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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 23:13-19 – Invited To Celebrate

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120129_exodus23_13-19.mp3

01/29 Exodus 23:13-19 Worship God and Celebrate in His Presence

We are going to jump back into Exodus right where we left off a little over two months ago. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for the New Testament believer to benefit by, so we are working our way through the book of Exodus to see what God has to say to us there. We are in Exodus chapter 23, at the tail end of what is know as ‘the book of the covenant’, a series of specific applications of God’s Ten Words to his people, describing to them what life lived in relationship with God should look like. The verses we will look at today, 23:13-19, reiterate the first command and then describe three annual pilgrimage feasts, feasts that all Israelites would be required to attend.

Exclusive Worship

13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.

This is a reiteration of the first command that God gave his people: ‘You shall have no other Gods before me’ (Ex.20:3). God is a jealous God. When God wastes parchment by repeating something in his word, it is because it is important. We need to hear it. It is important that we get it. Here he is coming to the close of the book of the covenant, and he reminds us how important this is. ‘Pay attention!’ ‘Pay attention to all that I have said to you’. Remember the first commandment I gave to you. ‘Make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips’. God demands first place in our hearts. God demands an exclusive place in our lives. God will tolerate no rival affections. God is King of kings and Lord of lords, Lord over all. He is not one among many. He refuses to share his glory. God alone is to be worshiped, honored, obeyed, loved. We need to be told this multiple times, because our hearts are so inclined to worship so many other things.

To know the name of a deity was thought to grant access to that deity, and obligate that deity to answer your requests. To forbid even the mention of the name of another deity was to exclude the possibility of any association with any deity other than God alone. This is the strongest possible statement of monotheism, that there is only one God, and he alone is worth knowing. “Make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.” This is why it is so startling that Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in his name. If Jesus were a rival deity, this would be a direct violation of this command. Jesus suggests that we pray in his name to the Father, and he encourages us that this is a way of assuring that the Father will answer.

John 15:16 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 In that day you will ask nothing of me. 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.

But Jesus even goes beyond praying in his name to the Father. He invites us to address our prayers to him personally.

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.

Jesus invites us to ask him in his own name. This would indeed be blasphemous if Jesus were not God. Praying in Jesus’ name would fall under the condemnation of Exodus 23:13 if Jesus were claiming to be another God. But what Jesus claims is that he is one with the Father, one God. For Jesus’ command to make any sense at all, Jesus must be personally distinct from the Father; not the same person. We may ask the Father in Jesus’ name; or we may ask Jesus in his own name. Jesus is not the Father. Jesus is one God with the Father. This is exactly what Christianity has historically expressed as the teaching of the trinity. There is only, exclusively, uniquely one God. But this one God eternally exists in three distinct persons.

13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.

three annual feasts

14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty–handed. 16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD. 18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning. 19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

Corporate Worship

God says ‘you shall keep a feast to me’. He says ‘None shall appear before me empty-handed’. He says ‘three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD’. He tells us we must bring our best to him. Notice that all males were required to appear before the LORD God. This is corporate worship. I’ve heard some people say that they feel closer to God worshiping at home in their living room or out on the mountaintop than in church. I understand that sentiment. But worship is not about you or how you feel. God desires that all his people gather together to worship him. Worship is not about us, it’s about God. There were three times in the year, these three pilgrim-festivals, that every male in Israel was required to appear before the Lord. Although women were not required to be there, we learn from passages like 1 Samuel chapter 1 that they were welcome and that they did indeed come. God desires that we gather together to worship him. Listen to God’s ultimate purpose for our worship:

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

The Pilgrim Feasts

Let’s look at each of these feasts that God required all his people to participate in. There are seven feasts listed in Leviticus 23. Here in Exodus, the three pilgrim festivals are highlighted.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover)

14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty–handed.

The feast of unleavened bread was closely connected with the feast of Passover. This fell at the time of the early barley harvest. Passover, as we have seen, celebrated God’s redemption of his people out of slavery. The passover lamb was killed as a substitute for the firstborn son, and brought protection from God’s wrath. John introduces Jesus by saying ‘behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (Jn.1:29). Paul tells us that ‘Christ our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed’ (1Cor.5:7). The feast of unleavened bread began at Passover and lasted for seven days. All leaven, a picture of sin, was to be removed, and only unleavened bread was to be eaten, symbolizing the perfect righteousness of Christ, the righteousness that he gives to us. As Israel was lead out of slavery in Egypt, so we are led out of our slavery to sin. The crucifixion of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God happened at Passover time.

The Feast of Harvest (Pentecost)

16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field.

Three days after Passover, a sheaf of the first grain was to be brought and waved before the Lord. This was a recognition of God’s provision and of the promise of good things to come. This was the offering of firstfruits mentioned in Leviticus 23:10. Counting 7 weeks or 50 days from Passover and the firstfruits offering, the feast of Harvest was celebrated. This feast marked the end of the wheat harvest, and was the only feast that implemented leavened bread. Two loaves of leavened bread would be waved before the Lord – Jew and Gentile together in one body, forgiven but still battling indwelling sin. Jewish tradition marked this day as the day of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, fifty days after the departure from Egypt. This feast became known in the Greek-speaking world as ‘the fiftieth day’ or ‘Pentecost’.

Christ, our passover Lamb was sacrificed for us. On the third day, He was raised from the dead. Paul points to this in 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Fifty days later, we are told:

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

The harvest feast is being celebrated. People from every nation under heaven were gathering together at God’s command to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem. The promised and anticipated Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, and they preach the good news of Jesus crucified, resurrected, now Lord of all. God reverses the confusion of languages from the tower of Babel and the harvest begins.

… 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Jesus had told his disciples:

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

God’s Holy Spirit was poured out, and three-thousand souls were harvested that day, and the church was born. And this was just a foretaste of the harvest that is to come! Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Feast of Ingathering (Booths; The Feast)

You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD. 18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning. 19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

The Feast of Ingathering celebrated the final fall harvest of second-crop grains, along with tree and vine crops such as olives and grapes. This was a massive celebration of the completion of the harvest, celebrating the goodness of God in his abundant provision. Remember, these instructions are being given in the wilderness of Sinai, in anticipation of entering the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. This festival was also known as the Feast of Booths, because the people lived in temporary booths to remind them of their time in the wilderness after God had delivered them from Egypt.

In Jesus’ day, part of the celebration of the Feast of Ingathering had come to include taking water from the pool of Siloam and pouring it out as an offering to the Lord. This is the context of Jesus’ statement in John 7.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

This feast, the Feast of Ingathering, when all of the harvest is complete and it is time to celebrate, has its ultimate fulfillment when God once again dwells or pitches his tent with his people. The prophet Zechariah points to its celebration at the time of Christ’s return.

Zechariah 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, … 5 …Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. …8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. 9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. … 16 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.

Invitation to Feast

God is inviting us to his feast. God knows how to host a magnificent celebration. God knows how to throw a party! The section just before this in Exodus laid out God’s requirement for rest. You must take time to cease from you labors, to seek refreshment and rest. Now God is demanding that we enjoy his feasts. These rules and commandments are so repressive and harsh! Rest. Be refreshed. Feast with me. It is sobering to see that this is one of God’s commands that his people failed to keep regularly. God invites us to a series of parties and we respectfully decline. This was the content of some of Jesus’ teaching; God throwing a feast.

Matthew 22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

God provides the feast. God invites us to come, enjoy, celebrate with him. God provides everything necessary for us to enjoy him forever! And yet we come up with excuses. We decline his invitation. We refuse to come. We despise his messengers. Or we reject his provision and attempt to come on our own merit. God invites us to everlasting joy in his presence, paid for by his own Son. Let all who are thirsty come!

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

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January 29, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basics – Love

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120122_basics-love.mp3

01/22 Basics – Love

We are looking at the basics of the Christian faith. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus. I asked the question “if you were to choose just three words that would most accurately sum up what it means to be a Christian, what would they be and why?” This question could be answered many different ways, but the three words I chose were believe, worship and love.

I started with the word ‘believe‘, because that is what we must do to become a Christian. We are told ‘believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31) and ‘whoever believes in the Son has eternal life’ (Jn.3:36; cf. Jn.6:47). Jesus said:

John 8:24 … unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Believing or having faith or trusting, we defined as entrusting yourself into the care of another. Believing is the door through which we enter the Christian life, and it is also the air we breathe as believers in Christ.

Galatians 2:20 …the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The second word I chose was ‘worship‘, because worship defines what we were created to do. ‘whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1Cor.10:31). As image-bearers of God, we were designed to put on display the greatness and awesomeness and majesty and beauty and attractiveness and sheer worthiness of God. He is the only being in the universe whose mere existence demands our undivided affection. In fact, the more we get to know this great God, the deeper we grow in relationship with him, more we are impelled to adore him. For the Christian, eating and drinking and all of life becomes an act of worship, bringing glory to the only one who is truly worthy.

The final word I chose, and the subject of our attention today, is love. I chose the word ‘love’ because this is the content of the greatest commandments according to Jesus. He was asked:

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Love God and love neighbor. Everything depends on these two loves. Love is what Jesus points to as the evidence of genuine Christianity.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love is also the evidence to ourselves that we are his.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

In fact, John goes so far as to say:

1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Love is essential to Christianity. The first and greatest command is to love God with your whole being. The evidence of being a genuine follower of Jesus is this kind of love. Lack of love demonstrates a lack of relationship with God, because God is love.

The way I want to go about tackling the monumental subject of love today is to spend the majority of our time looking at God and his love for us, and then allow that to define for us what love is and what our love should look like. This, I think is a biblical approach, because God’s love is given to us as the definition of what love is.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

And God’s love is prior to our love.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. …19 We love because he first loved us.

So we will look to God’s love to define for us what love is, but before we do, I want to ask a question: When I say the word ‘love’, what other words or ideas come to mind? What are some synonyms you identify with love? Emotion, affection, passion, intimacy, romance…

When we are talking about God’s love for us, and the biblical concept of love, don’t throw all those ideas out and think this is a completely different thing. God’s love is richer and higher and deeper and wider and purer, but it includes those things. Our hearts retain an echo and a longing, although often distorted and not well articulated, of what it means to love and to be loved.

God Loves You!

We will begin with this overwhelming fact: God loves you!!! Hear the heart of God toward you today!

Throughout the Old Testament God is seen as one who abounds in steadfast love (Ex.34:6;Neh.9:17;Ps.5:7;86:5,15;103:8;145:8). His people praise him for his steadfast love (1Chr.16:34,41;Ezr.3:11; Ps.63:3; 107:1; 118:1; 136:1;138:2), sing of his steadfast love (Ps.89:1;101:1), think on his steadfast love (Ps.48:9;107:43), hope in his steadfast love (Ps.33:18;147:11), trust in his steadfast love (Ps.13:5; 52:8), rejoice in his steadfast love (Ps.31:7), take refuge in his steadfast love (Ps.17:7; 36:7;59:16-17;144:2), call on his steadfast love (Ps.6:4; 25:6-7; 31:16; 36:10; 44:26; 51:1; 69:13,16; 109:26:119:41,76,88,124,149), are satisfied by his steadfast love (Ps.90:14).

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, …

Believers, God’s love defines you! Paul addresses his letter:

Romans 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,

We are told;

Ephesians 5:2 … Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, …

Ephesians 5:25 … as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Galatians 2:20 … the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, …7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

In Romans 8, we are told of the permanence and security of God’s love for us.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul prays:

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

It is essential that we know and embrace God’s love for us

1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love…

Knowing God’s love for us gives us strength.

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The love of Christ for you surpasses knowledge! You need God’s Holy Spirit power to be able to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge!

Lord God, we ask you today to give us each the strength and ability to perceive your love for us, to believe your love for us, to allow you to love us, to know your love for us as we hear you tell us how you love us in your word. Amen

God is love. We know what love is by seeing God’s love for us. Let’s look together at what God’s word says about God’s love, so that we can see what love should look like.

God’s Love is Undeserved Love

First, we need to clear up a misconception. We often love because we find someone who is lovely, loveable, desirable, irresistible, someone that excites our affections. We ‘fall in love’; it’s ‘love at first sight’. This is not how it is with God. The bible paints a very different picture of God’s love for us.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, …ungodly. 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …10 …while we were enemies…

God’s love is undeserved love. What we deserve is God’s wrath. That is why Jesus died. We were enemies of God, weak, ungodly, sinners. Jesus rescues us from God’s wrath, justifies us by his blood, and reconciles us to God by his death. That is God’s love for us. There was nothing in us that was lovely or attractive. This is humbling, but it is freeing. We want to be loved because we are loveable. The bible tells us that we were offensive to God, and fully deserving of his wrath. That doesn’t make me feel very good about myself, but the bible does not intend to make me feel good about myself. The bible intends to make me see God for who he is in all the perfections of his beauty, and worship him. Our God is a God who loves the unlovely. There is nothing surprising when someone loves one who is desirable. But we are stirred to admiration of this one who chooses to love the unlovable. I say it is humbling but it is freeing. It is humbling because it shows me that there is nothing good in me. It is freeing because, if there is nothing in me that earns God’s love, then I can do nothing to lose God’s love. God has seen me at my worst, and has chosen to set his love on me. I will never deserve God’s love, but he loves me because he is love. I am secure.

God’s Love is a Giving Love

God’s love is a costly love, a giving love.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, …

This is an astonishing statement. Throughout his writings, John uses the word ‘world’ to stand for all that is against God, opposed to God, hating God, sinful, evil, in darkness, ruled by Satan, and in need of saving. John tells us in his first letter:

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world.

We are not to love the world, to embrace the world system and participate in its evil. John 3:16 stands over against this. God loved the world, but he loved it in this way – not by embracing the world as it is, but by giving the one thing that would overcome the evil and opposition in the world. God loved the world in this way – he gave his only Son. God’s love is a costly, self-sacrificial giving love. The only thing that would conquer my rebellious heart is God the Son, become human, crucified for me, as my substitute. God loved, so God gave.

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God overcame the obstacle to his love for us by sending his only Son to be the propitiation for our sins – to satisfy justice and pay the debt of honor by the ultimate sacrifice. But this was no unwilling sacrifice. There was divine cooperation within the trinity to love us.

Ephesians 5:2 … Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, …

Ephesians 5:25 … as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

This is personal.

Galatians 2:20 … the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

God so loved wicked rebellious me that he became sin for me and was nailed to a cross to absorb God’s wrath against me.

God’s Love is a Transforming Love

Here we need to clear up another misconception about God’s love. When we think of the ideal love relationship, we often think of someone who is compatible. We might take a compatibility test to grade how similar we are to one another. We are looking for someone who shares the same interests we have, enjoys the same things we enjoy, has the same goals we have, shares common expectations, hopes, and dreams. We are looking for the perfect fit. We are hoping to find someone who will take us as we are and won’t want to change us. The problem with this is that we need changing. We are not who we ought to be. We are not who we were created to be. If God’s love for us meant that he accepted us just as we are, then it would not be love. It would be condemnation to remain in a state far short of what we were meant to be. God’s love is a transforming love. Make no mistake, God will take you as you are, but God will not leave you as you are. God fully intends to change you. In a passage addressing the marriage relationship, we are given God’s purpose to change us.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

The intent of Christ’s love is sanctifying, cleansing, washing, removing every spot and wrinkle and blemish. The intent is splendor, holiness. God’s love intends to make us what we are not. God’s love is a rigorous, abrasive, purging, purifying, refining love. God takes rebels and makes us his friends. God takes the ungodly and sets us apart for his use. God takes sinners and transforms our desires. This is not a comfortable process. The metaphors used make us wince. Here the picture is laundry. Harsh chemicals to remove stains, vigorous scrubbing, prolonged submerging. A ‘fuller’ is an old word to describe one who treads or beats cloth to cleanse or thicken it (online etymology dictionary), scouring and pressing and shrinking. Malachi combines the metaphor of the fuller with that of the refiner.

Malachi 3:2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

The refining process applied intense heat to a precious metal until it became liquid, when all the impurities would float to the surface to be scraped away. The process is painful, but the intended result is beautiful and creates value. God loves us and intends to sanctify us, to cleanse us, to make us holy, to present us to himself in splendor.

Christian Love

There is so much more to say about God’s love, but let’s come back around to our original question and give some brief application. How does the word ‘love’ sum up what it means to be a Christian? A Christian is one who is experiencing God’s love. A Christian must first be a recipient of God’s love. I must embrace the fact that I am unlovable and undeserving of God’s love, and humbly receive the infinitely costly gift of God’s love for me in the person of God the Son crucified in my place as my substitute. A Christian is one who is experiencing God’s transforming love as God daily addresses the sin in my life, cleansing and purifying and refining. Our hearts begin to be transformed so that we do begin to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and we begin to extend God’s love to our neighbor. We love because he first loved us. And as we have learned, this is not a mushy-gooshy feeling toward them, but if it is God’s love flowing through us, it is undeserved, extended especially to the unlovable, it is a costly, giving, self-sacrificial love, and it is a transforming sanctifying purifying love, painful at times, but meant for the good.

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

January 22, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

Basics – Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120108_basics-worship.mp3

01/08 Basics – Worship

We are looking at the basics of what we believe. Last week I asked the question “if you were to choose just three words that would most accurately sum up what it means to be a Christian, what would they be and why?” I’m picturing these three words as categories or buckets whose contents sum up what Christianity is all about. This question does not necessarily have a right or wrong answer, but I pray that the contents of our buckets are roughly the same. The three words I chose are believe, love, and worship.

Last time we looked at what it means to believe – to believe the gospel, or the good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. To believe means to entrust ourselves to the faithfulness of another. We put ourselves in the hands of Jesus and depend on him to carry us safely to the other side. The bible frequently calls the followers of Jesus simply ‘believers’. Believing is the opposite of earning. Belief is the door through which we enter into a relationship with God.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Belief is also the lifeblood that sustains and energizes the Christian.

Galatians 2:20 …the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

So the first and most important part of being a follower of Jesus is believing. I must depend on the good news of Jesus’ sacrificial death for my sins as my substitute. Then, the Christian life is a life of believing, depending, trusting; walking by faith.

My second word is ‘worship’. Today I want to consider what it means to worship as a Christian. Not all worship is Christian worship. It has been said that we as humans are worshiping creatures. The question is not if we will worship, but what or whom we will worship. We were created to worship. All of life is worship. We worship without realizing we are doing it. Worship is choosing to spend our resources – like time, energy, money, attention, affection – on the things or people we categorize as valuable or ‘worthy’. This is why Jesus had so much to say about money – because it reveals what it is that we treasure. A simple evaluation of how we budget these various resources will prove very revealing of the true condition of our hearts. Some worship things like leisure or pleasure or learning or power. Some worship people, like parent or spouse or children or hero. As Christians, we believe that there is only One who is truly worthy. How we live our lives – how we choose to spend our time, into what we pour our energy, what we do with our money, to what we give our attention, what it is that we delight in – these things will reflect and reveal what we believe about who or what is worthy of worship.

Today I want to glance quickly at some of the biblical data that demonstrates that we were created to worship God. Then we will look at worship in four categories:

1. a gospel relationship with God – the prerequisite for worship;

2. fear of the Lord – the root of worship;

3. knowing God – the fuel for worship;

4. prayer, song and drink – expressions of worship.

Created to Worship

We were created to worship. Isaiah 43 speaks of:

Isaiah 43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” We were created to worship and bring glory to God. One day all people will fulfill their purpose and bring the worship to God that he deserves: Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. (cf. Ps.22:27,29; 66:4; 102:22 ; Is.66:23…)

When asked about the most important commandment of all:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ What you love is what you worship. In another context, Jesus said: Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

Our bodies are meant to worship God with.

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

Our gathering together as believers is for the purpose of worship.

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

God alone is to be worshiped. His wrath is revealed because:

Romans 1:21 …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. … 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. … 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up …

We were created to honor God as God, to give thanks and glory to him, to worship and serve him, to acknowledge him. Failure to do this is falling short of doing what we were created to do, and incurs the just penalty of the wrath of God who must defend the honor of his great name.

A Gospel Relationship with God – the Prerequisite for Worship

And we all fall short of giving God the honor and glory that he deserves. We worship self as God and ignore the all-glorious Creator of all things. This is why a gospel relationship with God is the prerequisite for worship. We have brought shame and dishonor to God’s name and we cannot make that right. God had to take action himself to clear his character from the reproach that we his creatures caused. God sent his own Son to pay the infinite penalty we owe and to demonstrate his own righteousness (Rom.3:25-26). The cross was a display of just how infinitely evil our God-belittling God-dishonoring attitudes and actions are. The good news gospel message is that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin” – our sin of dishonoring and disregarding God – “and live to righteousness” – the right valuation and regard for the infinite value and worth of our great God (1Pet.2:24). “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is.64:6) in God’s sight because our good works are intended to make us look good. Worship is designed to bringing honor and glory to God; to make God look good. To worship, we must turn away from our own righteousness and pursue God’s righteousness, which comes only through faith in the finished work of God for us. A gospel relationship of being “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom.5:10) is a prerequisite for any kind of worship that is acceptable to God.

The Fear of the LORD – the Root of Worship

The author of Hebrews exhorts us to gratefulness that comes from receiving a gift; he says:

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Acceptable worship, coming out of a gospel relationship with God through the finished work of Jesus for us, is worship with reverence and awe. These terms, ‘reverence and awe’ and the reason given ‘for our God is a consuming fire’ point us to the fact that the fear of the Lord is the root of acceptable worship. If I understand the gospel – that I am saved from God’s wrath that I have earned by a costly gift that I did not deserve freely given to me – that should stimulate in me the proper awe and fear of God ‘the Consuming Fire’. We are told throughout the bible that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is also the beginning of all true worship.

In Revelation 14, the content of the eternal gospel proclaimed by the angel is:

Revelation 14:7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Fear God, give God glory, worship God. These three descriptions of our right response are also linked together in Revelation 15:

Revelation 15:4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Fear, glorify, worship God, because God is holy, because his acts are righteous. God passionately defends the honor of his great name. The question is rhetorical: who will not fear and glorify you? The answer: all nations will come and worship you. There is an attractive awesomeness about God that compels us to worship him when we see him for who he is in all his rugged power and blazing glory. This brings us to our next point; knowing God is the fuel for worship.

Knowing God – the Fuel for Worship

A child has no fear of falling because he is ignorant of the effects of gravity and the consequences of falling. That’s why parents hold their children’s hands tightly when visiting the Grand Canyon. As we grow in our understanding and experience of the power of gravity, we gain a healthy respect and fear of falling, and we hold on tightly. This is how it is with God. If we are ignorant of him, we have no fear of him, we don’t realize the danger, and we cannot worship him. Getting to know God is the fuel for worship. Is you passion for worship cooling off? Here is the diagnosis: you have turned your eyes away to look at other things. Here is the sure remedy: study God. We get to know God by listening to him tell us what he is like. He communicates to us through his word, the bible. Take up and read! Study! Meditate! Memorize! Scrutinize the text. Jesus said we must worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn.4:23). Pursue a deeper, more comprehensive, more intimate knowledge of God by listening carefully to what he has said. Spend your time and energy and money and attention pursuing God, and your affections will be stirred, and you will worship. To experience the exhilaration of standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, you have to get yourself there. That takes time and energy and money. You can read a book about it or look at pictures, but it’s not the same. That’s second-hand. If you want to enjoy the majestic precipice, you personally have to go. There are lots of good books that will point you in the right direction and give helpful advice. They are useful and I praise God for them, but they are not enough. You have to go. You cannot have a second-hand relationship with God. You have to get to know him yourself.

Let me say just one thing about corporate worship; worship as the church, the body of Christ. So easily we can slip into the mode of critics rather than participants. How was the worship today? Good? A little off? Disappointed? I wish they would… I like how they do it better… It is so easy to become a critic. Corporate worship is the sum of all the parts. Corporate worship is a gathering of believers who worship together. Worship is a verb. It is what we do. And it starts long before Sunday morning. If knowledge of God is the fuel for worship and corporate worship is the sum of all its parts, then in what way is my personal study of God, my understanding and awe and appreciation of God contributing to our corporate experience of worship? If I just couldn’t ‘get into worship’ today, then I need to go home and get on my knees and open my bible and let God open my eyes afresh to who he really is!

Prayer, Song and Drink – Expressions of Worship

This brings us to our final category, expressions of worship. We often think of and even refer to the singing that we do in church as ‘worship’, and it is. But worship is not limited to what we call ‘worship music’. The singing we do in church should be worship, and it can be a direct form of worship. The songs we choose to sing together are expressions of worship directed to God, or songs that declare awesome truths about God that we sing to each other and to ourselves to stimulate us to worship. This can be worship, but it can also be what Jesus condemned when he said:

Matthew 15:8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Is.29:13)

It matters that we choose doctrinally sound theologically rich gospel centered expressions of worship to sing together, but it also matters where our hearts are at when we sing them. In singing together we can choose to worship God, or we can offer lip service and allow our affections to drift to other things. When we see this, when we realize that worship goes beyond and behind the outward forms and is about what is in our heart, then we can see that worship extends to so many other areas of life. As we already saw, knowing God through bible study is fuel for worship. Hearing the bible preached can be an experience of worship, as we come to God expecting him to speak to us, giving him our time and attention with hearts eager to obey. As he unfolds to us new truths about himself, we find ourselves celebrating and glorifying him in our hearts. Prayer is another direct form of worship. When we talk to God, our conversation should be saturated with praise to him for who he is and what he has done for us. But even the asking part of prayer can be worship. When we come to him with our emptiness and our brokenness and our needs, we worship him as the all-satisfying one, the one who is able to fix us, the one who is able to do something about our situation, the one who hears, the one who cares deeply, the one who is wise and will do what is best for us. When we come to him with our questions and our frustrations, he is honored, because we come to him as the one who holds the answers. When we really get hold of this truth, we can begin to see that for the Christian all of life is worship.

I Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Even menial ordinary everyday repetitive tasks can be turned by the believing heart into worship. Eating, or drinking, or whatever else you do can be done to bring glory and honor and praise to our great Creator and Redeemer and Friend. Every moment of every day can be spent doing what we were created to do as we saturate our hearts with the truths of our gospel relationship with God, as we deepen our fear of the Lord, as we permeate our minds with a bible saturated intimacy and knowledge of God, we can acknowledge and honor him with grateful awe-filled worshipful hearts in all things. Eating, drinking, all of live as worship!

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

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basics – Believe

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120101_basics-believe.mp3

01/01 Basics – Believe

Today is the first day of 2012. Happy new year! The changing of the calendar can be a time to reflect, refocus, re-center, renew, resolve; take stock of where we’ve been and where we are going, celebrate past victories, evaluate past failures and arm ourselves to fight the good fight of faith, take a deep breath, fix our eyes on the goal, and get a fresh start on life with a renewed sense of purpose and resolve.

To serve us as a fellowship of believers in refocusing our affections on what matters most, I would like to take the next few weeks and look at the essence of what it means to be a Christian. I asked myself this question: “if you were to choose just three words that would most accurately sum up what it means to be a Christian, what would they be and why?”

Let me say up front, this kind of question does not necessarily have a right and wrong answer. If I asked each of you to write down on a piece of paper how you would answer that question, I would expect to get a wide variety of answers. I might even like your way of articulating it better than mine. I’m envisioning these three words as if they were labels for buckets. Each word or ‘bucket’ carries in it content or meaning or truth. Although the labels on our buckets may be different, I hope that the contents of our buckets are roughly equivalent. On the other side, you could take my three words and fill them with a different meaning, and although the labels would look identical, the contents may not be Christian at all.

So here are my three buckets or words, and I will spend the next few weeks explaining what the buckets contain – what I mean be the words. Believe, Worship, Love. Today we will tackle the first – Believe.

You’ll notice I chose verbs. In my first draft, I used the word ‘faith’. But faith is usually used as the noun form of the concept; we talk about it as if it were a thing we possess. He or she has faith. I received a faith that was handed down to me. I chose the verb form ‘believe’ because it is an action word. It is something I do. In summing up what it means to be a Christian, I wanted to choose a word that portrays not something I have – in my pocket or in a drawer at home, but who I am – who I am as defined by what I do.

What the Word Means

The bible uses both the noun and verb form of the word. The New Testament word is [πιστις – pistis] in the noun form and [πιστευω – pisteuo] in the verb form. It means to be persuaded of, to be committed to, to trust in, to have confidence in. It has at its root the idea of faithfulness or trustworthiness. To believe is to entrust yourself to the faithfulness of another. A classic illustration of the biblical concept of belief comes from Charles Blondin, the great tight-rope walker. He walked a rope stretched 1,100 feet across the Grand Canyon, 160 feet above the water. He paused in the center to do a back somersault. He pushed a wheelbarrow across on the rope. He asked the cheering crowds if they believed he could carry a man across. Everyone shouted their approval. But then he asked ‘who will climb on my back?’ The crowd fell silent. Finally, his manager stepped forward and climbed on. That is what it means to believe. To entrust yourself to the faithfulness of another.

The Gospel: Believe in Jesus

This is the essence of the gospel message. This is the good news. Paul and Silas responded to the question

Acts 16:30 …“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Saved from what? I didn’t know I was in danger. Paul explains:

Acts 13:38 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 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

The good news is forgiveness of sins. The one who believes in Jesus is set free from condemnation as a lawbreaker. We have rebelled against God and violated his law. All who entrust themselves to Jesus

are rescued from the just consequences of our sin. Jesus teaches the same message to a Pharisee named Nicodemus:

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. …35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Jesus draws contrast between perishing or being condemned or having God’s wrath remain on you; and being saved or escaping condemnation or having eternal life. All this hinges on believing in him or entrusting yourself to him.

But how? How can Jesus extract us out from under the just consequences of our sin? Jesus pointed Nicodemus to the giving of the Son by the Father, the lifting up of the Son. What does this mean?

Colossians 2:13 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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Our record of debt with its legal demands stood against us. The wages of sin is death. God forgives by giving us his only Son, God himself in human flesh, who was lifted up, nailed to the cross. John, pointing to Jesus, said “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn.1:29). Peter said:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…

We, guilty sinners, receive the gift of forgiveness, the gift of justification, the gift of God’s righteousness, as a result of what Jesus did for us on the cross. In Romans 3, Paul talks about:

Romans 3:22 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, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…

The death of Jesus as my perfect sin-bearing substitute satisfies the just demands of God’s wrath against my sin, and purchases for me the gift of righteousness that God freely gives to all who will receive it by faith, to all who simply believe, or entrust themselves to Jesus.

This is the Christian understanding of faith – coming to Jesus, believing in Jesus, entrusting yourself to Jesus. Come as a sinner, come to him as the Savior, climb on and let him carry you, hold on to him alone for eternal life. What must I do to be saved? Believe. Depend. Trust in the finished work of Jesus that he did for you on the cross. Embrace him with heart and soul and mind and strength. Entrust yourself to his care. And then we find out in Ephesians that even my faith, my trust, even my ability to come to Jesus and cling to him, is a gift given to me by God to prevent my boasting (Eph.2:8-9; Phil.1:29; 1Pet.1:21; Jn.6:44).

Believing the Opposite of Earning

The bible explains what it means to believe by drawing a clear distinction between believing and earning in order to preclude boasting.

Romans 4:1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Works result in wages that are due and entitle you to boast. Believing is not working but depending on the goodness of another to give a gift that I need but cannot earn.

Jesus speaks of believing as the opposite of working when he was asked a question about what God requires.

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Do not attempt to earn God’s favor. Trust him when he says that he has paid the price in full. Believe him.

Believers

One of the more common names the bible gives to followers of Christ is ‘Believers’. In the New Testament, we are called ‘Believers’ at least four times more often than we are called ‘Christians’. This divides all humanity into two categories: believers and unbelievers. This title defines us – this is who we are; we are those who believe; those who entrust ourselves to Jesus. The bible talks about those who have believed – a past tense decisive action; but more often it refers to those who believe, those who are believing as a present continuing action. Paul urges Timothy to continue:

2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

Paul defines the life of the believer this way in Galatians:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

There is a decisive past action – I have been crucified with Christ. We who have believed in Jesus have been united with him in his death (Rom.6:1-6). God’s resurrection power is at work in us. We have been raised to a new life. We have experienced a rebirth. Now Christ lives in me. We have been given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (Eph.1:13-14, 2Cor.1:22;5:5). We have been given an inheritance in heaven (Eph.1:11). We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph.1:3). These are our present possessions as believers. They are decisively and irrevocably ours. But Paul also tells us that there is a continuing present action. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith”. Already in possession of forgiveness as a believer, I continue to live life “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Christian life is the life of a believer, a life defined by simple trust in Jesus, the Son of God. We continue to entrust ourselves to the one ‘who began a good work in you’; the one who will also ‘bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil.1:6).

2 Timothy 1:12 …But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

Our faith is in a person. I know whom I have believed. I am persuaded that he is able.

Hebrews 7:22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. … 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

The Christian life is a life of faith, a life characterized by belief. We live in continual dependence, reliance, trust in Jesus. We walk day by day in relationship with him. Jesus described this continued connection as ‘abiding’.

John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 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. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

We must believe in Jesus, abide in Jesus, draw strength from Jesus, follow Jesus. We are nothing and can do nothing apart from Jesus.

Belief in Jesus is the prerequisite to a relationship with God. Belief is the door through which we enter the kingdom of God. Belief is also the lifeblood of the Christian.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him…

Romans 14:23 …. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Are you a believer? Have you entrusted yourself to the faithfulness of Jesus? Are you living today in constant dependence, drawing your sustenance from Jesus? Is he carrying you?

Galatians 2:20 …the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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

January 1, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment