Tag Archives: Obedience

The Presence of the Master

Studies in First Peter

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

Matthew 14:31-33

It would seem to most Christians that Jesus said this little phrase often. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31 ESV). Jesus uses a word translated little faith, which means one who trusts too little, or small faith. He uses this word six times in the Gospels. The word is a combination of two words, puny or short and faith, or the conviction that something is true, to believe and trust.

On a previous occasion Jesus and His disciples were going across the same lake. A storm arose and began rocking the boat while Jesus slept peacefully in the stern. How could anyone sleep in a small boat with 12 other people during a storm? Jesus had complete peace with God and was unafraid because He knew He was in no danger. The men rowing, however, were deathly afraid. Those of the twelve who were fishermen knew the sea and the violence they faced because of the natural elements of wind and rain and rough seas. They were afraid for a reason. So, they woke Jesus, asking Him to save them because they thought they were going to die. “And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:26 ESV).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks about believing God will take care of those who are His. God cares for His creation and people are much more valuable to Him than the other things He created. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30 ESV; see also Luke 12:28). God provides until He calls into eternity.

On another occasion, the disciples, who were hungry, discussed why they had forgotten to bring anything to eat. Jesus had already fed 5,000 and another 4,000 people. He provided life, more than bread and food ever could. “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?” (Matthew 16:8 ESV).

Faith is the conduit through which God delivers the tools needed to obey Him to those who are His, who live in a world rebelling against Him. Through faith His disciples could do the impossible. After Jesus transfiguration, He and three disciples came down the mountain to a scene where the other disciples could not heal a young boy possessed by a demon. Jesus quickly cast out the demon. His disciples asked Him why they could not do what He had just done. His answer is a mild rebuke. “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 ESV). Jesus had already given them authority to cast out demons (see Matthew 10:1). They rejoiced that the demons obeyed them. Why could they not cast out a demon here? Because of little faith.

Faith is vital to a growing relationship with God. Jesus shows He is God every time He does a miracle, heals a person of a sickness or casts out a demon. Jesus has dominion over His creation. “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased” (Matthew 14:32 ESV). Jesus also fulfilled prophecy found in the Hebrew Scripture.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.(Psalm 107:28-30 ESV)

All of the evidence tells us Jesus is God who came as a sinless man and walked and lived and died among a people. Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest evidence that He is God and that people must obey His word. Faith is taking Jesus at His word. For a moment in their lives, after a great fear, seeing a great deed, one of many in a long line of times of fear and seeing great things, they believed and had faith. Abraham had a moment of faith and God blessed him, counting His faith as righteousness. “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 ESV). Abraham’s faith was for a moment, during a lifetime of rebellion. When Jesus entered the boat after walking on water the disciples worshipped Him. “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:33 ESV). Worshipping anything other than God is idolatry. Jesus accepted their worship. God had, once again, shown the disciples that their teacher, Jesus, was the Son of God.

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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.

Salvation

Meditations on the Psalms

Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3:8 ESV)

He who has been praying about His circumstance and passion now turns His attention to those for whom He has worked and taught and bled and died. He has asked God to save Him from those who murdered Him. He died and was resurrected. Through His agony and distress those who are His are irrevocably drawn into His kingdom. Those who identify with Him are so connected, not because of anything they have done, but everything He has done. Still, the citizen of the kingdom of heaven has the responsibility to obey God This is why they were created. Working for God by those redeemed by Jesus carries no merit but does result in eternal blessing.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are decreed and determined by God from eternity, from before the space-time creation of the universe and before Adam and Eve rebelled. “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-21 ESV). Jesus prayed for those who are His before His passion, declaring His eternal purpose in bringing them to Him. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24 ESV).

Jesus is our salvation. Salvation means deliverance, victory, welfare and prosperity. God’s blessing, His gift of peace with Him, is given to those who are His through the blood of Christ, the mercy seat, which hides the sin of the people from His sight. It is not that Christians stop sinning but that, because Christ took upon Himself the judgment of and sentence for our sin, they are declared righteous before God. “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).

Our obedience to God is demanded and expected and carries no merit. We cannot work for that which God gives freely through Christ. Our freedom in Christ is not shown through the lazy and irresponsible thinking of our hearts and actions in the world but through steadfast devotion and obedience to Him who gives salvation. There are at least four things we must believe and do.

We must truthfully admit our rebellion against God, that sin is real and turns truth on its head, demanding a lie be acted upon as truth. We are the wicked and ungodly people who are trained and teach others to hate God as described in Psalm 1. Not, only are we commanded to admit sin, we are commanded to acknowledge God as Creator, the One who sustains creation, who gives us purpose and who is the governor of creation. He is God and there is no other and we are designed to serve and worship only Him. Thus, sin is walking away from God.

We are commanded to repent, which is turning away from sin in the thinking of our hearts and actions. Repentance demands we understand the truth of sin and then its consequences, which is separation from God for eternity and existence without that which sustains life. Knowing the magnitude of the consequences of sin, coupled with the drawing of God toward Himself, is enough for those who are His to hate sin because He hates sin. Repentance is turning away from sin.

Faith is turning toward God. Those who repent, who turn away from sin, must turn toward that which is not sin. Faith is the intellectual believing of the evidence of God’s work, the emotional trusting of Him who alone is able to deliver upon His promises, and the willful obedience to His commands. Faith involves the whole person. Remove an element, or make one element of more importance than the others, and faith ceases. This is only a brief summary of faith.

Even though obedience is part of faith it also is the fourth element of salvation. Those who sin, walking away from God, who then turn away from sin in repentance, who turn toward God in faith, must now walk toward God. Jesus calls walking toward God to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 ESV). This is not the simple obedience of faith, which is necessary, but the driven, insatiable delight to know God intimately. Instead of rote behavior, the obedient person abandons themselves to God, ceases living for the world and sets their eyes, and the thinking of their hearts, upon serving God in eternity, beginning now.

Those who are God’s are identified with Jesus Christ, His blessed Man, the Son, the King of kings, the One who gave Himself. Where He is, we are.

Kiss the Son

Meditations on the Psalms

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

Who is the Son? He is the blessed, righteous man from Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV). He is the Anointed (Psalm 2:2). He is the King of Zion God has set on His holy hill (Psalm 2:3). He is the One begotten by God (Psalm 2:7) who is given the earth and the nations of the earth (Psalm 2:8). He is the One who will crush the rebellion of those who have mutinied against God (Psalm 2:9). He is the One they are to serve with fear and trembling (Psalm 2:10). He is the King of kings, Emanuel, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, Messiah.

Kiss means to touch gently or to put together. One would kiss those of greater rank to show respect and allegiance to the person and to that which they represented. Thus, these kings and rulers, and the people they represent, are to abandon themselves to Him by giving Him their complete loyalty in all the thinking of their hearts.

There are only two possible outcomes to God’s command to embrace His Son. This is a command, not a request. Nowhere in Scripture does God request anyone do anything for Him voluntarily. His commands are given with the expectation of obedience. Yet, bent by sin, no one can obey God without His direct intervention, which He gives freely. Still, people disobey Him, refusing to identify themselves with His Son, the King. Either God’s commands are obeyed, which is the natural action of those created in His image, or they are disobeyed, which brings His wrath.

Notice the warning given after the admonishment to kiss the Son. He will be angry and you perish in the way. Perish means to go astray and be destroyed. Annihilation awaits those who continue in their rebellion against Him. Their words and works are destroyed and they are consigned to eternity outside the presence of the life giving and sustaining God. Though God is patient in His dealings with people His patience does come to an end, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Wrath is the same word used in 2:5 for snorting through the nostrils. He will heatedly and justly condemn those who refuse to obey.

Do not test the patience of God with your sin.

Jesus speaks the parable of the wheat and the tares as an illustration of the kingdom of heaven and His authority and rule.

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.

And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?”

He said to them, “An enemy has done this.”

So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”

But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

God created that which is good, people with the image of God. An enemy, the Deceiver came and led His people into rebellion. Yet, God has provided a way for those who are rebelling to return to Him. Some will, others will not. Those that will not are separated from those who will. Those who are His are gathered to Him and have His pleasure, while those who refuse to obey and give their loyalty to Him are removed from His presence and face His eternal wrath.

The Deceiver – Part One

Meditation on the Psalms

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

There is another creature in Scripture leading the rebellion against God. It is the Deceiver. Who is the Deceiver? There are allusions in Scripture but little information is definitive. It, the Deceiver, created by God for service to Him, rebelled against God, seeking to usurp His authority in eternity. It is also known as Satan, the devil, the old serpent, tempter, ruler of this world.

Jesus tells us three things about the “ruler of this world” (see John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Ruler means commander or leader. The KJV uses the word “prince.” World means the earth, its inhabitants, including and incorporating all of the rebellious citizens of that which was created by God. Jesus is referring to the world in which He came and we live. Thus, the ruler of this world is the commander or leader of those who are in rebellion against God in this world.

Jesus is not suggesting the Deceiver is royalty, or owns the world, but that It is a usurper, a created being instrumental in planning and executing a coup. He tells us ultimately the Deceiver is cast out, a future action for us but a completed action from God. “Now is the judgment all, of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31 ESV).

Secondly, the ruler of this world came to corrupt Jesus and tried to kill Him, but could do nothing to God the Son. “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,” (John 14:30 ESV).

Finally, the ruler of this world has already been tried, judged and sentenced. “The ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11 ESV). While Jesus gives the Deceiver the status of ruler of the world, Its rule is at the pleasure of God and is taken away at His discretion.

Do not think the Deceiver is the king or ruler of hell. People don’t like to think about or conceive of hell. Some take a morbid curiosity and begin building ideas about what hell is like based upon the poetic and allegorical descriptions in Scripture. Sometimes Jesus refers to Gehenna, a place outside of Jerusalem because of its association with the detestable god Molech and the abominable practice of burning children alive as a sacrifice to Molech.

Gehenna is translated as hell. This little valley was where everything detestable was thrown, whether garbage or unwanted corpses. Whatever was tossed into this valley was burned. A perpetual stench arose from the valley. Hell is worse than this place. But, the Deceiver is not its ruler.

Hell is the place of eternal punishment. Hell is separation from God. It was made for the Deceiver and the fallen angels. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41 ESV). But, it is also an eternal place where those who rebel against God and die in their sins are consigned.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5 ESV).

A Righteous Man

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way  of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

In the Psalms, God speaks to everyone in the world about His Son, Jesus Christ. God speaks in the first person in Psalm 1. He is describing a man who is righteous before Him.

Man is singular but can refer to Mankind as a singular group of people, all created in the image of God. Most often man refers to one person such as a husband, servant, great person, champion. As described in this verse, the man is sinless and never surrenders to any impulse to rebel against God.

Unlike modern English tenses, which express past, present and future, Biblical Hebrew views action as either completed or not completed. The man described in Psalm 1 does not, nor will ever, rebel against God and His moral code, but has accomplished the exact opposite by upholding God’s absolute will. All of his obedient actions toward God are complete and finished.

Many see themselves in this Psalm because they want to see themselves. If Psalm 1 is about anyone it is about either those who are in complete rebellion against God or a man in complete submission to Him and those who identify with that man. Psalm 1 speaks about one person who has no sin, who hates sin and refuses to participate with anyone or anything that leads to sin.

Paul is adamant in his assessment of the spiritual condition of all people. Everyone is facing the judgment of God and under His condemnation because of their rebellious nature.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (See Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3)

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive” (See Psalm 5:9).

“The venom of asps is under their lips” (See Psalm 140:3).

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness” (See Psalm 10:7).

“Their feet are swift to shed blood (See Proverbs 1:16);

in their paths are ruin and misery, (See Isaiah 59:7-8);

and the way of peace they have not known” (See Luke 1:79).

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (See Psalm 36:1) (Romans 3:9-18 ESV)

God blesses the man who does not rebel against Him but works tirelessly to seek His will and intimately know Him. This describes only one person who has ever lived. Only Jesus Christ has perfectly done all God wanted without sinning. Every other person who has ever lived has rebelled against God.

Only Jesus Christ is perfect and only He has kept the law of God perfectly. Because of His perfection He is righteous before God and the only One able to bring those who are rebelling to repentance and belief into God’s presence.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:21-25 ESV)

If this Psalms shows anything about individuals it shows who each person serves and with whom each person identifies. Even though every person is responsible for their own actions, thoughts and words, they are still controlled by sin and the desire to rebel against God. He will not forsake those who seek Him. He may not remove them from the temptations they face but He will enable them to confront and subdue the temptations with the confidence of knowing to whom they belong. People are blessed by God as they are identified with Jesus Christ, the only sinless One blessed by God.

Introduction to Psalm One

Meditations on the Psalms

[This is the beginning of a series of my thoughts on the Psalms.]

Introduction to Psalm 1

In the Psalms, we see two spiritual entities, one struggling with the other, with their respective followers. One, the Deceiver, is at war with the other, God the Creator, having begun the conflict and obsessively refusing to end or concede defeat. God fights an unsought war with every necessary tool, eternally knowing His victory is assured. His opponent also fights with every deceptive trick and contrivance available, knowing it has no chance of victory. It is a war which should not have happened but is raging and cannot be stopped until the time is right. It is the Deceiver, a created being, rebelling against God, the Creator of His foe.

War should bring fear and trembling to every sane and reasonable person. In war is destruction and death. There is no safety and security in a war zone. There is constant terror and unsought courage, debilitating fear and selfless bravery, premeditated loss from destruction and deliberate self-sacrifice. War brings out the worst in people. War brings out the best in people.

Why would any created being wage war against the Creator, knowing there was no hope of victory, knowing at the end of the conflict it would face utter destruction? Would this knowledge not change the face of war? Would not tactics and strategies change? There is no hope of victory for the Deceiver, and no chance of surrender because judgment is irrevocably and eternally decreed. Still, the war rages.

This is not a war as physical, space-time history would define war. In war, there are sides of combatants fighting to control people, land or whatever is at stake. There is ultimately a winner and a loser. All sides will suffer loss but eventually one side will capitulate to the other and sue for terms of peace, or a cessation of conflict. Or, one side will so totally dominate the other the overshadowed side will face annihilation.

This war is not in heaven. It is not an eternal struggle but has an end. It is on Earth. Though it is two spiritual beings, one eternal and omnipotent and the other having a beginning and powerful but still not God, the war is fought in space-time.

Over what is the rebellion being raged? Ultimately, there is no prize. God, existing before the beginning and after the end of time, is the object of the Deceivers wrath. But God is not a prize which can be won or lost. Temporarily, the trophy is the souls of people made in the image of God, whom God loves. Those who belong to Him cannot be lost while those who rebel against Him cannot be saved.

But do not think anyone born is a passive participant or an innocent bystander. Nor think any person choses sides. Every person born is thrust into the war against God, for the sinful bent and corruption of Man propels all away from their Creator. Yet, God’s image drives each person toward God. It is a true war, with eternal consequences fought within the soul of each person given the image of God while inhabiting a vessel corrupted by sin.

Those who are known by God are the battlefield, continually threatened and assaulted by those who do not belong to God. Most in the world will not even recognize there is a war raging. It is not an awareness of position for or against God which defines the war. It is the justice and righteousness of God judging those who rebel against God, which sets the stage. The war we face moment by moment is a rebellion against God and all He represents.

There is only one champion. His name is Jesus Christ. He is God who was born in flesh as a righteous, sinless man. He took upon Himself the punishment for rebellion and sin for all so all might be reconciled to God. He, and He alone, has fought the war and claimed victory over the consequences of sin, not just the entities who rebelled against Him.

Still, the Deceiver, knowing its own end is annihilation, eternal separation from that which creates and sustains life, is bent on wreaking as much havoc and destruction as possible. There is no prize. It, the Deceiver, is called the prince, or ruler, of this world but it is not the king and supreme ruler of hell. God still rules hell, for it is a place He created for those who rebel against Him, beginning with the Deceiver.

Psalm 1 describes the conflict and ultimate resolution between the only Righteous One, and those who are His, and the Deceiver, and those who follow it.