PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One

01/13_2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190113_2cor5_11-13.mp3

Who are You Seeking to Please?

You serve in the church. Maybe you volunteer to teach or host a bible study, maybe you help with nursery or Sunday school, maybe you clean or do maintenance or yard work, maybe you serve the youth, maybe you’re into administration, or maybe you give generously, maybe you make a meal for someone, maybe you write a note of encouragement, or visit someone who is sick, maybe you talk to everyone you run in to about Jesus, maybe you spend a lot of time in prayer for others, maybe you have people over to your house. Maybe I haven’t mentioned the thing you do, and you’re wondering if I’ll get to it.

Who notices? What if no one notices what you do? What if no one says thank you? What if no one seems to care? Do you get discouraged, wonder if it’s really worth it?

What if people do notice your service, and they criticize you for how you do what you do? Or what if no one comes to you, but you hear that people are talking about you and they don’t like the way you are doing things?

Or what if you happen to be there when people are talking about someone else’s service?

This is what was going on in Corinth. This is one of the reasons Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. We learn from reading the letter that people were talking about Paul. Some were questioning his character, his motives, his authenticity. Some who didn’t know him were questioning his gifting, his calling, his fitness for ministry. And some who did know Paul were hearing these conversations, but they were not coming to his defense. Maybe they were even being pulled in.

Recap/Outline

We are in 2 Corinthians 5:11-13. We have been away from 2 Corinthians for some time, so we need to orient ourselves on where we are in this letter.

Chapters 1-7 explain the characteristics of genuine ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is service that embraces suffering for the good of others.

Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God’s grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.

Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

In chapter 4, Paul described his apostolic ministry as cross shaped ministry. To follow Jesus is to go the way of the cross, a life laid down in service to others. He concludes:

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul has an eternal perspective. He is keeping his eyes on the unseen realities. He spells out his hope in chapter 5, that he has certainty of what comes after death for the believer. In fact he has a deep longing to be at home with the Lord. In verse 9 he gives his prime motive for ministry.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul desires, more than anything else, to be pleasing to the Lord. One of the unseen motives that drives him is appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. We each will stand face to face with Jesus and give account for what we have done. This is a sobering prospect, a reality that should make each of us pause and ask some questions; Am I in Christ? Will I be found genuine? Have I made it my aim above all else to be pleasing to him? Have my attitudes, actions, and thoughts been pleasing to him?

Paul views this coming day of judgment with sober joy. He knows that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. He longs to be with the Lord, to see him face to face. But this is no casual flippant occasion. This is weighty, serious. Serious joy.

Persuading People

In light of this, he says in verse 11

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Knowing the fear of the Lord. Aware of the coming judgment, we persuade men, people. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, it says:

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

He reasoned, he talked through, his goal was to persuade people of the truth of the gospel. Paul understood (as he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4) that

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

And he understood that it is only

2 Corinthians 4:6 …God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [who must shine in their] hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But this truth did not prevent him from working hard to persuade others. Using the scriptures, using logic, using history, and his own experience, he sought to persuade people. But he never manipulated.

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…

But he did seek to persuade. He understood that every person will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and he would do everything in his power to persuade them to put their trust in Jesus alone. He understood his responsibility to them and sought to discharge his duty well. He understood that faith is the gift of God (Eph.2:8) and he understood that faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (Rom.10:17).

Manifest to God

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Paul sought to persuade all people to believe in Jesus, but he was having now to persuade the Corinthians of his own legitimacy. He again attests to his openness before God. What we are is known or manifest to God. He used this verb just in verse 10, where he said ‘we must all appear [or be made manifest or shown] before the judgment seat. Now he says ‘to God we are manifest.’ To God we are openly shown and known. But, he says, I hope in your consciences we are also manifest, known and shown.

Back in chapter 4, Paul said

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

By making the truth of the gospel manifest and open, we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience in the presence of God. If this is his stance before unbelievers, surely the consciences of the believers in the church he planted ought to recognize him. Back in chapter 3 he said:

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, …

‘We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again!’ We shouldn’t need to go over introductions again. Here in chapter 5, he says

2 Corinthians 5:12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

Outward Appearances

Don’t look at this as a letter of introduction; you already know us! Instead, look at this as a reminder of the gospel and who I am in Christ. You can then use this as a defense against those who judge by outward appearances. Here we get to the heart of the issue. Corinthian culture was all about status and position and eloquence and presentation, how much you made and how much you were worth. It was superficial. It was about how you were perceived by others.

I know none of you can relate to this, a culture so caught up in outward appearance, so I’m going to have to work really hard to help you see any kind of application that is relevant to us today. You don’t know anyone focused on outward appearances, do you?

There were false apostles in Corinth who were undermining Paul, raising doubts, questions about his character, his credentials, his credibility. Much of this was based on outward appearance. He was despised and rejected by many, all too acquainted with suffering and grief. If they would look closely, they would see that his life reflected his Master.

This wasn’t just a power struggle; we find out in chapter 11 that they are being led astray to a counterfeit jesus, a false gospel. Paul’s character is being criticized, the church he invested in is being led astray, no one in the church seems to be standing up for him or for what is right. How does he respond?

His response is to patiently instruct them. Paul is not eager to defend himself; but he is passionate about protecting the church. And in this case that means showing them how to defend their apostle.

Ecstatic or Maniac?

2 Corinthians 5:13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Verse 13 can be understood in more than one way. The word ‘we are beside ourselves’ is used differently in different contexts. Its usual meaning is to be astounded or amazed, usually at something supernatural. It is used this way 15 times in the gospels. Only once, in Mark 3, is it used with the sense of ‘to not be able to reason properly.’

Mark 3:21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

There is a different word ‘mania’ that is less ambiguous, that always means to be crazy or to not be thinking rightly. If Paul wanted to be clear that this was his meaning, he could have used ‘mania’, as he does in 1 Corinthians 14:23.

The noun form of the verb he uses here is where we get our word ‘ecstasy’. The noun is used four times for amazement, and three times for being in a trance. It is possible that Paul is referring to his ecstatic spiritual experiences. In 1 Corinthians he told them

1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

The Corinthians were enamored with the showy overtly supernatural gifts. They were focused on outward appearance. Paul’s focus was on building them up, not impressing them with a demonstration of his own spirituality. It may be that he is saying that if we (apostles) have ecstatic experiences, it is between us and God. That is not the basis of our leadership. The false apostles may make a big deal about their ecstatic experiences. But Paul would rather speak five words with his mind in order to instruct others. In Colossians, Paul warns of those who would disqualify you, who were

Colossians 2:18 …going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to [Christ]

If we are of sound mind, it is for you. Paul really doesn’t care if outsiders are impressed with him. He is willing to be misunderstood, to be thought a fool, as long as the church is being built up. His aim in all things is not to please people, but to please the Lord. He does not need the applause of people if he can stand before the Lord on judgment day with a clear conscience.

Boasting Only in The Cross

Paul is giving them reasons to be confident in him. He is re-framing their thinking to see as God sees, to see the cross not as shameful, to be shunned, but beautiful, to be embraced. Others were boasting in outward appearance. Paul gives reasons, grounds not only for defending him, but for boasting in him. Now how does this fit with Paul’s statement in Galatians 6:14 that he boasts in nothing but the cross?

They can boast in their apostle, because his life and ministry is shaped by the cross, so their boasting in him is in reality a boasting in the cross.

You see, Paul viewed the day of judgment as a day of boasting, not in himself; he said ‘that we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers’ (2Cor.3:5-6). In chapter 1 he boasts of the testimony of a clear conscience, but he goes on to say that he conducted himself by the grace of God (2Cor.1:12), a grace that is unearned, undeserved. He looks forward to the day of judgment,

2 Corinthians 1:14 …—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

There will be mutual boasting; ‘this is my church, the church I gave myself to! Look what God has done in them! Look how Christ is formed in them!’ ‘This is our apostle! Look what God has done in us through his ministry! He did not just tell us about the cross, he showed us the cross through his life and sufferings!’ They can boast in each other, and it is a boasting only in the cross, in the transformational power of the cross.

People naturally look at outward appearances. And the cross is not glamorous.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

‘It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’ (1Cor.1:21). We must learn to see past the surface. We must begin to see as God sees; because it is what God sees that matters. Man looks on the outward appearance; the Lord looks at the heart (2Sam.16:7).

What we are is known to God. To God we are open and manifest. And if we are pleasing to God, it shouldn’t matter too much what others think of us.

***

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

Advertisements

January 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church and the Body of Christ; Ephesians 5

01/06 The Church the Body of Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190106_church-body-of-christ.mp3

Last week Daniel spoke about craftsmanship; how God is the master craftsman, the potter, who picks us up out of the muck and mud, who molds us and shapes us into the very thing he intends us to be, something useful, something beautiful. And he intends for us to enter in to his creativity. He has gifted us, he has invited us in to join him in his creativity, as he fashions beauty out of dust.

I like to take the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to look at who we are, what we are to be all about, to refocus.

Incarnation and Salvation

Daniel set this up for us when he talked about craftsmanship. God had to take the initiative. Clay can’t form itself. Like the demon possessed man who Jesus set free, it is grace. It is all of grace. Undeserved kindness. We were dead. Enslaved. Christ has set us free. He scooped us up out of the muck, and forms us into something beautiful, something useful. That’s why he came. He came to seek and to save what is lost. He came to redeem. To buy us out of the slavery we willfully sold ourselves into. He came to pay our price.

God humbled himself and became human so as a human he could enter in to our mess, to pick us up and pay our price, to take our place. That is what the incarnation is about; God the Son was born of a virgin as a human baby, so that as a man he could legitimately take our place, suffering our punishment, perfectly submitting to and obeying his Father in everything, thus fulfilling all righteousness.

Incarnation and One Flesh

But there is another part of the incarnation that I want us to see today. And my prayer is that this would cause us to wonder and worship, to stand in awe of him, to rekindle our passion for him, to be useful to him. That it would ignite our amazement of and our love for the church.

Look with me at Ephesians 5. This is the classic marriage passage that you’ve probably heard in wedding ceremonies, but I want you to listen carefully to what it says:

Ephesians 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

This passage teaches a husband how he should love and serve his wife, and how a wife should respect her husband. But Paul has something bigger in mind. He teaches us that this fundamental human relationship is an illustration of a greater reality, the relationship between Christ and the church. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother’; Jesus left his Father’s side, from the cross he discharged his responsibility for his human mother to his beloved disciple, and he now holds fast to his bride the church. Jesus took on human flesh at the incarnation, and has now become one flesh with the church.

Allow me to read Ephesians 5:23-32 focusing only on what it tells us about Christ and his church.

Ephesians 5:23 …Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 …the church submits to Christ, … 25 …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. 28 …[Christ] love[s the church] as [his] own bod[y]. … 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

The church is pictured as the bride, sanctified, adorned, loved, sacrificed for.

The first part of this is Christ’s sacrifice. He gave himself up for her. Jesus died for the church to sanctify, cleanse, make holy and blameless. He took our sins. He is our savior.

The second part of this, that we must not miss, is why. Why did Christ give himself up for the church? Why did he pay for our sins with his own blood? So that he might present the church to himself in splendor. Jesus intends to take us to be his own, to hold fast to us, to be united with us as a husband with his bride.

This passage tells us that Christ has become one flesh with the church. Christ is the head of his church. The church is called his body, his own flesh. We are members of his body. This is simply stunning. It is staggering to think that the eternal God, unbounded by time or space, entered into his creation, became part of his creation as a baby. Tiny fingers and toes. Eyes full of wonder. Fragile. Dependent. He took on flesh. He became human. Jesus has entered his creation physically, and now he says we are his body, his hands, his feet, his fingers and toes. He is our head. We have become one flesh with him. We have been united to him. We are his body.

This boggles the imagination! We are connected to Christ as intimately as our body is connected to our head! We are now ‘bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh’ (Gen.2:23). When my stomach grumbles, my head says ‘it’s time to eat’ and my feet bring me over to the kitchen and my hands put together something to eat. If I smash my thumb with a hammer, my head feels the pain, and my whole body gets involved. We are connected to Christ. We are one flesh with him. We thrive under his authority. We are nourished and cherished, because we are part of him, connected to him.

At the incarnation Jesus took on flesh, so he could become one flesh with us, his church, his body.

The Body in Ephesians

Back in Ephesians chapter 1 (v.22-23), the Father put all things under the authority of Jesus, and “gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

We, his body, the church, are the fullness of him who fills all. I take this to mean that he fills all in all by means of his body the church, the fullness of him. “The church, filled by Christ, fills all creation as representatives of Christ” (ESV Study Bible notes).

Ephesians 2 (v.13-22) points out the horizontal unity brought about by the vertical unity we have with Christ our head. Because we all, Jew and Gentile have been united to Christ, we have also been knit together with one another in one body. In Christ we “have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” He has “reconcile[d] us both to God in one body through the cross.” “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” “In him” we “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Chapter 3 tells us:

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

We all, however different we may be, are members of the same body, the body of Christ, an organic unity, a living organism.

Ephesians 4 (v.4) tells us “There is one body and one Spirit”. Just as the head directs what the body does, so Jesus directs us. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, and our spirit animates our body, so the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer connects us all as one body and animates us to do what our Head desires that we do.

When Each Part is Working Properly

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. …11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

This body of Christ, the church, is united as one and gifted for building up the body. Every believer is to be equipped for ministry, for service in love to others. Whatever grace you have been given is not just for you; it is for building up the body, for equipping the saints for the work of service.

Ephesians 4:15 …speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Do you see this body metaphor literally fleshed out? A body is made up of many parts. The human body is fantastically equipped with joints and ligaments that hold everything together in a functional useful way. Do this: open your hand and then make a fist. One of my favorite things about our babies was when their tiny hands would grasp my finger. Did you know that the human hand is made up of about 29 bones and 29 major joints, about 123 ligaments, 34 muscles that move the fingers and thumb, 48 nerves, and at least 30 arteries? That’s just the hand. Notice it says ‘when each part is working properly’? Have you ever had just one part not working properly?

A few years back Deanna injured her finger. Just one joint was damaged. Now 28 out of 29 seems like it would not really be a big deal. That’s 96.5% of her joints working just fine. If we count all 293 parts (and that’s probably a low number), that boosts the percentage of functional parts to 99.7%. You should be just fine with less than 0.4% not working, right? Her signature no longer looked like her signature. She couldn’t make a fist. She would drop things. It was incredibly painful. Just one part. Ask her if it made a difference!

You might be tempted to say, ‘I’m just one part. Not even a very important part. I won’t even be missed.’

Ephesians 4:15 …we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Every part needs to be there, and every part needs to be functioning as it was designed. You matter. The head notices when a part is not functioning properly.

I’ve had a few conversations recently where people have asked ‘how are you, and how is the church doing?’ It’s been a hard year. Just over a year ago, October 2017 we sent out a number of people who were very involved serving our body here to plant a church in Gunnison. And that left a tangible hole in our body. Our church family gave birth to another church, and birth is a joyful experience, but birth is also a traumatic experience. And it takes time to recover. I think we are recovering well, and we can rejoice in what God has done and is doing in us and through us. The birth has created opportunities for those who had been less involved to step up and become more involved. What we long for is that “the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Here’s a few questions for each of us to think about.

-How has God in the riches of his grace gifted me?

-How am I using those gifts to their maximum capacity for the glory of Christ?

-How am I intentionally engaging in building up the body in love?

I’ve put these questions in your notes, and left room for you to respond. Take a minute right now to write something down.

‘I’m not gifted’ is not a valid answer for a believer. ‘I don’t know’ is weak, unless it is followed by ‘here are the ways I will pursue finding out this week.’

The body of Christ is a unity, a community, a place to belong, to be a part of something bigger than yourself. And I believe that when functioning properly, the church is much greater than the sum of all its parts. We “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph.2:22).

The goal we are to be striving together toward is given in verses 11-13 of Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Pursue unity of the faith; pursue knowledge of the Son of God; pursue Christlike maturity. Build up the body.

As we close, listen carefully the exhortation in Romans 12.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

***

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

January 7, 2019 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cross Before The Crown

12/23 The Cross Before The Crown; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181223_cross-before-crown.mp3

Christmas is a time to focus our attention on Jesus, who Jesus is, what he came to do. We looked at his eternal identity, the Son before the manger, we looked at his aim, to overcome the darkness in us with the light of his presence, that this was his plan before creation, to enter in to our mess and rescue us, that it was his eternal purpose to put on display the glory of his grace. Today I want to look again at who Jesus is, what he is really like, and how his rescue of us must happen.

The Image of Jesus

Who is Jesus? What is the mental image you have of Jesus? When you think of Jesus, how do you picture him? How do you imagine him?

Do you think of the baby in the manger? Do you think of a 30 something Caucasian with a slight build, long blond hair and piercing blue eyes? An olive skinned Hebrew with a robe and tassels? Some composite of the artwork and movies you’ve seen?

Did you know we have a visual description of what Jesus looks like in the bible? Let me read this description of one who saw the risen and glorified Lord Jesus. If you like, you can close your eyes and imagine.

Revelation 1:10 …I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet …12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

I dare say if we were to meet the risen Lord today, we too would fall at his feet as though dead. That description is from Revelation 1. There is another description in Revelation 19.

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Why don’t we think of Jesus this way? Except for one or two brief episodes (his transfiguration, and possibly at his arrest, when the armed mob drew back at his word and fell to the ground – Jn.18:3-6), Jesus did not look like this during his time here on earth. Of course these visions are highly symbolic, not necessarily meant to be taken as literal physical descriptions.

But even more important than what he looked like, he didn’t act like that during his time on earth. He didn’t come with sword and scepter, striking down his enemies, trampling them underfoot. But he will, when he comes again. Advent means coming. And advent is a time to look back at his coming, as well as forward to his second coming.

The Cross Before The Crown

We see both of these aspects of who Jesus is in Philippians 2. Philippians 2 is a call to love and unity, to put aside selfishness and pride, in humility to count others as more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being himself fully God, did not cling to his divine privileges. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. God humbled himself. He took the form of a servant; he was born into humanity. The Creator of all things became a part of his creation. He humbled himself even to the extreme of a humiliating death.

Verses 9-11 give us the rest of the story. God intended, as a result of his humiliation, to highly exalt Jesus.

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Humility and then glory. In that order. You see the ‘therefore’ at the beginning of verse 9? The Father exalted the Son as a result of his humiliation, his obedience even to the extreme of the cross.

We have to be careful not to misunderstand. It is not as if Jesus earned something that he did not before possess. He always was exalted; he did not need to be exalted. Verse 6 excludes the possibility of understanding this in a way that Jesus was somehow less and became great. It says that he existed in the very form or nature of God. His equality with God was not something he had to chase after. But having humbled himself, there was room for him to be exalted, lifted up to where he had come down from, restored to his rightful place.

What he has now that he did not before, is a human nature. At the incarnation, ‘remaining what he was,’ God from all eternity, ‘he became what he was not,’ truly human. He took a human nature, and he retains that nature for eternity. Jesus will be God incarnate forever. He now is seated at the right hand of his Father, a man; the God-man. Our advocate. Our brother.

And he now bears the title ‘Savior.’ From before time, before creation, he planned to rescue his fallen creation. But he had not yet carried it out in time. He was always full of mercy and grace, eager to forgive; that is his heart. But that is now seen, put on display because of his humiliation and crucifixion. The riches of his grace toward his enemies are now put on public display in the humiliation and crucifixion of Jesus.

The cross came before the crown. Humiliation before exaltation. “Therefore God has highly exalted him.”

Temptation to Reverse

We see in the temptation of Jesus, Satan’s attempt to reverse that order.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Use your power as the Creator to provide for your own needs. Put your own needs above the needs of others.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus would live in dependence on God, putting the needs of others above his own.

Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Use your privileged position and promise of divine protection to demonstrate to all who you are. Gain followers by a spectacular show of glory.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus would wait for the perfect timing of the Father. He would not step out on his own, seek his own glory, or force his hand.

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.”

Here is an opportunity to avoid the horrors of the cross. Just a simple act of worship and I will freely sign over what you know will cost your own blood to secure. Every knee will bow to you, if you will only bow your knee to me, do it my way. Does your Father really know best? Does he really love you if he sent you here to die?

Matthew 4:10 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.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus was sure of his Father’s love and his Father’s wisdom. He would not be fooled as Adam was, questioning the Father’s goodness, questioning his wisdom or his ways. Jesus knew that humility was the only true path to glory.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

But it was Simeon at the temple who said

Luke 2:34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Jesus will reign. He will sit on the throne of David forever. But he must suffer first. He will be opposed. The cross before the crown.

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

We see this foreshadowed in the gifts of the Magi. Gold and frankincense and myrrh. All three were very valuable and used in trade. Gold is associated with wealth, royalty, and most notably the presence of God. Idols were often made of gold, and the most holy place, the place where God made his presence known, was entirely covered with gold. Frankincense is associated with the temple, used in the holy incense, burned with the grain offerings to create a pleasing aroma, and placed with the bread of the presence. Myrrh was also used in the temple service, in the holy anointing oil. It was also associated with passion and intimacy. Wine mixed with myrrh was offered to Jesus on the cross, but he refused it. Nicodemus used about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (Jn.19:39).

Economically these gifts would have provided the resources necessary for this poor couple to flee to Egypt and live there to escape the wrath of Herod ignited by the visit of the Magi, but it would be hard to miss the significance of the royal gift of gold that reminded of God’s presence with us, the priestly gift of frankincense that pointed to a sacrifice as a pleasing aroma to the Lord, and the myrrh as a preparation for burial. Jesus will reign, but he must offer himself, suffer and die first.

The Testimony of John

John understood both aspects of who Jesus was.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

Jesus came into the world after his cousin John (he was younger), but John said ‘I am not worthy to untie even his sandal strap.’ He has come to be before me because he existed first. He is is the eternal one who has come into the world, and he is worthy of all worship. But he is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Everyone in Israel knew how a lamb took away sin. It was slaughtered. It became a sacrifice. It received the death penalty as an innocent stand-in for a guilty person. It gave its life as a substitute. Jesus was the eternal one who entered our world, and he is worthy of all worship, but he came to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus would be worshiped as the king coming on the clouds in glory, but he must pay for our sins with his own blood first. The cross before the crown. This is why he came.

Worship and Imitation

What does all this have to do with us? First, it is reason to worship. Jesus, being God from all eternity is worthy of our worship. But Jesus came to die for your sins to rescue you and put on display the riches of God’s glorious grace. He would be worthy of our worship if he never stooped to save us. Every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. But what a treasure we have! That he did come! For us! To rescue us! What amazing undeserved grace! We can worship him not only at the worthy king, but as our savior, rescuer, friend. We have a man standing on our behalf in heaven. God took on our nature to be with us, to suffer for us, to advocate for us. What a savior! Worthy of worship!

Philippians invites us to have our affections stirred for Jesus, to take encouragement and comfort in his love for us, but also to learn from him. To be like him. To follow him. We will reign with him. We are promised his inheritance. We are welcomed in. The cross before the crown.

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

The cross before the crown. We don’t have to grasp at power and position and possessions. God has promised us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Pet.1:4). God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Eph.1:3). It is ours in Christ Jesus. We have been given it. We don’t need to compete for it. Our interests are looked after by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ himself! We are freed now to look after the interests of others. We can count others more significant than ourselves. Jesus has freed us to love, sacrificially love, because we have been perfectly loved. So church, love boldly!

***

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

December 24, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Plan Before Creation

12/16 The Plan Before Creation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181216_plan-before-creation.mp3

Christmas. The Incarnation. We looked at Jesus, the Son before the manger, the eternal only Son of God, who was sent to rescue us, made flesh to be with us. We looked at Jesus the light of the world, who entered into our darkness, who went under the shadow of death for us, who took into himself all our darkness, so we could enjoy the light of his presence.

All this was necessary, the incarnation was necessary, as a result of our sin, our rejection of God’s good rule, because we went astray, we went our own way. We created the need. We caused this. He made everything very good, and we messed it all up. What if…? Was the incarnation God’s response to our rejection? Was this God’s attempt to fix what we broke? Was Christmas an afterthought? Was this God’s plan B, the fallback plan just in case we blew it? Was God uncertain (as some teach) what would happen when he created man in his image to rule over his creation and placed them in the garden with but one restriction? Should we view this as a kind of insurance? We take out an insurance policy against something terrible that we hope never happens, but is possible. Should we imagine that the Father sat down with the Son and said ‘this whole creation thing could go terribly wrong. I hope not, but we need to be prepared, this is what it will cost us if it does. Was Christmas a contingency in case things didn’t go according to plan?

Christmas is a great time to recapture our wonder. Look at who God is, what he has done, and let your jaw drop. Stand in awe. Worship. Rejoice with joy inexpressible and filled with glory (1Pet.1:8).

God’s Unfailing Purpose

We could look at verses that tell us that God’s purposes are never frustrated, scriptures like:

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

And:

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

God always accomplishes his plans. God’s purpose is unchangeable (Heb.6:17).

2 Timothy 1:8-10; God’s Gift Before The Ages Began

Let’s look this morning at a passage that pulls together God’s unchangeable purpose and connects it with Christmas, and creates wonder.

In 2 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy not to be afraid but to have courage even in the face of suffering because it puts God’s power and his purpose on display.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Listen to Paul’s logic of courage in the face of suffering. Let’s just walk through this text together. Don’t be ashamed of me when I face suffering, and don’t be afraid to suffer yourself for the gospel. Share in suffering by the power of God, (because you can’t do it yourself; you need God’s power, and God’s power is available to you).

It is God who saved you and called you to a holy calling. God saved you. God saved you for this, and he called you to this. It is a holy calling to suffer for the sake of the gospel. God saved us, he called us, not because of anything he saw in us, not because of anything we did, not anything we would do; not because of our works.

If not because of anything in us, then why? God saved us and God called us because of his own purpose and grace. It is God’s own purpose. Not of the will of flesh or of the will of man (Jn.1:13). God’s purpose for us is gracious; we don’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it. It was nothing in us. God freely chooses to give it. Our salvation, our calling is rooted in God’s will, God’s purpose and is God’s gift to us. It is unearned, freely given; it is grace.

Notice where we get God’s gracious gift of salvation? Every good gift comes to us in Christ Jesus. We have no good outside of him. God’s purpose, God’s grace, God’s salvation, God’s holy calling come to us as a gift packaged in Christ Jesus. ‘I want salvation, but I’m not sure I want Jesus.’ There is no salvation outside of Jesus. All God’s blessings come to us only in Christ Jesus.

Notice when this gift comes to us? This will blow your mind. God gave us his own purpose and grace, this salvation, this holy calling before the ages began, before time eternal. How are we given grace before we need it? How are we given God’s grace before we even exist? But that is what this text says! Do you see what this means? Before God created man, before God created anything, he had a purpose. He had a plan. And that purpose had you in mind. This was no insurance policy! This was the plan, his purpose. God intended all along to give you grace! Revelation (13:8) tells us that before the foundation of the world, our names have been written in the book of life of the lamb who was slain. The lamb slain will be the focal point of our worship for eternity! And that means that you would need grace. You would be undeserving. You would forfeit all your rights. God would have no obligation to you whatsoever, and yet he would freely give you grace. The salvation of sinners by grace in Christ Jesus was no plan B. God’s purpose to graciously save sinners in Christ Jesus was established before the eternal ages. This simply boggles our finite human brains! Before God created, before we rebelled, God who is rich in mercy, gave us his own grace.

Do you see Christmas in verse 10? God’s purpose, God’s grace, this salvation purposed and given before time began has now appeared. It is now put on display in the appearing, the advent, literally the epiphany of our Savior Christ Jesus. The gift that God gave before the ages began, the gift of his only Son was brought to light, put on display, made manifest at a point in time in history, when Jesus appeared.

Look at what this gift accomplished. This gift of God in Jesus abolished death. Death has been rendered impotent for those who are saved by Jesus. He has taken the sting out of death. He took sin, our sin into himself. Eternal life, incorruptibility is brought to light through the gospel. The gospel, the good news of Messiah Jesus, God’s eternal Son, become flesh to take our death and give us life is now on display, being proclaimed. God’s eternal purpose has now unfolded before our eyes.

Paul says all this to Timothy to give him courage in the face of suffering. God has saved us. He has called us to a holy calling. Our performance didn’t earn it, and our failure to perform can’t take it away. It was given to us according to God’s eternal purpose, before we existed, and it is now put on display. By God’s grace, the death we earned has been rendered impotent to harm us. We can take courage, even in the face of suffering, because Jesus took our ultimate suffering, and now nothing, not even physical death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:39).

This is a holy calling, and we can be confident even in the face of suffering because it is ours as a gift from before eternity began.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

In chapter 2 Paul says:

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, …3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

This grace that God gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began is able to strengthen you to endure. In verse 10 he holds up his own suffering as an example.

2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Paul is in chains, but the word of God is not bound. Paul is willing to endure anything so that God’s elect may obtain this salvation.

Christmas was the public display of God’s gracious plan before creation. God’s eternal gift was put on display in a manger, and then on a cross. And we are invited to participate in passing this good news on.

Ephesians 1; God’s Purpose to Bring Praise to His Glorious Grace

I’d like to look at another passage that points us to God’s plan before creation, and gives us insight into his aim, his end goal. In Ephesians 1, Paul gives extended praise to God for his gracious eternal purpose to bless us in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Do you hear God’s purpose, God’s plan for the fullness of time? God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. In his great love, God predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. We have redemption, forgiveness, according to the riches of his grace lavished on us. He made known the mystery of his will according to his purpose, his plan for the fullness of time, (there is his plan before the ages began); and this plan he set forth in Christ (there again is Christmas). All this is according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. God’s purpose is never thwarted. He works all things according to the counsel of his will.

We see in many places that the glory of God is the ultimate purpose of everything. All creation is meant to bring glory to God.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, ‘the glory of the Lord shone around them’ (Lk.2:9) and a multitude of the heavenly host were praising God, saying ‘glory to God in the highest’ (Lk.2:14). The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God’ (Lk.2:20).

We were created for his glory. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But Ephesians is even more specific. The eternal purpose of God in our rescue is ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’. Not just the praise of his glory, but the praise of his glorious grace. We were chosen before the foundation of the world to be to the praise of his glorious grace. Before God created anything, God purposed in himself to save sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus. Does that blow your mind? Before man was ever created, long before man sinned in the garden, God purposed to become one of us and to pay for our sins with his own blood! O the riches of his glorious grace! Undeserved kindness toward undeserving sinners.

Moses and Glory and Grace

When Moses boldly asked the Lord ‘please show me your glory,

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

God’s glory is seen in the riches of his grace and in his freedom to extend it to whomever he will. In the next chapter,

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God’s glory is displayed in his mercy and grace, his abundant love and faithfulness, his forgiveness of sinners who deserve his wrath.

God’s plan A was to display the glory of his grace according to the riches of his grace. The righteous older brother didn’t need grace; the wayward prodigal’s only hope was undeserved grace. Our sin provided the stage on which the glory of God could be seen most clearly.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

God gave us his grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and now, in the fullness of time, he has has put on display his glorious grace through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. God has sent to us his only Son. This was the plan even before sin entered the world through one man. This was his purpose even before creation. This was his desire, to put on display his glorious grace.

It is one thing to know this. Have you received it? Have you received his grace? Have you welcomed his grace, his gift, have you allowed it in, to shape you, to make you new? Have you allowed his grace to capture your wonder, your amazement? Receive it!

Let your jaw drop. Wonder. Be amazed. Worship. Allow his grace to sustain you.

***

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

December 17, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Darkness Before The Light

12/09 The Darkness Before the Light; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181209_darkness-before-light.mp3

<<Griswold Christmas Lights (23 sec short clean version)>>

Christmas lights. Why are Christmas lights a thing? Why is there a whole aisle of just Christmas lights? We put them on our houses, on our trees, around our windows and doorways, all down main street, little twinkly Christmas lights everywhere. Why?

Here’s some verses in Luke that help us understand why. Zechariah prophesied over his son John:

Luke 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matthew, in chapter 4, quotes the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2.

Matthew 4:15-16 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

We are enamored by lights shining in the darkness, at least in part because it is an echo in our souls of our hope for a light to overcome the darkness. When you see all those twinkly lights this time of year, remember that there is a longing in every human soul for a light that will overcome our darkness.

Jesus came to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.

Deep Darkness in the World

This longing goes all the way back to the beginning

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

There’s this theme of darkness and light throughout the bible. God overcame the darkness at creation by his Spirit, by his Word. The light, he said, was good.

Already by chapter 3, man sinned and went his own way, and he hid from the light of God’s presence in the shadows of the garden.

Ever since, there has been this tension between the light and the darkness.

Darkness Linked with Death

Did you notice in those verses in Matthew and Luke that ‘darkness’ is synonymous with ‘the shadow of death’?

Luke 1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matthew 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

The wages of sin is death. Because we are sinners, death looms over our entire lives. We live under the shadow of death. You never know. None of us know how long we have. We often distract ourselves from this reality – until some crisis or event crashes in and shatters our delusion, snapping us back to the reality that we are mortal. We are finite. Every moment, every breath is a gift. We live under a dark cloud. We dwell in a land of deep darkness. We sit in the shadow of death. Hence this longing in every heart for the light, to be out from the shadow, to see light overcome the darkness.

Blind To The Darkness

But before the light can be appreciated, welcomed, received, the darkness must be felt. This was the problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and it remains a problem for many in our day.

We live in denial. We refuse to believe that it’s really all that bad. We refuses to see the darkness.

We might agree and say ‘Yeah, it’s a really dark place out there. There’s really bad people doing horrible things and they need Jesus.’ If that’s what your find yourself saying, be careful, you might completely miss the meaning of Christmas. You might completely miss it and miss out. You see, Jesus came to be the light in a dark place. He entered in to the darkness. If you are saying ‘those people over there really need the light of Jesus’ you are putting yourself into a different category. ‘What they are doing over there, that’s really dark. But not me. I’m not in the dark. I can see just fine.’ Be careful, you are saying ‘I don’t need Jesus.’

Jesus was not very kind to hypocrites and finger pointers. He had sharp words for those who looked down on others and thought too highly of themselves.

John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

The worst kind of blindness is when you think you can see and refuse the gift of sight that is offered to you. Jesus came to offer sight to the blind, but those that deny that they are blind refuse to receive his healing.

You see, it’s not just dark out there. It’s dark in here. It’s dark inside, in me. My heart is the problem. My heart is dark. I need Jesus.

Reaction to Light; Rejection and Hatred

We don’t often notice just how dark it is until the light gets turned on. Our eyes adjust. We get used to the dark. We get comfortable in the dark. You’ve been in a room that slowly gets darker and darker and you don’t notice it, until someone walks in and flips a light switch and bam! Blazing light! What’s your reaction? Turn it off! Turn it off! It hurts! I was comfortable in the dark.

We all have this deep longing in our hearts for light to overcome the darkness, and Jesus is the light of the world, but there is always a reaction when the light gets turned on.

We looked last time at John 1, where Jesus the eternal Word, who was with God in the beginning and who was God, became human and entered our world. We are told of Jesus in verse 4:

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …7 [John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

You see, Jesus coming into the world as light says something about the world. It says something offensive about me. Jesus the light coming into the world says that the world is a dark place. And it is a dark place because it is made up of sinners dwelling in deep darkness. The world is a dark place because my heart is dark. This is offensive. I don’t like to be told that my heart is wicked. That my heart is deceitful. I don’t like to be told that I’m blind, that I’m living in utter darkness. That’s offensive.

We looked last time at John 3:16, where God gave us his only Son. John 3:19 says

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

We are not just in the dark. We love the dark. We have this love affair with darkness. We are ashamed and afraid and we don’t want to be exposed, so we hide in the shadows. We don’t want anyone to see what we are really like. We know we don’t measure up.

Do you see what this is saying? The light has come into the world; Jesus has come into the world. And we love the darkness and hate the light. We hate Jesus. ‘Whoa! That sounds harsh. I don’t know if I would say it like that.’ Jesus says it exactly like that. ‘I wouldn’t say I hate Jesus; I respect him as a great man, a great teacher, a prophet.’ You can’t say that. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘he has not left that option open to us.’ He claimed to be God. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic …or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. …you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” [Mere Christianity]. Jesus divides. You are either for him or against him. You either hate him or you fall at his feet and worship him. You can claim to respect him as a great man, but that’s not being intellectually honest. If you believe in him, you must receive him completely, as he is, everything he says. And that includes some really painful things to swallow. Receiving him as the light of the world means confessing that my heart is dark, wicked, desperately wicked.

Jesus The Exclusive Light of the World

Notice, Jesus says the light has come into the world, the true light.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Jesus does not claim to be a light in the world, one among many. He is the light – the only true light of the world. Jesus is exclusive. You follow Jesus or you are in darkness.

Jesus Only; Not Jesus Plus

In Matthew 17, some of Jesus’ disciples got a glimpse of his glory.

Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail th’ incarnate deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.” [Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -C.Wesley]. For a moment, as it were, the curtains were drawn back and the pre-incarnate glory of the Son of God blazed out. The light of the world was so bright in that moment, they couldn’t look at his face.

Matthew 17:3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Moses, the one to whom the Law was given, the author of the Torah, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets were there speaking with Jesus. Peter thinks this is great. Three of his heroes; Moses, Jesus, Elijah. We should just camp out, get autographs, bask in the glory. Peter wanted to honor these three, enshrine these three. But the Father would have none of it. He thundered from heaven interrupting Peter before he could finish his thought, putting him on his face.

Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

What was the message that came through crystal clear to the disciples as their faces were pressed against the dirt? God does not share his glory. Jesus is the only Son of the Father. He is not one among the prophets, givers of God’s word; he is the Word. He alone is to be honored. He alone is to be listened to. He alone is the light of the world. The Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament, Jesus said, was pointing to him. It is all about him. Jesus did not come to abolish the law or the prophets; he came to fulfill it. All the scriptures find their answer in Jesus. It is not Jesus plus the law, Jesus plus the prophets; It is Jesus only. We do not enshrine three lights, three great teachers; Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Moses and Elijah were anticipating Jesus, pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the only, the unique Son of the Father. Jesus is the light.

He took our Darkness and Night

We all have this deep longing for a light to overcome the darkness. At Jesus’ last supper, when Satan had entered in to the betrayer, when Judas left, John tells us “And it was night” (Jn.13:30). This is more than just a description of what time it was. Jesus had said in John 9

John 9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

I am the light of the world. But night is coming. Judas went out. And it was night. Later, in the garden, when Judas kissed Jesus to identify him to the authorities,

Luke 22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

This is your hour, and the power of darkness. Jesus could have blinded the crowd with a blaze of transfiguration glory, but instead, he allowed himself to be seized, led away, ultimately to be crucified.

Luke 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Jesus, the light of the world, endured darkness for me. Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus took my darkness, he fell under the shadow of death, he was made to be sin (2Cor.5:21); He bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). The light of the world conquered the darkness by being extinguished by it. He was swallowed up by the darkness, and in doing so, he swallowed up death forever!

The Necessity of The New Birth to See

The light of the world came, but he was not received. He was hated.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

How is it that we receive him? How is it that we see him for who he is? We are blind to our own darkness and need of him. Those who receive him are those who were born of God by the will of God. God caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We sinned. We hid from the light of God’s presence in the darkness. God overcomes the darkness in our hearts by his Spirit, by his Word.

Acts 26:27 …I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

God’s word and his Spirit opens blind eyes.

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Maybe you see, maybe for the first time, that you are in the dark, and the only light is Jesus. May God open your eyes to the truth of who he is. May God by his Spirit and through his word shine in your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Receive him today. Believe in his name.

December 13, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Son Before The Manger

12/02 The Son Before the Manger; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181202_son-before-the-manger.mp3

This is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means coming, a season we celebrate the coming of Jesus. And we must ask, ‘Who is this Jesus? Who is he? What is he it all about? Where did he come from? Why did he come?

<<Video>>

It matters what we think about Jesus. It matters what God’s word says about who Jesus is. And as we have been learning in 2 Corinthians, looking at Jesus transforms us.

At Christmastime we focus on the baby in the manger. A baby is safe. A baby is not threatening. Most people are comfortable around babies. And that is a great opportunity this time of year. Some people may be more open to talking about the baby in the manger. Today I want to ask what the bible teaches about who Jesus is. Of course we can’t look at everything the bible says about Jesus today, because the Bible is all about Jesus! But today we are going to look back – back before the manger to help understand who Jesus really is.

John 3:16

We are going to start in what might seem like an unlikely place for a Christmas message. John 3:16 is probably the best known verse in the bible. Jesus said to Nicodemus

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

You may not have thought of this as a Christmas verse, but when you look at it in that light, you see how appropriate it is. The great love of God moved him to give the greatest Christmas gift of all, his only Son. God gave so that we might live. This verse points us back to the first Christmas, and it is about giving.

Only Begotten

But do you see what this verse tells us about Jesus? It says that he is the one and only Son of God. He is the only-begotten. The word is [μονογενής]; the only-born, the singular or sole offspring. Most of the modern translations just say ‘only’ or ‘one and only’, ‘unique’ and drop the ‘begotten’ because that can be confusing. When we hear that he was begotten or born, we assume that implies a beginning, an event, that he was born at a point in time and before that he didn’t exist. Before we are done today we will look at some verses that make that meaning impossible. There was never a time when he was not. He has always been with the Father, equal to the Father. So this word only-begotten must be getting at something else. It is telling us something about the relationship between God and Jesus. The relationship is not like a created being to its creator, where the creation is made of different stuff than the creator. Begotten tells us the relationship is more like a son and a father. They have the same nature, they share the same DNA if you will. We might say they were ‘cut from the same cloth,’ although neither was cut from anything else. They are the same stuff, the same essence. You see how a word like this is difficult to bring over into another language without losing something or being misleading?

God Gave and Sent

God gave his one and only Son. He was given by the Father to rescue us. He goes on in the next verses:

John 3:17 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.

God sent his only Son into the world. This tells us something about the Son before he was born in Bethlehem. This tells us that he was the only Son of God before he entered our world. He was sent by his Father. It does not say he was the only Son of God born into this world. He was sent, he was given. He was already the only Son. Before he was sent, before he was given, before he was born into this world, he was already the only Son of God.

The Only One Who Came Down

Just prior to John 3:16, in verse 13 he said:

John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Jesus claims to have come down from heaven. In fact he makes this claim exclusively. No one else descended from heaven. He – singular – came down.

Nicodemus had recognized Jesus as a ‘teacher come from God’ (3:3). But Jesus is pressing him to see more than that. John the Baptist was ‘sent from God’ (1:6), yet John makes it clear that he is ‘sent from God’ in a very different way than Jesus. When John is challenged with the fact that his disciples are leaving him to follow Jesus, he says:

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” 31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

John contrasts himself with Jesus. Jesus comes from above, from heaven, and he is above all. John is of the earth and belongs to the earth. John was sent from God, but not at all in the way Jesus was sent. John is from the earth. God sent John with a mission. But nowhere does it say that John was sent from above, or came from heaven. In fact, back in John 1,

John 1:15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)

Jesus was born about 6 months after his cousin John. He came after John, but he was, he existed before John.

Jesus exclusively claims to be the only one who has come down from heaven.

John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

A Child Born, A Son Given

Jesus, the only Son of God, was given, sent into this world. This accords with the well known Christmas verse, Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A child is born, and a son is given. We see two things here.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

At a point in history, in a cave-shelter for sheep, a baby was born to his virgin mother, wrapped in rags and placed in a stone feed trough. But Isaiah 9 points to a reality behind the manger. A son is given. God’s only Son from all eternity, was given, a Son whose name is Mighty God, Father of Eternity. The one who had no beginning was born a baby in Bethlehem. The eternal Son was given.

We see this also in the prophecy in Micah 5.

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Jesus the King was born in Bethlehem, but that was not his beginning. His coming forth was from of old, from ancient days. He had no beginning. The eternal Son of God was born into this world in a small town in Judah.

In The Beginning He Was

If we turn back to the beginning of John’s gospel, we see this clearly.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John echoes Genesis in the way he opens his gospel. Matthew and Luke both give us genealogies of Jesus’ human parents. Mark simply introduces Jesus as ‘the Son of God’ and lets the his actions demonstrate the truth of that claim. This is John’s genealogy. Where Genesis opens ‘In the beginning’ and then looks forward to what God created, John opens ‘In the beginning’ and looks back to what already existed and who it was that created all things.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

The Word existed in the beginning. And the word was personal. The word was with God, in relationship with God. The Word was a distinct personality from God, who could be with God. But this personal Word was not a second god, or a lesser being than God. The Word was God. The Word was the same stuff, the same essence, the same DNA as God. The Word was God. There were not two gods, but one God, who was there at the beginning. Two personalities, two centers of consciousness, the Father and Son, together with one another in relationship, but one Divine Being, one God.

Verse 9 says:

John 1:9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

The Word, here called the true light, who had always existed in relationship with his Father, was coming into the world. He made the world. He was in the world already, as God everywhere present. But at a point in time he came, in a new way, he entered in a tangible, touchable, visible, knowable form. He came to his own people, as one of them..

Verse 14 tells us how.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The eternal Word who was with God and who was himself God came into the world by becoming flesh. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. Jesus reveals the glory of God. Jesus puts the invisible nature and character of God on display in an observable, knowable form.

This is what Christmas is all about; God making himself known, knowable, entering into our mess, becoming one of us. Eternal God taking on our nature, our flesh. God, remaining God, now become human. God so loved that he gave his only Son. The Son given, the child born. This is who Jesus is.

What Does It Matter?

But what does it matter? Why is it important to know who Jesus is, that he was the eternal Son of God, God the Son before he was born a human baby and placed in a manger? What difference does it make?

It makes all the difference in the world! I’ll give you three main reasons: relationship, rescue and worship.

First relationship. This tells us that God is a relational being. In his very nature, in his essence, at the core of his being, he is relational. God is love. The Father, Son and Spirit in eternal unbroken fellowship, loving each other, valuing each other, prizing one another, communicating with one another. God in his essence is relational, and he invites us into relationship with him. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself (2Cor.5:19).

And this leads in to the second reason it is so essential to understand who Jesus is. He came to rescue. Reconciliation means that the relationship was broken. And we broke it. ‘In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.’ We have sinned, trespassed against a good, loving, holy, just God. The wages of sin is death. God must punish sin. Justice must be done to the guilty party. Humankind sinned against God, and humankind must be punished. The Son becoming human allowed him to suffer as a human in the place of humankind. God transferred our guilt to him, and poured out his wrath on him, so that we could be cleared, forgiven of all sin. That is the gospel, the good news, that is why Jesus came, that is why the Son was given. So that whoever believes, trusts, depends on him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son to condemn the world (although it would have been just for him to do so). God sent his only Son into the world in order that the world might be saved through him.

What about you? Are you? Are you trusting in him, depending on his finished work for you? Do you acknowledge that you are deserving of just condemnation, and embracing Jesus as your substitute, who paid your price in full? It says ‘whoever believes!’ Are you?

And this leads naturally into worship. There is something seriously wrong if we see Jesus for who he is, if we see the Son before the manger, if we see that the Father sent his only Son, if we see what he came to do, and our hearts do not just leap into songs of worship and adoration. We were made to worship, We have been redeemed to worship. He alone is worthy of our worship. Look. Look. Look to Jesus, and allow the love of God made tangible by sending his only Son to so overwhelm you that your heart spontaneously spills over in praise to him.

***

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

December 3, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving and One Another

11/25 Thanksgiving and One Another; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181125_thanksgiving-one-another.mp3

The Necessity of Giving Thanks Always

Last time we talked about thanksgiving, the necessity of giving thanks, our obligation to give thanks to the Lord; we owe it to him because he is worthy, because every good gift comes from him, because we were made to give him praise. Romans 1 says:

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.

A failure to honor God as God and give thanks to him is sin deserving of the wrath of God.

We looked at the positive command in 1 Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

God’s will is that we rejoice, we pray, we give thanks always and for everything. To fail to give God thanks is to quench the Spirit who lives in every believer.

So how are you doing? How did you do this thanksgiving week at rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances?

I hope you did better than I did. I had some great moments of thanksgiving. But I also got annoyed, frustrated, irritated, impatient, discouraged. I yelled at the kids. I said unkind words to my computer. I was short with my wife. My week was not characterized by rejoicing always. It was not ceaselessly prayerful. I failed to give thanks in all circumstances. And this was thanksgiving week!

I wish I could stand before you as a model of the perfect Christian. I want to do better. I want to be better. But here’s the problem. If I could tell you all about how wondrously thankful and joyful and prayerful I was this week, that wouldn’t encourage you, it would likely discourage you. And (if it were true) I would be able to feel pretty good about myself. I would feel successful. Maybe I could even look down on some of you who clearly weren’t as spiritual as I was this week. And that’s not the gospel. That’s not in line with the gospel. The gospel reads that I can’t. I’m not good enough. I will never be good enough. But if I lean into Jesus, he is good enough, and he will carry me. In him I am good enough, yet it is not I but Christ living in me.

So how do we genuinely seek to honor God and give him thanks? How do we seek to obey the commands to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances? How do we take these commands seriously and not use the gospel as an excuse for our own laziness; if my failure puts the grace of God on display, then let us ‘continue in sin that grace may abound? May it never be!’ And how do we pursue obedience in such a way that it does not result in pride?

Abounding In Thanksgiving Through The Gospel

I found some help in the letter to the Colossians. Colossians 2:6-7 says:

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Here we find more thanksgiving language; we are to abound in thanksgiving. I want my life to be characterized by abundant thanksgiving. How do we abound in thanksgiving?

In these verses, Paul explicitly points us back to the gospel. He points us to what we were taught, he points to the faith, what we believe, the content of the gospel. He brings us back to our receiving Christ Jesus the Lord. In the previous verse he rejoiced in ‘the firmness of your faith in Christ.’

The gospel, the faith is what I am depending on to rescue me from the consequences of my own rebellion. The gospel tells me that I am not good enough, that I am actually worse than I ever would have imagined, but that Jesus bore the wages of my sin in his body on the tree, that he takes me as his own, that he clothes me in his righteousness, that I am accepted, not because of anything I have done, but because of everything he has done for me. We receive Jesus as a gift undeserved, freely given. Colossians 2:6 tells us we are to walk in him in the same way we received him. We live the Christian life depending completely on his work on our behalf, receiving it as a gift undeserved, freely given. We receive Jesus by faith; depending completely on him. We walk the Christian walk by faith, depending completely on him. We must be rooted in Jesus. He must be the source we draw life from. We must be built upon Jesus. He must be be our only foundation. We must be established in our dependence on Jesus. This is the good news we were taught. This is the gospel we were given. And this is the gospel air we breathe. This is the grace in which we live and move and have our being. We received Jesus as a gift undeserved, depending completely on him. We live the Christian life in total dependence on him, receiving everything we need freely from him.

Obligation and Gratitude

And we say thank you in response to a gift we have been given. I say thank you to the waiter who fills my water at the restaurant as a courtesy. But I don’t have to say thank you. It’s his job. He is not doing me a favor, he gets paid to keep my water full. If he doesn’t, I could complain to the manager, and he could lose his job. I am under no obligation to thank him. He hasn’t really given me anything.

But when we really get the gospel, that we are undeserving, that God is under no obligation to us, and yet God is overwhelmingly generous to us in Jesus Christ, we understand we are truly in his debt and under obligation to gratitude. Abounding in thanksgiving is the right response to the gospel.

Our English word ‘thank’ is related to the word ‘to think,’ thought or thoughtfulness, to think well of. This fails to capture the depth of the original. There was an expression I remember hearing when I was growing up, that I haven’t heard in a while. It was used as an exclamation of surprise or amazement, but taken literally, it captures the essence of the Biblical concept of thanksgiving. It was ‘Good gracious! or ‘Goodness gracious!’ That would be a good literal translation of the Greek word ‘εὐχάριστος‘ – good gracious. It is good that God is gracious to me. God’s grace is good, it is pleasant, it is enjoyable. I see that I am undeserving, and he is under no obligation, and yet he freely gives. That is grace, and I am grateful for his good grace.

So what does this look like practically? How do I abound in gratitude? First, receive Jesus as a gift. He is God’s grace to you. Be rooted in him; draw day by day your life sustenance from him. Be built on him as your only foundation. Be established in dependence on him. Walk day to day in dependence on him. And remember, you will never deserve what he has freely given, so even your failures are a reminder of the goodness of his grace. So receive his grace, and let your heart overflow with gratitude.

Gratitude is a Community Project

I understand this, but still I struggle to apply it, to do it, to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. I tend to lose sight of the grace of God, to let other things cloud my view. Paul understands this, and so he gives us more help in the next chapter. Colossians 3 begins by reminding us that we have been raised with Christ, and so we ought to set our minds on the things that are above. We are to put to death our earthly passions and desires, and to put on our new self which is being renewed. Because we are chosen by God, because we are holy, because we are beloved, we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, love. In verse 15 he says:

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

If you notice, all these things have to do with body life, interacting with others. We are to bear with one another. We are to forgive one another. We are called to love one another, be at peace with one another, live in harmony with one another. We were called in one body. We are called into the body of Christ, the church which he purchased with his own blood. Thankfulness is a community project.

And it is rooted in God’s gracious forgiveness. Verse 13 tells us “…if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” The word ‘forgive’ here is ‘χαρίζομαι‘ to freely, graciously give or forgive. It is part of the root of the word thankful ‘εὐχάριστος‘, good gracious. The way we deal with one another, especially when we are wronged by another is determined by how the Lord has forgiven you. And our gracious forgiveness of one another is an expression of God’s forgiveness to us.

So when we are wronged, we are reminded of how we have wronged God, and how he graciously forgave us. And we are stirred to gratitude. And when we have wronged a brother or sister, and they extend us grace and forgiveness, we are reminded of the gracious forgiveness God has given to us, and we are stirred to gratitude. We might respond ‘good gracious!’

You see how being rooted in the gospel works itself out in community life and reminds us to gratitude.

Thankfulness and Singing

But Paul doesn’t stop here. He goes further to describe what church life, life in the body of Christ should look like.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,

The word is central. We must have Christ’s words, the words about Christ, the gospel living in us. Copiously. Abundantly. Richly. Read, meditate, memorize, let it saturate and spill out. And we are to use the gospel living in us to remind each other. To to teach one another, to correct or reprove one another. We need each other!

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Part of what we do as a body of believers in Jesus is sing together. One way we teach and admonish one another is by psalms, hymns, spiritual songs. We sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God.

It is interesting (we don’t have time to do it now) to trace out thanksgiving in the Psalms. Of course, the Psalms themselves are songs, but repeatedly in the Psalms, we are told that thanksgiving and singing go together.

Psalm 57:9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.

One way to express gratitude to the Lord for his good gifts is to sing together to him. This is public proclamation of God’s goodness; among the peoples, among the nations, among generations, to the children, in the assembly. There is something about singing that is participatory; it includes people, draws them in. There is something powerful about gathering together with other people and singing truth aloud together that is powerful. It’s memorable. It sticks with you in ways the spoken word doesn’t. It reminds us to be thankful. We need each other!

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thanksgiving and the Spirit

I’d like to look at one more thing before we pull this all together.

We started by looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, which put giving thanks together with the work of the Spirit of God, indicating that a failure to give thanks is to quench the Spirit who lives in every believer.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

We could take this merely as a random collection of disconnected thoughts, or we could see a connection. I think Ephesians 5 helps us to see the connection. Ephesians 5:18-20 is a restatement of several of the themes we have been looking at in Colossians 3.

Ephesians 5:18 … but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This rejoicing together in song, this praying, this giving thanks always and for everything is evidence of continually being filled with the Spirit.

Romans 8:9 (along with 1 Cor.2:12 and 6:19, among others) teach us that every believer has the Spirit of God living in them. But here in Ephesians 5 is a command to believers who have the Spirit living inside, who have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph.1:3), to continually be being filled with the Spirit.

So although every believer has the Holy Spirit living inside, believers can quench that Holy Spirit, and they can seek to be filled with the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is Spirit empowering or Spirit enabling to do something. In the Old Testament, the craftsmen were filled with the Spirit and given wisdom and skill to create the tabernacle and its furnishings. In the New Testament, the filling of the Spirit is most often connected with speaking, celebrating or proclaiming the good news.

Here in Ephesians 5, the filling of the Spirit is directly connected with one another ministry and focused on giving thanks.

We recognize that gratitude that pleases the Lord must come from a heart filled with the Spirit of God. Gratitude is a response to God’s free and gracious forgiveness found in the good news. It is dependence, drawing life from and standing firmly on the Lord Jesus Christ. And it happens in and is encouraged by community, in the body, with one another.

This is Triune thanksgiving; being filled with the Spirit, we give thanks to God the Father always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

***

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

November 27, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Necessity of Thanksgiving

11/18 Necessity of Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181118_thanksgiving-necessity.mp3

The History of Thanksgiving

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a great holiday, and not just because I like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry jelly and pumpkin pie.

Our thanksgiving holiday has a rich history. After the surrender of the British army at Saratoga in October of 1777, the Continental Congress recommended that a national day of thanksgiving be observed. This is the text of that proclamation.

For as much as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, Independence and Peace: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”

It was Abraham Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation in 1863 during the civil war that was the beginning of our annual thanksgiving holiday.

His proclamation points us to “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.

He invites us to observe it “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. …offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings…”

Thanksgiving and praise is “justly due to Him.” The earlier proclamation began by stating that “it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received.”

The authors of these proclamations recognized something very important. Thanksgiving is justly due to God. It is our indispensable duty to give thanks for benefits received. It is wrong to fail to give thanks to him.

Thanksgiving is Serious Business

You see, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. We commit sins like lying and stealing and cheating, slander and hatred and lust. But we also sin by omitting what we ought to do.

Romans 1 shows us just how serious this is.

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.

Do you hear in these verses why the wrath of God is revealed from heaven? A failure to acknowledge God and give him thanks unleashes the wrath of God against humanity! Thanksgiving is our duty. And we are so prone to forget the source from which our blessings come. We are “habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.”

Official Thanksgiving

Because giving thanks to God is such an important duty, and because we are so prone to negligence in it, at pivotal moments in the history of the nation of Israel, its leaders appointed people to give thanks as their full time job.

When David brought the ark of the covenant in to Jerusalem, we are told:

1 Chronicles 16:4 Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. 7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. 8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

…36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. 37 So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister regularly before the ark as each day required,

…41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, whose ‘heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord,’ (2Chr.17:6) when a great multitude came against him in battle, he sought the Lord for help, and

2 Chronicles 20:21 …he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Hezekiah, king of Judah, who ‘did what was right in the eyes of the LORD’ (2Chr.29:2) restored the worship of God to the temple in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 31:2 And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the LORD and to give thanks and praise.

After the Babylonian captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah were sent to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

When the walls of the city were rebuilt, Nehemiah appointed:

Nehemiah 12:24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch.

…27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

…31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. …

Thanksgiving was serious business, and it was taken seriously. But why the official appointment of people to thanksgiving? Shouldn’t all the people give thanks from the heart? Are they hiring paid professionals to do the thanksgiving for them so they don’t have to worry about it?

Clearly that was not the intent. They served as worship leaders, to lead all the people in giving thanks. This was a strategic way to ensure that the giving of thanks to God was never neglected. This was set in place as a reminder for all the people, because we are prone to forget.

Are there any reminders you have established in your life and routine to encourage you to give thanks? The weekly rhythm of gathering for worship is one simple way. Gather with God’s people week by week to acknowledge him, to give him thanks. Establish daily rhythms of thanksgiving together at meals, in the mornings, at bedtime. Write a note on the bathroom mirror. Set a reminder on your phone, or get a prayer app. Recognize the importance of giving thanks to God for all his good gifts, and find something that works for you to remind you regularly.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a command.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

God’s will for you is that you give thanks. ‘But you don’t know what’s going on in my life right now. You don’t understand my struggles. I really don’t know if I have anything to be thankful for.’ Give thanks in all circumstances. In all circumstances. Regardless of your circumstances or mine, God is still God, and he deserves to be praised.

Psalm 9 says:

Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

This is a choice, a decision. I choose to give thanks. God has given me the ability to determine to give thanks or to neglect giving thanks. I will give thanks.

I will give thanks with my whole heart. Not merely out of a sense of duty or obligation; it is that, but it must be more. My heart must be in it. Thanksgiving must flow out of a heart captured by the great beauty and worth of God. Thanksgiving is not to be half hearted, but whole hearted. Half hearted praise is not praise. I am to love the Lord with heart and soul and mind and strength. Understand, this is not something we can muster. ‘I’m not really feeling it, but it is my duty, so I will try really hard to give thanks with my whole heart.’ That doesn’t work. Stop looking at yourself. Remember, we are ‘habitually insensible; we are prone to forget’. Thanksgiving is the natural and normal response to perceiving the goodness of God to us. If you don’t see it, you won’t feel thankful. When you see it, when you perceive it, thanksgiving naturally and authentically flows out. More on how to to this in just a minute.

I will give thanks to the LORD. It matters who we direct our thanks to. It is not fate or fortune, it is not my lucky stars. There is a personal being, YHWH, who is sovereign over all circumstances. He is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, good. He is love. He is pursuing relationship with me. If I give you a gift, and you go thank Suzie, than just isn’t right. God is the giver of all good gifts, and he is the one we ought to thank.

Recounting God’s Wonderful Deeds

Here comes some really practical help: I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. It helps to count and recount. This is a simple discipline to increase our thanksgiving. If you want to grow in gratitude, try this.

I woke up. I am breathing. My heart is beating. Thank you Lord! I can get out of bed. I have food to eat. I had a safe place to sleep. I have friends, family, a community.

I have a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for me. My sins are all forgiven. He has given me his Spirit. He has given me new life, a new heart, new desires. I can walk with him today. I can talk to him. He listens. I can please him. I can enjoy his presence. All this is a gracious gift. Thank you Lord!

I have five senses through which I experience this world God created. Everything I see, hear, smell, taste, feel is a gift. Every sunrise, every symphony, every fragrance, every flavor, every sensation is a gift. Thank you Lord!

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

You could easily spend an hour just pausing to pay attention to the details that you have to be thankful for. And it will change your life. It will change your attitude! I will recount all your wonderful deeds.

And I don’t know about you, but I tend to be so self-focused. What do I personally have to be thankful for right now? But for the Israelite, they would start with creation. God made everything good for our enjoyment. He blessed us. But we rebelled against him, and in his great mercy he did not destroy us. He promised to rescue us. He promised to crush our enemy. When he destroyed the world with a flood he preserved Noah and his family. He chose Abraham. He was faithful to all his promises. Even after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, he did not forget his promises. He rescued his people with mighty acts of judgment. Even after 40 years of disobedience in the wilderness, he brought Joshua and his people into the promised land. He established his servant David and conquered their enemies. After their persistent disobedience, he sent them into captivity in Babylon, but even there he cared for them and preserved them, and brought them back to the land.

When you recount all the wonderful deeds of the Lord, you don’t have to limit it to only your experience or your lifetime. Thank you Lord that you have been faithful to your people and to your promises throughout history. Thank you that you have demonstrated yourself trustworthy and true, generous and good, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.

Of course the gospel is our greatest source of gratitude.

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

That God himself would come in the flesh to take my sin and guilt and die in my place is unfathomable, unthinkable, incredible, overwhelmingly good. Thank you Father, for sending Jesus. Thank you that you pursued me even in my rebellion. Thank you that your Holy Spirit conquered my hard heart.

And think of what has been promised to us that is yet to come! God has given to us his precious and very great promises (2Pet.1:4). He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and he has made us co-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord. You have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1Pet.1:4).

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

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

November 19, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Our Pleasure -His Pleasure

11/11_2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Our Pleasure – His Pleasure; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181111_2cor5_9-10.mp3

Paul is staring death in the face. Or rather he is looking through death fixing his eyes on the unseen. He is looking at the ultimate result of his suffering and sees that his present sufferings are preparing for him an exceedingly exceeding eternal weight of glory. He looks at death and says his first choice is to be alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus and be overclothed in his glorified resurrection body. His second choice is to depart and be with Christ even if that means being temporarily unclothed, without a body. And his last choice, he is willing if needed to continue on in the body in fruitful labor for others.

Paul’s desire, his groaning, his longing, is to be at home with the Lord, to be in the presence of Jesus. God has made him for this, and has given his Spirit as a guarantee. But part of being in the presence of Jesus for Paul brings up the issue of judgment.

2 Corinthians 5:6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Is this a category you think in? When you think of heaven, do you think of judgment? Most of the jokes I’ve heard picture Peter at the pearly gates, and if you answer the questions right, you get in. (It is wise to evaluate where you pick up your theology. If it comes mostly from jokes or cartoons, that’s probably not a reliable source.) Paul here tells us that we must all appear before the Lord to give account of what we have done in the body. Is this your expectation? Paul is leaning forward, longing to be in the presence of the Lord, and he knows that that means to appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Is your primary desire to be with the Lord? And are you eagerly awaiting the judgment? Paul is.

How? How can the prospect of judgment be a desirable thing and not a fearful thing? Or can it be both? Today I want to explore what the bible says about this coming judgment, how it can be both an eager expectation and a fearful thing, and how we should live in light of this coming judgment.

The Gospel: No Condemnation

I want to start by looking at the gospel, because the gospel keeps everything in perspective. The good news of Jesus is that we are unworthy, lost in sin, enemies of God, hopeless. We cannot earn God’s favor no matter what we do. We deserve God’s wrath. Jesus, God the Son, came down to us to live as one of us. He came to take our sin, our our guilt, our condemnation, into himself and pay the price in full on the cross. Jesus said:

John 3:17 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.

Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans lays out the good news message, that none are righteous, all have sinned and have earned God’s wrath (ch.1-3). But we are made righteous by grace as a gift through the wrath-satisfying sacrifice of Jesus (ch.3). This gift of forgiveness and righteousness comes not to those who work for it but who simply receive it, by faith; believing, trusting, depending (ch.4). We now have peace with God and strong hope for the future (ch.5). Even the continuing struggle with sin we experience will not win in the end (ch.6-7). In chapter 8 he reaches the climax: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation!

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that …[nothing, nothing, nothing!] 39 …will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are in Christ through faith, depending on him alone. The Scripture clearly teaches that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone. All who are in Christ through faith have no need to fear condemnation on judgment day.

Judging our Works and the Fear of the Lord

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

There is scholarly debate over who this passage applies to. Does ‘we all’ include all humanity or only believers? In the context Paul is talking about ‘we’ believers, we who have been given the Spirit as a guarantee, ‘we’ who have confidence in the face of death because we will be with the Lord. So whether he broadens the ‘we all’ here to include all humanity, or keeps his focus only on believers, there is no dispute that believers are not excluded. ‘We all’ either is believers or includes believers. We all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Each one will receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul says in Romans 14, clearly talking to believers:

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Each of us believers will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of himself to God. Each of us will receive what is due for what we have done in the body, good or bad.

Jesus said:

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

People will give account for every careless word they speak.” Let that sink in. You will give account for every careless word you speak.

I’ll conceal the names to protect the guilty, but recently one of my children accidentally recorded themselves on my phone telling a friend that they had lied to their parents. I know some of you may be shocked to discover that my kids aren’t perfect. Let me shatter more of your imaginary world; neither are their parents.

I think Numbers 32:23 was one of my parent’s favorite verses:

Numbers 32:23 …be sure your sin will find you out.

We had some fun with that recording. I am tempted to play it back for you right now, but that would expose the guilty party. But imagine if someone was recording your entire life, every careless word you speak. (Some of you do that to yourselves already on Facebook!) But imagine every careless word recorded, and someone could play it back to you, so that ‘by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.’ That is a terrifying prospect. Remember, for the believer, there is now no condemnation because Jesus paid for it with his blood.

Jesus said:

Luke 12:2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Jesus is telling us to fear God, the judge of all the earth. Paul in the next verse (2Cor.5:11), concluding his thought on the judgment seat of Christ says “therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord.” In verse 1 he said ‘we know we have an eternal home in the heavens.’ In verse 6 ‘we know that to be at home in this body is to be away from the Lord.’ In verse 11 he says that we know the fear of the Lord, and it motivates us to action. ‘For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.’ It is necessary, mandatory that we appear, that we are exposed, made manifest, laid bare. This awareness of the coming judgment is meant to put the fear of God into us.

Jesus told a story in Matthew 25 describing the kingdom of God.

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

In Luke’s version of this story the master answers:

Luke 19:22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! …

Continuing in Matthew,

Matthew 25:26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Jesus in this story holds out both the hope of reward and eternal joy, and the warning of eternal judgment. Many people struggle with passages of warning in the Bible because they sound like they contradict justification by faith alone. When we run into warnings in scripture, we shouldn’t try to explain them away. They are there to warn us. We should heed the warning. The scripture is clear that our works do not contribute to our salvation; that justification is a gift received by faith alone. But the scripture is also clear that the faith which justifies is never alone.

1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Works are never the grounds for justification. But works naturally flow out of the life of one who is forgiven by grace alone. Even in the story of the talents, it begins with the gift of the master, entrusting his own property to each one. I believe the warnings are there because there are some who claim to believe, but who will be revealed to be false on the final day. The possibility of hearing “I never knew you, depart from me” (Mt.7:23) is meant to put the fear of God in us. Jesus, and Peter and John and Paul and James and the author of Hebrews are warning us to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2Cor.13:5), and they urge us to make adjustments now, before it is too late.

In Matthew 12, where Jesus says that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” he says that “a tree is known by its fruit,” (v.33) and it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v.34). Bearing fruit does not change the nature of the tree; it demonstrates the nature of the tree. Actions and words do not change the heart, they demonstrate what is in the heart. If the fruit is bad, we should take a careful look at the root and ask God by his grace to change our hearts.

When Our Pleasure is His Pleasure

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul is energized by the prospect of the judgment seat of Christ and being forever in the presence of the Lord, so that whether at home or away, he makes it his aim to please him. What he is most eager for, what he pursues with all his heart, what is of highest value for him is to please the Lord. This is truly amazing – did you know that we CAN please him? Now, in these fragile earthy bodies, we can bring pleasure to God! We know that ‘all our righteous deeds (when by them we seek to earn favor with God) are filthy rags’ (Is.64:6). ‘Anything that is not of faith is sin’ (Rom.14:23). But there are good works that flow out of faith that are pleasing to the Lord.

Colossians 1:9 …we …pray …that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will… 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

We can be fully pleasing to him. We can bear fruit that corresponds to the Spirit who lives inside us!

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do we do this?

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ….

When our good works are a response of faith to the grace we have been freely given, they bring glory to the Father. When we serve in faith, in dependence on God who gives the strength, then God gets the glory.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Because we have been freely forgiven, promised eternity with him, sealed with his Holy Spirit, our hearts naturally overflow with a desire to please him. We want to please him, not in order to get something from him, but because we have been freely given so much.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

November 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:1-10; I Don’t Want to be Found Naked!

10/28_2 Corinthians 5:1-10; I Don’t Want to Be Found Naked!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181028_2cor5_1-10.mp3

I need to tell you something. I am dying. I don’t know how much longer I will have. It may be weeks, months, years, I don’t know. Maybe even 40 or 50 more years. You see, I have been diagnosed with a terminal condition. It’s called human mortality. And the statistics are pretty overwhelming.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

You have it too. In fact, you are one day closer to your death than you were yesterday.

I know, this sounds like a downer, and we don’t like to talk about it, but there is wisdom in squarely facing our own mortality. Ecclesiastes says

Ecclesiastes 7:1 …the day of death [is better] than the day of birth. 2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

It is better to go to a funeral than a party; it causes us to think about what really matters. Psalm 90 says

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

There is much wisdom in contemplating our own death. This is what Paul is doing in 2 Corinthians 5, and he actually finds much encouragement, much comfort there.

We are looking at 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; My aim is to step back from this passage today to take in the big picture and understand the categories in which he is thinking. We are going to skip some precious and important details; don’t worry, I plan in the coming weeks to come back to some of these thing that we just won’t have time for this morning.

Context of Suffering and Hope

We are looking at 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; but we need to remember that the chapter breaks are not original; they were added much later (13th cent.) for our convenience, so it is important to not allow them to disrupt the flow of thought. Paul in chapter 4 likens himself to a fragile earthen vessel (7); he says that his outer person is ‘wasting away’ (16). He is ‘always carrying around in his body the dying of Jesus’ (10) and ‘always being given over to death’ (11). The suffering and death of the apostle, and by extension, of every believer is the subject under consideration. Death is staring him in the face, and he is not in denial. The Corinthians on the other hand are enamored with eloquence, power, and appearance. Suffering and death in this cultural context are out of style.

But Paul aims to keep the cross central to Christianity. His focus is that Christian hope can survive, even thrive, in the face of suffering and death. “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God” (3:4) “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (3:12); “Therefore …we do not lose heart” (4:1); “So we do not lose heart” (4:16). He says in 5:6 “So we are always of good courage”, and again in 5:8 “Yes, we are of good courage”

How can we be unshaken in the face of suffering and death? Paul tells us that it matters what you look at (4:18). We are to look not at what is seen, but at that which is not seen, the eternal weight of glory that our sufferings are preparing for us.

He held out the hope of the resurrection in 4:14.

2 Corinthians 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

This is it! Being in the presence of Jesus! Here in chapter 5 he details what this unseen reality consists of; his hope, the hope of the resurrection, and what happens to a believer at death.

Theological Thinking Shapes Feeling and Living

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…

Paul answers criticism and fear with truth. Doctrine. Theological truth. He knows something, and the truth he knows shapes how he feels, how he responds, how he lives. Knowing (v.1, 6, 11) punctuates this passage. There is something we know. What we know gives confidence even in the face of outer destruction and death. Theological truth gives hope and fuels perseverance. So what is that truth?

Ironically this passage has been the subject of much scholarly debate over exactly what Paul meant by what he said, some even so bold as to accuse Paul of changing his view between the writing of 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5. These interpreters seem to ignore one of the fundamental principles of biblical interpretation; if your interpretation of a passage makes it contradict what is plainly taught elsewhere in Scripture, then your interpretation is wrong.

The Resurrection at the Coming of Christ

Many scholars have stumbled over the present tense of the verb ‘we have’ in verse 1.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Paul has been contrasting the temporary with the permanent, the outer person and the inner person, the seen and that which is not seen. He points to the ‘tent that is our earthly home,’ a clear reference to our present earthly body, which he makes explicit in verse 6 when he says ‘while we are at home in the body‘. Our earthly home, the tent (remember Paul was a tentmaker by trade) is our body. He is looking to the destruction or literally the taking down of that tent. He has been talking about affliction, persecution and death in the immediate context. Now he looks at what we know will happen to the believer at the death of this body.

Some interpreters assume that the present tense ‘we have’ must mean that immediately after death, the Christian receives his resurrection body. But this would contradict what he taught in 1 Corinthians 15, that it is at the return of Christ that we all receive resurrection bodies.

1 Corinthians 15:21 …by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:51 … We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

The resurrection of the dead will happen at the last trumpet. He also teaches this plainly in 2 Thessalonians 4, teaching about those who have ‘fallen asleep,’ a metaphor for death.

2 Thessalonians 4:14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Paul is teaching that at the coming of the Lord, at the last trumpet, the dead in Christ will be resurrected, and the believers who are alive at his coming will be transformed.

The Tenses of Confident Hope

So what does he mean here, when he says that ‘we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’? This is part of an ‘if’ statement that is looking toward a future event. If our current home, our physical body is destroyed, we have an eternal heavenly home, a building prepared for us by God. As we see elsewhere in the Scriptures, verb tenses can indicate confident hope. In Romans 8:30, Paul describes the believer as glorified (past tense), not because it has already happened, but because God has begun his work in us and has promised to bring it to completion, and because of his faithfulness to his promises, it is as good as done. The believer in Jesus, facing death, can be confident that ‘we have a building from God, a household not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ He promised it and it is as good as a present possession.

Longing and Groaning

In verses 2-4 he voices his longing. This word ‘longing’ indicates a strong desire, as an infant craves milk (1 Pet.2:2). Usually in the New Testament it is used in relational terms; earnestly longing to see a dear friend or loved one (Rom.1:11; 2 Cor.9:14; Phil.1:8; 2:26; 1Thess.3:6; 2Tim.1:4; Jas.4:5)

2 Corinthians 5:2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

He speaks of an intense longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, and a groaning, a sighing under the present weight. In this, this tent that is being taken down, under the present pressure a sigh escapes. We are being made new day by day as we look to the unseen, and yet we have a deep longing for more.

We have looked before at the parallels between Romans 8 and our passage. These become even more clear and helpful here. In the context of suffering and future glory, in the context of that which is seen and what is unseen, he points to this groaning.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The groaning of the believer, who has already received the Spirit as a guarantee, is a longing for freedom from corruption, the freedom of glory. This longing is for the redemption of our bodies. We long to be clothed with the glory of resurrection life.

But I Don’t Want to Be Found Naked

Here he introduces the concept of being exposed or found naked, and being unclothed. He is expanding on his conception of the mortal body as a tent that is being taken down. If the mortal body is a tent that is being done away with, and if our hope is for our resurrection bodies, the imperishable glorious spiritual body, a dwelling from God not made with hands, then this hope must wait for its full realization until the resurrection. But what happens if there is a period of time between my death and the resurrection? It seems we will be in some sense a naked soul, a naked seed, not clothed by a body.

We see this in passages like Revelation 6:9-11, where the souls of those slain for the word of God and for their witness cried out “O Sovereign Lord, …how long?” ‘they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer.’

In contrast to the Greek and Gnostic philosophy of his day, which viewed release from the flaws and constraints of the body a desirable condition, Paul did not view this as desirable. We were made to be embodied. He longed not to be unclothed but to be overclothed. The word in verse 4 ‘further clothed’ is a compound word that indicates putting something on over something else. Paul’s desire is that ‘we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed’, that his perishable body would put on the imperishable (1Cor.15:51-52) at the coming of Christ.

To Be With Christ is Far Better

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

God has made us for this. He has guaranteed that we will possess it. We will be clothed with a spiritual body. It is in this context that he gives us the second thing he knows. We know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord.

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

This life is a life of looking at what we can’t see. As Peter put it,

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We walk now by faith, not sight. While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. But one day, one day we will see him.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Although Paul does not desire to be unclothed, although he would rather be alive at the coming of the Lord and be overclothed, he would rather be unclothed, away from the body if that means to be at home with the Lord. This is the same thing he says in Philippians

Philippians 1:20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

To depart is to be with Christ. To be at home with the Lord is far better. To live is Christ. To live in the flesh is fruitful labor for others; the cross-shaped life. But to die is gain. To be with Christ is what we long for. To see him. Face to face. To know him as we are fully known (1Cor.13:12). To be at home with him. That is why we do not lose heart. That is why we are always of good courage.

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

October 29, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment