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2 Peter 2:3-10; God’s Rescue and Punishment

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100131_2peter2_3-10.mp3

01/31 2 Peter 2:3-10 God’s Rescue and Punishment

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

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Peter is warning his readers against the dangers of false teaching. He says at the close of his letter:

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Peter has contrasted the reliability of God’s word and the apostolic witness with the false prophets of old and the false teachers of today. Their heresy was moral. They would argue that there is no coming judgment and we will not be held accountable for our action, so we can indulge the flesh any way we like. In effect, this false teaching was denying the authority of Jesus Christ over all those he bought with his own blood. Peter warns that these heresies are destructive- they will bring swift destruction. And he gives us three Old Testament examples of the certainty of God’s judgment on those who live ungodly lives as a guarantee that it is coming. As Paul said in Romans:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Paul points the Corinthians to the Old Testament events as motivation for holy living:

1 Corinthians 10:1 I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Peter points us to the Old Testament history of God’s dealing with his creation to give us confidence of the coming judgment and encouragement to stand firm against false doctrine that would tell us that morality doesn’t matter. God does not change. What God hates, he always hates. He is the same yesterday, and today and forever [Heb.13:8; cf. Heb.1:12; Jas.1:17]. He will certainly punish those who do evil just as he has been faithful to do in the past. God has consistently judged the wicked throughout history. It may seem that God is letting sin slide, but Peter warns that condemnation has been pronounced on those who do evil, and that was not an idle threat. Their destruction is not asleep. God will surely do what he promised to do.

Peter’s three Old Testament examples are the angels that sinned, the ancient world God destroyed with the flood, and the sin saturated cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that were destroyed by fire..

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

Peter here refers to the traditional understanding of Genesis 6:1-4. The Genesis text reads like this:

Genesis 6:1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim [giants] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

We are told that the sons of God mated with human women and produced a race of mighty men. “Sons of God” appears to be a reference to angels in Job [1:6; 2:1; 38:7]. Some angels sinned by violating the boundary between species and taking human wives and producing superhuman children.

Jude gives us more detail on his understanding of this event when he compares the sin of these angels with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, who “likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire” [Jude 7]. Peter simply states that God did not spare these angels when they sinned, but imprisoned them in hell to be held until the final judgment. He summarizes the sins of his three examples in verse 10 as “those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”

The word translated ‘cast them into hell’ in our text refers to being sent to ‘Tartarus’, the lowest part of the underworld in Greek thought. Peter’s point is that even their position of power and prestige did not spare angels from God’s justice. The false teachers may have claimed exemption from judgment because of their prosperity and popularity. But this would offer no safety to them. Even angels were not spared when they sinned.

The narrative in Genesis continues:

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD. …11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Peter uses this as his next example:

5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

He did not spare angels, who are powerful privileged beings, and he did not spare the whole ancient world. Often we feel there is safety in numbers. If everybody is doing it, God surely grades on some sort of a curve. God would not destroy everyone, would he? God did not spare the ancient world. Only 8 people were preserved when God brought the flood on the world of the ungodly. We are inclined to presume on God’s grace and love – a loving God wouldn’t really send anyone to hell, would he? Jesus said:

Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Peter gives his third example from God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:

6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

We find the record in Genesis 19:

Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

In Genesis 18, God had visited Abraham and

Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

Two angels visited Sodom and found hospitality in the house of Lot.

Genesis 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.

Even after this, the angels literally had to drag Lot and his family out of the city so they could destroy it. This was in response to Abraham’s prayer in chapter 18:

Genesis 18:23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? …25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

And this answers another objection of the false teachers. They could say that God cannot judge the world, because the righteous would be punished along with the wicked. But from the examples of the flood and Sodom we see that God can and does distinguish between the righteous and the wicked.

7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

It is staggering that Lot is called ‘righteous’ three times in this text. This is a grand demonstration of the unmerited grace of God. Reading Lot’s story, we see him selfishly choosing the best land for himself, we see him living in Sodom without making even one convert, we see him offering his two virgin daughters up to appease a sex-crazed mob intent on homosexual gang rape, his sons-in-law to be don’t take him seriously, he literally has to be pried away from Sodom by angels, and even then he bargains for compromise with his rescuers, his own wife is so enamored with the Sodomite culture that she turns back to her own destruction, and after their escape his own daughters get him drunk and sleep with him because they think the end of the world has come. This is the man Peter describes as ‘righteous’ three times. This can only be the imputed righteousness of Christ, not the intrinsic moral character of Lot himself. Peter started his letter pointing us to this:

2 Peter 1:1 …To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you…

We receive a righteousness not our own as a gift by the grace of God through faith. Paul describes us as:

Romans 5:17 …those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness …

This is truly abundant grace to give Lot [and us] the free gift of righteousness.

Romans 3:21 …the righteousness of God has been manifested… 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Even in Lot’s life there is evidence of God at work transforming him. We may question when we look at his choices and his witness and his family, but Peter points us to the conviction of the Spirit and his inner turmoil over sin:

7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

Lot was saved as through fire, and all his works were burned up, but he was saved [1Cor.3:12-15]. His born-again conscience was tormented daily by everything he saw and heard. He was in the world but not of the world. There was genuine evidence of God’s new creation work in his heart.

Peter has laid out these three Old Testament proofs in an extended ‘if – then’ statement. He says ‘if God did not spare angels, the world, or Sodom in the past…’ and we might expect him to conclude ‘then the Lord will not spare these immoral false teachers today’. Instead he interjects the great mercy of God in rescuing sinners before he describes the certainty of divine judgment.

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

As in the case of Noah and Lot, God is able to rescue the godly today. Jesus told his disciples:

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

And he taught his disciples to pray:

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: …13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

But the conclusion is certain. Just like the angels and the ancient world and the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

His judgment is particularly certain against those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. The words translated ‘who indulge in the lust of defiling passion’ can literally be translated ‘those who go after flesh in defiling passion’. The phrase ‘those who go after’ is a common phrase to describe those who go after other gods or pagan deities. These teachers turned desire into their god and devoted themselves to a pursuit of their passions. And they despised authority. They disowned the Master who bought them.

This is sobering truth. God did not spare angels when they sinned. God did not spare the ancient world. Romans 11:21 tells us that God did not spare the unbelieving branches of natural Israel and he will not spare the gentiles grafted in if they are proud. But there is one more that God did not spare, and this brings us great hope:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 31, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 2:1-3; False Teachers Among You

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100124_2peter2_1-3.mp3

01/24 2 Peter 2:1-3 False Teachers Among You

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Overview / Review of Chapter 1

Today we’re going to jump back in to 2 Peter. We’ve been away for 2 months, so we’ll start with some review and pick up Peter’s flow of thought as we start in on chapter 2. Peter, as he tells us in 1:12-15, knows that he is going to die soon, so he is making every effort to stir us up to holy living by reminding us of the truth of the gospel. He is taking care to write with the intention of giving us a permanent record of authoritative apostolic teaching that we can refer back to at any time. His stated purpose for writing is found in the last two verses of this short letter:

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

There are lawless people that are propagating error in the church. They want to carry us away with them and cause us to loose our sure footing in Christ. As vaccination against this danger, Peter calls us to growth in God’s free gift of grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is worthy of all glory forever. Peter is writing to alert us to the danger and strengthen our foundation in the truth so that we never fall.

In chapter 1, he has encouraged us that eternal life and godly living cannot be separated – as if holiness were an optional extra to our main course of salvation that we can either take or leave. Peter tells us that if we lack virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love, we will be ineffective and unfruitful, that we are blind and have forgotten our own salvation, and we will not ultimately find entrance into God’s kingdom.

This is not a call to gaining God’s favor by our own moral effort, because Peter started by saying that both eternal life and godliness are a gift of divine power. It is God’s power that gives us great and precious promises – and God is the one that must keep his promises to us. We must fight to grow in godliness because we have already become partakers in the divine nature and have already escaped the corruption that is in the world. We must fight the battle in front of us not in order to help win the war for Christ, but because Christ has already won the war for us. But we must fight against sin and for holiness to demonstrate that we are on the winning side and not traitors or defectors to the enemy ranks.

Peter encourages us in our pursuit of godliness by directing us to what we must pay attention to. He points us to the apostolic witness and the holy scriptures, because that is where we find the precious and very great promises of God to us. The apostolic witnesses did not follow myths or fables; they were eyewitness of the power and coming of Jesus confirmed by the voice from heaven. And the prophetic word is a reliable guide in dark days because men spoke from God as they were blown along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter continues to exhort us to godly living by way of warning in chapter 2. His warning sounds severe because the danger is serious. Following false teaching has eternal consequences – it will send you to hell. It is urgent that we avoid the seduction of these destructive heresies, because swift destruction will come to all who follow them.

Peter has been talking about the Old Testament scriptures and the apostolic witness as a reliable guide for a life of holiness. He now contrasts the trustworthiness of scripture with the destructive teaching of false prophets and false teachers. In 1:16-18 he has discussed the accuracy of the apostolic eyewitness, and in 1:12-15 he refers to his own writing of what will become part of the New Testament. (In 3:15-16 he will also refer to Paul’s letters as scripture.) In 1:19-21 he has highlighted the divine origin and certainty of the prophetic scriptures; what we know as the Old Testament. Now, in the beginning of 2:1 he points out that in Old Testament times there were false prophets, and he continues by saying that even in the New Testament days there will be false teachers.

Structure of passage:

a. NT apostles (1:12-18)

b. OT prophets (1:19-21)

b. OT false prophets (2:1a)

a. NT false teachers (2:1b-3)

1:19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people,

In Deuteronomy, the people were warned not to listen to false prophets and told how to distinguish a false prophet from a true prophet.

Deuteronomy 18:20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’– 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

So it would be clear that a prophet whose predictions did not happen was a false prophet. But the people were warned not to believe every prophet even if what they said did happen.

Deuteronomy 13:1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Any genuine prophet of God would bring only a God-centered message. Putting any other desire in place of God is indication of a false prophet. As we study some of the false prophets of the Old Testament, we see that they were not authorized to speak with divine authority, they frequently brought a message of peace and security in contrast to the true prophets who brought warning of future judgment, and they were ultimately condemned to punishment by God. Look for a moment at Jeremiah 23:

Jeremiah 23:16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.”’

Jeremiah 23:25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD.

False prophets encouraged the people to despise God’s word and instead follow their own heart. They cause people to forget the name or character of God. Ultimately, they do not profit the people at all. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD.

Peter continues:

just as there will be false teachers among you,

False teachers were no surprise to the apostles. Jesus had warned them:

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 24:11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Paul warned the church in Ephesus:

Acts 20: 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul exhorted the young pastor Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The apostle John wrote:

1 John 2:26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Paul warned the leaders in Ephesus that men speaking twisted things drawing away disciples after them will arise from among your own selves. This is not a danger from outside the church. Peter warns

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you,

These false teachers were not seeking to draw people away from the church; they were bringing their heresies into the church, corrupting the church from the inside. What was it that they were bringing in?

who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

We are told that they are bringing in destructive heresies. What are these teachings that bring destruction? When we look forward in the chapter, it appears that the false teachers are leading people not into false doctrine so much as into immoral behavior. They are described as

10 …those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority… 13 …They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. … reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed… 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray… 18 …speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh… 19 …they themselves are slaves of corruption…. 20 …they are … entangled … and overcome [in the defilements of the world].

We know that moral failure cannot be separated from doctrinal error. And Peter tells us that they ‘deny the Master who bought them’. ‘The Master who bought them’ arouses images of slaves being transferred to new owners; the new master has legal control and absolute authority over the one who is his property. In his letter to the immoral church in Corinth, Paul addresses their similar situation with similar language:

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Paul charges the Ephesian elders with the care of the church:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Jesus himself said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The song of praise to the Lamb in Revelation goes like this:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Peter points us to this purchase and its moral implications:

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

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. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Coming to Jesus for salvation means coming to him on his terms. He has paid the price and he now owns you. These false teachers embraced the Lord Jesus in name, but they reject the claim of Jesus to domination over their whole lives. They deny the sovereign Lord by not obeying him. Far from being his apprentices, they are living in contradiction to his life and teaching. This is what Jesus is talking about when he says:

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

A relationship with Jesus as Lord means obedience to him. Denying Jesus is not only something you do with your lips. Many deny him with their life. Peter says this results in swift destruction. These false teachers were denying any future judgment. Ironically, by denying Jesus authority to rule over their lives, they were inviting his judgment.

But there were other consequences to their destructive heresies:

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

They bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality. It should not surprise us that these kind of false teachers that open the door to immorality will gain a wide following. A third consequence of their denial is ‘because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.’ People will slander Christianity and Jesus because of the lifestyles of his so-called followers. The path of truth will appear to be less straight and less narrow than it really is. Because of the conduct of Christians, the name of Jesus gets dragged through the sewer.

Peter reveals the real motive behind the false teachers: greed. “In their greed they will exploit you with false words.” In their insatiable lust for power and possessions, they will fabricate their speech and manipulate lies to make merchandise of you whom the Lord has bought.

Do not be deceived. The false teachers will get what they have coming to them. And if you follow them, you too will get hell as your reward.

“Doubtless such stringent condemnation as Peter’s appear to twentieth-century readers as old-fashioned and inappropriate, because we have largely lost any sense of the diabolical danger of false teaching, and have become as dulled to the distinction between truth and falsehood in ideas as we have to the distinction between right and wrong in behaviour.” M.Green, p.97

Blood bought pilgrims must not prostitute themselves with the pleasures of sin. We cannot have two masters. Do not deny your Master who bought you with his own precious blood.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 24, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100117_prayer.mp3

01/17/10 – Prayer

We, as the people of God, are called to pray. We are to be a people of prayer. Prayer is to characterize the church of God. We must pray, and we need to pray. After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). In the early church, the prayers, alongside the apostles’ teaching, fellowship and the breaking of bread, was what the believers devoted themselves to (Acts 2:42). The Apostles turned some of the physical ministry of the church over to others so that they could devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Earnest prayer set prisoners free (Acts 12:5). If we want victory over the forces of evil, Jesus said the power for that victory comes only through prayer (Mk.9:29). When God told Ananias to go speak to Saul of Tarsus, who had been severely persecuting the churches, he said ‘behold, he is praying’ (Acts 9:11). When Jesus demonstrated his fury by making a whip of cords and driving people out of the temple, it was because ‘my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’ (Mark 11:17; cf.Jn.2:15). In Revelation, the prayers of the saints are being poured out as incense before the throne of God (Rev.5:8, 8:3-4).
Over and over again in scripture, we are called to pray, and great promises are attached to our praying.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Jesus commanded that we pray:

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: [the Lord’s prayer]

Matthew 9:38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

Prayer is essential and we are commanded to pray. I believe that we will be more inclined to pray and more determined and disciplined to pray if we understand what prayer is and how it works. We will be more effective in our praying if we understand how to effectively wield the weapon of prayer. I say the weapon of prayer, because prayer is listed in the description of the spiritual armor that every believer is to take up in Ephesians 6:

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil… 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm… 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel …that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

R. Kent Hughes describes the scene of a soldier preparing for battle:

“His heart pounds ka-thump ka-thump under his metal breastplate. As he steadies himself, he hitches up his armor belt and scuffs at the earth like a football player with his studded boots, testing his traction. He repeatedly draws his great shield across his body in anticipation of the fiery barrages to come. Reflexively he reaches up and repositions his helmet. He gingerly tests the edge of his sword and slips it back into his scabbard. The enemy approaches. Swords pulled from their scabbards ring in chilling symphony. the warriors stand motionless, breathing in dreadful spasms. And then the believing soldier does the most astounding thing. He falls to his knees in deep, profound, petitionary prayer – for he has obeyed his divine instructions to take up what John Bunyan referred to as “All-Prayer.” -R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p.95

So, in order to obey our divine commander and take up this weapon of “All-Prayer”, we need to know what it is. What is prayer? Most simply and broadly put, prayer is conversation or talking with God. To be more accurate, prayer is our part of the conversation. When we speak to God, it is called prayer. When God speaks to us, it is called divine revelation or Holy Spirit illumination. Prayer can describe anything we say to God, whether it be worship of who he is, thanksgiving for what he’s done, confession of sin, questions, concerns or desires expressed to him, needs requested of him. But when prayer is distinguished from some of these other types of Godward communication, prayer is specifically the asking part of our speaking to God. Prayer is coming to God with needs that we request that he meet, calling on him for help.

Psalm 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

So a prerequisite for effective prayer is an understanding of who we are in relationship to our Creator. We are weak; he is omnipotent in strength. We are poor; he has all resources at his disposal. We are fools; he all-wise. We are blind; he sees all and knows the end from the beginning. We are dependent; he is self-existent. We are helpless; he delights to stoop down to help those in need. We are miserable in that we often turn from him as the all satisfying source of true joy and fulfillment and back to the fleeting pleasures of sin that we know will leave us hollow and empty with a painfully bitter aftertaste.

To put it bluntly, if we don’t know ourselves to be weak, poor, foolish, helpless, miserable wretches, then we won’t pray. Or if we do pray, our very prayers will be an offensive stench in the nostrils of God. We may pray like the wretched Pharisee “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” (Lk.18:11-12). That is a pompous arrogant self-centered self-righteous boast, not a prayer. Until we see our acute sinfulness and desperate need, we cannot pray as we ought. If we hope to be given anything by God, we must come as a desperate beggar. That is what prayer is. Jesus told us that “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn.15:5). We cannot come to God self-assured, self-confident, as if we had some talents or gifts or resources that he should be impressed with. God cannot accept us if we come to him with a high self-esteem. ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (1Pet.3:5-6). We are nothing, in fact, worse than nothing. We were created in his image with his dignity, but we have disfigured and distorted that image by wallowing in sin. We refuse to submit to his rightful authority, we are rebels against him and enemies of the cross. We have taken his good gifts and spat in his face. We have dragged his good name through the sewer. We must take our place with the tax-collector:

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Lk.18:13)

That is true praying. Asking. Crying out for mercy with a deep heartfelt sense of unworthiness and need. And yet boldly calling out to God because he is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4). So prayer is turning away from ourselves to God in confidence that he will provide what we need. But where do we get this confidence? What makes us think that God will hear our prayers or be disposed to answer favorably? That brings us to the next point;

All our praying must be cross-centered praying. The cross is the expression of God’s mercy toward sinners. What we deserve – justice and wrath and punishment and eternal separation from a good God in hell, God poured out on Jesus on the cross. What we don’t deserve – forgiveness and welcome and kindness and favor and blessing, God freely gives to us who have taken refuge in the cross of Jesus. Our only safe place of meeting with God is at the foot of Calvary. If we come on our own, we will face the wrath of an angry God. If I come to him on the ground of the finished work of Jesus for me, I find love and peace and hope and joy and help. Jesus said:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Jesus is the only way to the Father. There is no other access.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

We, Jew and Gentile alike, gain access to the Father through the blood of Christ on the cross. We have been brought near to God through the substitutionary sin-bearing work of Jesus.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Jesus sacrificed himself for sinners. Because of the cross, God remembers our sins no more. They are gone! They have been punished, God’s justice is satisfied! And through the blood of Jesus, we now have confidence to enter the presence of God. We can enter with confidence and a clean conscience. Even boldness.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because of the cross, we can be bold in prayer. We can use our blood bought privilege to approach with confidence the throne of grace. We can cry out as needy sinners to the God of all grace who will supply every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19). We can have confidence because:

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If Christ died for us while we were sinners, what do you think he is willing to do for us now that he has made us saints? He has done the infinitely hard thing in bearing our sins and turning enemies into friends. Now that he has transformed us, how much easier is it for him as our Father and Friend to answer our requests as we ask according to his will? This is how Paul argues in Romans 8:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

We have his promise from the Psalms:

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

And we have the word of Jesus himself:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. … 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. … 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

John 16:23 …Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. …26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Prayer is essential. We as believers must take up the weapon of prayer if we are to stand our ground. Prayer is asking – coming to God empty with our needs asking God who is the all-sufficient source to supply our every need. We approach in humble boldness because of the cross. We have been forgiven and invited, even commanded to come. We bring glory to God as the giver by coming to him to receive.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 17, 2010 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5; Resolved to Know One Thing

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100110_1corinthians1_17-2_5.mp3

01/10/10 – Resolved to Know Christ Crucified

We’re ten days into 2010. Many of you have already blown your New Year’s resolutions. It’s a good time to consider What are you resolved about? What is essential, firm, unbendable? What are you passionate about? What will not change, no matter what?

re⋅solve [ri-zolv] verb, -solved, -solv⋅ing, noun –verb (used with object)

1. to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something): I have resolved that I shall live to the full

What is Paul resolved about?

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul, when he came to Corinth to preach the gospel, he resolved to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Paul intentionally, strategically limited his presentation to Jesus Christ and him crucified. Now, 3 to 5 years later he reminds them of his approach and why he limited his message to this one thing.

First of all, this was not a new thing for the Apostle Paul. Resolving to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified was not an experiment he used only with the Corinthian church. He says of his preaching in Galatia “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Gal.3:1). To the Ephesians he says “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ …and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Eph.2:13, 16) To the Colossians he wrote about “…the Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. …through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col.1:14, 20). In 2:13-14 he says “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” In Pisidian Antioch, Paul preached “

…to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead. ..Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:26-30, 38-39).

In Thessalonika, Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ’” (Acts 17:2-3). In Paul’s defense before King Agrippa, he said

“I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23).

The core of Paul’s gospel message in Romans is

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 3:23-25).

To Timothy he writes

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (1Tim.2:5-7).

Paul, who had been Saul, was a smart man. He was at the top of his class, schooled by Gamaliel, the leading rabbi of his day (Acts 22:3), outstanding both in skill and understanding, as well as in zeal for the truth. He was a man of influence and power; he had entered house after house in Jerusalem, dragging off the followers of Jesus and throwing them in prison. Not satisfied with that, he went to the High Priest and received authorization to attack the believers in Damascus as well. As we see from his letters, his mastery of the Old Testament and his ability to reason from the scriptures was unparalleled. His logic was rigorous. Paul could have won any argument with any person on any subject. As we see from the account in Acts, this man was virtually unstoppable in his courage and determination. Most of those who heard him either believed or resorted to violence to attempt to shut him up. And Paul says he decided, he determined, he resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Why would Paul self-impose such a severe handicap on his ministry? Why limit the possibilities for ministry so drastically? What would motivate him to limit some of his greatest God-given gifts of wisdom and rhetoric and persuasive power to only one subject?

To answer that, we have to look back to what was going on in Corinth, and to how Paul addressed it in this letter. First, there were divisions among the believers, competition over who was the greatest and who followed who. Everyone picked their favorite Christian teacher and argued over which one was better or smarter or more effective. Some followed Apollos, some followed Cephas (or Peter), some followed Paul, and some even sounded more spiritual than all the rest and said ‘I follow Christ’. It is into this pride-filled divisive atmosphere that Paul writes this letter. And Paul takes us back to his commission by Jesus Christ as reason for the single focus of his preaching.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Paul was sent by Christ to do one thing; to preach the gospel, to proclaim the good news. And that good news centers on Jesus Christ and him crucified. That was the message Paul was commissioned to preach. Everything he ever said or did was connected back to the cross as its source. All of his ministry flowed out of the good news of Christ crucified and the implications of the cross on all of life.

Notice Paul does not say that Christ sent him to share the gospel, or to discuss the gospel or to submit the gospel for consideration. Paul was to preach or proclaim the gospel. This is not just for pastors or preachers or Christian ministers. This is for every believer. We are called to announce or proclaim, to herald or declare. This is because in the gospel “God has taken action”; and we proclaim what he has done. “God is not not negotiating; he is both announcing and confronting” (Carson, Cross & Christian Ministry, p.37)

And Paul alerts us to a danger here. We need to watch not only the content of our proclamation, but the style of our gospel communication. Paul is afraid that by his preaching style he might empty the cross of its power. That is a terrifying thought. That I, in my presentation of the gospel could so empty the cross of power that it is completely useless and ineffective. Paul says that to preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom could empty the cross of its power. What could that possibly mean? Paul was speaking into a context where philosophical debates were the sport of the day and style was everything. Eloquent words would roll off the tongue like honey. Oratory was judged not by the content but by the presentation. Words were assembled with such style and rhythm that it was entertainment be in the audience and cheer for the performer regardless of the content. Paul sensed a danger that people would enjoy listening to the gospel without engaging the message of the gospel. So Paul devoted himself to clearly communicate the life-transforming message of Christ crucified.

Paul understood that the message of the cross divides humanity into two categories:

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of the cross distinguishes between those who are perishing and those who are being saved. To the one category it is foolishness, to the other it is the power of God. In Romans he said “I am not ashamed of the gospel” because some might feel that he ought to be ashamed of it “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom.1:16). In 2 Corinthians, Paul says:

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2Cor.2:15-16)

The cross divides all people absolutely, and this was by God’s good design. Paul continues by quoting Isaiah 29:14, which says that it is God’s purpose to destroy the wisdom of the self-proclaimed wise man through the preaching of the gospel.

19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

It was God’s wisdom that the world will not attain a true relationship with God through a pursuit of wisdom. Man’s wisdom delights to see himself as resourceful, self-sufficient, and in control. The gods we have discovered (or invented) by human wisdom are gods created in our own image, gods that are projections of our own pride, reachable through our own efforts, gods that we can please, or even manipulate to do what we wish, gods that fit into our self-centered system.

Human wisdom is offended by everything the cross stands for. The cross demonstrates that we are so bad that we deserve the death penalty, that we are so helpless that we can do nothing to remedy our situation, that God is so just that he must punish sin, that God is so merciful that he freely gave his own Son to bear the penalty of our sins and rescue us from inescapable doom, and God is so generous as to give us an eternity of enjoying his presence. The cross “makes humans look dependent and helpless and infantlike and makes God look all-sufficient and all-providing and free in giving salvation to sinners” (Piper, Pleasures of God, p.276)

21 … it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The message, Christ crucified is by nature crass and offensive. The promised king is executed as a common criminal. The anointed one is under God’s curse. This is nonsense, madness, insanity, foolishness, a stumbling block. Yet Paul resolves to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

There is a clear purpose in God’s design of the ridiculous message of a crucified Messiah. Although we could not attain to a true knowledge of God through worldly wisdom, God chose to show his superior wisdom and power by calling out people from every nation to believe the word of the cross. God chose a method that seems foolish, weak, low and despised to save those who by grace will humbly acknowledge their sinful inability and desperate need. God chose this method to eliminate boasting. No one can claim to have attained to a knowledge of God. God “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus”. Any boasting must be boasting in the superior wisdom and strength of God to save all who trust that he forgives based on the price paid by Jesus on the cross.

“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The cross is the wisdom and power of God for salvation. The word of the cross is the message of the good news to sinners that God has done everything necessary to secure for us righteousness and sanctification and redemption. We are counted righteous in Christ. We are set apart to enjoy his glory forever. We have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. In Jesus Christ crucified we see the wisdom of God that destroys and shames the wisdom of the wise and brings to nothing those that think that they are something.

“I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” I’m good friends with the criminal that was just executed. This is the exact thing that caused Peter to deny knowing Jesus on the night of his trial. It is costly and dangerous and harmful to your reputation to be identified with a death-row criminal. Do we empty the cross of Christ of its power and seek to be thought well of by the perishing world?

Are we willing with Paul to resolve to know one thing, to know Jesus, to embrace the cross and all its implications that I am a guilty sinner in desperate need of God’s undeserved grace? Are we willing to center our lives on the message of God’s promised Messiah butchered like a sacrificial lamb in my place? Are we willing to risk being laughed at and considered foolish by the world? Are we willing to resolve to sound one note, to beat one drum, to arrange our lives around this one thing; knowing Jesus Christ, and him crucified? Are we resolved to proclaim unapologetically the one message that is life giving transformational power to all who humble themselves to embrace a crucified King?

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 10, 2010 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

worldviews

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100103_worldview.mp3

01/03/10 – Worldviews

At the start of a new year I like to take some time to think about the big picture overarching most important things. I like to spend some time evaluating and ask questions like ‘Why do we do what we do?’ or ‘Why do I believe what I believe?’ or ‘What are the most important things that I believe?’ and ‘Do I feel and act consistently with what I say I believe?’

Today I’d like to think through our worldview together. A worldview is how we make sense of reality. It gives us the big picture and answers questions like ‘Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? How do we know truth, and right from wrong? What happens when we die?’

My worldview is the lens through which I view reality. I wear eyeglasses (or contacts). I spend a lot of time looking through my glasses, but not much time looking at my glasses. But it is helpful at times to look at my glasses. Often when I do, they are so dirty that I wonder how I was ever able to see through them. Or, if I put on the wrong glasses, reality will look very distorted and I will have a very difficult time navigating through life. It is helpful to step back periodically and evaluate the lens through which we view the world, make sure it is the right lens, that it is free of clutter, and that I am living consistently with it.

To better understand my own worldview, it will be helpful to compare and contrast some of the major divergent worldviews. My belief is that there are right and wrong ways to view the world, true and false, correct and incorrect. And I believe the right, the true, the correct way to make sense of the universe is that the creator of the universe has communicated to us the truth about himself and the true meaning of events and the purpose of existence. I believe the right worldview is the biblical worldview, and that we will do well to continually test our own conceptions of reality against what is revealed to us in the bible, and continue to adjust our worldview so that it is more in line with God’s words.

But we will start with some other non-biblical worldviews and work our way back to the biblical world view. We’ll be painting with a broad brush and looking at some of the major concepts of major world views.

We’ll start with Naturalism. Naturalism is an understanding that the physical or material universe is all that exists. Matter is eternal. There is no spirit and there is no god. The universe is a closed system of cause and effect. Man is the chance product of a biological process of evolution. Human beings are merely complex machines. Personality is an interrelation of chemical and physical properties. There is no such thing as right and wrong. Truth or reality is defined as that which can be observed with the five senses. Death is the extinction of personality and individuality. Naturalism is an atheistic worldview.

Monism or Pantheism is the belief that only the spiritual dimension exists. All else is illusion. Life is god. Everything is a part of god, and god is in everything and everyone. God is eternal, impersonal, and unknowable. Man, as part of ultimate reality. Man is spiritual, eternal and impersonal. Individuality is an illusion. There is no objective standard for right and wrong. Truth is an experience of unity with the oneness of the universe. We must get in touch with the divine that is within us. The ultimate goal is to escape from the material and realize one’s oneness with the cosmos. Through multiple attempts or trials all life is progressing toward perfect harmony with the universal force. Time is not real and history is cyclical. Examples of the pantheistic world view are Hinduism, Buddhism and the New Age

Polytheism is the belief that many spirit beings govern the world. Material things are real but have spirits associated with them. Man is a creation of the gods. Life goes well when we avoid irritating the spirits or when we appease them with sacrifices. A specific tribe or race may have a special relationship with specific gods who protect them and can punish them.

Cosmic Dualism is the belief that there are two independent divine beings or eternal principles, one good and the other evil that create constant tension and balance in the world. Mankind is ultimately good and must use free will to choose the good over the evil so that good ultimately triumphs.

Postmodernism is more of an anti-worldview. We all create our own reality. There is no absolute truth. Tolerance of other views is the highest good. The feeling of the individual is all-important. You can pick and choose what you like from all the different worldviews.

Monotheism or Christian Theism is the belief that an infinite personal God exists. The infinite personal God created a finite material and spiritual world. Mankind was created to be a reflection of the infinite God, to display the glory to God. We can know truth because God has chosen to communicate true things about himself and reality with us. He has given us the five senses and the ability for rational thought. The basis for right and wrong is in God himself, who is the ultimate standard of right and whose character we are to reflect. Man was created good, but chose to rebel against his good Creator and the reflection of God became distorted. God himself came as a man to accurately display the character of the infinite God and give himself to rescue and restore fallen mankind.

When we ask: ‘What is the ultimate reality?‘ Naturalism responds that the material universe is the only reality. Pantheism responds that the spiritual reality or life force is all that exists. Polytheism sees many spirit beings behind the real material world. Christian Theism sees God as the ultimate reality and he created a real world with both material and physical aspects.

When we ask: ‘Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here?‘ Naturalism responds that we are a highly complex combination of molecules that came into being through an infinite combination of time and chance. We are a meaningless accident. We have no ultimate purpose. Pantheism responds that we are part of the life force of the universe that is constantly being recycled. We are moving toward perfect harmony with the universal force and our individuality is an illusion that will be absorbed back into the life force. Polytheism answers that we are a creation of the gods and are here to pay homage and meet the needs of the gods that are competing for our allegiance. Christian Theism answers that we are the special creation of a loving personal God who created us to reflect his glory and enjoy his presence. Even though we rebelled, he sacrificed himself to rescue us and restore us to a right relationship with him.

When we ask ‘How do we know truth, and right from wrong?‘ ‘What happens when we die?’ Naturalism responds that everything that is can be known through the five senses and scientific inquiry. When we die we cease to exist. Pantheism says that we pass beyond rational truth and morals as we realize our oneness with the cosmos. At death we come back to continue our progress toward unity with the universal force until that unity is reached. Polytheism teaches that we learn the will of the gods through a visionary that the gods communicate through. It is most important to please or appease the gods with whom we have to do whether those gods be good or evil. Our future rests with the whim of the gods and is based on our performance. Christian Theism teaches that the personal God has left his fingerprint on all of creation, and has verbally communicated to us in the Bible. Morals are based on his own perfectly holy character and nature.

Christian Theism is taught from the very first words of God’s revelation:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

God existed independent from the physical universe, and brought the universe into existence by his word. God is personal and moral (it was good). God created all reality both spiritual and physical.

Paul catalogs the degeneration of worldviews in Romans 1. The gospel or good news is wrapped in its own worldview. Paul is not ashamed and eager to preach for several reasons: it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe; in it the righteousness of God is revealed to those who believe; and in it the wrath of God is revealed to those who suppress the truth.

Romans 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

There is one God. He is a moral God who loves the right and hates the evil. He will punish those who reject his authority, and yet he is merciful to save all rebels who believe in him.

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

There is one God, and he has revealed himself to his creation. He has displayed his eternal power and divine nature through the things he has made. But foolish rebellious mankind exchanged the glory of the real immortal God for a worship of his creation. This could take the form of polytheism or pantheism or naturalism. And these philosophies dishonored God, neglected to thank him, exchanged his glory, exchanged the truth about him for a lie, refused to acknowledge him and ceased worshiping him. This shift in worldview was not inconsequential. This shift had immediate radical moral consequences, and eternal consequences as they are judged to be ‘without excuse’.

Look over at Acts 17, where Paul confronts some of the worldviews of his day head on.

Acts 17:16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”––because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Let’s understand the audience that Paul is addressing. It seems the city was almost postmodern in that it included a smörgåsbord of worldviews. Everyone was after something new.

The city was full of idols, which indicates a polytheistic culture. The people thought he was a preacher of foreign divinities – that he brought his own territorial or ethnic god with him. He also conversed with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.

Epicureans – followers of Epicurius; an atheistic philosophy devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure; especially the enjoyment of good food and comfort. There are no morals or absolutes – whatever feels good, do it!

Stoics – followers of Zeno; believed that everything is determined, they taught that logical thought reflects the cosmic reason; happiness and wisdom is attained by restraining all emotions. Deny all feelings!

And it says that he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogues. Jews were militantly monotheistic – they believed in only one personal and infinite God. But Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection. Paul was also strictly monotheistic, but his monotheism was a Christian or Trinitarian monotheism. There is only one God, but he exists in the three distinct persons of the Father, his Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Paul’s approach is very interesting. He starts with their polytheism and seems to embrace it. They have altars for every conceivable god. But Paul moves beyond and above their polytheism and seeks to restore a vision of the one true God. He says that there is a God who is over all their gods. He is Lord of heaven and earth, creator of all things, he is self-existent and self-sufficient, the life-giver. He is over not just one race or one location but over every nation of mankind. He is spirit, everywhere present; far superior to all the images they have made. He is a just judge, who in the past has overlooked your ignorance, but he will judge in righteousness. And his focus is on Jesus and the resurrection, Jesus the man God has appointed to stand in our place and take our punishment on the cross. Jesus, the man God has appointed to judge the unrepentant Christ rejecting world in righteous fury. Jesus, the man who claimed to be God, one with the Father, equal to the Father. The Father confirmed the truth of his testimony by raising him from the dead.

Paul is confronting the naturalistic live for the pleasures of the moment atheism of the Epicureans. He is confronting the pantheistic notions of the Stoics. He confronts the polytheistic idolatry with a God who is superior to and over all their idols, and he confronts the Christ rejecting monotheism of the Jews with the message of a crucified Messiah who claimed to be God and was raised from the dead. And Paul was not unclear on what he expected of those who held to a different worldview. He did not leave them the postmodern option of relative truth that respects the beliefs of others and denies any possibility of hard factual absolute objective truth. He says ‘in the past God has overlooked your ignorance.’ That’s not a very loving thing to say! Or is it? The exchanging of the glory of God and the darkening of foolish hearts in ignorance is without excuse and will be judged. So he brings a message of absolute truth into a relative society and says that God ‘commands all people everywhere to repent.’ If you are in the God dishonoring futile thinking mind darkening state of a different worldview, God demands that you repent. Change your mind. Turn from darkness to light and from lies to the truth. Your worldview had moral and eternal implications and God demands that you conform your perception of reality to his reality that he declares in his word.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 3, 2010 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment