Tag Archives: repentance

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.

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A Psalm of David

Meditations on the Psalms

Psalm 3

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. (Psalm 3:1 ESV)

King David, the writer and co-author of this Psalm, was a man after God’s own heart. He was one of the few kings in Israel who truly sought God and did what was right in His eyes. God spoke to Solomon, David’s son, telling him to emulate his father and walk “in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked” (1 Kings 3;14 ESV; see 1 Kings 11:14, 15:3, 16:2). As closely as David walked with God he still sinned greatly, committing murder and adultery, coveting that which was not his and disobeying God’s direct commands. Confronted by his sin, David repented wholly, expressing his deepest mourning over sin in songs and words and deeds. His writings are considered prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, Messiah, who is descended from David (see Matthew 1:6, Luke 3:31).

Absalom, one of King David’s many sons, challenged his father’s place as authority over Israel. David fled from him for a time. There is more to the back story. Absalom’s sister, Tamar, was raped by his half-brother, Amnon, who was the eldest son of David. Amnon was the crown prince and stood to inherit the kingdom from his father. When Absalom learned of Amnon detestable crime against his sister and his family, he hated him with a deep passion. David, the father of all these children, heard what happened and did nothing. Absalom took matters into his own hands and avenged the rape of his sister by killing the rapist. Then Absalom fled from the king, his father. (2 Samuel 13:1-39.)

King David longed for his son and finally sent his general, Joab, to retrieve Absalom from exile. But the king refused to let his son into his presence. “‘Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.’ So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence” (2 Samuel 14:24 ESV). Absalom was handsome and well-liked by the people. He was a man capable of getting the attention he wanted in unethical ways. He finally manipulated Joab to convince the king, his father, to lift the banishment and see him. (2 Samuel 14:1-33.)

Next, Absalom, emboldened by his successes against Amnon, Joab and his father, conspired to take the throne through intrigue. His political acumen swayed the people to his side, and his posturing scared the king. David determined the best course for him and his loyal servants was to flee from Absalom. “Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, ‘Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword’” (2 Samuel 15:14 ESV).

As David was deserting Jerusalem, Shimei, son of Gera, cursed him from a place overlooking the road. Shimei hurled insults and accusations, revealing many of the sins David committed and from which he already repented. But actions done cannot be undone. His actions, which revealed the thinking of his heart, were cherry-picked by his enemies and used against him. What we do counts for now and for eternity.

When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” (2 Samuel 16:5-8 ESV)

David’s response suggests he felt he deserved the rebuke and cursing falling upon his head from above. “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to” (2 Samuel 16:11 ESV). David felt God was no longer on his side but against him. Instead of cursing God, or complaining to God, David wrote a Psalm extolling God’s presence and His desire for intimacy.

Though all his circumstances look bleak and black, the king recognized God was still in control and would do that which He decreed. All of the Psalms written by David were inspired by the Holy Spirit while many of them revealed David’s intense love for God and desire to trust Him wholly no matter the circumstance.

Though Psalm 3 is written by David as a lament and a declaration of desperate trust in God, revealing the depths of pain felt in his heart, it is also a prayer of Jesus as He faced those who hated Him and wanted Him murdered. David experienced many things at the hands of those who hated him. As the distant father of Jesus, who is descended through the line of David, his writings are prophecies of the King of kings who is to come.

Serve the Lord

Meditations on the Psalms

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

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

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

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repentance

Meditations on the Psalms

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. (Psalm 2:10 ESV)

God calls those who rebel against Him to repentance. All who mutiny against God and incite mutinous behavior in others face His unavoidable wrath and ultimately, annihilation. God commands them to turn away from their sin and rebellion because only the foolish continue to fight against the God who created them. Wisdom is a godly characteristic.

God uses two words to encourage these disobedient and obstinate leaders back to a relationship with Him. He tells the kings to be wise and the rulers to be warned. Wise means to be prudent, circumspect, have insight, understand the signs of the times and the thinking of the heart of themselves and others. Kings are to consider carefully their words, actions and judgments, looking for the perfect combination of prudence and application to bring the most honor to both themselves and their kingdom. Warned means to be chastened, admonished and instructed, corrected and disciplined. Rulers are to apply the rulings of the king to the people in a way which fulfills the intent of their sovereign.

Since both kings and rulers are under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the thinking of their hearts should reflect the intent of God, not themselves. This statement is an admonishment to return to serving God. God tells them to stop sinning.

On a Sabbath, early in His ministry, while in Jerusalem during a feast, Jesus spoke to an invalid at a pool called Bethsaida. Many invalids congregated there because of a superstitious belief an angel of God would come down occasionally, stir the waters of the pool, and the first person into the pool would be healed of their infirmity. Jesus approached only one of the invalids and healed him. He did not heal any of the others.

The man’s focus, his eyes, the thinking of his heart, was solely on the pool and its magical properties given occasionally by a supernatural being. Jesus asked the man, only this one man, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6 ESV). Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole and complete. The man’s response showed his complete defeat and hopelessness in every becoming healthy. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV). He had been taught about the wrath of God against those who sinned. In the thinking of his heart, God made him this way because of some sin and under no circumstance would God undo what He had done. Nor did the invalid know who Jesus was. He clung to his superstitious, idolatrous belief and whined that no one cared to help him. Jesus healed the man instantly, telling him to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV).

When confronted by the religious leaders, the man who was healed still did not know Jesus by name. He had been healed on the Sabbath. He did not follow Jesus or cling to Him or devote himself to his benefactor. When Jesus withdrew Himself, the healed man did nothing to show his gratitude. Nor did he desperately search for Jesus. Instead, he went his way and was confronted by the Jews, probably the Jewish religious leaders, about carrying his bed, which was working and something verboten for any to do on the Sabbath. He admitted ignorance, pointing away from himself to the One who performed the miracle. His thinking in his heart was “don’t blame me. I’m only doing what I was told” not “he healed me, an invalid for 38 years.”

Jesus found the man again and spoke startling words to him. “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 ESV). The implication of Jesus’ words is “look at what happened to you. You are healed by My authority. Stop sinning or you will find yourself exiled from the presence of God.” We know the man immediately went to those who accused him of working on the Sabbath and told them it was Jesus who healed him. From this testimony, the Jews decided to persecute Jesus for breaking their rules.

Here is the crux of the rebuke of Psalm 2:10. Use the thinking of your heart to come to a reasonable conclusion about your rebellion against God and stop sinning. Jesus began His ministry preaching repentance. However, God has been commanding people to repent since the fall of Man. No one is excluded from this call.

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).

Enmity

Studies in Genesis 3

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)

Does God create hatred and loathing? Is hatred part of His eternal character?

When God stated that He placed enmity between the woman and the Deceiver, or the serpent, He is speaking about a level of hatred that moves beyond simple displeasure. This hatred and loathing is the deepest and longest lasting antagonism coupled with a desire to destroy and annihilate. The woman wants the Deceiver destroyed. The Deceiver want anything and everything God has done corrupted, unusable and taken away from HimimH.

There is an eternal difference between the “hatred” of God and that of His creatures who have rebelled against Him. God’s hatred is against sin. Scripture is replete with instances of God declaring His hatred and loathing for sin and for those who refuse to repent, who actively and purposefully rebel against Him, and who promote sin in others.

If a man does not repent,
God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies. (Psalm 7:12-14 ESV)

In the Gospels Jesus condemns the Jewish leaders by saying they are related to the Deceiver, telling them their father is the Devil. It, the Deceiver or the Devil, slanders man to God and God to man. It, the Devil, is both a murderer and a liar. Those to whom Jesus is speaking do the exact things done by the Deceiver.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 ESV)

God is not the author of sin. He did not decide to corrupt the heavens and the earth He created. Nor, was His objective that Man rebel against Him when He created Man in His image. Yet, He did foresee from the beginning the reality of sin in His creation. There was darkness on the first day of creation (see Genesis 1:1-5) and then God created light, and separated the darkness from the light. From the beginning, God separates darkness from light whether in the spiritual realm or the physical. If I am correct in my thinking that God created the physical realm with representative characteristics of the spiritual then from the beginning God’s plan and decree was to swallow darkness with light.

When God declared enmity, hatred and loathing between the woman and the Deceiver, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the Deceiver, He announced the outcome of the conflict between those who love and those who hate Him. God is completely and ultimately in control.

Testing

Studies in Genesis 3

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13 ESV)

After questioning the man, who has blamed Him and the woman for his actions, God now turns His attention to the woman. His question is as direct as those asked of the man, but slightly different. He knows what she has done. She has listened to the Deceiver and worked out in her mind and heart the decision to rebel against God. She has plucked a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil believing, against all evidence, that by eating it she will gain something God is withholding. She has eaten the fruit and then given it to the man for him to eat.

God’s question is all inclusive. He asks the woman what she did. What have you produced? What work did you do? What have you made? What is the effect of your work? You have done something. What is it? God asks the woman to account for her thoughts, the decision-making process, the reasons for her actions. He is demanding a full accounting for all which just occurred because of her actions.

God wants her, as He wanted the man, to take complete responsibility for herself. God asks the woman, as He did the man, as He does all who bear His image, to give an accounting for their thoughts, motivations, decisions and actions. He never asks anyone to do something for Him. He did not ask them to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He commanded they not eat from that tree.

God’s asking is a testing. Scripture is filled with God testing, or proving, every person. His tests are a teaching tool to discover what the person, or student, does not know, not what they do know. He knows the results of the testing. He wants those tested to know the results also. Yet, He demands a heart which seeks truth, so the testing becomes a tool used to purge the person of sin, as a furnace refines metal, removing the dross.

This is the uncomfortable reality of having the image of God while carrying the brokenness of sin. All are tested, put through the fire to burn away the impurities. Our responsibility, because of the image of God, is to acknowledge the testing is from God for our benefit, take responsibility for ourselves, and repent, turning away from that which breaks and cuts off any relationship with God.

Our actions carry no merit. God does not ask and then reward us for obedience. God commands with the expectation of obedience and blesses because it is His nature to do so out of love for those He created. Part of our responsibility is obedience and truthfulness.

Both the man and the woman disobeyed God. Neither the man or the woman answered God’s questions with complete truthfulness.