PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus: Worship in Spirit and Truth

08/23 Worship (John 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200823_worship.mp3

Wrath Revealed Against Worshipers

Worship is a big deal. It has been said ‘we become like what we worship’. It matters what we worship. God takes worship seriously.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

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. 23 …exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…

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.

God’s wrath is revealed against those who worship the wrong thing. Worship is a serious issue.

Our English word ‘worship’ comes from the Old English ‘weorthscipe’ from worth or worthy. In worship we are ascribing value or worth to the person or thing we worship. We acknowledge what is worthy of our devotion, our affection, our attention. And our attention is a precious commodity. We have exactly 1,440 minutes in each day, and if sleeping accounts for 480 of those, and assuming you work or go to school another 480 each weekday, that leaves the other 480 waking minutes for you spend as you choose. And everything in this world is competing for those precious minutes. To what do you give your attention? What do you look at? What do you enjoy? What captivates you? What do you worship?

As followers of Jesus, we want to listen carefully to what he tells us about our worship.

Worship Different From Service

During the temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4,

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Satan is competing for our worship. I will give you everything if you will worship me. It is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your god and him only shall you serve.’ God alone is to be worshiped. The Lord alone is worthy of worship. We must value him above all else, and give him the attention he is due.

Notice that Jesus pairs worship with service. The one you worship, you also serve. You live for the thing you value most. Service is an evidence of what we worship. There is some overlap. But service is not the same as worship. We can keep very busy doing things for God, in service to God, and we think we are worshiping God. But notice what Satan requests of Jesus. He doesn’t ask that he do something in service to him, to prove his devotion to him. He asks him to fall down and worship him. The Greek word for worship [προσκυνέω] means to fall face down in adoration, to lower oneself in humble submission, it pictures a dog licking the hand of its master. Several times in the gospels, this word for worship is translated ‘knelt before him’ or ‘fell down before him’. Worship is direct, in the presence of, on your face before, giving full attention to.

Worship Wars

Jesus met a broken and bitter person at a well. When he asked her for a drink, it opened up a conversation where he offered living water, and where he put his finger on some of the brokenness in her life.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Probably in an effort to deflect the conversation in a less personal direction, she asks about a controversial question, a point of dispute between Jews and Samaritans. Where is the proper place for worship? They are at Jacob’s well, near the place where Abraham made an altar to the Lord (Gen.12:6-7), where Jacob made an altar and worshiped (Gen.33:19-20), where the bones of Joseph were buried, where the people under Joshua made an altar and renewed the covenant with the Lord (Joshua 8, 24). ‘Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.’ But you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship. Solomon built and dedicated the temple to the Lord in Jerusalem, and God chose to put his name in that place (Deut.12:5, 11; 1Ki.9:3; 2Chr.7:12). But after Solomon, the kingdom was divided, and Israel established other places of worship (1Ki.12). Her question is a question of place. Where is the appropriate place of worship? There is rich history of worship in many places, not only Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is the one place God authorized a temple to be built to his name. What is the right place for worship?

Place To Worship

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Jesus’ answer is startling. No. Not here, and not in Jerusalem. The temple towered over Jerusalem, and when his disciples were admiring the architecture and the magnificent buildings, Jesus said ‘There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mk.13:2). A day is coming that the place of worship will not be here, in Samaria, and it will not be there, in Jerusalem.

Who To Worship

Notice something else. Jesus is not afraid to tell her she’s wrong. The Samaritans were wrong about worship. He doesn’t question that she is worshiping, but who she is worshiping. We are all worshipers. We are made to worship. But it matters who you worship, and the Jews were seeking to honor the one true God in the way that he instructed his people to worship him. You worship what you do not know. Salvation is of the Jews. It will not stay with the Jews, and it will not only be Jews who are saved, but the Savior comes from the Jewish nation. God’s salvation comes through a Jewish Messiah and flows out as living water to all the nations.

Jesus says it is not about place. It is about a person. It is about who you worship.

Spirit and Truth

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus says something very simple but very profound about worship, and about God. God is spirit. His essence is spirit, not physical, not material. God is spirit. In Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple, he said:

1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

“Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jer.23:24). Acts 17 says:

Acts 17:24 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.

God doesn’t have needs. He doesn’t need food, drink, shelter, clothing. He is spirit. He is bigger than place. He cannot be confined, he cannot be contained, he cannot be limited. God is the uncaused cause of all that exists. He alone is the self-existent one.

‘The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’ True worshipers must worship in truth, in line with God’s word, and the time is now here, because as John 1 tells us, the Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:14). True worshipers must worship in spirit, because as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, ‘You must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (Jn.3:5-7). Philippians 3:3 draws a contrast between ‘worship by the Spirit of God’ and putting confidence in the flesh. Those who worship by the Spirit of God ‘glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.’

True worshipers must have both. We can’t choose one or the other. Individuals and churches often pick. We’re all about the Spirit, or we’re all about the truth. We aren’t true worshipers of the true God if we claim to worship in the Spirit, unhitched from Biblical truth. Equally so, we aren’t true worshipers if we claim to worship in truth but are devoid of God’s Spirit. We must be born of the Spirit and we must be bound by God’s word.

The I AM is Here

John 4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

This woman is in over her head. Jesus has told her some revolutionary things. She can’t wrap her head around what he is saying let alone attempt to argue her case with him. She defers to the coming Messiah who will make it all clear.

John 4:26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

This is one of the I AM statements of Jesus. He claims directly to be the Christ, the coming Messiah. Beyond that, he claims to be the self-existent one himself, the I AM. ‘The hour is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, because I AM.’ The I AM has come, God with us. The Father will receive true Spirit empowered worship as a result of the work of the Son who will give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus the Temple

Back in John 2, Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers and those that sold sheep and oxen and pigeons out of the temple courtyard. When he was challenged by the religious leaders as to where he got his authority to do this, he answered:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Samaritan woman is asking about the right place for worship. Jesus says ‘Something greater than the temple is here’ (Mt.12:6). ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6). My body crucified and risen is the only place to meet with God.

Worship Jesus

When tempted by Satan, Jesus answered “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Mt.4:10). Whenever an angel or a man is offered worship, they urgently decline and demand worship be given to God alone. And yet Jesus receives worship. In Matthew 2, the Magi fall down and worship the child Jesus. In Matthew 8, 9 and 15 those in need come and kneel before Jesus in worship. In Matthew 14, after they saw Jesus walking on the water,

Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In Matthew 28 and Luke 24, the risen Jesus is worshiped by his followers. In John 20:28, Thomas responds “My Lord and my God!” Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus receiving worship.

In John 5, Jesus declares that the Father has given all judgment to the Son,

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus receives the worship due only to God, and he demands that we honor him just as we honor the Father.

In John 17 Jesus prays that as he has glorified the Father here on earth, his Father would now glorify him ‘in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’ (Jn.17:4-5).

In Revelation, around the throne of God in heaven, the living creatures and elders fall down before the Lamb and pour out the prayers of the saints and sing ‘Worthy are you …for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Rev.5:9).

There are people who will come to your door and try to convince you that Jesus is not equal to his Father, and not worthy of your worship. Test what they say against the truth of God’s word.

Sit At Jesus’ Feet

Our worship matters. It matters what we value, what we treasure, what we consider worthy of our affection, our devotion, our attention. It matters what captivates us. The Father, Son and Spirit alone are worthy of our worship.

Are you serving or worshiping? Martha welcomed Jesus into her house, but ‘Martha was distracted with much serving’ (Lk.10:40). Her sister Mary ‘sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching’ (Lk.10:39). When Martha complained,

Luke 10:40 …“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Serving is good and right and necessary. If you’re not serving, you need to be using your gifts through love to serve one another. But if you are so distracted with much serving that you don’t sit at Jesus’ feet, that you don’t just get down on your face in his presence and enjoy him, you are missing the one thing that is necessary.

***

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

August 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Baptize

08/16 Baptizing Them (Mt.28:19; Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200816_baptize.mp3

We have been looking at the Great Commission found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Looking at obeying Jesus, at what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

After the service today we are going to have some baptisms, and this morning I want to look at why we baptize, who we baptize, and what baptism means.

The Command to Baptize

It is this command of Jesus to his followers that compels us to baptize. We baptize followers of Jesus in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command here is simple: ‘make disciples of all nations’. That is the command. If disciples are to be made from every nation or every ethnic group, then ‘going’ will be necessary. A disciple is a student, a learner, or a follower. There are two primary things Jesus commands that we do with his disciples. We are to baptize them and teach them. Baptism is the initiatory rite that indicates to everyone that they are beginning the life of a disciple, following a new Master. Teaching them all that Jesus taught is the continuation of the process of disciple making.

Baptizing Into

Jesus is clear as to what his disciples are to be baptized into. In that day it was common for someone who was not Jewish by descent but wanted to worship the God of Israel to be baptized into Judaism as an indication that they had left their old gods behind and had turned to YHWH. John, who was know as ‘the baptist’ or the one who baptized, came with a radical message. He preached a baptism of repentance – calling Jews to turn from their formal outward religion and prepare their hearts for the radical transformation that the Messiah would bring.

Jesus here tells his followers to baptize disciples ‘in (or into) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Jesus does not tell us to baptize into an -ism or a church or a group, but into a name; into a person, into a relationship. One’s name stands for one’s character, nature or reputation. The word ‘Name’ is singular, as Israel was so clearly taught that ‘the Lord our God is one Lord’.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

There is one name, one character or nature, one God. And yet Jesus tells us that we are to baptize into the name of three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is one of many reasons why orthodox Christianity since the time of Jesus has held faithfully to the doctrine of the triune God: One God eternally existing in three distinct persons. We baptize into the one Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The duration of this command is also stated by Jesus in this verse. How long are we to make disciples, baptizing and teaching? And where does the authority lie? Jesus said ‘all authority has been given to me’. I have no authority – Jesus has all the authority, and Jesus said ‘I am with you always’. The person who does the baptizing is nothing. Jesus retains his own authority. Jesus said ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. So as long as this age lasts, we will go on making disciples, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded us, with the confidence that he promised to be with us.

Who Can Be Baptized?

What is the prerequisite for baptism? Baptism is to be done in the disciple making process, so it is for those who have become disciples or followers of Jesus.

Acts 2:38 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.

Peter said that repentance was what must precede baptism. To repent literally means to turn. I was going in this direction trusting in my good works and thinking I was fine with God, but then I felt the weight of my sin and recognized my good works are filthy rags in God’s sight. Jesus apprehended me and I had to turn around and leave my good works behind and cling to Jesus alone and what he accomplished for me on the cross to forgive my sins. A few verses later, Luke tells us that:

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

When Peter proclaimed the good news that ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (v.21) and that the crucified Jesus is the Lord that we must call out to for salvation (v.36), those who received this word turned and became followers of Jesus and were baptized.

When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas ‘what must I do to be saved?’, they told him:

Acts 16:30 Then he brought them out and said, “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.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Belief in Jesus as Lord brought salvation to each individual in this household. In response to their faith, their trust in Jesus, they were baptized.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Those who believe in the Lord, those who call out to Jesus for salvation, who repent or turn from whatever they were trusting in to Jesus, those who become disciples or followers of Jesus are baptized as a public declaration of their new faith.

What Is Baptism?

We’ve looked at Jesus’ command to baptize disciples, and we’ve looked at repentance and faith (turning from whatever you were holding on to and depending on Jesus alone) as the biblical prerequisite for baptism, but just what is baptism and what does it mean? A definition of the word itself will be helpful. The word is actually an untranslated carry-over from the Greek language that the New Testament was written in. Rather than translate the word with an English word that has the same meaning, the Greek characters were simply replaced with English characters and [βαπτίζω] became ‘baptize’, a new word in our language. When we study how the word [βαπτίζω] was used in New Testament times, we find that it means ‘to dunk, dip, plunge, immerse or submerge’ in water. It might help us understand what the Bible is saying if we translate the word ‘baptize’ with the word ‘immerse’ or ‘plunge’.

Baptism is an Illustration of Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized [immersed] into Christ Jesus were baptized [immersed] into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism [immersion] into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Water immersion or baptism is a picture of what spiritually happened to us when we trusted Christ. We have been immersed into Christ Jesus, and specifically plunged into his death. Going down into the water pictures our death and burial with Christ. It is an effective picture, because if the one doing the baptizing is not strong enough or not kind enough to bring the person being baptized back up out of the water, the picture will become a reality. Jesus referred to his coming crucifixion as a baptism in Mark 10:38-38 and Luke 12:50. Coming up out of the water illustrates our resurrection and new life as believers. Paul is arguing in Romans 6 that we cannot continue to live in sin because we have died to our old sinful way of life, and we are now alive to God in Christ Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, we will live differently, not because we are under a new set of rules, but because we have a new resurrection life in us that has different desires. Paul goes on in the next verses to describe our baptism with Christ as being united with Christ:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

We are united with Christ in his death; being plunged into Christ connects us with him. We are plunged into his crucifixion. The old me is dead and buried. We are now set free from sin; I am no longer under its power. I have died to that which once held me captive. We are united with Christ in his resurrection; Because I am connected with him, I become enveloped in his resurrection power.

Baptism is Similar to Circumcision as the Sign of the Covenant

In Colossians 2, baptism is compared to circumcision, the sign of the old covenant. Circumcision was the cutting off of physical flesh; in Christ, our fleshly nature is put off.

Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

This resurrection power comes to me ‘through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Jesus from the dead.’

Paul goes on to describe our desperate condition and what God did:

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.

Baptism, like salvation is passive; it is something done to you, not something you do. God made us alive. God dealt with our sins at the cross. God united us with Christ. God saved us. Salvation is God’s work. We don’t save ourselves. We trust in another to save us. In baptism, we show up, we participate, but it is something done to us, not something we do. We are at the mercy of another.

Baptism Follows Justification by Faith

In Galatians 3, Paul explains that all the promises of God come not to law keepers, but to those who believe in Jesus. We are justified (we receive the verdict of ‘not guilty’) by faith; by trusting in, depending on the righteousness of another.

Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized [immersed] into Christ have put on Christ.

Justification – being declared ‘not guilty’ – comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But justification changes us. As we are immersed into Christ, we become so saturated with Christ, that we wear Jesus around and drip him all over everyone we come in contact with.

Baptism Unites with the Body Of Christ

Paul goes on:

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our immersion into Christ destroys all ethnic and social and economic barriers. Because we are united with Christ, we are now united in a spiritual connection with our brothers and sisters.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized [immersed] into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Baptism Pictures Washing Away Guilt

Peter compares the ark that brought Noah and his family safely through the waters of God’s judgment with baptism.

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus. When we cry out to God in faith, our conscience is washed clean by the blood of Jesus and we are free from guilt because ‘Christ suffered once for sins the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1Pet.3:18).

Baptism in Water or Baptism with the Spirit?

This raises the question ‘what is the difference between baptism in water and the cleansing of the conscience by faith in Jesus?’ John the baptist said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

So there is a distinction between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. John did the water baptism, Jesus would do the Holy Spirit baptism. John immersed people in water to symbolize their repentance. Jesus would submerge and saturate people with God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus, when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, told them:

Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The disciples experienced this, and when Peter preached his first sermon, he said:

Acts 2:38 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.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is given in response to repentance and faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Water baptism is a picture of this spiritual reality.

Summary:

Jesus commanded us to baptize believers because baptism is a symbol rich in spiritual significance.

  • It illustrates our baptism by Jesus with the Holy Spirit when we believe in him.
  • It pictures our connection with Jesus in his death and resurrection, demonstrating that we are dead to sin and have new resurrection life so that we can live pleasing to God.
  • It demonstrates our connection with all other believers.
  • Baptism is done in response to repentance, turning from our way to God’s way, and faith or trust or belief in Jesus as Lord and King, and his finished work on the cross – where he took the punishment in full for my sin.
  • In baptism, we are identified with the name of the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – as being owned by him.
  • By being baptized, we are declaring to all that we are now disciples, followers of Jesus, submitted, committed and devoted to him.

Jesus said:

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

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

***

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

August 22, 2020 Posted by | church, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

08/02 Endure To The End (Matt.10, 13, 24; Jude); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200802_endure.mp3

Jesus calls us to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught, and who pass on everything Jesus taught. What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple?

Did you know Jesus gave us some precious and very great promises? Let’s look at one in John 16

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus promises us peace in him through his word. We love that. He declares that he has overcome the world. Amen! He also promises us that in the world we will have tribulation. Ooof! We don’t like that promise. But following Jesus is a package deal, not a smorgasbord. We don’t get to pick and choose among the teachings of our Lord. We have to take everything, obey everything he said, cling to his every word. And this is a hard word. ‘In the world you will have tribulation.’

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

Matthew 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

How’s that for a promise? You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. And here’s the command. Endure! The one who endures to the end will be saved.

This is serious. Your salvation is at stake. You are going to experience persecution. But endure. Remain steadfast. It is the one who endures the world’s hatred, tribulation, to the end, who will be saved. He said this to his 12 apostles when he sent them out. So we can say that this was specific to them, and we don’t need to worry about it, right? The problem with that is that what he says is much bigger than just the twelve on that specific mission he sent them on.

He said in verse 16 that he was sending them out ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves’. He said they would stand before courts, synagogues, governors, kings, even the Gentiles. None of that happened on this original mission. He says in verse 23 that these instructions apply until his return. So that is much bigger than the 12. He says in verse 24 ‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.’ This applies to every disciple, every follower of Jesus. He continues in verse 28:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Don’t be afraid of the one who can only kill your body. Fear God who can send you to hell for eternity. Don’t be afraid of people, because God knows you intimately, and you are more valuable to God than many sparrows. They may kill you, but you will not fall to the ground apart from your Father and his good purposes for you.

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Stand firm. Endure to the end. Don’t deny Jesus. Acknowledge him before people. It is those who endure to the end who will be saved.

Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

If self-preservation in this life is your god, you are not really a follower of Jesus.

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

In Matthew 24, Jesus reiterates some of these words he gave to his 12, this time in the context of his disciple’s question ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ If there is any doubt in Matthew 10, Jesus makes it clear here in Matthew 24 that he is speaking to us. He warns us to be on guard; ‘see to it that no one leads you astray.’

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

You will undergo tribulation, you will be hated, you will be put to death. Many will fall away or be led astray, but the one who endures to the end will be saved. ‘Saved’ in this context clearly means saved in the eternal salvation sense, because we are not promised rescue or deliverance from persecution or death.

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

Jesus helps us think through what it means to endure in Matthew 13, where he described four different responses to the gospel. The word of God is scattered widely. Some hear without understanding.

Matthew 13:18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path.

Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

They hear the word and do not understand it; the devil takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The gospel as it were falls on deaf ears.

The second hearers immediately receive the word with joy. We often get too excited about those in this category.

Matthew 13:20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.

There is an immediate response with joy. They endure for a while. But when faced with trouble or persecution, they fall away. They do not endure to the end, and they are not saved. There was an initial response to the gospel, a flash in the pan; but there was no root, and when it gets hard they walk away from Jesus. Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

They believe for a while, but under testing they fall away.

Tested Genuineness of Faith

Peter learned first hand about this. Peter learned the hard way. When Jesus predicted that “You will all fall away because of me this night.” (Mt.26:31)

Matthew 26:33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” …35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

That sounds great. He received the word with joy. And he was vocal about his determination to follow Jesus to the end, whatever the cost. But Peter learned the value of pressure. Pressure taught Peter that his faith was not what he thought it was (or more precisely his faith was not in who it ought to be in). And he came to thank God for trials. Listen to what he writes after Jesus’ resurrection, after Jesus restored him to faith and usefulness. And listen for the contrast from his earlier self-confident proclamation ‘I will never fall away! …I will never deny you!’ In 1 Peter 1:3 he writes:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter came to see tribulation as a blessing. Faith that has not been tested may or may not be genuine. It is better to find out now that your faith is false than to find out after it is too late; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. Persecution turned Peter’s eyes away from himself and his self-confidence to a humble dependence on God and his work.

Paul and James concur that ‘we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance’ (Rom.5:3-5). ‘Count it all joy …when you meet trials …for …the testing of your faith produces steadfastness’ (Jam.1:2-4).

2 More Responses to the Gospel; choked out or endures to the end

Back in Matthew 13 Jesus lists two more responses to the gospel in addition to hearing without understanding and an immediate receiving with joy that is proved to be false through testing.

Matthew 13:22 The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing.

This is similar to the rocky ground, but the source of the testing is different. Genuineness of faith can be tested in different ways. It can be revealed through trials or through ease, through pressure or through pleasure. In the rocky ground faith was proved false by persecution. Here in the thorny ground faith is proved false by competing affections. The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the desires for other things choke out the word. We see this in the history of Israel. Moses warned:

Deuteronomy 8:11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,

When Israel had times of pride, excess, and prosperous ease, she forgot the Lord. The cares and riches and pleasures of this life compete with and kill any short lived affections for Jesus.

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

Matthew 13:23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”

This last person hears the word and understands. And the fruit varies, but he bears fruit. Luke records:

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience [ὑπομονή].

Not only do they hear the word, they hold it fast. They endure to the end and are saved. They bear fruit with steadfastness or patience endurance.

The Steadfastness of Christ

Jesus calls us to persevere in faith, to endure affliction and persecution as well as pleasure and prosperous ease, to not fall away or to be led astray. Jesus commands us to hold fast the word in an honest and good heart, to bear fruit with steadfastness, to endure to the end.

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

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

The Lord is Faithful

We have the command of Christ to endure to the end, and we have the example of the steadfastness of Christ who endured the cross. But how? You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can. After all, I’m not Jesus.’ How can we endure to the end? That verse in 2 Thessalonians gives us a clue; it instructs us to direct our hearts not only to the steadfastness of Christ, but first to the love of God. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks for prayer, and then he says:

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

He doesn’t say ‘we have confidence in you’; that would be misplaced confidence. He says ‘the Lord is faithful. He will establish you. We have confidence in the Lord about you.’ Paul’s confidence for their endurance and faithfulness is in the Lord’s faithfulness.

Kept to Keep Yourselves

As we wrap up today, I want to look at the little letter by Jude, just one chapter, the second to last book in the Bible. Jude tells us in verse 21 to ‘keep yourselves in the love of God.’ How do we do that? Jude tells us, and he also frames this command with some truth we need to see. At the opening of his letter, he addresses:

Jude 1:1 …To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

He addresses us as the called, and he says that we are beloved in God the Father, and we are kept for Jesus Christ. Called, loved by God, and kept. Beloved and kept are both passive; describing something being done to us by another. God is the one loving and keeping us.

He starts by addressing us as the called, loved and kept. And then in verse 20-21 he commands us to keep ourselves.

Jude 1:20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. That is imperative. It is a command, something we are to do. Aren’t we beloved in God and kept by him? Isn’t that enough? He even starts verse 20 by reminding us that we are beloved. How do we keep ourselves in God’s love? Can we? Jude surrounds this command with three participles that tell us how; building, praying, and waiting. As the beloved of God, we keep ourselves in the love of God by building, praying and waiting. We are to build ourselves up in the most holy faith. Take positive action to dig deep, with a firm foundation of God’s word, Jesus Christ himself the cornerstone, and anchor your faith on him. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Discipline yourself to pray the Spirit inspired words of Scripture back to him. And eagerly anticipate the full realization of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Keep yourself in the love of the triune God; building up, praying, waiting in the Son, Spirit, and Father. This is how we keep ourselves in the love of God.

So which is it? Are we kept, or do we keep ourselves? Yes! God keeps us and he uses means. God keeps us by our building up, praying and waiting.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Endure to the end. Don’t be choked out by pleasure or burned up by pressure. Keep yourselves by building yourselves up in the faith, praying and anticipating. Beloved, keep yourselves in the love of the God who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy!

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

August 3, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment