Willful Rebellion

Genesis 3:4–6

[4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [5] For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

The serpent speaks to the woman and now she has a choice of whether to believe God or Satan.  Unfortunately, she casts the tie breaking vote herself, choosing to follow her own perception rather than God.

Here, Genesis describes the fundamental human problem as willful rebellion, not biological or sociological determinism, outside circumstances, or even other people.  Even today, the biggest problem in our lives is not circumstantial but moral.  We choose to do something other than love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves.

While this is a hard pill to swallow, a problem inside of us is to be much preferred to a problem outside of us.  Blaming feels better, but ultimately leads to despair as we are caught up in forces far beyond our control.  But if the problem is our own hearts, we can choose to admit our faults and ask for the forgiveness and power of God.  And Jesus is faithful to respond to such requests with grace.


Free From the Need to Judge

2 Samuel 1:23-25 (ESV)

[23] “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions.
[24] “You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
[25] “How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!

When a murderous dictator dies, what might be said in his obituary?  What words might be used by an actual victim of his violence, whose very life was threatened multiple times?  Odds are, we wouldn’t hear words like “beloved” or “lovely.”  Yet this is how David describes Saul as he laments his death.

For years, David lived on the run, fearing for his life even though he had been chosen by the Lord as Israel’s next king.  David had shown only faithfulness and mercy to Saul, yet time and time again, Saul sought his life.  But rather than rejoice in his newfound safety or his impending coronation, David mourns his enemy and calls the daughters of Israel to weep over Saul.  

David not only mourns his enemy, he exalts him.  We are far more likely to remember the faults or the wounds caused by people around us than their good qualities.  Yet David can describe Saul as swift, strong and mighty.  He remembers Saul as the king who brought riches to Israel.

When I’m hurt by another person, it’s not that I wish any kind of violence against him, but if I’m honest, I would be disappointed if he completely got away with what he’s done.  Many thoughts would run through my mind.  “How would he learn his lesson?”  “Wouldn’t it be an injustice if there were no consequences for sin?”  “What if he sins against more people?”

David has no such thoughts for he is that rare man who is not driven by vengeance, self-righteousness, or even his own well-being.  After many years of following the Lord and finding Him trustworthy, David is free to be moved by love.  He is free from the need to be judge and he can even mourn the suffering of his enemy.

The example of David challenges us to pursue mercy for those who don’t deserve it, just as the Son of God pursued mercy for us at the cost of His life.  May God give us grace to forgive freely and to bless those who have hurt us. 

A Challenge to Grow in Love

[1] I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1–3

In verse 1, Paul exhorts us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ.  Verse 2 explains what he means.  To walk in a worthy manner is to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with others in love.

We can only do these things in relation to other people.  More specifically, we can only do these things in relation to other imperfect people.  Christian maturity is in many ways relational maturity – maturity in forgiveness, maturity in patience, maturity in selfless love


Imperfect people regularly challenge us to grow in love and, if we are honest, we know we are often challenging those around us to grow in love as well.  One of the most remarkable things we will ever see or experience this side of glory is a sinner extending the grace of God to another sinner.  The Church is a place where there are many opportunities to give and to receive this grace.

Free to Love

[41] “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. [42] When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” [43] Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly…he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Luke 7:41-43, 47

The message of Christianity is that we absolutely cannot earn our way with God.  Jesus does not give us advice as to how to earn heaven because He knows we cannot do it.  We have no hope of proving ourselves righteous to Him.

When we believe that we have earned our blessing, we feel free to look down on others who have not or cannot muster up the goodness that we have been able to.  However, if we believe that every blessing is an unearned gift, we have a basis by which we can love.

Without God, we can love people who have earned it, whether by their achievement or by their suffering, but we cannot love those who are completely undeserving.  Only if we have received a love that is of grace, can we be free to extend this kind of love to others.

From an Enemy to a Son

The Message of 1 Peter
Edmund Clowney

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

1 Peter 3:9

‘And I thank God that he has given me the love to seek to convert and to adopt as my son the enemy who killed my dear boys.’  These were the words of Korean Pastor Yang-won Son.  The year was 1948; the place was the town of Soon-chun, near the 38th parallel.  A band of Communists had taken control of the town for a brief period, and had executed Pastor Son’s two older boys, Matthew and John.  They died as martyrs, calling on their persecutors to have faith in Jesus.  When the Communists were driven out, Chai-sun, a young man of the village, was identified as one who had fired the murderous shots.  His execution was ordered.  Pastor Son requested that the charges be dropped and that Chai-sun be released into his custody for adoption.  Rachel, the thirteen-year-old sister of the murdered boys, testified to support her father’s incredible request.  Only then did the court agree to release Chai-sun.  He became the son of the pastor, and a believer in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Praise God that He is Unfair

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

– Psalm 32:2

Or in other words, blessed is the man who is counted perfectly righteous before God.

I’m not a very good gift giver.  I tend to give people what I like – books.  I have given my wife many books over the years and I think she forgives me.  But just because she forgives me doesn’t make me a good gift giver.  It means I have a second chance which I could very well use to buy another book.

Being forgiven is not the same as being righteous.  It means a clean slate and a second chance.  This sounds like good news but it is actually terrible news.  If you give me a second chance to buy something other than a book, it’s possible I’ll take it. But if you give me a second chance to flap my arms and fly out of a window, there is no hope.

We need more than a second chance with God because which of us can be perfectly righteous, without sin, even for one day?  Who can stand before a holy God?  Scripture is perfectly clear.

[10] as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
[11] no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
[12] All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”

– Romans 3:10-12

Thankfully God gives us more than a second chance.  He offers to count unrighteous people righteous.

[11] Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. 

– Isaiah 53:11

Jesus not only takes our sin and gives us forgiveness; He also lives a perfect, sinless life and gives it to us that we might receive the reward He deserves.

Praise God that He is just but not fair!  It’s not fair for a teacher to take a test and give a student credit.  It’s not fair for a parent to raise a child and for a stranger to boast.  And it’s not fair that Jesus lives a perfect life and sinners can enter into the presence of God and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into your master’s rest!”

It’s More Than That

Psalm 103:12

as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

1 Peter 2:24

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

The gift of God is forgiveness.  God can make us clean and he does so at great cost.  The sinless Son of God takes on the punishment for the sins of the world that we might be forgiven.

Sometimes people say that this is like a judge who sentences a criminal to jail time and then takes his place.  But it’s more than that.  It’s more like a victim of a drunk driver going to jail for the drunk driver.  Or an an assault victim willingly taking the punishment for their attacker.

Every sin is against God but He sends His Son for sinners.

You Believe Lies About God

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel
Edward T. Welch

You believe lies about God.  Guaranteed.  You think he can’t see all things; you think he doesn’t care; you think that he reluctantly forgives; you think that he is far away; you think that he loves many people but not you.  Don’t assume that you know him.  Read the Gospels.  In Jesus you will find God’s fullest revelation of himself.  Pray that God would teach you more and more about himself.

Do You Love Me?

John 21:15-17

[15] When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” [16] He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

In this passage, Jesus finally addresses Peter and his betrayal directly.

Three times, Jesus asks “Do you love me?”  Jesus could have asked Peter any number of things.  “Peter do you feel really bad?”  “Peter do you believe?”  “Peter will you go on mission trips?”  No, he asks “Peter, do you love me?”

See, Peter did not want crucified savior.  When he began to follow Jesus, he was a mess of mixed motives.  Peter was ambitious.  He wanted to be the greatest.  Peter was excited.  He wanted to see the kingdom of God and do miracles.  Peter wanted to reign, not suffer.  When Jesus spoke of His death, Peter rebuked Jesus to His face.

So Jesus asks, “Do you love Me as I am?  Merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.  Do you love Me as I am? Sovereign, just, holy, glorious.”

Peter’s response is amazing.  Three times, Peter declares “Yes Lord, You know I love You.” Of course Jesus knows everything and of course He knows Peter loves Him.  But Peter’s life has not demonstrated that love.  Peter is devastated, not because he broke a rule or is embarrassed or disappointed in himself; he hates his sin.  Peter wants his love for Jesus to be clear and unmistakable.

Finally, we come to Jesus’s reply.  Three times, Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep.  We can be tempted to separate our love for God and our love for people.  Jesus never does this.  The inevitable result of love for Christ is love for His people.

This is the true measure of love for God.  The true measure is not how loud we pray, how many books we read, or how many meetings we go to.  These things matter but only insofar as they reflect our love for Jesus’s sheep.  Sheep are not easy to love.  Sheep are stupid and rebellious, just like us.

When I encounter extremely obnoxious people, I want to punch them but I’m a Christian, so I don’t.  Instead, I close my heart and cut them off.  Perhaps when they change, I’ll give them another chance.

When Jesus calls us to love, He is necessarily calling us to love difficult people.  Loving difficult people always involves forgiveness.  If we spend enough time with a sinner, they will sin against us.  If we are to continue to love them, we must forgive.

Paradoxically, forgiveness is not about people but about Jesus.  It is an act of worship.  When our love becomes like God’s love, it does not reflect the value of the person forgiven or our own value.  It reflects the worth of Jesus Christ.

Consider, who do you need love?  In other words, who do you need to forgive?  Jesus, give us grace to do the impossible.