has their place in the justice of God.  All consequences are determined by the violation of a law and rebellion against the One who gave the law.

In these verses the accuser is Jesus, the Creator of all and the Author of the Law. He is not the judge. That position is held by God, the Father, who will judge each man’s works according to the righteous life of His Son. Finally, the officer is the Holy Spirit who will carry out sentence, either guaranteeing our place before God or removing those who are not His from His presence.

God’s image in man comprises many elements. Some specific elements are the mind, or the intelligence, the moral-emotional being, or that which interprets the righteous and just standard of God, and the will. Our minds tell us to do something based on the evidence. Our moral-emotional self warns us of the danger of violating God’s known law. Yet, our corrupted nature suggests we use our intelligence and the moral-emotional to rationalize and excuse sin. Our will acts upon the thinking of our hearts. Rebellion involves the whole person.

Adam and Eve committed one act of willful rebellion and separated themselves and all people from God. Jesus Christ did one disciplined act of obedience and made a way for any to not be separated from God.

Volumes have been written discussing the willful act of rebellion committed by Adam and Eve. Even more volumes have been written and preached presenting the passionate obedience of Christ and the grace offered.

God has a reasonable expectation His commands be obeyed. Adam was given one prohibition. Adam could have confronted the lies of the Serpent with the truth of God. Eve’s response to the lie of the Serpent was to add to the prohibition of God. Adam complacently acquiesced to Eve’s rationalized addition to the command of God.

Eve’s whole person, the image of God in her, was misused to excuse her rebellious action. “So when the woman saw that the 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” [Genesis 3:6 ESV].

She saw the evidence of the goodness of the tree and its fruit. She delighted in what she saw. She desired the fruit because she knew it would make her as wise as God. Or so she thought. She thought God was keeping from her something which would benefit her.

Living within God’s boundaries, placed not to constrain but to allow the whole person to have a relationship with Him, is true freedom. How can there be true freedom when there are boundaries?

When we try to be something we are not we rebel against God’s design and purpose. We have intelligence and a moral foundation, our emotions telling us when God’s moral standard is being violated or upheld. He created Adam as His servant and gave him dominion over the earth. With one deliberate constraint, to not eat the forbidden fruit, Adam reigned everywhere and over all things. When he ate that which was forbidden he introduced to the world grief beyond comprehension.

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].

They hid from Him who would judge them. It is obvious to us they should not have eaten the forbidden fruit. Nor should they have covered themselves or hidden from God. They did all of these things and then offered excuses for their rebellion. They were caught. God had already told them the consequences of a single act of rebellion. Hiding from Him would not lessen the judgment.

We all sin. Our freedom in Christ is to come before the Judge, admit and confess the sin and know He has forgiven us because of the Cross. This is “come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

Expected Obedience

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Matthew 5:10-12 ESV]

God declares a standard of righteousness in the ten commandments or statements found in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Like all “rules of conduct” posted in may public establishments the need for the rules is predicated upon the behavior of the public. Most of the public will keep the rules as a normal part of their behavior. But there are some who do not care for the rules and enter with the intent of breaking them, sometimes just to see if they can get away with violating “someone else’s rules.”

God’s moral standard is inherent in the image of God found in all people. While the vessel is corrupt because the person is bent by sin, the image of God in them is not. People know when they are wrong because of the war between their bent away from God and the image in them pulling them toward Him. Man is created for relationship and obedience but compelled to rebel because of the corrupted nature of sin. What agony we endure.

Where there is a need to post “rules of conduct” there is obvious rebellion and even criminal motivations. Rules are posted to give the authorities the right to impose necessary restrictions, and even sentence, to maintain an orderly environment. Even though God embedded His image in people He stated His “rules” so there would be absolutely no excuse for sinful motivations and actions.

Persecution happens not because of the person but for what the person represents. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven represent the King, the standard of the King, the rule and reign and authority of the King. Those who live in rebellion toward the King cannot abide the presence of any who, by their lives, reveal the evidence of rebellion.

Sin affects everyone. Some may outwardly keep the moral standards of God but their motivations show otherwise. When Adam fell from grace, all fell from grace and are separated from God. After the fall the thinking, feeling and motivation of all people was only evil, all of the time. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” [Genesis 6:5 ESV]. God wants a relationship with man but man wants nothing to do with God. God built us for relationship yet all refuse to know Him who created them.

God never asks anyone to do something. He tells, with every right and expectation of obedience. Remember, obedience carries no merit. It only takes one act of rebellion, one sin, to separate anyone from Him. Those who refuse the prompting of the Spirit, which is an expected command from God, continue in their rebellion and separation from Him.

One sin, the first sin of Adam, separated all from God. Jesus died for all sin. Now, one sin, a specific sin committed by the individual, separates each from God. He told Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam did what he was told not to do. Now, He tells all to eat from the tree of life, which is Jesus. Many refuse.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” [John 6:53-56 ESV]

Those who have rejected and disobeyed His command are separated from Him and hate Him with a passion ranging from ambivalence to zeal. God’s statements measure, not man’s love for God but man’s hatred for Him who created them. Since they cannot touch God they turn their hatred on those who are His, whom they can touch.

Jesus tells us those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed. Jesus is speaking about living according to the moral character of God embodied in the ten statements and the words of Christ. Persecution comes because of God and the relationship the Christian has with God.

Introduction: Peacemaker, Sons of God

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. [Matthew 5:9 ESV]

We desire freedom from conflict to pursue our interests without restraint or threat or failure. We long for peace to the point of ignoring conflict, hopelessly hoping conflict will go away or cease and no longer plague us or those who are ours. We even excuse irresponsibility and minor criminal acts which may cause unwanted conflict to maintain a tenuous peace. Underneath the desire for peace is a moral foundation and emotions designed by God to interpret and signal danger about those actions and attitudes which compromise our position before Him.

If we listened to the internal warning signs we would know why we have no peace, especially  with God. Every fiber of our being screams out the reality of our separation from God. We are not at peace with Him and He will not give His peace unless we are morally right before Him.

Still , want peace at almost all costs because peace is the evidence of security and contentment. Whole institutions within governments and societies are built to promote peace. Law enforcement officers are trained to keep the peace. Envoys and ambassadors are sent to negotiate peace between peoples, and groups, and nations. Even our religious leaders espouse peace often falsely teaching we have peace with God.

Yet, there is no peace.

So, we look to “peacemakers” to help negotiate peace.

One of the worldly characteristics of a peacemaker is the ability to find compromise between those conflicted. Peacemakers are esteemed, lauded and showered with rewards and gifts, written about and remembered, at least for a short time.

One of the consequences of such worldly acclaim is the redefining and misinterpreting of what Jesus actually means by being a peacemaker. Those who are true peacemakers do not negotiate conflicts between individuals, find compromise between countries, bring together enemies and find compromises where both agree.

Peace is not lack of conflict but a place of rest before the One who has authority to judge. True peace has little to do with the world and everything to do with eternity. True peacemakers bring condemned sinners to the loving Judge of sin, who desires complete reconciliation and absolute obedience.

A peacemaker is someone who wants those created in the image of God to have peace with God. Once a person has peace with God they are changed. This does not mean they will have peace with those around them but that they have recognized sin, realized its consequences and abandon themselves to God, their Creator and Sustainer. They are changed and made His and begin hungering and thirsting for His righteousness, to do His will, as His servant.

They actively love Him, who actively loved them and showed His mercy to all through the sacrifice of His Son. They are selflessly loved by God and, in return, selflessly love God through the sacrifice of their obedience by selflessly loving those whom God loves. They are whole as God has made them and who is making them complete. Being a peacemaker is the final element found in the makeup of the spiritually whole citizen of the kingdom of God according to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Where I have characterized mercy as active love and purity of heart as selfless love,  a peacemaker is someone characterized by tough love. God will not allow anything of the world to compromise the peace of God. It is a spiritual state reflected through the life of the Christian to the world. The evidence of having peace with God confounds and convicts the world. It is an unshakeable demeanor which believes trusts and obeys God in the harshest of circumstances. Only those at peace with God will show the evidence of such a life.