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Luke 2:14; Peace Among Men of Good Pleasure

12/15 Advent: Luke 2:14 Peace among Men; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191215_peace-among-men.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift, the gift beyond fully telling, the gift that must be told over and over and over again, the gift we must remind ourselves and our families and one another to take time to treasure, to ponder and take pleasure in. The inexpressible, the indescribable, beyond words greatest gift of all time.

God’s Glory Primary

We are looking at the chorus of the angelic multitude as they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Luke 2:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

We saw last time that what is primary is the glory of God. It matters that the first thing the angels said was ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ The highest goal of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Another way to say this is that the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus in his coming, in his life and in his death and resurrection was pursuing above all else the glory of God. Jesus came to rescue us from our insistence on glorifying created things rather than the Creator, who is worthy of all glory, to free us from being glory thieves who pursue our own glory, to restore us to our purpose of living all of life to the glory of God. This is primary. It’s important that we keep first things first.

Second Place

The thing the angel choir put in second place was peace on earth among men of good will. Peace is important. But only when God’s glory gets first place will we be able to enjoy genuine peace that endures.

What is this peace? And who does this peace come to? The King James version has this verse as

Luke 2:14 (KJV) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Songs like ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ and ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ have memorialized the words of the angels as ‘peace on earth, good-will to men’ That sounds global, like a declaration of peace to all mankind. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned his poem on Christmas day 1863, during the American Civil War, the year his son had joined the Union army without his permission, and had been severely wounded in battle. You can hear him wrestling with these words in this verse:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Where is this peace the angels sang of? Is that what it actually means? Does the angelic declaration announce peace and goodwill to all mankind? What kind of peace is this?

The second part of the angels praise corresponds to the first. Glory in the first corresponds to peace in the second. In the highest corresponds to on earth. God corresponds to men of good pleasure. It answers the questions ‘what, where, and to whom?’ Glory or peace, in the heavens or on earth, to God or to men of good pleasure. God is glorified in the highest. To us is announced peace on this earth.

Peace

Let’s back up and take in this staggering scene:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

A multitude of the heavenly host. These are military terms. The multiplied hosts of heaven; the armies of heaven appearing in battle array. We are told what they say, but not how they said it. It could have been in song, it could have been shouted, it could have been chanted in military cadence. The infantries of heaven appear in battle array bearing a declaration of peace.

Peace. What is this peace they declare? We need to understand what this peace is. What kind of peace did Jesus bring? We can quickly identify what it is not. Jesus said:

Mark 13:7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. (cf. Mt.24:6; Lk.21:9)

So the peace that Jesus brings is not a military peace, not the absence of wars, at least not at his first coming.

Nor is it peace in relationships among people. Just ten chapters after the angelic declaration, Luke records Jesus saying:

Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (cf. Mt.10:34)

And he goes on to describe the conflicts he will create within families.

In John 16, Jesus talked of a time when all his followers would be scattered, a time ‘when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (v.2). Then he promised his followers:

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

So Jesus does bring peace to his people, but the peace that Jesus brings is peace in the midst of tribulation. Not international peace (not yet) and not interpersonal peace (not yet), not even personal peace and safety, but peace in him. The peace Jesus brings is other-worldly peace, peace that passes understanding.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This is otherworldly peace, not peace that changes our circumstances, but peace that conquers our fears. The apostles heralded this peace through Jesus Christ. Peter said to the Gentile household of Cornelius:

Acts 10:36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened…

And then he went on to recount the life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, and he concludes

Acts 10:42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The good news of peace through Jesus Christ is peace with God, the forgiveness of sins through his name. This peace comes as a gift to everyone who believes in Jesus.

In the book of Romans, after explaining the concept of sinners counted by God as righteous not because of their own works but because they trust in Jesus, it says

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace that Jesus brings is peace in our relationship to God. We were weak, helpless, ungodly sinners, enemies of God and fully deserving of his just wrath. But because Christ died for us, that severed relationship is made whole; we can have peace with God. And this reconciled relationship with God produces great joy.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Good news of great joy!

Men of Good Pleasure [ευδοκια]

To whom does this peace come? If we are right in defining the peace as peace with God, a reconciled relationship, then not everyone experiences this peace. The testimony of Jesus and the Apostles is unified that this peace comes to everyone who believes in Jesus, and only to those who believe in Jesus. This is not universal peace, because not everyone will believe. This phrase of angelic praise actually qualifies the peace. This is translated in the King James as.

KJV: …and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The comma makes it seem like there are two distinct things here, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. And this should cause us to ask ‘What does that even mean? Whose good will?’ Is this the good will of man toward man; nothing more than the warm sentiment ‘I wish you well’ toward our fellow man?

The ESV and NASB both translate this phrase ‘peace among men (or among those) with whom he is pleased.’ Rather than two things, the good will defines to whom this peace comes. The NIV renders this ‘peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ Wycliffe gave us a very literal translation ‘in earth peace be to men of good will’

This word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ modifies and defines the ‘men’ in the sentence. Literally, it says ‘to men of good pleasure’ What does it mean to be a person ‘of good will’ or ‘good pleasure’? Does this mean that God is pleased with the performance of some people, so he gives them his peace? This option is excluded on the grounds of the teaching of the rest of the New Testament:

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2 Timothy 1:8 …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,

There was only one man who ever totally pleased God with his life:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (cf. Mt.12:18; 17:5; Mk.1:11; Lk.3:22; 2Pet.1:17)

The clear teaching of the New Testament is that peace with God comes to those who don’t deserve it, who didn’t earn it, to those who simply believe the promises of God. The well pleasing life of Jesus is credited to the account of those who embrace Jesus as their King.

Looking at other places this word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ shows up might help get a clearer picture of what is meant here. Luke uses this same word in chapter 10

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (cf. Mt.11:26)

Jesus rejoices in the gracious will, the good pleasure of his Father in hiding things from the self-righteous and revealing them to the humble. The verb form shows up again in Luke 12:32

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The same word shows up twice in Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

This word points to the mystery of the good pleasure of God’s will. It is God’s gracious purpose, what God is pleased to do, what God wants to do and chooses to do. On earth peace to men who are objects of God’s good pleasure. This is not the well-wishing of man toward man. This is not that God is impressed with the performance of some or responds to the initiative of some. This is good news of great joy to undeserving sinners! This is good news to unexpecting ordinary shepherds. To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! This message came to some shepherds. It did not come to Herod the Great, not to Caesar Augustus, not to the scribes and pharisees, not to the religious leaders, not to the Jewish High Priest, but to some shepherds who were out watching over their flocks at night.

Luke 10:21 …“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

God’s grace, his undeserved favor is extended to sinners. It was his good pleasure, his gracious will to reveal this to shepherds.

This message of peace with God is the gospel of great joy that will extend to all the people.

Response

Notice the response of these simple shepherds to this gospel presentation.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

These shepherds heard the good news. They talked to one another about it. They resolved to go see. They went with urgency. They went and found things exactly as the angel had promised; the message of good news was confirmed. So they made the message known. They told everybody! Good news of great joy for all the people! Good news of a birth, good news of a person. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. All who heard wondered, marveled. Some treasured. Some pondered. The shepherds returned glorifying God.

Good news has been proclaimed to you. Jesus came for you. The shepherds provide us with a great example of how to respond to the good news. Be like the simple shepherds. Hear the gospel. Believe the gospel. Make the gospel known. Give glory and praise to God for the gospel. Give him thanks for his greatest gift. This is the sure path to lasting peace, to genuine joy.

***

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

December 17, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2:14; Glory to God in the Highest

12/08 Glory to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191208_glory-to-god.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift is beyond fully telling, so we must tell of it over and over at different times and in different ways. We owe him our thanks and worship and praise, because he is the giver of every good gift. We must look at different aspects of his most glorious gift, and encourage each other to treasure and cherish and savor his good gift, and continually come to him with thanks.

The Christmas story is a familiar story to most of us, so we need to guard ourselves from becoming numb to its glory and taking it for granted. It’s easy to yawn and say ‘yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.’ The gift we received that very first Christmas is glorious beyond expression, so we must continually seek to give fresh expression to its glories and encourage one another to taste and enjoy and worship.

Today and next week, I want to take the very first Christmas carol sung by the angelic choir announcing the birth of our Lord and listen carefully to what it declares. Songs mean things, and it is good to stop and listen to what we are saying in our singing.

Listen to the familiar story once again from Luke 2:

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Announcement

This story is full of wonder. There is so much here. We can’t take it all in. First, listen to the angel’s announcement:

Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

The angel brought good news. News of great joy. And not just for the shepherds. Not even just for the Jewish nation. This good news of great joy is for all the people. For the world! For you and me, today! What was that good news?

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

Born in Bethlehem, today, is a Savior. A rescuer. A deliverer. One who will rescue you from the greatest threat to your peace and happiness.

The identity of this rescuer is the Christ, the promised one, the long awaited anointed Son of David.

And the identity of this one is staggering. Christ, the Lord. No mere human king, not only a physical descendant of David the king. He is that, but he is more. Christ the Lord. King of kings and Lord of lords, YHWH God of the Old Testament, himself come down. God with us. Immanuel. The Rescuer born is God himself.

This one is born to you, for you, for your benefit. Good news of great joy. For you, personally, and for all the people.

This next line is almost as startling. God himself born to rescue you, what will that look like?

Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

A baby? God with us as a helpless newborn? God swaddled? Omnipotent God wrapped up tightly in strips of cloth so he feels secure and can’t roll around and wiggle too much?

The long anticipated King of the line of David, God with us, placed in a cold and slobbery stone trough that farm animals eat from?

The Angel’s Priority

As if this announcement is not stunning enough, suddenly the sky is ripped open to reveal the vast multitude of angel armies worshiping.

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Pay attention to what the angels said. They gave praise to God, because that is what angels are created to do. Notice where they start. They don’t start with a message of peace among men. That is an important message, and they will get to that. But that is second. It is not first. The salvation of humankind takes second place to the glory of God. Humans, like angels and all the rest of creation, were created to bring glory to God. That is the primary purpose of everything. That is why we exist. We were created to glorify God.

Our Failure to Glorify

We have failed miserably. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23) That was the sin of Satan. He was not content to give glory to God; he wanted to be like God and get glory for himself. That was the lie of Satan to our first parents in the garden, that rather than be content to give glory to God, you can be like God, and get glory for yourself. We failed to give God the glory he deserves (Rom.1:21-23). We fail to honor God as God, we rob him of worship, and treat him with ingratitude, we ignore him, act as if he doesn’t even exist.

That is what Jesus came to restore. Jesus came to elevate the glory of God back to its rightful place. Jesus said in John 7:18 that he ‘seeks the glory of him who sent him’.

The Story of the Glory of the LORD

Look back at verse 9.

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

The angels sing glory to God in the highest. When the angel appeared, the glory of the Lord shone around them. This is a magnificent event.

Tracing this theme of God’s glory back to the Exodus, God said that he would get glory over Pharaoh and his hosts. (Ex.14:4, 17-18). After the people were safely outside of Egypt,

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature. Our God is a consuming fire! (Deut.4:24; 9:3; Is.33:14; Lam.2:3; Heb.12:29)

God gave his people instructions to construct a special tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people and a weighty process by which he could be approached by sinful people. After the tabernacle was constructed,

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Once Israel was finally in the promised land, when Solomon finished building a permanent place for God’s presence to dwell,

2 Chronicles 7:1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house.

But the people did not remain faithful to the Lord. Their hearts went after other gods and committed spiritual adultery. As God warned, he sent them into captivity and the prophet Ezekiel (10:4, 18; 11:23) records his glory departing from his temple. Israel was sent into captivity. 70 years later, some of the exiles returned, and rebuilt the temple, but we are never told that God’s glory returned. For about 600 years of Jewish history, God’s glory was absent. God’s glory had departed.

And then, on one dark night in the Judean countryside, among a group of unsuspecting shepherds, the glory of the Lord blazed out in radiant splendor! Something awesome is happening! The glory of the Lord had returned to Israel! Glory to God!

Glory to God in the Highest

If the glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature, then God gets glory when his nature is acknowledged and worshiped. God is glorified when he is seen for who he is, when we tremble at him and treasure him.

God is constantly glorified among angel hosts. In Isaiah 6, we get a glimpse of worship around God’s throne where the six winged beings continually cry out:

Isaiah 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (cf. Revelation 4:8)

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s name would be revered, glorified on earth as it is in heaven (Mt.6:9-10). Jesus taught us to live in the world in such a way that we bring glory to God.

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.

The Chief End of Jesus

The angels announcing the birth of God the Son cried out ‘Glory to God in the highest. That takes priority. God’s glory comes first. The primary purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Let me say that another way; the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Jesus displayed the glory of God.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was 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. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus explained, displayed, exegeted the Father’s glory. He said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). He put the glory of God on display.

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

It was at the cross that Jesus most fully displayed the glory of God.

John 12:23 …“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. … 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

It was on the cross that Jesus displayed both the absolute justice and the unstoppable love of God. He put on display both the terrible wrath and the free and undeserved grace of God. He taught us to tremble and to treasure. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18), and it fell on Jesus on the cross.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Purpose Restored

Jesus gave us an amazing gift. He restored to us that for which we were created.

Luke 2:10 …good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…

Jesus rescued us from our own futility. From the futility of worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator. He restored to us the great joy that comes only in right relation, in worshipful relation to our glorious God.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thank God for the gift of bringing glory to God as we were created to do. We have been restored to our primary purpose. We were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus lived and died for the glory of his Father, and he gave us back the ability to live to the glory of God. He gave us the ability to live for something bigger than ourselves. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! Glory to God in the highest!

***

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

December 9, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift

12/01_2 Corinthians 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191201_2cor9_15.mp3

What are you frustrated with? Are there some things you’d like to change? What needs to be different? What needs to be fixed? What circumstances would you change if you could? Would you like to issue a complaint?

Complain

Deanna asked me if I could run to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things she had forgotten for thanksgiving. I had barely returned home, when she came up with something else we needed. Back to Wal-Mart, the lines were long, and I was in a hurry, so I decided to try one of the scan-and-go self check out lines. I never use self-check out. I’d much rather have a real human to talk to. Somebody who knows what they are doing. But I was in a hurry, so I thought I’d give it a try. There was a guy with only two items in a line, so I figured that would be pretty quick. But since he was buying a case of beer, someone had to come over and check his ID before he could complete his purchase. When I got up to the check out, there was an error message on the display. So the supervisor had to come over and clear that. The check-out wasn’t cooperating, so it took her a few tries to clear the error, and then I got to scan my first item. Of course you have to find where they hide the UPC label, but that went OK. Then I went to scan the second item, and it didn’t read it. So I tried again, and then it showed up twice. Supervisor to the rescue. She cleared the duplicate item for me. I was buying 8 of the last item, so while she was there, I asked if there was an easier way than to scan all 8 individually. She tried to scan one and enter a multiple of 7 more, but it didn’t work. She tried again, still no luck. So I just scanned the remaining 7 and I was on my way. But only after the machine tried to reject my card 3 times. Supervisor? Finally it worked. I was almost out the door, when I glanced at the receipt, only to find that I had been charged for that last item once, then 7 times, then 7 times again, then seven more times individually. So I went back to the supervisor, waited until she was done helping the next unsuspecting victim who was trying to use that self-check station, and showed her my receipt. She sent me off to the customer service desk, where they looked over my receipt and refunded my money. As I waited there, I commented to the workers that I never use the self check and won’t use it again. She responded ‘they’re going to make you. They’ve already reduced the number of cashiers working a regular check-out line, and they are going to continue until self-check out is your only option.’ I asked who I could call or write to to complain.

So often life doesn’t go our way. We can always find something to complain about. I think the lady with two shopping carts overflowing with thanksgiving fixings in the regular check-out line with a real human cashier made it out of the store ahead of me.

It is easy to find fault. Do you read the product reviews when you shop online? I’m looking at a product that has 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I start scrolling through the customer reviews, and I start reading this didn’t work and I didn’t get what was pictured, and it worked great for a month until it was just out of warranty and then it stopped working and it’s junk and don’t waste your money and buyer beware and this company doesn’t stand behind their product and you get what you pay for. Complain, complain, complain. We live in a culture of complaining.

Re-Frame

Now, I could look at my trip(s) to Wal-Mart through a different lens. I could count my blessings. When I got there, they had all 8 of what I needed right there on the shelf, in stock, plus some things I didn’t really need that I decided I wanted. The supervisor was friendly and was right there to help me when I needed help. Multiple times. Instead of just talking to one cashier, I got to talk to the supervisor, multiple times, plus the two workers at the customer service desk. And because I was delayed a few minutes, I was able to avoid all the traffic congestion when I picked up my daughter from middle school.

In fact I drove to the store. In a car. With enough gas to get there and get home again. The car didn’t break down. Of course, I could have walked. I am able, and I live close enough. I have a body that is capable of walking to the store. I had enough money to make the purchase(s). I have an amazing wife that happens to be an amazing cook and she (with the help of my amazing daughters) prepared some exceptionally tasty dishes for our thanksgiving meal.

I could look at my circumstances and inconveniences and complain, or I could look at my circumstances in a positive light and count my blessings. But there is nothing overtly Christian about just being positive rather than negative. And some of us have real legitimate things to complain about. Many people are positive, not just believers, some nauseatingly so. I think that it is better to be positive than to be negative and complaining, but we as followers of Jesus are called to something more, something higher than simply having a positive outlook.

Grace and Thanksgiving

Paul gives us something outside ourselves, beyond our circumstances to be thankful for. Paul writes two chapters encouraging us to generosity, to single-hearted openness, love for God and neighbor, and he concludes by saying:

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift. This is the 10th time he uses the word ‘grace’ in these two chapters, an undeserved, freely given gift. In 8:1 he pointed them to God’s grace given in the churches of Macedonia. In 8:4 they responded by begging for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. In 8:6 Titus is urged to complete this act of grace among the Corinthians. 8:7 exhorts them that as they excel in so many of God’s gifts, they abound in this grace also. 8:9 centers us on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in giving himself for us. 8:16 uses the word grace like it is here in 9:15 in the sense of thanksgiving; grace or gratitude back to God for what he has freely given. 8:19 describes the collection for the saints as a grace. 9:8 points us back to God as the source of all grace that enables us to overflow in good works. In 9:14 the Jerusalem saints will give thanks for the exceeding grace of God shown to the Corinthians. Grace to God for his inexpressible gift!

This word grace is the root of the word for thanksgiving in 9:11-12.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

We see the combination of these words back at 4:15

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

God’s gracious giving produces thanksgiving. As we experience God’s undeserved grace in our own lives, we extend grace to others, and God is glorified. Grace overflows into gratitude. Chapter 8 began with the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia. Chapter 9 concludes with God being glorified and receiving thanks because of his surpassing grace given to the Corinthians.

God the Ultimate Giver

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

The one who gives the gift deserves the thanks. In a section exhorting believers toward generosity to those in need, God gets the thanks because God is the ultimate giver. Although Christians are giving to other Christians, it is God who gets the thanks, because God is the source of all things. He is the one who supplies and multiplies seed for the sower and bread for food (9:10). He is the one who is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all, always, having all sufficiency, you may abound in all good work (9:8). Your abundance is God given, and it is meant for supplying the lack in others (8:14).

When on Christmas morning Ebenezer Scrooge shouted from his window and hired a boy to run and buy the prize turkey, and have it delivered to Bob Cratchit’s, it would not have been right for Bob to thank only the one who delivered the enormous bird. He was only the delivery boy. It would be right for him to try to find out who sent the most generous gift. It would be even more right for Bob Cratchit to thank the Lord for changing the heart of Scrooge. God is the ultimate giver. God loves a cheerful giver, because God is a cheerful giver. All thanksgiving belongs to God.

Gift Inexpressible

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Inexpressible gift. This word to our knowledge is found nowhere else in Greek literature until Paul, and only found here. It is a compound that Paul probably made up to express his thought here. Unspeakable, inexpressible, indescribable; it is unable to be thoroughly told. God’s gift is beyond our capacity to comprehend, much less describe. Paul in Ephesians 3 prays for the believers to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being, that they would have strength to comprehend the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. We need supernatural help to comprehend the love of God for us.

Here is irony. The gift of God is inexpressible, and Paul writes to tell us about it. Language fails, so he makes up new words to attempt to communicate the inexpressible. The fact that God’s gift is unable to be fully told does not stop Paul and the other biblical authors from preaching and declaring and writing to communicate God’s gift. In fact, the truth that God’s gift is inexpressible mandates that we talk about it and keep talking about it, keep pursuing creative new ways to communicate the truth and wonder of the gospel.

Paul expressed the inexpressible back in 8:9

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Inexpressible grace! Inexpressible gift! That our Lord Jesus Christ, being eternally rich in relationship with his Father throughout all eternity, who being equal with his Father, existing in the very form of God (Phil.2:6). He didn’t cling to his equality with his Father, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. ‘He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2:8). Being rich, for your sake he became poor.

The gift that can’t be fully expressed, must be expressed. That which is beyond words must be put into words. The Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and set up his tent among us (Jn.1:1, 14). This is too wonderful for words, yet we must use words to communicate it.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Eternal God became man for my sake, for my good; that you by his poverty might become rich. He humbled himself to make me eternally blessed. He came to rescue me from sin and death and hell forever. He came to rescue me from myself. He came to give me the gift I don’t deserve. Forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation. He came to take what was broken and make it whole. He came to restore, to make all things new. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came for me, for my sake. He came for sinners.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

We are called to wonder. God intends for us to stop and look, to put our hand over our mouth and be amazed. To be in awe. To be stunned and staggered by the sheer magnitude of God’s goodness and grace. Be still and know that I am God (Ps.46:10).

We are to be like the demon possessed man who was still, seated at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, eager to be with Jesus. Jesus told him:

Mark 5:19 …“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

We are meant to experience the indescribable grace of God to us, to marvel. And then to express the inexpressible to others so that they can marvel with us.

***

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

December 3, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, advent, 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