PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus; Love and Obedience

09/13 Love and Obedience (John 14-15; 1 John 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200913_love-obedience.mp3

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

We’ve been talking about obeying Jesus. We obey what Jesus commands us when we believe in him, see him in all the Scriptures, abide in him and pray to him, give him our primary allegiance, treasure him above all else, and anticipate his coming. We obey him when we proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the triune God, and endure suffering for the sake of his name. We honor Jesus when filled with the Holy Spirit, we walk by faith, rest, worship and remember him, when we love God, neighbor and enemy, when love one another and extend hospitality to others, and in humility serve the least.

Love – The Motive for Obedience

There’s a lot that Jesus expects of his followers, but we must understand the motive, where our obedience comes from. Jesus said:

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Obeying everything Jesus commands must be rooted in love for him. Obedience flows out of love. If we love, we will obey. Obedience is evidence of love. We may say that we love Jesus, but if we don’t obey him, it demonstrates that we don’t really love him. Obedience flows out of our affections for Jesus. We want to do what pleases him because we love him. That’s the only sustainable kind of obedience.

Love and Obedience in Deuteronomy

I want you to see that this connection between love and obedience is not new with Jesus. What Jesus teaches is in continuity with the Old Testament. In the Ten Commandments, God requires that we worship no other gods, and that we do not use images in our worship, because he is a jealous God who punishes iniquity,

Deuteronomy 5:10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In Deuteronomy 6, we are told that the commandments were given so that God’s people would fear him.

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. …5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

We are commanded to love God with heart and soul and might, and if we love God, we will love his commandments; we will keep them on our hearts and on our lips and we will pass them on to others.

In Deuteronomy 7, God is described as

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

God keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him, those who keep his commandments. The flip side of this is that he repays to their face those who hate him. To refuse to keep his commands is to hate him.

This sounds harsh, but we need to back up in Deuteronomy 7 and look at what comes before: He warns them to guard themselves against anything that would turn their hearts away from following the Lord.

Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

You are a set apart people, a people freely chosen by God above other people. You are treasured, his treasured possession. You have been rescued and redeemed, God loves you because he loves you. Therefore, know that this God who is God above all is faithful, and he keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. God initiates. We are to reciprocate. We are to love because he first loved us.

Jesus’ Obedience to His Father

In John 14, Jesus is talking about leaving his disciples and he promises to send the Holy Spirit to be in them. He is on his way to the cross. At the end of John 14, Jesus holds up his own obedience as a proclamation of his own love for the Father.

John 14:31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Do you know why Jesus died on the cross? Because God so loved the world. Because he was made sin on my behalf. In order to drink the cup of God’s wrath that I deserve, as the Lamb of God sacrificed in my place. Those are all right answers to why Jesus died. But here in John 14, Jesus says that he is ‘obedient’ to his Father ‘to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2:8) so that the world may see his love for his Father. Christ’s obedience to the command of his Father is the most powerful demonstration of God the Son’s own love for his Father.

Jesus invites us to proclaim our love for him by our obedience.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:21

John 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

The one who has and who keeps the commandments of Jesus is the one who loves Jesus, and is the one who is loved by both the Father and the Son.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Here the opposite is stated; it is the one who does not love Jesus who does not keep his words. And Jesus’ words are the Father’s words. To disobey Jesus’ words is to disobey the Father who sent him.

Abiding and Obeying

In John 15, Jesus invites his followers to abide in him, in intimate communion and relationship, like branches in the true vine, so that we bear much fruit.

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Jesus is saying that the proof of a genuine disciple is about remaining in his love, remaining in intimate communion and fellowship with him.

He says ‘as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’ Did you hear that? Exactly how deeply and profoundly does the Father love his only Son? That is the kind of love Jesus has for you! That should cause our knees to buckle! And this is past; ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you’; indicating the fullness, the completeness of his love. The command to us is to abide, to remain in his love. How do we do that? How do we remain in his love? We keep his commandments, just as Jesus kept his Father’s commandments and abides in his love. Our obedience demonstrates our love. We abide, we remain in close and intimate relationship with him.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…

It is Jesus’ words coursing through our veins and our asking connection to him in prayer and his Spirit living inside, empowering our fruitful action that characterize this abiding. This is New Covenant Spirit wrought obedience, in accord with Ezekiel 36:27

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. The Holy Spirit is the effective cause of our obedience. Jesus says:

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…

Jesus’ purpose for us is that we bear much and abiding fruit to the glory of God.

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Love, Abiding, and Obedience; 1 John

If our fruitful abiding is characterized by obedience to his commands, and if our obedience is an outworking of our love for him, where does this love come from? We see this same connection between obedience and love in the letter of 1 John.

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. …

1 John 3:24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

John again connects this abiding with keeping his commandments with the transforming New Covenant work of the Holy Spirit.

1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. That’s what loving God looks like. And his commands are not a burden but a joy.

The Source of Love;

So where does this love that expresses itself in obedience come from? John tells us.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

God is love. If we truly love God and love one another, it is evidence that we have been born of God, born again by the Spirit. Love is from God, and it is produced in us by the new birth.

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Love is from God, and God displayed his love by sending his only Son Jesus to be crucified as the wrath propitiating sacrifice for our sins. This is where love comes from.

1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John here connects abiding with the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all who confess Jesus. Where does our love originate? We look to Jesus, to the cross. We come to know and believe the love that God has for us. Our love is derived from the love that God has for us. Our love is rooted in God, who is love, who ‘loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’

1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

God’s love made manifest in Christ on the cross brings about our confidence for the day of judgment. Because God loved us by sending his Son to die for us, all fear of God’s just punishment is cast out forever. Here it is:

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

We obey Jesus because we love him and desire to please him. We love because he first loved us. He chose us to be his own treasured possession. We have been set apart, loved, rescued, redeemed. We love because he first loved us. We can’t understand love, we don’t even know love apart from his love.

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

Love is demonstrated in obedience, and we love because he first loved us.

***

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

September 15, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: What Makes Jesus Mad? Do Not Hinder Them!

09/06 What Makes Jesus Mad? Do Not Hinder Them (Mark 9, 10); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200906_children-come.mp3

As followers of Jesus, we are to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples to obey Jesus and who teach others to follow and obey Jesus.
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Indignant [ἀγανακτέω]
If we claim to love and follow of Jesus, we want to do what he says. The last thing we would want to do is what we know displeases him. There is a word that shows up 7 times in the New Testament, translated ‘indignation’; ‘moved with indignation’ (ASV), ‘much displeased’ (KJV), angry (NLT, GNT) or furious (ISV). It’s a compound word ‘much – grief’, to be greatly afflicted.
Let’s look at how this word is used. The ten disciples were indignant that James and John leveraged their mom in an attempt to secure for themselves the best places in the coming kingdom (Mt.20:24; Mk.10:41). All the disciples were indignant at the woman who wasted her costly ointment on Jesus (Mt.26:8; Mk.14:4). The synagogue ruler was indignant because Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, and told the people to come on the other six days to be healed (Lk.13:14). In Matthew 21, the chief priests and scribes were indignant because the blind and lame were made whole by Jesus, and the children were crying out in the temple.
Matthew 21:15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”
These things caused them much grief because they refused to believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. They were convinced he was leading people astray, and they were indignant.
Matthew 21:16 …And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
What Makes Jesus Indignant?
There is only one place where Jesus is said to be indignant. This word is used of Jesus in Mark 10.
Mark 10:13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
The disciples were trying to protect Jesus, rebuking the parents and restricting access to him. They were hindering children from coming to Jesus. And their action caused Jesus great grief. He was much displeased. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them…”
Why was Jesus indignant? His disciples were thinking wrongly, and their false beliefs needed to be corrected.
False belief # 1: Jesus is too important to take time for children. The disciples seemed to feel that Jesus was too important to have his ministry interrupted by children. He clearly has better things to do and shouldn’t be bothered. But ‘he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them’ (Mk.10:16). Jesus pushed his disciples and their agendas aside and made time to bless the little children. He came to love and serve the least. He came down from heaven ‘not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mk.10:45).
False belief #2: Kids are in the way of ministry; they aren’t the target of ministry. Adults are the ones we need to address, and get the kids out of the way. Actually, children are welcome, and adults need to become more like children if they are to participate at all in Jesus’ kingdom.
Mark 10:15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Kids eagerly accept a free gift. Adults are skeptical, asking how much it costs, and what is the catch.
We looked earlier at Matthew 21, where the chief priests and scribes were indignant toward Jesus because he was healing. It was the children who were captured by wonder and cried out in the temple ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’. It was children that recognized him for who he really was, it was children who welcomed him and heralded his coming. The adults were the ones who were skeptical and doubting and didn’t believe. They needed to become like children, willing to freely receive.
Who is the Greatest?
Why was Jesus indignant? If we look just one chapter earlier, we see something went down that should have clued his disciples in to be more sensitive to children.
Mark 9:33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
Just take a moment to imagine how that argument among the twelve might have gone. What were they saying?
Peter: remember when he said ‘blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah… you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church?’
Andrew ‘I followed John the Baptist, and I’m the one who brought you to Jesus’
James and John ‘we’re the sons of thunder, and our mom already made a deal with him’
Thomas ‘I doubt it’
Judas: ‘He trusts me with the finances’
Nathaniel ‘I’m an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’
Philip ‘but I’m the one who introduced you to him, and you said ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth?’
John ‘I’m the disciple Jesus loves, and I can outrun you!’
When Jesus asked them what they had been discussing, ‘they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.’
Mark 9:35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Jesus shows them that true greatness is serving others, not vainly pursuing celebrity status and power.
Mark 9:36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Jesus gave them a vivid object lesson. Receive children in my name. Receive children because I receive children. My Father receives children. If you want to be great, lower yourself to serve others, serve the least, serve children.
So in Mark 9, Jesus tells them to receive children in his name, because that’s what he is like, and in Mark 10 the disciples still have a worldly gauge of greatness and are hindering children from coming to him. No wonder he is indignant.
False belief # 3: following Jesus is about status and greatness, not about humbly serving others.
Jesus is angry when we get him wrong, and we get ministry wrong. Ministry is about humbly serving others. Jesus took time to love and serve the least. He came for the lost. Kids weren’t in the way of ministry, they were a great example of how we need to receive his ministry, not trying to earn but freely receiving.
How Do We Hinder?
If Jesus is passionate about letting the little children come to him, we need to ask ourselves, ‘How are we hindering children from coming to Jesus?’ Do we individually or as a church put obstacles in the way of children coming to him?
I say individually first and church second intentionally. Because the church is made up of individuals. And we as parents have the primary obligation to train our children to know and love and follow Jesus. This may shock you, but Sunday School is not in the Bible. Sunday School began less than 250 years ago as a way to educate children of the lower classes who were forced to labor in factories the other six days of the week.
Here is what Deuteronomy 6 has to say about training children.
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
You love God and you hide his word in your heart and you teach them diligently to your own children, sitting in your house, while you travel along, when you go to sleep, and when you get up in the morning. The primary responsibility to train children to love God belongs to the parents. In fact, Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers to ‘bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’
As a church we get to supplement what you parents are doing, and we get to serve kids who are not being trained by their parents.
So what are some ways we hinder children from coming to Jesus? Here’s a few that come to mind.
Hypocrisy; when what we teach our children doesn’t match what we do, we are hypocrites. If we don’t love God and hide his word in our hearts, if we don’t put God first in our priorities, how can we honestly teach our children to? Our hypocrisy hinders children from coming to Jesus, and I believe it is a major reason why so many walk away from the faith later in life.
How we view children often hinders them from coming to Jesus. Our society in general views children as a burden not a blessing. From the terrible two’s to the terrible teens, we view them as trouble, an inconvenience to be endured not enjoyed. Our culture in general is having less and less children, well below the replacement rate for our society. And we are quick to turn our responsibility to train them over to others. And we want them to like us so we don’t do what is good for them. Kids can be difficult, so we just don’t get involved. If we struggle with our own kids, we certainly don’t want to take on someone else’s.
Why? Why don’t we ‘bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’? Why are we hindering children from coming to Jesus? I think we embrace some of the same flawed thinking that the disciples used. Jesus is too important to waste his time with children. Adults are to be the focus of our ministry; kids distract and get in the way of ministry. And following Jesus is about status and greatness, not humbly serving others. When we embrace these lies, we hinder children from coming to Jesus.
As a parent, and as part of the church family, here are some practical reasons (excuses) we use for not bringing children to Jesus. I feel ill-equipped. I don’t know how to teach kids. They might ask a question I don’t have an answer for. I’m sorry, but you used that excuse last year. What have you done to remedy it? Get equipped. Get trained. Get discipled. If you used that excuse a year ago, you don’t get to use it again. Get involved. The best way to learn and grow is to start doing it.
But I’m not gifted that way. That’s OK, but if you are a parent, you have been called to it. If you belong to Jesus, you have been called by him to serve others. It’s been said ‘God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.’ God will give you what you need to do what he has called you to do. And we are a body made up of different parts with different gifts. So we should work together, supporting one another and encouraging one another. We need each other. None of us can do it alone.
But I just don’t have time. Make time. Make it a priority. Sanctify time- set it apart. What are you doing that matters for eternity? People matter for eternity. Kids matter for eternity. So cut things out. Change things up. Prioritize and quit the things that are less important that are keeping you from doing that which is most important.
As a parent, as a part of the body of Christ, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Our kids need to know that we all are sinners saved by grace. That we need a Savior and our only hope is Jesus Christ, who died for us so that we could live. Our kids need to see our relationship with Jesus in a way that makes them want to know him too.


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

September 7, 2020 Posted by | church, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Remember Me

08/30 Remember Me (Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200830_remember.mp3

Last time we talked about worship, the importance of who we worship and how we worship. We are to worship the one true God who reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because God is spirit, Jesus says, we are to worship in spirit and truth. We must be born again of the Spirit of God, empowered by his Spirit, and we must worship in line with the revealed truth of God’s word. We are to ascribe worth to God who alone is worthy of our attention, our affection, our devotion. We are to declare him worthy not only with our words and in our songs, but also with our actions and lives, with our time and attention. We looked at Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. Jesus said this is the good portion, the one thing that is necessary (Lk.10:38-42). There is no substitute for time spent at the feet of the Master. The disciples were shaped above all by this; ‘that they had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). Is it evident that you sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching? Do you give him your undivided attention? Are you known by the fact that you have spent time with Jesus?

We are looking at what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, what it looks like to obey everything he commanded us. We must sit at his feet and listen, and we must fall on our face before him and worship.

One of the most significant things, one of the most important things Jesus commanded happened over his final meal with his disciples before he went to the cross.

Luke 22:13 …they prepared the Passover. 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Two Ordinances

Jesus commanded his followers “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is one of only two ordinances that the protestant church recognizes; baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An ordinance is a prescribed practice, something we do, something that Christ commanded, the apostles perpetuated, and the early church practiced. Baptism is a one-time event, where a new follower of Jesus publicly proclaims his allegiance to Jesus, and it pictures the new birth. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, the Breaking of Bread is our subject today.

Passover

Notice in our text that this was a Passover meal. It was the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus told his disciples to “Go and prepare the Passover for us.” Jesus said “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover come from the Exodus. To understand what Jesus is commanding, we need to understand some of the background of what Passover is.

God chose Abraham and promised to bless his family and through them to bless the nations. Abraham, had Isaac, who had Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, whose 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. God had sent him ahead to preserve life. The family moved to Egypt to find provision during the famine, and 400 years later, the children of Israel were enduring bitter slavery and cried out to God for deliverance. He heard their cries for rescue and remembered his promises to Abraham and raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt.

Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

To Pharaoh God said:

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (cf. Rom.9:17)

The final plague that forced the release of Israel from Egypt was the death of the firstborn son in every household. But God gave them the provision that a lamb could be sacrificed and the blood applied to the door so that “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex.12:13).

God said:

Exodus 12:14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

The Israelites were to remember forever how God delivered them from Egypt. They were to observe the Passover as a perpetual reminder of what great things the Lord did for them.

It’s All About Me

Jesus and his disciples were remembering God’s deliverance of his people from bondage, and how he made provision for his people to be spared from his judgment through sacrifice and the blood applied. Jesus takes two of the things at the meal, unleavened bread (leaven is a symbol for sin), and wine (a picture both of the wrath of God and of joy and celebration) and re-directs their focus to himself. This is revolutionary; this is monumental! Jesus, celebrating the historic deliverance of the people of God from Egypt, turns it around and says it is now about me!

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Jesus turns the historic Passover celebration commemorating the exodus from Egypt and says they are now to remember him, his body broken and his blood that brings about the New Covenant.

His Exodus

Back in Luke 9, when Jesus was transfigured, it says

Luke 9:30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [ἔξοδος], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

They spoke of his ‘departure;’ literally his exodus which he was about to accomplish or fulfill. Jesus is the greater Moses who brings us out of our slavery to sin and into a reconciled relationship with God. Jesus is the greater deliverer who crushes a greater enemy and brings about a greater rescue. Jesus is the greater Passover sacrifice, the spotless Lamb who took our place and died to give us life (1Cor.5:7). Jesus accomplished a greater exodus.

1 Corinthians 11:23 …the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus takes the bread and wine of the Passover meal and re-orients us to remember him, his exodus, his sacrifice, his deliverance. He commands his followers to ‘Do this in remembrance of me… Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

Breaking Bread Together

When Peter preached at Pentecost,

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. This phrase can simply mean to have a meal together, as breaking bread was a common part of every meal. But this phrase seems to take on a special meaning when it is one of the four things that the church devoted themselves to. Then, in Acts 20, when Paul visited Troas, we are told

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,

The believers were gathering together on Sunday to break bread together and to listen to Paul preach.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul says

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Notice this is something we do together. We as one body, the body of Christ together bless the cup and break the bread. It is a participation in the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. This is something the gathered church does.

Discerning the Body

In 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul rehearses Jesus’ command to ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ he is correcting selfish abuses of what he calls Lord’s supper when the church came together to eat the bread and drink the cup. By the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians (around AD 53) not only did the church have an established practice of meeting on the first day of the week (1Cor.16:2) to break bread together, but they had already begun to lose sight of remembering Jesus and they were selfishly abusing this most sacred practice. Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Their selfishness destroys the point of the Lord’s supper. He reminds them of the words of our Lord, that this is to be done as a way to remember Jesus together. This is a way to proclaim the good news of the crucifixion and resurrection. And it anticipates Jesus’ coming again.

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

And it is not to be taken lightly.

1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

This is a gathered church thing, and we are to discern the body, the body of Christ, that we are members of one another, that we are one body. There are to be no divisions among us, because we ‘have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’ Jesus ‘himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.’ We have been ‘reconciled …to God in one body through the cross’ (Eph.2:13-16). We are not to despise the church of God and put ourselves above others. We are to discern that because of the cross, we are one body. This is serious thing we do.

1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

When you come together as the body of Christ, recognize the body; be considerate of one another.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Remember. We need to be reminded. Remember Jesus. Remember his body broken, his blood poured out, the once-for-all Lamb who paid our price in full. Remember the exodus he accomplished, how he set you free from bondage to worship the living God. Enjoy the benefits of the new covenant that he purchased with his blood. Recognize that you are now part of a body. You belong. To something bigger than you.

***

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

September 1, 2020 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Worship in Spirit and Truth

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

Wrath Revealed Against Worshipers

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

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

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 23 …exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

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

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

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

Worship Different From Service

During the temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4,

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

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

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

Worship Wars

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

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

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

Place To Worship

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

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

Who To Worship

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

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

Spirit and Truth

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

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

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

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

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

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

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

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

The I AM is Here

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

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

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

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

Jesus the Temple

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

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

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

Worship Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sit At Jesus’ Feet

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Obey Jesus: Baptize

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

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

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

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

The Command to Baptize

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

Baptizing Into

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

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

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

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

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

Who Can Be Baptized?

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

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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

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

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

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

Acts 16:30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

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

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

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

What Is Baptism?

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

Baptism is an Illustration of Death, Burial, and Resurrection

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

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

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

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

Baptism is Similar to Circumcision as the Sign of the Covenant

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

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

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

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

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

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

Baptism Follows Justification by Faith

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

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

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

Baptism Unites with the Body Of Christ

Paul goes on:

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

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

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

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

Baptism Pictures Washing Away Guilt

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

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

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

Baptism in Water or Baptism with the Spirit?

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

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

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

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

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

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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

Summary:

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

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

Jesus said:

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

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

***

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

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

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

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

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

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

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

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

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

Luke records it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tested Genuineness of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

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

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

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

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

The Steadfastness of Christ

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

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

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

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

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

The Lord is Faithful

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

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

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

Kept to Keep Yourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

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

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

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

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

Obey Jesus: Walk By Faith

07/26 Walk By Faith (Matthew 17; Luke 17; Mark 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200726_faith.mp3

Today I want to look at what Jesus taught about faith. Up front I want to distinguish between what we will call ‘saving faith’ and faith for other supernatural things short of salvation. We dealt specifically with the saving kind of faith or believing in Jesus at the beginning of our series on Obeying Jesus; because it is the most important thing Jesus commanded of us. Saving faith is the kind of faith we see in John 3:16

John 3:14 …the Son of Man [must] be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. …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 gave his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins at the cross, so that whoever has faith, whoever believes in him, whoever trusts in him, depends on him only and completely, will not perish but will have eternal life. That is what I mean by saving faith through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is primary. That is essential. If you’re not trusting only and completely in Jesus’ finished work for you on the cross, nothing else I will say matters at all. I must understand that I am a sinner and as such I deserve God’s wrath. But God’s wrath toward me was poured out on his only Son Jesus on the cross, so that by faith, by trusting in him, I am brought in to a relationship with God, forgiven, accepted, loved. We will come back around to this at the end and see how this all connects, but that is not the focus of what I want to look at today.

Jesus disciples said ‘increase our faith!’ Jesus reprimanded his followers on several occasions ‘O you of little faith.’ He made their success in doing what he called them to do contingent on faith in contrast to doubting. We will call this ‘walking by faith’ as we follow Jesus, in contrast to ‘living by faith’ or having new life given to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

One of the reasons I want to look at this today is there is a good deal of misunderstanding around some of the passages we will look at, even some dangerous teaching. By looking at those in their context we will be able to gain a clearer understanding of what they mean, and ultimately of what it means to walk with Jesus by faith.

O Faithless Generation; (Mt.17:14-20; Mk.9:18-29)

In Matthew 17, Jesus is coming down from the mount of transfiguration with three of his closest disciples.

Matthew 17:14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

Jesus rebukes the whole generation for being faithless and warped. This would include everyone; the religious leaders, the crowds, the father, even his own disciples. They are rebuked for their lack of faith. Mark’s account includes a conversation between Jesus and the father of the boy.

Mark 9:21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

This father had already asserted that Jesus’ disciples ‘could not heal him’. Now he asks Jesus if he is able to do anything for them. He frames his request to Jesus with doubt. ‘If you can.’ If you are able to do anything to help us, have compassion on us.

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus confronts this father’s lack of faith head on. He quotes back to him his own words ‘if you can’. Do you know who you are talking to? I can’t think of any time where it would be appropriate to use these words in prayer. God, if you are able… God is able. Omnipotent. That is what it means to be God. Nothing is impossible with God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:3)

What does the word ‘faith’ or ‘believe’ actually mean? The root of this word group [πείθω] means ‘to be persuaded or convinced’. To believe is to be so persuaded of something that you trust in it, you depend on it, you put your weight on it.

Faith in a Tree

Faith can be misplaced or well placed. I once put my trust in a tree. I was hiking up the steep slope of a mountain, and I reached out to steady myself on a tree, and I ended up maybe a hundred yards below the tree, unconscious, bleeding, with a fractured skull. The tree was strong enough, but I didn’t realize it was wet and slippery. It was my grip that failed. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. It doesn’t matter how strongly you believe something. If you believe the wrong thing, it will let you down, and it may let you down hard.

This father of the demon possessed boy began to see that he was looking more at his own hopeless circumstances than he was at who it was who was standing in front of him, ready and willing to help. He begins to recognize his own need. and prays a good prayer to Jesus. His first request was prefaced by ‘if you can do anything to come to our aid’. Now he prays ‘Come to the aid of my unbelief’. Never underestimate the power of God. Jesus is able to take unbelief and change it into faith.

Little-Faith [ὀλιγόπιστος]

Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 21 —

The disciples want to know where they went wrong. And as with the boy’s father, Jesus points to their little faith. They failed to cast out the demon because of their little faith. Jesus uses a compound word ‘little-faith’; and the ‘little’ can be lacking in extent, in degree, in duration or in value. It could mean that they didn’t have strong enough or big enough faith; they didn’t believe hard enough, or that they didn’t believe long enough, or it could mean that their faith lacked value; it was lacking because it was misplaced. Jesus makes it clear that it is not the quantity or size of the faith that matters; he says if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, which is a very tiny seed, you can move mountains; nothing will be impossible for you. So he must mean little faith in the sense of lacking in value; or misplaced faith.

Failed Faith or Prayer?

It is interesting to compare Matthew’s account with Mark’s. In Mark’s account, when the disciples ask Jesus privately why they were not able to cast out the demon, Jesus answers “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” This is surprising, because in none of the three accounts, Matthew, Mark or Luke, does Jesus pray. But he had just come down from being with his Father on the mountain. In Matthew, Jesus gives the reason as their little faith, or faith of little value; misplaced faith; In Mark Jesus gives the reason as a lack of prayer. The one with faith in God, who really trusts in God, who is depending on God, expresses that dependence through prayer, asking God to do what only he can do.

Moving Mountains, Uprooting Trees

The disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5

Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Jesus’ answer to his disciples is the same. It is not the quantity of your faith that is the problem. Mustard seed faith is enough. Faith like a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains and uproot trees.

Have you ever tried that? Tried to move mountains with your faith? I have. I grew up in Minnesota, so I’d never really seen mountains. I think it was around second grade when we took a family road trip out through Glacier National Park in Montana. That’s where we found out I needed glasses because I couldn’t even see the mountains until we got pretty close. I had heard these verses growing up. And with the faith of a seven year old looking out of the back seat window of our station wagon at the majestic mountains of Montana, I wanted to see if the Bible was really true. I believed as hard as I could. And all Montana thanks God that nothing happened. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God were obligated to uproot mountains at the whim of every seven year old around the planet! Remember, faith is not some superpower like the force. Faith, like prayer, is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

Promises of Prayer with Faith

In Matthew 21, Jesus connects faith with prayer.

Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Jesus made some audacious promises to his followers about prayer.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

‘Whatever you ask I will do’ is qualified by ‘whoever believes in me’ and ‘whatever you ask in my name,’that the Father may be glorified.’ We as believers, are to ask in the name of Jesus, which means that we ask for what Jesus would ask for, pursuing the glory of the Father. As John puts it,

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Prayer is unstoppable when it is aligned with the will of God. Faith accomplishes the impossible when it is placed in what God has revealed in his written word to be his will.

Faith: Fully Convinced God is Able to Do What He Promised

I think the clearest definition of faith in the Bible is Romans 4:20-21. Talking about Abraham’s faith.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Faith ultimately brings glory to God as it realizes God’s impossible promises. We ask in prayer with faith when we take God at his word, believing he will do what he has said, and asking him to do it.

Unbelief and Jesus’ Inability

There is a passage in Mark 6 that is often misunderstood and misapplied. It is when Jesus came to his hometown in Nazareth, and all were astonished because of his wisdom and mighty works, but they began to question where he got these things because they were familiar with him and his family.

Mark 6:4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

I have heard people say that the unbelief of the people tied Jesus’ hands, so that he was unable to do the works he wanted to do, and then they draw the conclusion that our unbelief holds back the power of God to do supernatural things in our lives now, and conversely it is our faith that unlocks or activates the power of God in our lives.

This is dangerous for multiple reasons. It is dangerous because it undermines the sovereignty of God and make his power contingent on us and our faith. God is absolutely sovereign; he does whatever he pleases. After Nebuchadnezzar was warned, then humbled by God because of his pride, when ‘his reason returned’ to him, he acknowledged that

Daniel 4:35 … he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Saying that our unbelief limits the power of God, and that Jesus cannot overcome our unbelief is dangerous because it undermines the New Covenant promises of God. God promises to remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezek.36:26). In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul tells us that God can and does overcome Satanic blindness.

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.

Implying that our unbelief limits Jesus’ power misreads the passage. It does say that Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except…” and then it goes on to list the few miracles of healing that he did do there. And it says in verse 6 that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” But it stops short of making unbelief the cause of the ‘could not’. If we look at Matthew’s account, he tells us not that he could not, but that “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” So the reason Jesus did not do many mighty works in Nazareth was because of unbelief. Putting Matthew and Mark together, we can say that Jesus could not do many mighty works there for an undefined reason, that he marveled at their unbelief, and that he did not do many might works there because of their unbelief. But we also have Luke’s account in Luke 4. Luke tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood to read. He read from the prophet Isaiah:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

This is where they began to question “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Luke actually tells us what their unbelief consisted of, and how their unbelief prevented Jesus from doing many might works in their town. They were disbelieving Jesus’ claim to be himself the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament. They disbelieved his identity as Messiah because they were familiar with him and his family. Jesus confronts their unbelief and desire to see signs, and then he points to the Old Testament examples where Israel was in unbelief, and God turned instead to bless Gentiles.

Luke 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee…

He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief in him as Messiah. He could not do many mighty works there because they drove him out of their town and attempted to execute him. Their rejection of Jesus as their promised rescuer, their rejection of him as the one bringing good news of salvation, their driving him out of their town cut them off from the other blessings he brought.

Could Jesus have overcome their unbelief in him as Messiah? Yes, but he came to die.

Could Jesus overcome their unbelief? He did, at least with some. James and Judas (or Jude), two of his half-brothers who had rejected him during his lifetime, after his resurrection came to believe in him, and went on to write letters now included in the New Testament.

Live by faith/ walk by faith

Let’s pull this together. Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. Saving faith is depending on Jesus alone as the fulfillment of God’s promises, trusting Jesus alone for our reconciliation with God. God ‘gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ You have his word on that. God can overcome your unbelief. Cry out to him ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’ and he will give you a new heart to believe in him. And having been made alive by faith, we also walk day by day with Jesus through faith, believing he is able do do what he has promised. Paul tells the Galatians:

Galatians 3:1 …It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

He tells the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,

We begin the Christian life by faith, and we walk day by day by hearing the word with faith.

***

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

July 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Hospitality

07/19 Hospitality (Lk.10, 19, 14, 7; Eph.2; Mt.25); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200719_hospitality.mp3

Last time we looked at the sabbath; God’s day of rest that commemorates both creation and redemption. Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest in him, and he will give us rest for our souls. He taught that we are to use his day to do good not evil, to save life, not to kill, to heal, to restore, to bless others. New Testament believers began to gather for worship on the first day of the week, resurrection day, the Lord’s day. We explored what it might look like and how we might benefit from setting aside time to worship and find rest for our souls.

Today I want to focus in on one way we could use our time to glorify God and love and serve others. I’d like to look at what Jesus taught about hospitality.

Love and Lodging for the Stranger [ξενία, ξενίζω, ξενοδοχέω, φιλονεξία, φιλόξενος]

The word group in the New Testament for hospitality is built around the word for ‘stranger, foreigner, or alien’; someone you don’t know. Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to show hospitality to strangers; Romans 12:13 tells us ‘Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.’ 1 Peter 4:8-9 tells us to keep loving one another even when we are sinned against, and to show hospitality without grumbling. 1 Timothy (3:2) and Titus (1:8) include ‘hospitable’ in the list of character qualities required of an overseer in the church. 1 Timothy (5:10) also lists ‘hospitable’ as a necessary quality of a widow eligible to be supported by the church. The words literally mean ‘to lodge or provide housing to a stranger’; ‘to receive a stranger’; or ‘to love the stranger’.

These words do not show up even once in the gospels. So did Jesus have nothing to say about hospitality? One way to answer that question would be to recognize the New Testament authors as fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples, ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt.28:20). Jesus said and did much that is not recorded for us in the four gospels (as John tells us; Jn.20:30-31; 21:25), so what we have in the non red letters of the New Testament is just as much Jesus’ teaching as the red letters.

Another way to answer this question is to look not just for the specific word but also for the concept or idea in Jesus’ teaching. And if we do that, we have plenty to work with.

Hospitality Away From Home

Jesus summarized the commandments of God by the vertical and the horizontal; love for God and love for neighbor. When pressed to define ‘neighbor’ by a religious person who was wanting to justify himself, Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk.10:33-37). The despised Samaritan was the one who proved to be a neighbor to the man in need. This traveling Samaritan was not able to bring the man into his own home, but he still extended hospitality; “when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” We tend to limit hospitality to having someone over to our home; Jesus shows us that hospitality can be practiced even when you are away from home, even if you don’t have a home.

Depending On Hospitality

When Jesus sent out his disciples, he instructed them to depend on the hospitality of others.

Luke 9:2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

Then in chapter 10, when he sent 72 ahead of him,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Jesus instructs his followers that those to whom they bring the good news are to provide for their needs through their generous hospitality. To extend hospitality was to receive a stranger into their home, to provide food and lodging, to care for his needs. For their hospitality, Jesus says, they will be blessed.

Luke 10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There was blessing for those who showed hospitality, and there were dire consequences for those who failed to show hospitality. Jesus took hospitality seriously!

Pride and Hospitality

Something we ought to note from this passage is that hospitality is a two-way street. Jesus was not talking to the people who would show hospitality; he was addressing his disciples who would be the recipients of hospitality. There is something important we need to learn here. Jesus is commanding his followers to graciously receive the hospitality that others extend to them.

In our pride, we want to be always on the giving end. It is humbling to receive hospitality from others. But Jesus instructs his followers how to be on the receiving end of hospitality.

In fact, Jesus led them in this by his own example. He told one would-be follower “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk.9:58). Luke 8 lists several women ‘who provided for them out of their means (8:2-3). Jesus graciously received hospitality from others.

Did you know that Jesus even invited himself over?

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Did you notice that Jesus invited himself over for a meal and to stay? Zacchaeus extended hospitality to him at Jesus’ request. Jesus was not only willing to associate with sinners, he was willing to receive hospitality from them. Jesus became the guest of a sinner, and was criticized for it. Notice also that his purpose was evangelistic.

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus brought good news, and his access to this house was humbling himself to receive hospitality from this house. Receiving hospitality was a way to seek and to save the lost.

Invite the Outcasts

On another occasion, when Jesus was invited to dinner by a ruler of the Pharisees,

Luke 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Our hospitality often can be an expression of pride. We attempt to impress others by the party we can throw, and the guests we invite. It is a way to show off status. Jesus tells us not to use hospitality that way. Invite the outcasts, the needy. We might say ‘I don’t want to invite them; my house is nice and they might mess it up.’ That’s pride.

On the flip side, it is often pride that keeps us from extending hospitality. Here are some common excuses we use for not showing hospitality; ‘I’m not sure I have enough’, or ‘I don’t want to invite anyone in; they will see that I don’t have it all together. I don’t have a very nice house.’ or ‘My house is a mess.’ The common root is pride; we think much of ourselves, and we want others to think much of us. But this kind of pride has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus.

The point is people. Jesus doesn’t even comment on the dinner or the environment. It was an appointment with a person he came to seek and to save. Have you ever noticed how much in the gospels happens over a meal, around a table? The Last Supper is a meal.

Pharisaic Hospitality vs. Prostitute Hospitality

Look at Luke 7. Here is another occasion where Jesus is invited over for a meal, this time to the house of Simon, a Pharisee.

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

The custom of the day was a low table in the center of the room, surrounded by mats or cushions, where guests could recline on one elbow with feet extending out away from the table. This often took place in a semi-public courtyard. What happens next is scandalous.

Luke 7:37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

This is an embarrassment to the host and his guests. This is a woman of the city, a woman with a bad reputation, a prostitute. She shouldn’t be there, and it is improper for her to approach the guests. This is a respectable dinner party. But she loses her composure, weeping at Jesus’ feet, lets down her hair and begins to massage his feet with her tears and her hair and kiss them earnestly and anoint them with her perfumed oil. This is sensual and unexpected and couldn’t be more awkward.

Luke 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Simon knows what kind of a woman this is who is attaching herself to his guest. And he begins to question his character. Simon is silently questioning to himself Jesus’ identity as a prophet. Jesus responds, ironically, by reading his thoughts and answering his unasked question with a story.

Luke 7:40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

This pharisee had shown Jesus hospitality. He had invited him for a meal. But it wasn’t because he loved Jesus. And he wasn’t looking to Jesus to meet his need. He didn’t acknowledge his own need. He didn’t think he had a debt, if anything he thought he was putting Jesus in his debt by having him over. Likely he was looking to test Jesus, to trap him, or at least to engage him in a lively theological debate. He didn’t care about Jesus. Jesus contrasts this pharisaic hospitality with prostitute hospitality.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

She came as a sinner, needy, broken, seeking forgiveness from the only one she believed could give it, and she found it. She was extending Jesus hospitality in the only way she knew how. She was honoring, she was worshiping. Rosaria Butterfield writes, “When Jesus receives the repentance of a sinner, he alone untwists that love from the bidding it has done in sin. Jesus receives her touch in purity, because he transforms what she gives.” Her love is a response to his forgiveness. The one whose greater debt was canceled loves more.

God’s Gospel Hospitality

So too with us. Our love, expressed horizontally in loving hospitality toward others, is an outflow of the welcome and hospitality which has been extended to us by God.

Ephesians 2 uses this term ‘strangers’ [ξένος] to describe us.

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

God exercised hospitality. God loved the stranger and took us in. At infinite cost to himself, he paid the price to bring us near.

Hospitality Horizontal and Vertical

Although the words for hospitality do not show up in Jesus’ teaching, the root of the ‘hospitality’ word group, the word ‘stranger’, [ξένος] does occur four times in one passage, Matthew 25, clearly in context dealing with this issue of hospitality. It is a context of final judgment, separating the righteous from the wicked.

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Hospitality is receiving or taking in or welcoming the stranger.

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus makes our horizontal hospitality, welcoming the stranger, one of the prime evidences that separates someone who knows him from someone who does not. In fact, all the things Jesus mentions here, feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned could all fall under the category of showing hospitality.

Both groups are bewildered. When did we ever do or not do these things to you? This is stunning! Our horizontal expressions of hospitality toward others our King receives as hospitality to himself. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

***

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

July 21, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rest, Recharge, Worship

07/12 Rest and Worship (Exodus 20:8-11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200712_rest.mp3

I spent last week at Grace Haven Bible Camp with 50 of your teens, and teens from several other churches, and I want to let you in on some of what we talked about. Lincoln, the youth leader from Alpine, and I went through the Ten Commandments together. When Lincoln first suggested the topic to me, I was hesitant. I texted him back ‘we are not under law…’ But the more I thought and studied, the more excited I got about the topic, and today I want to include you, because, Lord willing, some of what we talked about at camp will spill over into your homes. And I believe this fits well with what we have been studying the last few weeks about families and raising children. Today I want to look with you at the purpose of the law, and the fourth commandment specifically.

Jesus and the Law

Here are some things Jesus said about the Old Testament law.

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus did not come to abolish the law. When Jesus addressed God’s law, he lifted it up. He never tossed it aside. He raised the standard, he never lowered it. In fact he continues:

Matthew 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t want to be one who relaxes one of the least of these commandments, or one who teaches others to do the same. In Jesus’ teaching on the law, he always drove it deeper, to a heart level, dealing with inward desire, not merely external conformity. Not just the outward act of murder, but what about the hatred in your heart? Not just the outward act of adultery, but what about the lust in your heart? Jesus lifts up the law to show us the spiritual intent, to show us (using Paul’s language from Romans 7) ‘the law is holy and righteous and good’ (Rom.7:12).

Use the Law Lawfully

Paul writes:

1 Timothy 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

Paul, writing to a young pastor in the New Testament, says that the law is good. But he clarifies, you must use the law lawfully, which implies that there is an unlawful use of the law, a misuse of the law that we must guard against.

Paul is warning against false teachers who teach the law but they don’t know what they are talking about. We must understand the purpose of the law in order to not misuse the law. He clarifies in the following verses:

1 Timothy 1:9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

The law was given for sinners, not righteous people. People that drive slow don’t need the speed limit sign. The guy driving the farm equipment down the highway going 12 is not concerned when he sees the state trooper hiding behind the 65 mile an hour sign. The sign is posted for those who like to drive too fast. It holds up the standard and holds them accountable.

To misuse the law is to rely on it to establish your righteousness before God. Our inclination is to use the law as a checklist. 8 out of 10 ain’t bad, right? 80%, that’s a passing grade! When we use it as a checklist to attempt to show how good we are we misuse the law. We use it unlawfully.

The first use of the law is to show us the perfect standard, a mirror to show us how far we fall short, and to drive us to Christ who is merciful and eager to extend grace to lawbreakers who run to him for rescue.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

If you keep God’s law perfectly, except for just one thing, you are a lawbreaker and you are guilty. You are a sinner, and the wages of sin is death. Paul sums it up in Galatians:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

If you rely on the law as a checklist by which you seek to impress God, then you have to abide by all of it perfectly. No one ever has, so that makes us all lawbreakers and places us under the just punishment for lawbreakers. The law was never intended to make anyone righteous. By nature it cannot make anyone righteous any more than a speed limit sign can make your car stay within the posted limit. It simply points out where you are in violation of the standard.

That is the first use of the law, to make clear God’s perfect standard, to hold up a mirror to show us our sin, and thus drive us as guilty sinners to Christ to seek a gift we don’t deserve.

The Third Use

But there is another use of the law. The reformers referred to this as the third use of the law. The first use is to stop every mouth and hold the whole world accountable to God (Rom.3:19). The second use is the civil use; that God’s law is an objective standard by which we can discern right and wrong, and it is a good foundation on which to build any society. The third use is the primary use for followers of Jesus. Paul talked about it in 2 Timothy 3.

2 Timothy 3:15 …you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

That’s the first use; to drive us to Christ, trusting him alone for salvation. Then he goes on.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

That’s the third use of the law. God’s law has a training and equipping function for the one who has been saved by grace from the consequences of the law. We are no longer under law, as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ; now that we are justified by grace, now that we have Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us as a gift, now we can be trained by the law for righteousness, equipping us for every good work.

The First and Second Table

The Ten can be divided into the first and second table, summarized by Jesus as loving God and loving neighbor (Mt.22:36-40), the vertical and the horizontal. Loving God looks like worshiping God alone and having no other gods, worshiping God rightly by making no images to worship or serve, honoring God’s name by not using it worthlessly, remembering God’s day with worship and rest. The fifth command is a hinge that connects the two tables. We honor God’s authority by submitting to God given authority – honor father and mother. We love our neighbor by not taking a life wrongfully, by not taking someone’s wife, by not taking someone’s possessions, by not bearing false witness, by not desiring that which belongs to another.

With this third use of the law in mind, training in righteousness, to learn what love for God and love for neighbor looks like, let’s look together at the fourth commandment.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. What does this mean for the follower of Jesus? How can this commandment train us in godliness?

Sabbath Shadow

First, it is important to keep the gospel clear. We cannot impress God by any religious observance. Galatians is clear that ‘no one is justified before God by observing the law’ (3:11), and observing days as a way to be justified by God is deserting Christ and turning to a different gospel, going back into slavery (1:6; 4:10-11).

Romans 14 is clear that esteeming one day above another or esteeming all days alike is a matter of conscience for the believer, and ‘each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.’ We are not to pass judgment on a brother, and we are not to despise a brother (Rom.14:1-19).

Colossians 2 makes it clear that ‘the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands’ has been canceled, nailed to the cross (2:14).

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

The Sabbath is a shadow pointing us to Christ. The substance belongs to Christ.

The Fourth Commandment

So what do we do with the fourth commandment? The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, what we call Saturday, technically from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. But Christians distinctively gather on the first day of the week, or the Lord’s Day. This seems to have been the practice of the church from earliest times. Some are legalistic about what you can and can’t do on the Lord’s day. Many treat it no differently than any other day, a common work day; a day to catch up on projects, or as merely another day off, part of the weekend that belongs to us for recreation and pursuit of our own pleasure. Some say Jesus did away with the Sabbath and now every day is holy, but holy means set apart for God, and very few people actually live like that.

Burden or Blessing?

Let’s attempt to listen as if we were in the sandals of a Hebrew slave who had just come out of Egypt. My people have been in bondage for 400 years. Forced labor for a cruel taskmaster. No relief. They ruthlessly made us to work as slaves and made our lives bitter with hard service (Ex.1:13-14). God heard our cry for rescue from slavery and he came to our rescue. He crushed our oppressors and brought us out by mighty demonstrations of his sovereign power. He fed us and cared for us in the wilderness, and then he gives us his law.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’ means ‘stop’ or ‘cessation’. Memorialize the stop-work day. God set us free from Egyptian bondage and says ‘I’m your new boss now, and I demand that you take a mandatory day off every week’. Imagine their response: ‘Do we have to? We like working 24/7, 365 days a year. Rest? What kind of a master are you, demanding that we rest?!! We want to neglect our families, abuse our bodies, ignore our God, we just want to work work work!

Why is it that God offers us a blessing, he invites us to a holiday, and we bring our excuses and look for a way out? God frees us from slavery and offers us rest, and we find reasons to justify our desire to keep right on in our everyday busyness. Wouldn’t you think that we as Christians would come to God and say “I know that we are not under law but under grace, and I know that in Christ Jesus we are set free from the demands of the law, and that we cannot possibly earn your favor by any kind of law-keeping, that the Sabbath was a shadow that points us to rest in Christ, but would it be okay if in that freedom, we still took a day off to enjoy rest from our labors and focus our hearts toward you in worship? Can we use our blood-bought freedom that way?”

Rooted in Creation and Redemption

This idea of stopping to enjoy, as the fourth commandment tells us, is rooted all the way back to creation:

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

God rested. He didn’t need to. He wasn’t tired. He stopped to enjoy what he had made. By his own example, he built that in to our seven day weekly rhythm.

And this idea of stopping to enjoy is also rooted in redemption. In Deuteronomy, when Moses retells God’s law to the next generation before they enter the promised land, he says it this way:

Deuteronomy 5:12 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Rest, remember God’s awesome power in the six day creation. Remember his awesome power demonstrated in your salvation. As God graciously has extended to you rest and enjoyment, you in turn extend it to those God has entrusted to your care. The Lord invites us to delight in the day because we delight in him. Set aside time to enjoy your blood-bought relationship with him. (Is.58:13-14).

Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus invites us to rest. Jesus completed the work his Father sent him to do, and from the cross he cried out ‘Tetelestai’; ‘It is finished!’ Do you long for rest? Do you need a break? Are you weary? Jesus calls us to come. Come to me and rest. You will find rest for your souls.

Honor God With His Time

So often I hear (or I say) I just don’t have enough time. I have a list of all these good things I want to do, but I just don’t have enough time. I want to read my Bible more, I want to pray more, I want to get well grounded in theology, I want to reach out and serve. But I just can’t seem to fit it all in. Let me pitch to you a radical crazy idea. Not to put you under law, but to invite you in to rest.

What if you set aside one day out of seven to meditate on, to memorize God’s word, to dig deep, to study theology, to read a Christian classic? What if you set aside a whole day to seek the Lord in prayer and feed your own soul?

What if you set aside one day out of seven to train up your children, to get together with other believers, to practice hospitality, to share a meal, to listen to one another and encourage one another, to disciple and to be discipled, to pray with one another and worship together? Not just an hour or two, but a whole day?

What if you took one day a week to serve others, to extend Christian love to the needy, to the least, to bind up the broken hearted, to pursue justice for the oppressed, to set captives free? What would it look like if you built those Christian disciplines into your weekly rhythm?

Something radical happened at the resurrection. Believers began to gather together on the first day of the week instead of the last (Acts 20:7; 1Cor.16:2). They called it ‘the Lord’s day’ (Rev.1:10). The day is not yours, it belongs to the Lord. Not the Lord’s hour; the Lord’s day. We in America are so crazy blessed and spoiled by our historic Judaeo-Christian heritage; many of us get two days off; Saturday and Sunday. Remember, every breath you breathe is a gift. God owns all time. He asks you to give him back some of it for your good and for his glory. Ask him how he would have you spend it. It is holy, set apart, and it is meant to be a blessing to you and to those around you.

***

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

July 15, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Marriage Covenant

07/05 Marriage Covenant– Building Blocks of Society; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200705_marriage.mp3

Our society is broken. Our culture is not what it ought to be. And this is an opportunity for us as the people of God to let our lights shine brightly. As we follow the Lord Jesus we are to let our light shine in such a way that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. We looked last time at the issue of fathers; that God is our Father and he loves to reward those who seek above all to please him. God is a Father who loves us as we are, but he is not satisfied to leave us as we are; he will apply loving discipline to shape us into who we ought to be, to form in us Christlike character. We as earthly fathers are called to pattern our parenting in the home after our Father in heaven. We are to be eager to reward our children when they seek to please us, and we are to apply loving discipline when appropriate, to teach our children to respect the authority established by God. This is an area where we can shine in a culture that has lost all respect for authority.
Marriage and Divorce

Today I want to take a step back from this and look at a relationship that is even more foundational to all society, and that is the marriage relationship. I want to see what Jesus has to say about marriage, and to look at what it points to. We are going to start out in Mark 10.

Mark 10:2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

The Pharisees are referring to a law in Deuteronomy 24. Deuteronomy 24 says that when a man takes a wife and then divorces her, if she remarries and the second husband dies or divorces her, the first husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again as his wife. This is not authorizing divorce, any more than the laws regulating polygamy are authorizing polygamy. The laws were regulating a common practice for the protection of women. The Pharisees were taking this as the law’s stamp of approval on what they wanted to do.

The reason Deuteronomy gives is ‘if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her’ (Deut.24:1). Matthew 19:3 records their question ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ Two school of rabbis disputed what this meant. Shammai interpreted ‘some indecency’ to mean that divorce was only allowed for a sexual immorality; Hillel allowed divorce for any reason whatever; any act on her part which displeased him entitled him to give her a bill of divorce, even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal. It was, by the way, that more lenient and liberal school of Hillel that prevailed. [Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 90a; http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5238-divorce ]

Mark 10:5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

Did you know some of the laws in the Old Testament were given to regulate sinful behavior? That’s what Jesus is saying here. Divorce is not God’s ideal for marriage, but because of your hardness of heart, he regulated the practice to protect vulnerable people. Which means that now in the New Covenant, where believers in Jesus have the Holy Spirit of God living inside, that hardness of heart has been overcome. Jesus calls us to a higher standard. Jesus holds up the ideal of marriage.

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

God designed marriage. God created mankind as male and female and he meant for them to leave and cleave. Hold fast. Notice, guys, the primary instruction is to us. The man is told to hold fast to his wife. Proverbs 18:22 says

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

If you are married you found your good thing. The one thing in all of God’s good creation that was not good was that the man was alone. We need help! Guys, if you find your good thing, hold fast to her. Now guys, I know I need to clarify. That doesn’t mean you put her in a headlock and physically restrain her.

The word ‘hold fast’ is literally ‘to glue’. We have some amazing glues. A good wood glue creates a bond that is much stronger than the wood itself. What that means is that once you glue two pieces of wood together, if you then force them apart, the wood will splinter and break but the bond will hold. You can tear it apart, but in doing so you destroy the wood. That’s an appropriate picture of marriage. Remember, Jesus says that the two become one flesh and it is God who joins them together. We have a lot of broken splintered people walking around because something that was never meant to come apart was forced apart and it left deep scars.

Lust and Porn

I want to come back to that, but first, look with me at something else Jesus says about marriage. In Matthew 5 he quotes the seventh commandment.

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The marriage relationship is a covenant commitment. There is nothing more destructive to the marriage than unfaithfulness to the covenant commitment. What Jesus says here couldn’t be more relevant. There is probably nothing more damaging, more prevalent, and more readily accessible than internet porn. Jesus takes the seventh commandment to the heart level and says if you look with lust you have committed adultery in your heart. This is gnawing away at so many marriages. This is destroying so many people who are not yet married. This is poison for your soul. And Jesus tells us to take severe and radical steps to root it out.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

You can’t entertain lust in your heart without the cancer spreading. ‘Is it really that big a deal? It’s not hurting anyone.’ That is a lie from the pit of hell, and according to Jesus it will send you there if you don’t get free from it. If you need help, ask. Get it out into the light.

How To Hold Fast

Mark 10:5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

We are to hold fast, but how? How are we to hold fast? Ephesians gives us some clear instructions

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5 starts with ‘therefore’. Live in such a way because. Because of what? We go back to Ephesians 4, and it also starts with therefore. Because of all that is true of you in Christ Jesus that was unpacked in the first three chapters, because you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, because you have been chosen for holiness, predestined for adoption, redeemed by his blood, because you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, because the risen and exalted Christ has been given as head over all things to the church, because you have been made alive with Christ, saved by God’s rich mercy and great grace, created for good works, brought near by the blood of Christ, granted access to the Father through the Spirit, because you are strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, filled with all the fullness of God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that you ask or think according to the power at work with in you, because of all this, therefore, walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. …25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

That is what it means to cleave, to hold fast. Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Pursue the purity, the splendor of your bride. Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. You nourish and cherish you wife. Love your wife as your own body. Love your wife as you love yourself.

‘But that’s hard!’ Yes it is. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to hang on that cross and bear in his sinless body all the punishment for your sins?

‘But you don’t know what she’s like!’ Yes I do, because I know what I’m like. ‘Filthy, vile and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was he.’ I was dead in my trespasses and sins, following Satan, pursuing my own passions, by nature a child of wrath when God came after me.

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

‘But, I just don’t think I can.’ You are right. You can’t. I can’t. I need all three chapters in the front half of Ephesians to tell me who I am in Christ, to tell me who is living inside of me, and to tell me that it is not by my strength or my wisdom or my power or my love that I can do any of this. But if the resurrected Christ, who died on that cross for me is now living inside me, then I am empowered love with his love.

It’s not just about me and my happiness. Marriage is bigger than that. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.

Are there any reasons where divorce is an option? There may be situations where that is appropriate, but recognize, that is the Pharisee’s question. Jesus holds up the original intent, the ideal, the way God meant it to be. We shouldn’t aim for the exception, we should work hard with all the grace of God that he supplies to us to to hold up that picture of Christ loving and pursuing and laying down his life for his church.

Our culture is broke and bankrupt. We have an opportunity to be different than the world, to show by our examples that there is a different way, a better way, we are to shine brightly in such a way that they see our marriages and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.

***

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

July 12, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment