Tag Archives: sin

Relief and Grace

Meditations on the Psalms

You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

Those feeling distress look for relief. We do not know the circumstances which inspired the writing of this Psalm. Some suggest David wrote Psalm Four on the tail end of Psalm Three, as he was fleeing his son, Absalom. That the Psalmist is in distress is stated in this opening prayer to God, the only One who offers gracious relief.

Given me reliefmeans to grow large, enlarge or widened, as when the heart is filled with good things. Distress has the opposite allusion, meaning tonarrow, tighten, to find one self in a narrow, indefensible strait or place, by an adversary, foe, enemy or oppressor, whose attack is hard as flint. Gracious means to show favor or pity. Both David and Jesus, as with many Christians throughout history, found themselves in places where they were attacked on every side, hemmed in at a place which is indefensible, by an enemy whose intent and tack are meant to utterly destroy. Who is the enemy? They are the Deceiver, death, the wicked, rebellious nations lead by kings and rulers, those who surround the godly with the evil goals of usurping God.

Many of David’s writings are prophecies of Jesus Christ’s life. The thinking of the heart of this Psalm shows the thinking of the heart of Christ while living as a man among the people of Israel. Any number of Jesus’ situations and experiences are described here. One specific episode comes to mind.

Psalm Four describes many of the occurrences in the story of the death and resuscitation of Lazarus of Bethany, whose sisters were Mary and Martha. Jesus loved this family. He was raised from death but then died again and has been resurrected to eternal life. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5 ESV). When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick He stayed where He was, several days journey away from Bethany. Knowing what was to happen, Jesus directed the attention of His disciples toward God, not toward the illness of the one He loved. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 ESV).

Finally, after two days, Jesus decided to return to Bethany. This frightened the disciples, who knew many people there wanted to murder Him. Jesus then declared Lazarus had died, using the metaphor of falling asleep. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Not understanding Jesus’ words, the disciples question Him about returning for a man who is simply asleep. Jesus revealed why He waited. “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14-15 ESV).

This does not sound like Jesus felt either destress or fear to journey to a place where His enemies would attack Him. Jesus was not afraid to walk into circumstances where His life was threatened, knowing no one could harm Him until God’s purpose and plan were ready for fulfillment. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He did experience distress over death. In the eyes of the witnesses, Jesus, a man larger than life, was enlarged even more by His public actions and public prayer.

It is the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35 ESV). Why did Jesus weep when He stood in front of the tomb of His friend Lazarus? Mary and Martha and others were weeping at the tomb because they would never see their brother and friend again. Jesus wept because of death, knowing the eternal consequences of dying. Jesus sobbed, bursting into tears, because He understood more than anyone what death means and why death happens. He will soon face His own death and feel such stress His sweat will drop like blood. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Jesus felt deeply the effects of sin without sinning.

Jesus prayed. He knew what He would do days before. He knew what was happening and would happen from eternity. Lazarus was dead, but death means nothing to God, who cannot die. God controls death, having made it a natural part of the process of creation. Lazarus died, but there is nothing which can stop God from giving him back life.

Jesus commanded the people to open the tomb. Then He prayed. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42 ESV). He commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb and out he walked. He who had died several days before emerged from the grave, fully alive. Only God can raise the dead. This is God’s grace on full display.

Jesus confronted the enemy, death, an enemy no one but God can conquer. Soon He would confront death again, with His own life, and conquer forever an enemy who claims all, claiming all for Himself. God has answered Jesus’ prayer. God has relieved His distress.

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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.

Be Holy

Meditations on the Psalms

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

Jesus prays, speaking intimately with His Father. Jesus is fully human and without sin. God is His measure and standard of righteousness. As the Son of God, Jesus kept all of the laws of God completely, without fault, because He was our sacrifice. He took upon Himself our sin so He might cover us with His righteousness. “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). When Jesus prays, He knows God will answer.

While Jesus taught in the temple during the Feast of Booths, the Jewish leaders declared Him a menace and threat. They sent officers to arrest Him because they thought He was deceiving the people. Jesus challenged those who accused Him of sin to tell Him the evidence. “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?”(John 8:46 ESV). They had no evidence. He healed a man on the Sabbath, which the Jewish leaders considered breaking the Sabbath law (see John 5). He declared He descended from heaven and was the One who gives life. “So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’” (John 6:41 ESV).Many asserted His sayings difficult and no longer followed Him (see John 6:60-66). But no one presented evidence He that sinned.

God does present the evidence that all people sin and rebel against Him. In the Hebrew Scripture and the Epistles of the New Testament, God commands us to be holy because He is holy. Jesus also declare we are to be perfect because God is perfect.

“For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 ESV).

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV).

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV).

There are none, other than Jesus, who can declare themselves either holy or righteous before God. Holiness in an attribute of God, an eternal, essential characteristic, just as are righteousness and justice. Holiness means set apart for a specific use and function. When God created Man in His image, all people were set apart, or separated from, the rest of creation, to serve God in the tangible way of taking care of the Earth under His authority. Man was given dominion over the Earth.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 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)

Because of sin, holiness, like righteousness, must be given and placed over us, because there are none who are either righteous or holy and all are facing God’s just wrath. God tells us throughout Scripture the people He created in His image are set apart for Him, for service and intimate relationship with Him. That none want or have an intimate relationship with Him is ample evidence for sin.

A war rages within each person. On one side is the image of God, the natural inclination to know God intimately and to do that for which they are created. Fighting against God, and the image of God within each person, is sin. Each person has, because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve, a sin nature which wars against the image of God. Though the vessel, the body and soul are corrupted by sin, the image of God is not and cannot be corrupted. People are torn apart by sin, which drives them away from God, while conscious of the tug and pull of the image of God driving them toward Him. People are aware of God until they drive out that awareness from their consciousness, refusing to acknowledge the guilt over sin brought on by the image of God in them. No one has the strength or disposition to fight this war. All cave to the sin nature and run away from God, while He constantly and methodically urges them to turn from sin and run toward Him.

He is the God of our righteousness when we abandon ourselves to Him and allow ourselves to be covered with the blood of His Son. Because Jesus is righteous we are declared righteous. We do nothing. He does everything.

Peter’s Reaction

Studies in First Peter

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

Luke 5:1-11

Peter witnessed a miracle. Jesus told Peter to fish in a place and at a time Peter knew there would be no fish. Some have suggested Jesus saw a shoal of fish just out in deep water. He saw the fish but the trained eyes of the fishermen standing with Him could not see them because of their exhaustion. Yet, the phenomena of actually catching fish, so many their nets were breaking, suggests not quick observance but a control over nature. One of the characteristics of the image of God in man is dominion. God gave Adam, and Adam’s progeny, dominion over the earth. God’s image in the people He created is not degraded and perverted. The vessel which carries the image is corrupted. Jesus, fully Man and fully God, exercised His dominion over the earth and the animals of the earth and the fish of the sea.

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 1:28 ESV).

A miracle is an extraordinary action of God showing His control over the laws of nature. God developed and put the laws of nature in place. He suspends the laws of nature, for a moment, at His discretion, which to us is a miracle. It was not ordinary for the fish caught by Peter and his fellows to be where they were at that time in in that place. They were brought there by the will of God and His dominion over creation. Jesus, by exercising His control over nature for the benefit of those He wishes to bless, gives evidence that He is God in the flesh.

Peter did not know the depth or all of the implications of what occurred. He did know he was in the presence of a Man who just did something supernatural. Jesus was different. He was in the presence of holiness. His reaction was appropriate for the circumstance. Aware of his sinfulness, Peter wanted only for Jesus to go away. People, Peter included, are too comfortable with their sin. They want to sin and ignore the consequences. Jesus does not allow any to ignore sin. Having assuaged his guilt with ignorance, Peter is confronted with the living God and can no longer ignore either his sin or guilt.

But, Peter really didn’t want Jesus to leave. Every person, including Peter, faces a dichotomy when they suddenly realize they are in the presence of Christ. Peter fell before Jesus and declared his own sinfulness. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8 ESV). The visual implication of the passage is Peter is on his knees before Jesus, holding on to Him in worship, afraid for his life, asking Him to leave while giving himself to the Man.

In Scripture there are many examples of people who became fully aware of being in God’s presence. When Isaiah suddenly found himself in God’s presence his reaction, like Peter, was a declaration of his sinfulness. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV). Ezekiel, when he realized he was in God presence, fell on his face so he would not have to look at God. “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28 ESV). John, Peter’s fishing partner, at the end of his life, saw Jesus and fell at His feet as though dead. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17 ESV). Peter reacted to Jesus like He was God.

Before a person can repent they must acknowledge the truth of sin in themselves and in the world in which they live. Then they must accept their guilt before a righteous God. Peter declared himself sinful, which means wicked, stained with specific crimes and personal vices. Peter declared he was devoted to sin and not worthy to be in God’s presence. He knew he could not stand before God because of his rebellious nature. Like Job, who found himself speaking to God, he despised himself. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6 ESV).

All in the group were astonished at what occurred. All heard Jesus’ words. All followed His command. “For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon” (Luke 5:9-10 ESV). Only Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, worshipping Him. Only Peter declared himself sinful and wanted Jesus to leave, afraid for his life. The others were astonished at their catch, but only Peter acted appropriately awestruck, like Isaiah and Ezekiel, and finally John toward the end of his life.

Peter’s individual reaction to Jesus’ dominion over nature is only the first of many. He becomes a leader of the disciples because of his actions and reaction toward 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.

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.

Punishment

Meditations on the Psalms

You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:9 ESV)

Those who rebel against God face His judgment. Those who teach others to rebel, and lead them in their rebellion, face total annihilation. There is no wiggle-room in God’s courtroom.

Both to break and to dash them in pieces means to shatter to a point of destruction. That which is broken cannot be fixed and becomes useless. This statement is a direct answer to Psalm 2:3. “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” There is no hand strong enough to burst the bond, nor arm great enough to cast away God’s cords. God created people a particular way, giving them a nature and placing them within a universe of laws and boundaries which they cannot breach. Seeking to break the laws of nature has deadly consequences. Breaking the moral laws of God implanted within human nature as the image of God, has eternal, damning consequences.

Jesus is adamant about the effect of sin on people. Knowing temptation to sin comes naturally, because of the rebellion of the Deceiver and the corrupted nature of people, He still singles out special condemnation for those through whom the temptation is delivered.

“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! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:5-9 ESV)

Jesus’ disciples discussed among themselves who the greatest was in the kingdom. Such a question is arrogant and ignorant. They were speaking to Jesus, the Son of God. They had seen His works and heard His words. He is the King and the greatest in the kingdom. What earthly king would allow one of his counselors to ask such a question without quick and sure discipline and retribution. But Jesus did not come to hold Himself up. He came as a Servant, because that is His nature. Instead of pointing to Himself, He placed a small child in front of His disciples and told them “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4 ESV).

In Psalm 2, Jesus uses a parallel illustration to thrust home His point. Sin is judged harshly. God rains down His wrath upon those who cause sin and teach others, especially children, to sin. It would be better for the person who taught and led a child into sin to commit suicide than to finish instructing their student to the place the student becomes a teacher. It would be better to perform radical, maiming surgery than allow oneself to become enslaved by sin. Cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if either leads you to sin.

The implications of His teaching about sin is startling. Jesus is saying nothing in the world, nothing we do or want or desire is more important than God. To allow something which has no eternal value to control our lives and dictate our relationship with God is to rebel against Him. It is better to live a short life in extreme poverty with no hope of worldly success or continued physical survival, and know God, than to live in abundance and not know God intimately.

Either the person who follows God and His Son discipline themselves or God will discipline them. Either we give up the world and gain eternity or we give up eternity with God and watch the world fade away to non-existence when we face God at judgment.

This statement is a warning for those who teach and lead people to sin. You face total annihilation, your life and works become worthless, and your existence is consigned to a place away from the absolute source of life, which is God. Beware.