PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus – Beware What You Treasure (Luke 12, 15, 16, 18, 19)

05/17 Obey Jesus: Beware What You Love – Treasures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200517_treasures.mp3

Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded. We are looking at some of the things Jesus commanded, so we can obey him, and teach others that we disciple to obey Jesus in everything.

One thing Jesus talked about frequently, maybe more than any other thing, was treasure. He warned us about what we treasure. Jesus commanded us in regard to what we treasure, to take care, to be on our guard.

Beware on Guard against Covetousness

Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness. Jesus warns us to be on our guard, because this one is sneaky. We may think we’re fine, that it’s not an issue, but this is one that sneaks up on you. Be on your guard. Covetousness. Greed. Wanting more, wanting something you don’t have. Your life doesn’t consist of your substance, of what you have.

We know this. Stuff doesn’t make us happy. Possessions don’t ultimately satisfy. But how often do we see something and think “I wish… If only… Things would be much easier if… Life would be better if…” He warns, ‘take care, and be on your guard.’

Be Rich Toward God

Luke 12:16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’

This sounds a lot like what we call here in America ‘retirement’. This is not to say that it is evil to wisely invest and prepare for the future. That is good and wise. But this person is hoarding all that he can to pursue a life of pleasure and ease and consumption.

Luke 12:20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

God says that it is foolish to pursue your own pleasure in this life. This life won’t last. We have no guarantee. He says the one who fails to be rich toward God is a fool.

What does it mean to be rich toward God? If we keep reading,

Do Not Be Anxious but Generous

Luke 12:22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

What are you anxious about? What are you worrying about? What are you focusing on? Seek his kingdom. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Seek to advance his kingdom by bringing others into the kingdom. Be generous to the needy. Jesus said that to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcome to the stranger, clothing to the naked, to visit the sick and imprisoned is to do it to him (Mt.25:34-39). To be rich toward God is to seek his kingdom, to be generous and use what he gives us to bless others.

Pursue treasure in heaven. Because your heart will follow your treasure. What you treasure is what you think about, what you worry about. If you want your heart to be more fully devoted to God, then invest your resources with him.

Treasure in Heaven

This raises a question. What does it mean to have treasure in heaven? Does this mean that if we sell what we have and give to the poor, that we are filling some treasure chest in heaven with gold? Does having treasure in heaven mean that we are making deposits into some eternal bank account so that when we get to heaven we will have greater resources, greater access to pleasures, a larger mansion, a more opulent lifestyle than others in heaven? Is this saying that by denying ourselves now, we are pursuing our own greater pleasure later?

If by pursuing our own greater pleasure, we are thinking in terms of gratifying our own fleshly desires and having more stuff than others in heaven, then no, I don’t believe that is what Jesus is talking about.

But we are told in the Psalms that “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps.16:11). By denying our own fleshly desires now to pursue God and his kingdom, we are pursuing our own greater pleasure, because we acknowledge that the greatest imaginable human pleasure is enjoying our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. By investing in what pleases God, by using our resources in ways that bless others rather than pursuing our own temporal pleasure, we are saying that our heart and our treasure is in the Lord, in pursuing his pleasure. The deepest satisfaction in human relationship is found not in using others to pursue our own pleasures, but rather in using our resources to pursue the pleasure of the one we love. So in our relationship with God; we find satisfaction in pursuing his pleasure. We are storing up unfailing treasures in heaven by treasuring our relationship with him above all.

The Lost Son

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son, teaching that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. In the parable of the lost (or prodigal) son,

Luke 15:11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

An inheritance wasn’t to be given until after the death of the father. This younger son was saying he wished his father was dead and all he was interested in was the money. And he took the money and ran. He indulged himself in everything he hoped would make him happy, and ended up empty and broken.

Luke 15:17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

He came to himself. In his emptiness he realized the value of the relationship he had squandered. ‘And he arose and came to his father.’ His father ran and embraced him, received him back as his son, clothed him, and called for a feast.

Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

This parable is actually about two lost sons. The younger son was obviously lost; he rejected his father and wasted his inheritance, and he was found, was dead and is alive.

The older son was also lost, but in a more respectable way. He was the faithful son who never disobeyed. He too was after the inheritance, but to get it he was following the rules and patiently waiting. But he also failed to value his relationship with his father, rather he reveals that his desire was a feast where he could celebrate with his friends. Now that his brother had wasted his portion of the inheritance, anything the father gave to his younger son would cut in to the older son’s inheritance. He referred to his relationship with his father as a servant, not a son, and he further distances himself from the family by referring to his brother as ‘this son of yours’. He refuses to enter into the family celebration, but remains outside, angry. His younger brother’s return revealed the true condition of his heart. “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.”

You Cannot Serve God and Money

In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable of a dishonest manager who abused his position to forgive debts and make friends to secure his own future. Although he was dishonest, his master commended him for his shrewdness. Rather than using people to make money, Jesus says we should make use of money to make friends. The money will fail but friends will last. We are to imitate his shrewdness but not his dishonesty. Jesus says:

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Be on your guard against all covetousness. What do you love?

Rich Man Lost; Drop Your Baggage and Follow Me

In Luke 18, a rich young man runs up to Jesus and falls before him.

Luke 18:18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”

Jesus points this man to the commandments. And this man claimed to have kept them all. But Jesus mentioned only commands from what is known as the second table; commands that have to do with our relationship with our fellow man. He didn’t mention the first table, that we are to have no other Gods, that we are to worship and serve no idols, that our love for neighbor is to flow out of our primary love for God himself. Outwardly, this man felt he was doing well. So Jesus pushes on his heart.

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Is Jesus demanding that we all must sell everything and take a vow of poverty in order to follow him? No, he is wisely sensitive to this man’s unique heart problem, and puts his finger on it in a way that shows this man clearly what is keeping him from the kingdom. Jesus is wisely answering this man’s question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? God must be your greatest treasure. You must be willing to trade in every worldly treasure for the greater Treasure. Jesus is inviting him, ‘drop your baggage that is holding you back so that you are free to come, follow me.’ You cannot serve two masters.

Impossible With Man

Luke 18:23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

You see how we desperately need to take care and be on guard against all covetousness? It is eternally dangerous. This man came running up to Jesus, falling down before him, eager to do whatever it takes to have eternal life. But Jesus showed him that he loved his stuff more than he loved God, and he went away sad, unwilling to let it all go and follow Jesus.

How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. It is just as impossible as stuffing a big hairy camel through the eye of a sewing needle! The people ask ‘is that a one hump camel or a two hump camel?’ No, they recognize the utter impossibility and despair ‘who then can be saved?’ If those who have power and access can’t get in, then nobody can!’

Jesus doesn’t correct them, and saydon’t worry, it will be much easier for you who are poor and have little, to enter.’ You see, when Jesus put his finger on the heart of this rich young man, and pointed out that he loves something more than God, he put his finger on the hearts of us all. We can’t. It is impossible for us to love God more than anything else. We can’t obey Jesus. It is impossible. Absolutely.

Luke 18:27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

You are right. Salvation is impossible. It is impossible for anyone to treasure God more than anything else. No one seeks for God, no not one (Rom.3:11). God alone is mighty to save. God must overcome our impossibility and by his own Holy Spirit create a new heart and new life with new desires and new affections in us. It is impossible for us to obey Jesus. It is impossible for us to do what he commands. “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn.3:3).

Rich Man Saved

The next chapter, Luke 19, we see the impossible happen as Jesus enters a rich man’s life.

Luke 19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 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.”

This was an impossibly rich man, and so an impossibly lost man according to Jesus in chapter 18, but Jesus came to seek and to save him. ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’

Luke 19:6 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.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 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 did an impossible miracle that day, probably more impossible than making the blind see or the lame walk. Jesus enabled a rich man to treasure him more than his possessions, to drop his baggage and follow him joyfully.

What about you? What do you treasure? “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.”

***

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

May 18, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Primary Allegiance (Matthew 10:24-39)

05/10 Obey Jesus: Primary Allegiance; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200510_primary-allegiance.mp3

We are looking at what it means to obey Jesus. Jesus instructed us to make disciples who make disciples who obey Jesus in everything. So What did Jesus command? We’ve been looking at some of the commands of Jesus, to know what he expects of us his followers, and to equip us to better disciple those who become his followers. He commands that we come to him and believe in him, that we believe what he says about himself, that he is the I AM come down from heaven to give life to the world. We are to find him in all of Scripture, because he said the whole of the Scriptures point to him. We are to meet with him there in his word. We are to abide in him, stay connected to him in relationship, pray to him and pray in his name so that we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God.

A Servant Not Above His Master (Matthew 10)

Today I want to look at what Jesus says about our primary allegiances. In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his followers for what it is going to be like for them in this world. He said:

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

If we are following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to be treated better than he was treated. If he was slandered and maligned, we should not be surprised if we experience the same.

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 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.

Jesus talks to us about our fears. He knows our tendency to be afraid, and he reminds us who to fear. What anyone says about us falsely will be brought into the light, so we don’t have to lose sleep over it.

They may kill the body. Many of Jesus’ followers have been killed because of their faith in him. But he reminds us not to fear those who have the power to kill only the body but cannot touch our soul. He reminds us that God alone is to be feared. We possess an invincible hope, that even death cannot quench!

Matthew 10:29 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.

Two sparrows were sold for one small coin. Luke 12:6 has five sparrows sold for two of these coins; they were of so little worth that if you buy four you got one thrown in for free. And yet not one insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from the sovereign will of their omnipotent Creator. He has numbered the hairs on your head, and he has numbered your days on this earth. You are of more value than many sparrows. So fear not.

Primary Allegiance

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.

Our allegiance to Jesus matters. To be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge him before people is to say that what they think is more important, more weighty than what God thinks. It is evidence that we don’t really believe in him. Jesus continues:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus is the great divide [this is fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 7:5-6]. Jesus polarizes people. You are either with him or against him. He tolerates no lukewarm opinions about himself. Jesus divides.

I know some of you know personally the cost of following Jesus, and have experienced exactly what Jesus says here.

Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 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.

For Jesus to say that we are to love him above father and mother is to affirm the value of those relationships; family love and natural allegiance run deep. But he is to take precedence over even the highest of natural affections, the deepest of natural allegiances.

This is strong language. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, son or daughter, more than our own skin. He picks our closest ties, our deepest allegiances and demands that we are committed to him above all.

It is worth noting here that this demand would be audacious and unthinkable if Jesus were not God. To demand our unqualified allegiance is a clear claim to be the only one worthy of that kind of allegiance. Jesus is demanding that our love for God (and thus for him because he is God) must supersede every other affection and devotion

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his own skin more than me is not worthy of me.

Not worthy of me; not worthy not in the sense of not having earned or achieved the right, but rather not fit, not equal to the task. Those who are not willing to put God above all other loves are not willing to be Jesus’ disciples. They are not believing that the Lord is worthy of our highest love, not believing that in order to love others rightly, they must be loved in their proper place under God; the Lord must be loved first and above all.

In Luke 14, he says:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is not justifying hatred toward family members. But some of our actions and decisions may be perceived that way, because of our overriding allegiance to him. When we put Jesus first, everyone else comes in second, and nobody likes to be second. This is not dislike or disdain, but a supreme loyalty.

What This Does Not Look Like

Jesus affirms that we ought to honor father and mother. He even rebuked the Pharisees who created a legal loophole so that children could get out of the responsibility of taking care of their parents. What they were doing, it seems was taking the resources that they should have used to support their parents, and declaring them as dedicated to God, to be given to the Lord at some future date. This was a hypocritical way to say they were putting God first, while really they were avoiding responsibility to their parents and keeping it all for themselves. Jesus

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mk.7:9-13)

Jesus affirms that it is commanded by God to honor father and mother, but we must honor them under the Lord. Our loyalty must be to Jesus above all.

Government Submission

We can extend this to civil authorities, to states and empires. Peter tells us we are to

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Timothy tells us that we are to pray for those who are in authority over us;

1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And keep in mind that the context of these letters would have been the evil emperor Nero who was no friend of the cause of Christ.

Jesus answered a question about paying taxes:

Matthew 22:21 …Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Their coins had the image of the emperor on them. We bear God’s image. We are to give the government its due, but we must give God that which bears his image.

But when it comes to it, when the two are in conflict, our allegiance is to Jesus above all earthly allegiances. When the Jewish leaders rebuked the disciples

Acts 5:28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We are to pray for our leaders and be subject to our earthly governments as far as possible, but when the demands of these two collide, we must submit to the higher authority. We must obey God rather than men.

Gospel Community

In Mark 10, when Jesus pointed to the difficulty people have with following him, with giving him their undivided allegiance,

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands that we put him higher than every other love. Although the cost of following Jesus may be great, the reward will be far greater. Because Jesus demands our highest allegiance, this will mean that we seek to honor him above all. For some, this may actually mean walking away from a close relationship with an unbeliever, although in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul clarifies that it will be the unbeliever who wants out; so far as it depends on us we are to seek to live peaceably will all (Rom.12:18). But according to Jesus, whoever leaves family for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this life, brothers and sisters and mothers and children. What does he mean by this? Although in some cases blood relatives may want nothing to do with a believer, as believers we are adopted into the family of God. Although these relationships man never replace a lost relationship, we become part of a much larger family with a depth of unity through our common allegiance to Jesus. We become family. It is a beautiful thing to meet a believer from another place, maybe another country and a different culture, and discover that depth of connection we have in Jesus.

Invited In

In Mark 3, there was such a crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. The religious leaders were saying he was possessed by a demon, and his family came to get him, thinking he was out of his mind.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is not negating the importance of family. But he is inviting us in to his own family. My disciples, those who obey me, those who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. That’s the depth, that’s the intimacy, that’s the loyalty Jesus invites us in to. He takes the closest relationships we experience and says that is the kind of relationship I want with you.

What about you? Jesus invites you in. He wants that kind of depth, that kind of closeness with you. He is inviting you in. But he wants you to count the cost. It is costly to follow Jesus. He demands your highest devotion, your undivided loyalty, your absolute allegiance. He requires that you take him for who he is, to acknowledge him as God, with absolute rights over you. He commands that you devote yourself to him above every other affection. Will you take up your cross and follow him and not look back? Will you follow him wherever he leads? Will you obey everything he commands? Will you be his disciple?

***

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

May 11, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Abide and Pray (John 14-15)

05/03 Obey Jesus: Abide and Pray; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200503_abide-and-pray.mp3

Obey Jesus’ Commands

Jesus said to his disciples:

Matthew 28:18 …“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.”

Make disciples, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. We are to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commands. What did Jesus command? That’s what we are looking at. We’ve looked at Jesus command to come to him and believe in him, to find him and meet with him in the Scriptures. Today I want to look at Jesus’ command to abide and pray.

The Upper Room Discourse; John 14-16

John records some amazing teaching that Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room before he was betrayed.

Our Only Access to the Father is Through Jesus

Jesus was telling his disciples that he was leaving them and going to his Father to prepare a place for them.

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

When his disciples expressed confusion about where he was going and how to get there,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Anyone who wants access to the Father must come through Jesus. Jesus wants us to be with him and with his Father throughout eternity, to enjoy his glory with his Father. But we must come through the way Jesus opened to us by his blood.

Greater Works Than These

I remember reading this section of John’s gospel for the very first time. I was downtown Minneapolis on a weekend retreat with my High School campus ministry. And what I read blew me away.

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.

Jesus prefaces his statement with ‘truly, truly.’ He wants us to take note, to pay attention to what he is about to say, and he wants us to be doubly confident that what he says is true. ‘Whoever believes in me;’ whoever believes in Jesus, that included me! Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works that he does. What did Jesus do? He fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead! Is Jesus saying that I will do all that?

But he doesn’t stop there, as if that is not enough. He said ‘greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Greater works than these? What could possibly be greater than all that Jesus did? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had to show someone. Jason, have you ever read this? Look at this! Look at what Jesus promises us!

Ask Jesus Anything

Look at the next verses:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Ask me anything. Jesus invites us to ask him anything in his name, and he will do it, to the glory of his Father. This tells us that we can pray to Jesus, we can ask Jesus directly for anything, and he will do it, if we ask in his name.

What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? The typical Christian prayer ends ‘in Jesus’ name, amen.’ Is this a special formula that guarantees to get our prayers answered? Why do Christians pray like that?

In My Name

If we look in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 18 God says:

Deuteronomy 18:19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

God takes what is said in his name seriously. If anyone presumes to speak in his name something God did not speak, the penalty was death. I am not to use God’s name to give weight to what I want to say, when it is merely my words; when God hasn’t said it.

A person’s name is tied to their reputation. The Lord’s name is holy, set apart, but his people have dragged his reputation through the mud by bearing his name while acting inconsistently with who he is. In Ezekiel 36, God acts to defend the honor of his own name.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

God’s name, God’s own reputation is at stake, and he acts to vindicate the holiness of his own great name.

Think of it this way. A steward in biblical times was a trusted servant to whom his master would delegate certain responsibilities in his absence. He had access to his master’s resources, he could make decisions, buy and sell in the name of his master. We might say he was given the ability to sign checks in his master’s name. But he was a servant, doing his master’s business, and he was expected to have his master’s best interest in mind. He was free to make decisions and sign his master’s name, but he would be held accountable for those decisions upon his master’s return. Jesus told a story about a steward in Luke 16 who had wasted his master’s resources and was being called to account.

We could say that Jesus has entrusted to us the ability to sign checks in his name. To ask in Jesus’ name is to sign his name to the request, to represent him. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask consistent with who Jesus is, is to ask for something that he would ask his Father to do.

James 4:2 …You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Abide in Me and bear Fruit

Jesus says in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Abide in me. Abide. Remain connected, like a branch of the grapevine is connected to the vine. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit to the glory of God. But he knows that to be fruitful, a branch must be connected to the vine. It must continually draw sustenance from the vine, to get nourishment from the vine. A disconnected branch will quickly wither and dry up. A dead disconnected branch doesn’t produce fruit. Rather, it’s only good as fuel for the fire. The only way we remain fruitful is to remain in Jesus, to stay connected to Jesus, to constantly be listening to him, communing with him. We are to draw strength and sustenance from him, to be with him, and enjoy him being in us. Disconnected from Jesus, we can do nothing, nothing good, nothing of eternal value. We are fruitless apart from Jesus. But if we remain plugged in to Jesus, if his words, his truth, his teaching is nourishing us, we can ask whatever we wish and we will bear much fruit that glorifies the Father and shows that we are Jesus’ followers indeed.

Abiding is the prerequisite for asking. If we are abiding in Jesus as a branch in the vine, we can ask whatever we wish, because our wishes begin to flow out of Jesus’ own heart. Our wishes will align with Jesus’ own words. Our wishes will be to bear fruit for God, to glorify the Father. Our wishes will truly begin to express the name and nature of Jesus.

Jesus commands that we abide in him, that we stay connected and talk with him.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

He commands that we ask the Father that we may be fruitful in his name.

Jesus Modeled Prayer

Jesus modeled prayer for us. He made prayer a priority in his own ministry. He found solitary places to pray alone (Lk.5:16); He prayed early in the morning (Mk.1:35); he prayed late into the evening (Mt.14:23; Mk.6:46); on one occasion he prayed all night long (Lk.6:12); he invited his close friends to pray with him (Lk.9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:40-41). Jesus took time to pray for the seemingly insignificant (Mt.19:13). John 17 records Jesus’ own lengthy prayer to his Father. Jesus was honest and even emotional in his praying (Lk.22:44), but he always submitted his own will to the will of his Father in prayer (Mt.26:39,42,44). Jesus not only commands us to pray, but shows us by his own example how essential prayer is.

One of the things that infuriated Jesus most, that stirred him to zeal for this Father’s house, was the clutter and commotion that deterred people from prayer. (Mt.21:12-13; Mk.11:17; Lk.19:46)

Jesus Taught How and What to Pray

Jesus taught his followers “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk.18:1). He taught that humility and not self-righteous pride was the appropriate way to approach his Father (Lk.18:10-13).

He taught us to pray for deliverance (Mk.9:29), for strength and faithfulness (Lk.21:36), for protection from temptation (Lk.22:40). He taught us to pray for God to send more laborers into the evangelistic harvest (Mt.9:38; Lk.10:2). He even taught us to pray for our enemies, for those who persecute us (Mt.5:44; Lk.6:28).

He taught us not to pray in order to impress others, but rather to pray privately and sincerely (Mt.6:5-6). He taught us not to make long prayers or pile up empty words to impress God or man (Mt.6:7, Mk.12:40).

He taught us to pray with persistence, with bold confidence, assured that our Father loves to give good gifts to his children.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to all who ask him. Jesus encourages us, actually he commands us to ask, to ask in prayer.

Jesus’ Model Prayer

When Jesus’ followers asked him ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Lk.11:1)

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Jesus invites his disciples to address God as Father, because through Jesus we are adopted into God’s family as his children.

Notice that this prayer is in the plural voice. It begins with ‘our Father’ and it continues with ‘give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us’. We are to pray in secret, privately to our Father, but there is an essential communal aspect to prayer. Even when we pray individually, we acknowledge that we are part of a blood-bough community of believers. We are not independent, we are interdependent. We are connected to each other.

Jesus teaches us that our praying must be God centered. We ought to start by acknowledging that God is above us, over us, sovereign and superior. He is enthroned in heaven. We ought to be pursuing his glory in prayer. Remember, in John 15, Jesus commands us to abide in him so that we will be fruitful, ultimately so that God will be glorified. We are to pray that God’s name be treated with honor and awe.

We are to pray that his kingdom and will might be fully realized. He is sovereign over all creation, but much of his creation has rebelled against him. We are to pray that all creation is brought back under his supreme authority. As God is obeyed by his heavenly armies, so we are to ask that we too would obey him immediately, enthusiastically, completely. We are really asking here for him to change our hearts, our desires, what we value most.

We are to ask him for daily bread. Father, give us what we need for today. We don’t always know accurately what it is that we need or what is best for us. So in this is implicit trust in his superior wisdom. Lord, give us what we need for today.

And if you remember what Jesus taught in John 6, after he had fed thousands with a few loaves,

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you… 32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” …35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Father, give us Jesus. Give us Jesus for today. Sustain us in Jesus today.

John 6:48 I am the bread of life. …51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

We are to abide in Jesus. We are to feed daily on him, to draw daily nourishment from our connection with him.

As we daily ask for nourishment, we are to daily ask forgiveness, daily acknowledging that we continue to fall short. We need the gospel applied daily. We need his mercies that are new every morning. In our daily connection with him, we need daily grace, daily cleansing.

And we are to remind ourselves that as we have been freely forgiven, we ought to freely forgive. We have sinned and been freely forgiven. We have been sinned against, and as followers of Jesus, we must freely forgive.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We acknowledge that God leads us wherever he deems best for us, and as his followers, we must follow. But we ask that he spare us from temptation, and when we are tempted, we ask that he rescue us from evil. We need his strength to stand firm. Without his daily deliverance, we will turn each of us to our own way. We will go astray and fall into evil. Apart from him we can do nothing.

Bear Much Fruit

Jesus commands that we come to him in prayer, that we abide moment by moment in him, so that we will bear much fruit to the glory of his Father. He commands us to ask the Father because he loves to give good gifts to his children. We only have access to the Father through the finished work of Jesus, who died in our place to bring us to God (1Pet.3:18).

And Jesus said:

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.

Jesus fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead!

When Jesus fed thousands, he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples to give to others. Jesus has given us himself, the true bread from heaven, and he intends that we pass him on to others.

Greater works than these will we do, because Jesus finished his work and sat down at the right hand of his Father, and he is now at work through us as he abides in us.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We have this ministry by the mercy of God. By the open statement of the truth …we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and God shines in blind hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2Cor.4:1-6). ‘God… through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; …we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us’ (2Cor.5:18,20).

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Greater works than these will he do.’

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing….7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

***

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

May 4, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Find Me in Scripture

04/26 Obey Jesus: Find Me in the Scriptures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200426_find-me-in-scripture.mp3

This is the second Sunday after the resurrection. Acts 1 tells us Jesus

Acts 1:2 …had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

This is day 15 of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances to his disciples. Before he ascended he charged his disciples to make disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples,

Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…

So we are looking at what Jesus commanded his disciples. Last week we looked at Jesus’ appearance to doubting Thomas, where he presented him with the evidence and commanded:

John 20:27 …Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus commands us to come to him, to believe that he is the I AM, the Word who was with God and who was God, come in the flesh to rescue us. He requires that we turn from whatever else we are trusting in and depend on him alone, that we trust him completely.

The Emmaus Road

Today I want to look at Luke’s account of Jesus appearing to some disciples on the road to Emmaus that first resurrection Sunday.

Luke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Do you hear where these disciples are at? They are lost, confused. They had hoped that Jesus was the one they had hoped for, but then the Jewish leaders had him crucified. Now his body is missing, and there’s some crazy rumors that he is alive. We just don’t know what to believe.

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Do you hear what Jesus says? He rebukes them for being slow of heart to believe the prophets. He says they should have known that the Christ must suffer these things before entering into his glory. He rebukes them for not knowing their Bibles better. Not just that they didn’t understand something they should have known, but that their hearts were slow to believe. They were slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets had spoken. They embraced some of it, but not all.

The Scriptures Fulfilled; It Is Written

If we look back early in Jesus’ ministry, in Luke 4

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 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.”

Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah, and claims to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. Today, this has been fulfilled!

When Jesus was coming down with his three disciples from the transfiguration mountain in Mark 9, he charged them to tell no one until he was risen from the dead, and they were wondering what this ‘rising from the dead’ might mean. He said:

Mark 9:12 … And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

He just revealed to them his glory, and now he asks ‘how is it written that the Son of Man should suffer?’ He is pushing them to believe all of Scripture. It is not going to go the way you think. The Son of Man should suffer. What do you do with these Scriptures? Where do they fit?

At his last supper, when he predicted that he would be betrayed by one of them, he said:

Mark 14:21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him. When they went out to the Mount of Olives,

Mark 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 and says it is pointing to what is about to happen. Then, after Judas betrayed him with a kiss, and he was taken,

Mark 14:48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Let the Scriptures be fulfilled. The Scriptures must be fulfilled, and they were being fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for breaking the commandment and making void the word of God for the sake of their traditions (Mt.15:3,6). He said:

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 came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He came to accomplish every dot, every iota of the Law. He came to be the summation, the culmination, the end goal of all the Scriptures.

The Central Focus of the Scriptures

Notice the central focus of the Scripture according to Jesus is his suffering and death in place of sinners. His work as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is why he came and what it all was pointing to. Listen to what he said in Luke 18 on his way to Jerusalem.

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

It is the sufferings, the death, and the resurrection of the Messiah that is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms.

To the disciples after his resurrection, on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24,

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Imagine being in on that Bible study! The risen Lord himself, the very Word incarnate, taking them through the word written, interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Jesus taught that all the Scriptures were meant to point us to him.

Obeying Jesus about the Bible

We are looking at what it means to be a disciple, a learner, a follower of Jesus. We are looking at what it means to obey all that Jesus commands. We need to follow Jesus on what he teaches about the Bible, the word of God. Jesus commands us to find him in the Scriptures, to meet him there, the living Word in his word written. It is all about him, and to rightly use God’s word, we need to see Jesus there.

Spiritual Blindness and Inability

But we have a problem. We can’t. We can’t see Jesus. We are unable. We are blind to him. And it is a satanic blindness. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4 that

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Remember, Jesus told his disciples plainly what was about to happen to him,

Luke 18:34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

The risen Lord walked with these two disciples on the road and gave them Bible study,

Luke 24:16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

When they arrived at the village of Emmaus, Jesus went in to stay with them. It says:

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?

Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Him!

These disciples rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples,

Luke 24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Then Jesus appeared to the whole group gathered there in Jerusalem.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He opened their eyes to recognize him! We can’t, we can’t see Jesus in all of Scripture unless and until Jesus opens our blind minds. This is a sovereign creative act of God, illuminating our minds. Remember, God loves to give good gifts to those who ask. He loves to pour out his Spirit on all who ask him (Lk.11:9-13). If you are struggling to understand the Bible, ask! If it is confusing, a big book of rules and regulations, if it is heavy and oppressive, full of duty rather than delight, ask! Ask him to open your mind to see that it’s all about Jesus. That he came to do what you could not and to fulfill every command so that you could enjoy him in relationship. Ask that the promised Holy Spirit would show you Jesus (Jn.15:26). Ask God to do a supernatural creative act in your heart.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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.

God is the one who gives this light, and you and I are blind without it, so ask!

How To Find Jesus in The Scriptures

In John 5, Jesus rebuked the Jews for missing the main point. He said:

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Scriptures bear witness about me. They studied the Scriptures, but they failed to hear the voice of God. They memorized the Scriptures, but they failed to have God’s word abiding in them, because they failed to see that the Scriptures were meant to point to Jesus, to bear witness about Jesus. They failed to believe in Jesus. The point of the Scriptures was not to try to earn life by obeying all the Scriptures, but to come to the only one who could perfectly fulfill all the Scriptures. They refused to come to Jesus and find life in him.

So, be ready to believe in Jesus. Put your trust in him completely. Recognize that it is all about him, and seek to meet him in the pages of his word. And ask. Ask God to show you Jesus in all of Scriptures.

That is the most important instruction I can give you.

See Jesus in All of Scripture

Get to know Jesus in all of Scripture. Get to know him through the gospels. They are eyewitness accounts that invite you in to his life and teaching. Sit at his feet and listen to him. Learn from him. Watch him interact with real people, people like you, people with needs.

But Luke tells us that the story of Jesus doesn’t end with the ascension. In Luke volume 2 (or the Acts of the Apostles) he tells us that his gospel was about all that Jesus began to do and teach until he was taken up (Acts 1:1-2). The book of Acts is about what Jesus continues to do and teach through his followers in his church. And the book of acts doesn’t end. It actually leaves us hanging in chapter 28 with Paul in prison in Rome awaiting trial and likely execution, for two whole years,

Acts 28:31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Like Mark’s gospel, the story is left hanging. And you are invited in. We, the church, are the continuation of the story of what Jesus began to do and teach.

The New Testament letters are instructions to the church on how to follow Jesus, what the gospel is, what is central, what to believe, and how to live life walking with Jesus, in step with the gospel.

But the New Testament also gives us a lens with which to read the Old Testament.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus was active in Creation with his Father. Throughout the narratives we see people like us, struggling to believe the promises, some turning their backs, some believing, and we see the consequences of those decisions. Paul tells us (1Cor.10:4) that the ever present life giving Rock in the wilderness that accompanied the wandering people of God was Christ. We see the Lord make extravagant promises to his people, and we learn that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus Christ (2Cor.1:20). We read laws we can’t keep, showing us our need for rescue, and creating a desperation for one who would keep them in our place. We see the tabernacle and temple, the one place people can meet with God, but only through the appropriate sacrifice. And we see that Jesus came to pitch his tent among us, came to be God with us, came to give his own life as the once for all sacrifice that would finally take away our sin and conquer death forever. We read poetry that expresses discontent with the way things are, longing for things to be made right, and we read poetry that expresses hope, a longing for the one who would come to set all things right, for God himself to come down. We read disconcerting things about a suffering servant who would bear our sins and be punished for what we deserve, (Is.53) and we hear him cry out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ (Ps.22:1). We read the prophets, rebuking the people for their hard hearts and wandering lusts, telling them to turn back to the Lord, telling them that one day he himself would come,

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

And we see in the final Revelation, that Jesus is coming back, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes, and we will join the angelic hosts through eternity worshiping,

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

***

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

April 26, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Believe in Me

04/19 Obey Jesus: Believe in Me; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200419_believe-in-me.mp3

Disciples who Make Disciples who Obey Everything Jesus Taught

After his resurrection and before he ascended to the right hand of his Father, Jesus told his followers to make disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples to the end of the age. He told them to make disciples of all nations.

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 as followers of Jesus are to continue to make disciples who make disciples. Part of making disciples is immersing them in the name of the triune God. Another essential part of making disciples is teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We are to be disciples and make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught.

So what did Jesus teach? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What are some of the central things Jesus taught that we need to observe and pass on to others? While following Jesus is a lifetime commitment, I hope over the next several weeks to highlight some of the central commands that Jesus gave us, and my prayer is that this would be one useful piece in a lifetime characterized by following Jesus.

Discipleship is Relationship not Rightness

One thing you will notice as you get to know Jesus is that following him is so much more than believing things about him. Following Jesus is a relationship. It involves getting to know him, listening to him, and responding to him by doing what he says.

In teaching all that Jesus commanded, we are not aiming for a pharisaic rightness, knowing the right answers with the ability to sniff out those who do not have it quite right and critique and criticize. Rather, what we are after is a humble and steady quiet walking with Jesus. Notice, Jesus did not say ‘teach them everything.’ He said ‘teach them to observe or obey or keep all that I have commanded you’ That means that we are to walk it, and lead others in walking with Jesus. It is more than just knowing stuff; it is doing it, walking it, living it.

His Commands Are Not Burdensome

When you hear words like ‘command’ and ‘obey,’ something in you might naturally raise walls of resistance, thinking ‘the last thing I need right now is more duty, more obligation, more requirements and responsibilities, more things to check off my list.’ Before you go there, listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 11.

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 is inviting you in to rest. He is inviting you to learn from him, but he says that is where you will find rest for your soul. He is not riding behind you adding to your load, cracking the whip to keep you pulling. He wants us to walk along side him, in the yoke with him, doing life together with him. He is willing to share your burden, and thus make it lighter not heavier.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a weight to pull and that you won’t face difficulties along the way. But it does mean that you will never be alone in them. Jesus yokes himself together with you.

Believe that I Am Lord and God

I want to start today with one of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples, a week after his resurrection. His disciples were discouraged, confused, afraid, hiding behind closed doors. They were hearing rumors, some of them had claimed to have seen Jesus alive. That first Sunday evening, he appeared to the whole group of disciples, minus Thomas.

John 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas refused to believe. In fact, he said ‘unless I have undeniable proof, I will never believe. John 20:26 says ‘eight days later’. Imagine, a full week of doubting, questioning, wondering. That following Sunday,

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus was offering the proof Thomas demanded. And he was commanding Thomas to believe. Believe what?

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Confronted with irrefutable evidence, Thomas grapples with the implications of a man who had clearly been executed and buried, who was now alive in the flesh, standing right in front of him, still retaining the wounds of his execution. Peter had earlier confessed Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Here Thomas worships Jesus as God. He calls him ‘my Lord.’ a connection with the Greek of the Old Testament YHWH, God’s name, the I AM. Thomas addresses Jesus with the language of prayer; ‘my Lord, my God’. He has come to believe in Jesus as the I AM of the Old Testament, the Sovereign One of Israel.

John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John gives the purpose of his writing. He is recording signs that offer evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; YHWH of the Old Testament; the Word who was with God and who was God, come in the flesh to save us. He writes so that we, his readers, would believe in Jesus. Jesus himself pronounces a blessing on us who believe in him now, not having seen him ourselves, but believing the testimony of the eye witnesses.

Believe and Be Born Again

In John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus ‘you must be born from above, born of the Spirit, born again’ (Jn.3:3-8), he reveals his identity to Nicodemus:

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God gave his only Son. Whoever believes in him has eternal life. You must be born again.

Jesus said in John 5 that John bore witness about me (33-35); the mighty works I have done bear witness about me (36); the Scriptures bear witness about me (39); and the Father himself bore witness about me (37); But he said

John 5:38 …you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. …40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Jesus commands us to believe in him, to come to him.

Come to Me and Drink

In John 7

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…

Jesus invites the thirsty to believe in him, to come to him and drink, to have their need satisfied. Those who come, the Spirit will produce new and overflowing life in their hearts.

Believe that I AM

In John 8, addressing the Pharisees who refused to believe in him, Jesus said:

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Unless you believe that I AM. This is the same phrase we find in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14, I AM Who I AM, the self-existent one. Jesus is demanding that they believe in him as the I AM, YHWH of the Scriptures. Jesus makes this explicit in verse 58, when he responds to their question:

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

The Jews understood what he was saying, and they considered it blasphemy for a man to claim to be the I AM of the Scriptures.

But this is exactly what Jesus was commanding them to believe. You must believe that I AM or you will die in your sins.

Believe in God and Also in Me

In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

In John 16, Jesus tells his followers that the coming Spirit would

John 16:8 …will convict the world … 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

The sin that the world will be convicted of is unbelief toward Jesus. We are commanded to believe in Jesus, and to disobey this command means condemnation and death.

The Impossible Work of Believing

In John 6, people were pursuing Jesus, not because they believed in him, but because he was feeding them.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Jesus tells them to labor for eternal food, not temporary food.

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

What must we do? What is the work God requires? To believe in Jesus. But these same people who had eaten the multiplied loaves, who were seeking Jesus because of the great signs he did, asked him for a sign.

John 6:30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?

We scratch our heads, wondering at their unbelief. But Jesus was not surprised.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

All that the Father gives him are the ones who come to Jesus. Then he said:

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

No one can come. Jesus said:

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Something we will see as we look at the commands of Jesus is that obeying Jesus is not something that is hard to do; it is not difficult; it is impossible. We can’t obey Jesus.

When Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God, Jesus responded:

Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Peter didn’t come up with this on his own. It was revealed to him by God.

In Mark 10, a man came running up to Jesus asking him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus showed his followers how difficult it is to trust him completely,

Mark 10:26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It is not difficult to obey Jesus, to believe in him, to trust him; it is impossible. But not with God. It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is no help at all.

Just before this, in Mark 10, his disciples were rebuking those bringing children to him.

Mark 10:14 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. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

We must come to Jesus as a child, expectant, eager to receive his gift; not trying to earn it or work for it.

Become like a child! Ask! Ask him to give you his Spirit. Ask him to give you the faith to let go of whatever else you are holding on to and trust him completely. ‘Everyone who asks receives!’ (Lk.11:10-13). So ask! Come as a child and ask. Ask him for the faith to believe in him.

Application; Believing in Jesus

The most important thing Jesus commands his followers is that we come to him, that we believe in him, that we take him at his word and believe that he is indeed who he claims to be, who he demonstrated himself to be. “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. (Jn.3:18)

Believing is the way of life for the follower of Jesus. We are to walk by faith. So what does it mean to walk day by day believing Jesus? Believing Jesus is the I AM? Believing that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Not just knowing it to be true, but truly walking in the light of that truth, knowing that he is with us, that he will never leave or forsake us?

If you truly believe in Jesus, that he is the I AM, my Lord and my God, God become flesh to save you, and that he is with you always, to the end of the age, it will change everything. It will change what is most important to you. It will change what you are afraid of. It will change your attitude and your outlook. It will change how you love and serve others. His yoke is easy and his burden is light and when we walk beside him, believing in him, we find rest for our souls.

***

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

April 26, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Meaning of the Crucifixion

4/10 Good Friday; The Meaning of the Crucifixion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200410_good-friday.mp3

Readings:

Psalm 22:1, 6-8, 14-18

Isaiah 52:14; 53:2-3

Isaiah 53:4-6

Good Friday the Central Event of History

Good Friday remembers the crucifixion of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The crucifixion of Jesus is the climactic event of history. From the entrance of sin and the curse into this world in the garden of Eden to the worship in Revelation of every created thing sung throughout eternity, everything in the biblical narrative points either forward or back to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Physical Horrors of Crucifixion

We have learned some of the graphic details of the Roman practice of scourging, and the horrors of crucifixion. There have been papers written from a medical perspective on what scourging and crucifixion does to the human body.

The imagery of crucifixion evokes powerful emotions. The passion, the sufferings of Christ have become the subject of much artistic expression, attempting to capture different aspects of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Simplicity of the Gospel Accounts

But we need to be careful here. The gospel narratives are startlingly sparse of details of the crucifixion;

Matthew’s gospel records Pilate releasing to the crowds Barabbas,

Matthew 27:26 …and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

The soldiers in the Praetorium stripped him, put a scarlet robe and crown of thorns on him, a reed in his right hand, and mocked him, spit on him and beat him, then put his own clothes back on him and led him away to crucify him (27-31). Verse 35 simply states ‘when they had crucified him…’

Mark records the same sequence of events, and says in 15:24 “and they crucified him…”

Luke records:

Luke 23:33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

It is striking the scarcity of details of the physical sufferings Jesus endured. We are given enough, enough to shake us, to horrify us. Crucifixion is where we get our word excruciating. But Jesus was not the only one to be crucified. Luke’s account tells us that there were at least 3 men crucified that day. History tells us that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people were executed in this way. The crucified victim could take days to expire, which is why the thieves legs were broken, and Jesus’ side was pierced, to verify that he was indeed dead.

The Meaning of Jesus’ Death

It was not the physical suffering of Jesus that made his death unique. The uniqueness of Jesus’ death comes from who he was and what he came to do. The eternal Word who was with God and who was himself God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mk.10:45).

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus, being in very form God, equal with God, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil.2:7-8).

Peter tells us “Christ… suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1Pet.3:18). Jesus died as a substitute. He, the only one righteous, suffered in place of me, the unrighteous. He did this so that I, a sinner, could be reconciled to a holy God. It was not the extend of his physical suffering that accomplished my redemption. The startling message of reconciliation is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For my sake, for my benefit, for my eternal good he (the Father) made him (his only Son Jesus Christ) to be sin. Peter tells us he ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1Pet.2:24). Jesus took my sin, the guilt, the shame, the consequences; the sinless one was made to be sin for my sake. He took my place. He endured what I deserve.

This makes sense of his terrible cry from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk.15:34). Jesus experienced the hell of separation from his Father, in our place, so that we could be reconciled, brought near to God.

The crucifixion of Jesus is a graphic portrayal of my sin. It shows me what I deserve.

The crucifixion is a graphic portrayal of what real love looks like. We think of love as merely a sentimental feeling, often a feeling that shifts like the wind. But God’s love is a rock solid commitment to love us quite literally to death. God’s love is a giving love, a self-sacrificial lay down your life love, pursuing the good of the other. We all want to be loved, to be pursued. We want to be loved for who we really are, not for some false image we project or is projected on us. We don’t want to be loved for some trait or quality that may fade or change. We want to be loved authentically.

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

Beware a Natural Response

What do you see in the crucifixion?

Octavius Winslow, a pastor in America and England in 1864 wrote:

There must be a believing, spiritual apprehension of Christ, or sin cannot properly be seen, or seen only to plunge the observer into the depths of despair. The mere presentation of the cross to the natural eye will awaken no emotion, other than natural ones. That which is natural can only produce what is natural. Nature can never rise above itself: it invariably finds its own level. Thus, in a contemplation of the sufferings of Christ, there may in minds of deep natural sensibility, be emotion, the spectacle may affect the observer to tears – but it is nature only. ..My reader, beware of mistaking nature for grace – the emotions of a stirred sensibility – for the tears of a broken and a contrite heart.”

Do You Believe?

Beware of emotions stirred by the images of the sufferings of Christ. Beware of being moved only by the physical suffering, and missing the reason why Jesus became human. We must own ourselves sinners, fully deserving of the wrath of a just God for eternity. We must cry out ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ And that is exactly what the cross is for. That is why Jesus came, that he who is rich in mercy and love might show his mercy to sinners who trust in Jesus alone. Are you trusting in him?

Whoever believes in the Son’ escapes the wrath of God and ‘has eternal life’ (Jn.3:36). Do you believe?

Are you ready to own yourself a sinner, to cry out to him for mercy? He is ready to forgive all your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. He has paid the price in full. Turn to him. Believe in him. Entrust yourself to him. Today!

***

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

April 26, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast, Theology | , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday; Sin and Repentance

4/05 Palm Sunday; The Sinfulness of Sin; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200405_sin.mp3

Palm Sunday vs. Good Friday

This is Palm Sunday, 5 days before Good Friday, one week before Resurrection Sunday. This is the day we celebrate Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey, hailed as king by the crowds who spread their cloaks and branches cut from the trees in the road before him, shouting out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”(Mt.21:8-9).

But a few short days later, when the Roman governor offered to release to them the ‘King of the Jews’, the crowds shouted out “Crucify him!” When Pilate asked them “Why? What evil has he done?” …they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” (Mk.15:9-14).

What happened that the crowds who received Jesus with joy only a few days earlier were now shouting out demanding his execution? And how can we avoid the same tragic mistake?

Crowd Dynamics

One thing we see going on here is a crowd dynamic. When a crowd gathers, people join in and they don’t always know why. It says in Matthew 21,

Matthew 21:10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

There was a buzz in the air. Something significant was happening. And nobody fully understood what. They sense the excitement and ask, who is this? The prophet Jesus. That is true, Jesus spoke on behalf of God, he spoke God’s words; he was a prophet, but he was so much more. They didn’t fully understand who he really was. They didn’t understand that he was God come in the flesh to save us.

We see this same kind of crowd dynamic in Acts 19, where Demetrius, a silversmith, perceived his business was being hurt by Paul’s preaching against idolatry and gathered a group and stirred up a crowd. It says ‘the city was filled with confusion’ (19:29) and when they gathered in the theater, it says ‘the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together’ (19:32). This is often the case; enthusiasm without understanding.

There is a danger in the enthusiasm of the crowds, because enthusiastic responses to Jesus are often short lived. John records at the beginning of his gospel that in the large crowds in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast ‘many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people’ (Jn.2:23-24). Jesus was wary of the enthusiastic response of people. Jesus taught multitudes, but he also said hard things that challenged them to think, and even caused many to be offended and leave.

The excitement that caused the crowds to cry out ‘Hosanna’ can quickly turn to ‘Crucify him!’

Save… From What?

What the crowds said was true, but they failed to grasp the full meaning of what they said. Jesus was indeed the much anticipated promised Messiah, King of the Jews. They shouted out “Hosanna!” which means “Save Now!” and Jesus was indeed the one who had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Lk.19:10). But when the crowds cried Hosanna, what were they asking to be saved from?

Even Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood his mission. In Mark 10, on the way to Jerusalem, immediately after Jesus told his disciples clearly and graphically how he would be executed, James and John come with this request: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They want seats of prominence in his kingdom. They weren’t listening.

They thought he was about to save them from Roman oppression, and rule as their Jewish king. Luke 19:11 says ‘they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.’ Their hopes were temporary, earthly, physical. Save us from this oppression. Save us from the danger we can see. Save us from the enemy that is right there in front of us.

Saving the Lost

But Jesus was marching in battle toward a different enemy. Jesus was about to conquer a different foe. And this enemy is within. Jesus described his rescue this way:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

He said this in the context of a man who was lost in his greed, his pursuit of worldly possessions and pleasures. A tax collector, a Jew who had sold out to the Romans and was getting rich by extorting his own people. The people grumbled “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Lk.19:7). Zacchaeus wasn’t being oppressed by the Romans; he had sided with the Romans in oppressing his own people. What happened? This greedy man’s heart was changed by and encounter with Jesus. He became generous that day. Salvation came to his house. He was rescued, not from the Romans, but from himself.

On another occasion, eating with another tax collector,

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He came to call sinners to repentance. He described himself as a doctor. A good doctor doesn’t go around giving out medicine to healthy people. His rescue is not for righteous people, people who think they are righteous, who think they are OK.

Jesus came for sinners. He came for the lost. Hosanna; save now. So many have a superficial understanding of what they needed saving from. Many people call out to Jesus in times of crisis asking for his help. They are asking for rescue from a difficult situation. Heal my sick relative, help me get a better job, get me out of financial trouble, fix my relationship mess. Fix my circumstances.

Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

You see, Jesus is more concerned about fixing you than he is about fixing your circumstances. He may be using your difficult circumstances to get your attention, to show you that the real problem is you.

What Do You Mean I’m Lost?

You might be saying, what do you mean, I’m the real problem? You don’t know what I’m dealing with. People who know they are lost don’t take offense at someone offering directions, but in Jesus’ day, and today, people resent being told they are lost. If your defenses are rising up against what I am saying, it indicates that you have an even more serious problem. Not only are you lost, you don’t even know you are lost. Most people think they are OK. But are you OK with God? Are you OK according to his standards?

The Greatest Command

When the religious leaders asked Jesus:

Mark 12:28 … “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus said the greatest command is to love the one true God. Our greatest sin is distorting and misrepresenting God. We want to be able to define God, to say what he can and cannot do, what he can and cannot be like, what he can and cannot require of us. In our arrogance, we have the audacity to set the parameters for what God can require or do or even be like.

Jesus tells us that we must love the God who is, not the god we imagine to be. And we are to love him with heart and soul and mind and strength. All our energy, all our thoughts, all our affections, our very existence is to be characterized by love for God. God is to have first place in every waking thought, he is to be desired above every other good, all our actions pursuing his pleasure.

And love neighbor as yourself; putting his needs at least equal to if not above your own.

So friend, how are you? The Rev. Edward Payson in the early 1800’s wrote:

Every moment of our waking existence in which we do not love God with all our hearts, we sin; for this constant and perfect love to God His Law requires. Every moment in which we do not love our neighbor as ourselves, we sin; for this also we are commanded to do. Every moment in which we do not exercise repentance, we sin; or repentance is one of the first duties required of us. Every moment in which we do not exercise faith in Christ, we sin; for the constant exercise of faith the gospel everywhere requires. When we do not set our affections on things above, we sin; for on these we are required to place them. When we are not constantly influenced by the fear of God, we sin; for we are commanded to be in the fear of the Lord all day long. When we do not rejoice in God, we sin; for the precept is, “rejoice in the Lord alway” (Phi 4:4). When the contents of God’s Word [do] not properly affect us, we sin; for this [lack] of feeling indicates hardness of heart – one of the worst of sins. When we do not forgive and love our enemies, we sin; for this Christ requires of us. [Rev. Edward Payson 1783-1827]

Be Appalled, O Heavens!

Listen to God’s opinion of his people.

Jeremiah 2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

We have God belittling God neglecting, God forsaking thoughts. This is something to be appalled at, to be shocked over. This is evil. God is the all satisfying source of all good. And we forsake him and turn away to empty worthless things that cannot satisfy.

We ought to look at our own hearts and be appalled and horrified at our tendency to seek satisfaction in things other than the true source of all good.

Listen to what John says:

1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

Are you in the habit of ignoring God? John says ‘you are of the devil.’ The work of the devil is to undermine God, to defame God, to question his word, his goodness, his love, to cause us to turn away from God.

Paul says in Romans 7 that the purpose of the law, and my rebellion against it, is

Romans 7:13 …in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

As you look at your own heart, do you see your sin as sin, a rebellion against a good and loving God, is it to you sinful beyond measure?

Repentance

Jesus said:

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to save sick sinners. What does it mean to repent?

Jesus proclaimed the good news of God,

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus charged his disciples:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Paul was sent with his gospel both to Jews and Gentiles,

Acts 26:20 …that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind or heart. To repent is to have a change of heart and mind about your sin, to come to see it as God sees it. It is to be appalled, to see it as sinful beyond measure. To turn away from sin as abhorrent and turn to God in faith. Confession means to say the same thing. To confess your sin is to say the same thing about your sin as God says about it. Confession is the opposite of excusing. Our tendency is to make excuses, to make allowances for our sin.

Repent of dead works

But what are we to turn from, to have a change of mind and heart about? This may be a surprise, but Hebrews 6 lays the foundation.

Hebrews 6:1 …a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Repent of your dead works. When our works are dead works, they don’t please God, rather they defile us. Isaiah tells us that our righteousness and our deeds do not profit, they are offensive in God’s sight. (57:12; 64:6) When we do good things to impress God or earn his favor, we offend him. We must change our mind and see our human effort to please God as God sees it, as an offense against his grace.

Repentance is a Gift

What if we don’t feel this way about our sins? Naturally, I am pleased with myself and my good works. Naturally I am appalled at your sins, but I tend to make allowance for my sins. In fact, I take great pleasure in some of my sins. How do I change how I think and feel about my sins?

True repentance is a gift. In Acts 11, Peter described the gift of the Spirit poured out on the Gentiles, and

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (cf. 5:32; 2 Tim.2:25)

God is glorified because it is God’s gift. If you don’t feel the way God feels about your sin, ask God to give you his gift of repentance. God loves to give good gifts to all who ask. Ask God to allow you to see your sin as he sees it. Ask God to give you the faith to trust Jesus completely.

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

***

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

April 5, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

03/29 Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200329_kept-in-peace.mp3

As I was contemplating God’s peace in the middle of uncertain times, a familiar verse came to mind. It goes like this:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a great verse of encouragement and hope to cling to. Just last week, someone gave me a little laminated scrap of paper with this verse written on it.
Kept in Peace

You keep him in ‘peace peace’, perfect peace. Last week we looked at the peace of Christ; Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (Jn,14:27). This is ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding;’ peace that ‘will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.4:7). This is the peace that you are to have ‘rule in your hearts …and be thankful’ (Col.3:15). God is our keeper; the keeper of peace; you will keep him in perfect peace.

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.’ In Colossians 3, we saw that this peace is for those who have believed in Jesus, who have been completely forgiven, who have been raised with Christ, who are experiencing new life in Jesus. And we believers are commanded to ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is’ (Col.3:1); we are to. ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Col.3:2). We are to steady the attention of our minds on Jesus, to set our affections on him; our hearts and thoughts are to be captured by him. So many things compete for our affections and our attention, but we are to fix our attention on him.

When we set mind and heart on Jesus, our minds are steadied,stayed on you’. This is passive; God’s word and God’s character have a steadying effect on our minds. God himself maintains and steadies us.

Because He Trusts in You

Because he trusts in you. Here is the means of being kept, being steadied. We are to trust, trust in God alone. Not trust in him and… But trust in him. Period. We are kept in peace because we trust in God. Not because of our act of trust, but because of the object in which our trust is placed. Because God is dependable. Because God is unchanging. Because God is our rock, because God is our security.

Not our health; that may fail. Not our savings; that may evaporate. Not our families; that can be stripped away. Not our jobs; there is no lasting security there. If our hope is in those things, if we are counting on, depending on, trusting in those things, they will fail us. They can all be gone in a moment.

This is what Jesus taught us;

Matthew 19:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where is your hope? Where is your heart? What are you holding on to? Where is your security?

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord God is the only absolute in an uncertain and shifting world. The LordGod; in the Hebrew ‘Yah YHWH’ is an everlasting rock. The Rock of Ages. YHWH, the one who is, the self existent, the absolute, the independent I AM.

Context of Global Judgment

This is a powerful pointer to where we get real peace. This was a verse I was familiar with, and I wanted to chew on this verse and see it in its context, so I looked it up. The verse is in Isaiah 26, tucked away in chapters 24-27, which are sometimes referred to as Isaiah’s little apocalypse.

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

This song is sung by God’s people, because, verse 5 says;

Isaiah 26:5 For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”

I was a bit surprised by the context. God’s people sing their confidence in God’s salvation as a result of God’s humbling the proud and lifted up of the world.

Isaiah warns of the downfall of Jerusalem because of their disobedience, pride and idolatry. God raised up the enemies of Israel to punish his people. But even in the midst of his discipline, there is hope. God disciplines his people for their good, and will ultimately crush their enemies.

Isaiah 24-27 put this in an end-times global perspective. These chapters give us a climactic vision of God ruling the nations in judgment and salvation. God will lay low everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of him. The lofty city is a picture of self-confidence, independence, and pride.

Look back at chapter 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. …3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

Notice it is the Lord himself who does this. Why?

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. …10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.

Why does the Lord execute judgment on the whole earth? Because of sin. Because of our rejection of God’s commands. Because we refuse to listen to him, to follow his ways. Because of our guilt. The wages of our sin is death.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. 20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

Isaiah 24 ends with the Lord punishing both angels and human rulers because of their guilt and, ‘the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders’ (Is.24:23).

Response of Worship

Listen to the response of God’s people to his just and terrible punishment of the wicked”

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

God’s people respond to his justice with worship. They sing his praise because God’s judgment on those who persist in evil and pride and refuse to turn to him is right and good. God is patient, slow to anger, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9). But God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Num.14:18). God’s justice is wonderful, worthy of praise. God’s people praise him for his justice, but it doesn’t stop there.

Isaiah 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…

Even God’s enemies will give him glory because of his absolute justice.

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

Every knee will bow and give glory to God. Some knees will never bow, except under the mighty hand of God’s justice.

Isaiah 26:9 …For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

God’s people recognize the sanctifying effect of God’s wrath, and even pray for it. There is a good end to God’s justice. Some may repent and turn to the Lord before it is too late.

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

Isaiah 26:8 In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Are you willing to wait in the path of God’s judgments? If that is where God will meet you, is he of more value to you than your own comfort and convenience? This is the true heart of a follower of Jesus. You, Lord are the desire of our soul. My soul years for you. My spirit earnestly seeks you. I want above all for your name to be honored, your will to be done. Above my need for daily bread and personal safety is my desire for you Lord to get the honor and worship that is your due. Does your heart resonate with this yearning? O Lord, make it so!

Resurrection Confidence

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

Peace, Jesus’ own peace, perfect peace to the one who is stabilized by the immovable anchor of the unchanging character of God. Trust. Trust in the Lord forever. He is worthy of your trust. He will never leave you; he will not fail you. No matter what happens, you are safe.

Does this imply that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and that if bad things do happen, it is an indication of your lack of faith? No, no no! God’s perfect peace is not exemption from the storms, but peace in the middle of the storms. God’s peace is not seen in circumstances. God’s peace is deeper than that. Times of trial wean us away from temporary pleasures to that which is lasting and true.

Jesus says something that at first sounds contradictory in John 11.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In one breath he says that believers will die and live again, and in the next breath he says that believers will never die. Are we exempt from death, or aren’t we? It is clear from history that believers in Jesus still experience death, many in unthinkable ways. But does this contradict what Jesus says in the very next breath that believers will never die? Clearly he is talking about death and life in different ways. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he will experience death physically, yet his body will physically be raised again. And everyone who experiences inward life (or new birth) and believes in Jesus will never experience spiritual death or separation from God. For the believer, to be ‘away from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2Cor.5:8). Eternal life, Jesus taught, is knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn.17:3). He taught a similar thing in Mark 8.

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

He clarifies that he is talking about two different kinds of life when he says something similar in John 12.

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Seeking to preserve physical life in this world at the cost of a relationship with God is folly; but risking this physical life for the hope of eternal life with God is true wisdom.

The peace of Jesus is not exemption from trials or suffering (Jesus actually promised we would experience those); rather the peace of Jesus preserves us through the trials. We will experience physical death, and yet we shall truly live. We see that our ultimate hope is rooted in the resurrection right in the context of this verse in Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.

For the one who trusts in the Lord, we have a sure and steadfast hope beyond the grave. Death is not the end. Christians believe in the resurrection. This life is not all there is, to be held on to at all costs. No, if our hope is in Jesus even death can’t interrupt that! ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job13:15)

Listen to our hope in the imagery painted in Isaiah 25:

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him. The God who swallows up death forever, who will wipe away our every tear. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Trust in the YHWH forever, for Yah YHWH is an everlasting rock! Trust him for he is trustworthy. Let your mind be stayed on him. Let him keep you.

***

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

April 4, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Peace of Christ (Colossians 3)

03/22 The Peace of Christ (Colossians 3:14-17); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200322_peace-of-christ.mp3

The Peace of Christ

There’s a verse in Paul’s letter to the Colossians that I want to look at with you today. Colossians 3:15 says

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The peace of Christ. Peace that comes from Jesus; Jesus’ very own peace. I want the peace of Christ to rule in my heart. I want your hearts to be ruled by the peace of Christ, no matter what we face in the days ahead.

In John 14, Jesus said to his fear-filled and troubled disciples (14:1, 27), whose hearts were filled with sorrow (16:6, 22) because he had told them he was leaving them and life for them would be hard,

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

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

Jesus promised to give them his own peace. Peace in the midst of affliction. Peace in adverse circumstances. Peace when death is looming large. Peace that is able to think of others above self even while being crucified.

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.”

In the world you will have tribulation. But in me you can have peace.

Paul instructs the Philippians

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. We need God’s peace to replace our anxiety and guard our minds and hearts. We need the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. How does this work?

Peace Commanded

Notice, this is a command. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule’ is a command for us to obey. For you grammar geeks, it is a present active imperative. It is not something that happens automatically. We need to obey this command. We need to let the peace of Christ be our umpire, to decide, to determine, to direct and control. So how do we do that?

If Therefore; Gospel Transformation

This verse appears in Colossians chapter 3, which gives instructions for Christian living. This is the third chapter in a letter, so it’s not fair just to jump in here without following the logic of the letter. Chapter 3 begins with ‘If therefore’. ‘Therefore’ is a connection; because of everything I have already said, therefore, do this. ‘If’ assumes something is true of you. ‘If therefore you have been raised up with Christ.’

If this isn’t true of you, you can’t go any further. You can’t obey the command to let the peace of Christ rule if you haven’t been first raised up with Christ. What is this talking about?

At the opening of this letter, Colossians 1:4 says:

Colossians 1:4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

This letter is written to believers, people who have put their faith in Christ Jesus. This is written to those who have heard the gospel, the word of truth, to those who understand the grace of God, his free gift to those who couldn’t earn it and will never be worthy of it.

He says in 1:12 that the Father has made us sufficient; He

Colossians 1:12 …has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

This is written to the redeemed, those who have been forgiven of all their sins, who have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

He addresses us in 1:21

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

He addresses believers, those who are trusting in, depending on, holding fast to the good news that Jesus’ death is sufficient to reconcile sinners to God and make us blameless in his sight.

In chapter 2 he cautions against false teachers and exhorts us to remain anchored in Jesus, walking in dependence on him alone.

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

He refers to circumcision and baptism, two symbols of putting off or putting to death our old way of life:

Colossians 2:12 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. 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.

The debt is canceled. We died with Christ, and we have been raised again through faith to a new kind of life.

It is to those who have embraced Jesus by faith, who have believed the good news that all our sins were legally once for all dealt with at the cross, who have died and been made alive with Christ by God’s resurrection power; it is to those that he gives his instructions in chapter 3.

So I want to invite you, if you are listening right now, and this is not true of you, right now, turn and cry out to Jesus, a sinner in need of forgiveness. Ask him to cancel your debt and make you new. Believe him. Trust him, that what he accomplished on the cross is everything necessary for you to be rescued from what you deserve. You can’t add anything. Receive his gift.

Setting Mind and Heart on Christ

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Because of what is true of us in the gospel, because we have been raised with Christ to a new kind of life, our hearts and our minds should pursue different things. Seek the things above; seek Jesus, set your mind on Jesus. Your life is hid with Christ in God; Christ is your life. Christ is your treasure. Set your mind and your heart on him.

Remember, these are active commands. Seek the things above, set your minds on things above. What are you looking at? What are you reading? What are you thinking about? What are you listening to? This does not mean that we have our heads in the clouds and are oblivious to the things happening around us. But it does mean that our attention, in the midst of breaking news, is fixed on the one who is sovereign over life and death, on the one who is upholding all things by his powerful word, on the one in whom is our only hope in life and in death. This means that we need to keep the gospel always in front of us, to consciously set our highest affections on Christ, and to filter every headline through the gospel truth that we believe. Our hope is a gospel hope, a firm assurance that looks beyond the grave.

Put Off / Put On

Because of this hope, because of what is true of us in Christ, because we have died and been raised to a new kind of life, because our hearts and our minds are pursuing a greater affection, we should live differently than we once did. Paul says that because we have died to our sins, we should now put to death the actions that are consistent with our old dead desires. He says

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: …

And he gives a laundry list of what is earthly, the way we once walked, because of which the wrath of God was coming. He instructs us to put this kind of lifestyle to death, to put it away, to strip it off like a contaminated set of clothes. He uses this metaphor of clothing; putting off and putting on. We have been washed clean on the inside; it doesn’t make much sense after taking a shower and getting clean to then put back on the same reeking, filthy, germ ridden clothes you were wearing before bathing. We are to put on a fresh set of clothes because we are clean.

Colossians 3:9 …you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying. Don’t wear that around any more. Those things bring God’s wrath, and you are dead to that.

This is the new set of clothes that we are to wear after having been cleansed by the blood of Jesus:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

Notice, that is who we are. Chosen by God. Holy, set apart by God. Loved by God. We have been forgiven of all our trespasses through trust in Christ. We have been raised with Christ. Our life is hidden with Christ in God. That is our new identity.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

This is the context where he says:

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

The peace of Christ is now to arbitrate every response, every word, every reaction. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom.5:1). Because we are now at peace with God, peace should rule our hearts and emotions. We are no longer at war, in fear of death; rather death has lost its sting, and we are forever secure and at peace with God.

Peace and the Body of Christ

Because we are at peace with God, because the peace of Christ is arbitrating in our hearts, we can be at peace with one another. See the community here? You were called to the peace of Christ in one body. You are called not only to be at peace with one another, but to promote the peace of Christ. This is so important.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

We are to set our hearts and minds on Christ, we are to have the peace of Christ be the deciding factor in our hearts, and we are to have the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Only then are we in a position to encourage the community of believers. And that is what we are called to! Teaching one another, admonishing one another, singing with one another, giving thanks with one another. In this time, especially, that one another ministry is so vitally important!

-Set your mind and heart on Christ

-Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart

-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

***

March 27, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gospel Hope in a Broken World

03/15 Gospel Hope in a Broken World; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200315_hope.mp3

Our president announced this week a state of national emergency. The World Health Organization has officially designated the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic; as of yesterday there were 142,539 confirmed cases and 5,393 deaths worldwide [who.int]. There are currently around 2,000 confirmed cases in the US and 41 deaths, and those numbers are expected to rise. In response to identifying the first case of community spread in Utah, our governor announced the ‘dismissal’ of all students K-12, and colleges and universities are closing campuses and moving classes online. There is not a roll of toilet paper to be found in stores. Many people are afraid.

Suffering is Not New

How are we to think about all this? What do we as followers of Jesus do? Today I want to bring a message of hope to a hurting and broken world. But first we need to step back and look at where we are at and how we got here. Before we get to the good news, we should look at some bad news. Let’s give this some historical context. I found this list of 10 of the worst pandemics in history, and their death toll:

165 AD – Antonine Plague – Smallpox or measles? – 5 million

541-542 – Plague of Justinian – Bubonic plague – 25 million

1346-1353 – the black death – Bubonic plague – 75-200 million

1852-1860 – third Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 1 million

1889-1890 – ‘asian/russian’ flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

1910-1911 – sixth Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 800,000+

1918 – flu pandemic – influenza – 20-50 million

1956-1958 – Asian flu – influenza – 2 million

1968 – flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

2005-2012 (peak) – HIV/AIDS pandemic – 36 million

[https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/ ]

These are some staggering numbers. Why point this out? I am not at all trying to downplay this current pandemic. What I want us to see is the prevalence of death throughout human history. Remember this is just a top ten list; it obviously leaves a lot out. Suffering and disease and death is not new. We are not the first to face things like these. And we can learn a lot from history.

The Root of All Suffering

But to put this in an even broader context, I want to look at the global pandemic, the root cause that underlies all of these.

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

The Bible has the answers to our deepest questions. Why? Why do terrible things like these happen throughout human history? Sin entered God’s good creation through one man. Death entered this world through Adam’s rebellion. Death spread to all people because all sinned. The wages of sin is death. The spread of contagious diseases that wipe out entire populations are not new. Fear and suffering and death are not new. God warned our first parents that enjoying relationship with him is life, but turning from him to follow other voices results in death. The death rate of COVID-19 is estimated at somewhere around 3.5%. The death rate of sinners throughout human history is 100%. Death is a fact we must face as humans living in a broken, fallen, hurting world. Let me give you a sobering word of encouragement; if the Corona virus doesn’t get you, something else will.

The Good News

We rebelled against a good and loving God. We brought the promised consequences down on our own head. But here’s the stunning thing. God himself came down. God entered into our disease ridden sick and dying world, not in a hazmat suit with a respirator, but in a susceptible, vulnerable human body. He actually took on flesh, he became one of us. In fact, he came so near to us that he contracted our disease. Galatians 3:13 says:

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—…

1 Peter 2:24 tells us:

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

2 Corinthians 5:21 says:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he [the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus himself told us:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This is staggeringly good news. The God who we rebelled against and offended has come down,

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God came down on a rescue mission, to lay himself down, to actually contract our disease, to die our death so we could live.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Just stop and breathe that in. Whoever – believes – has – eternal – life. Eternal life. It will last forever. It cannot be lost or taken away. All who trust only in Jesus will enjoy his presence forever. Let that truth sink in deep and shape your souls and overcome your fears.

Here’s how the apostle Paul responded to this truth.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. …23 …My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Genuine Belief

Do you believe this? Do you really believe this? Has this truth sank down deep to the gut level where it influences every decision you make? Is this what you know is the right answer if your pastor were to ask you, or is this a truth that fleshes itself out in the way you live your life day to day? You see, a crisis, a tragedy, a global pandemic shows us what we really believe.

Cyprian (d.258); Dionysius (d.264)

In the plague of Cyprian, 249-262, at the height of the outbreak 5,000 people a day were said to be dying in Rome. Cyprian’s (Bishop of Carthage) biographer wrote of the plague at Carthage:

Afterwards there broke out a dreadful plague, and excessive destruction of a hateful disease invaded every house in succession of the trembling populace, carrying off day by day with abrupt attack numberless people, every one from his own house. All were shuddering, fleeing, shunning the contagion, impiously exposing their own friends, as if with the exclusion of the person who was sure to die of the plague, one could exclude death itself also. There lay about the meanwhile, over the whole city, no longer bodies, but the carcasses of many, and, by the contemplation of a lot which in their turn would be theirs, demanded the pity of the passers-by for themselves. No one regarded anything besides his cruel gains. No one trembled at the remembrance of a similar event. No one did to another what he himself wished to experience. [/wiki/Plague_of_Cyprian; Pontius of Carthage, Life of Cyprian. Transl. Ernest Wallis, c. 1885. Online atChristian Classics Ethereal Library. ]

One eyewitness of the plague in Alexandria, Bishop Dionysius records:

At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/ ]

While the response of many to the plague was characterized by self-protection, self-preservation, avoiding the sick at all costs, the response of Christians was different. Dionysius recounts:

Most of our brother-Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/; https://erenow.net/common/the-history-of-the-church/8.php]

The conduct of believers so impacted the culture, that a century later, the emperor Julian wrote (AD362) to exhort the pagan priests to imitate the Christians in their charity:

For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort… [https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letters_of_Julian/Letter_22 ]

1527 – Luther

In August of 1527 the Bubonic plague struck Wittenberg and numerous people fled in fear of their lives. Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who was pregnant at the time, remained in their beloved city in order to treat the infected. Luther responded to a fellow pastor and friend in another city: [https://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/martin-luther-and-the-black-plague/ ]

Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together …so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”

Luther saw one purpose of an epidemic as

also to test our faith and love — our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor. “

He says we ought to:

serve our neighbor, risking our lives in this manner as St. John teaches, “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” [1 John 3:16].

He goes on to address our fears:

When anyone is overcome by horror and repugnance in the presence of a sick person he should take courage and strength in the firm assurance that it is the devil who stirs up such abhorrence, fear, and loathing in his heart. He …takes delight in making us deathly afraid, worried, and apprehensive so that we should regard dying as horrible and have no rest or peace all through our life. And so the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles.”

[https://blogs.lcms.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plague-blogLW.pdf ]

It is out of this period that Luther penned his famous hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

1854 – Spurgeon

In 1854 Cholera broke out in London in the Broad Street neighborhood, just across the river from the New Park Street Chapel where Charles Spurgeon was newly called to minister. He was busy preaching, serving his people, visiting the sick and dying. In 1866, amid another cholera outbreak, he gave this charge to Christians:

You cannot stop their dying; but, oh, that God might help you to stop their being damned! You cannot stop the breath from going out of their bodies; but, oh, that the gospel might stop their souls from going down to destruction! It can do it, and nothing else can take its place.

Just now, the cholera has come again. There can be little doubt, I suppose, about it being here already in some considerable force, and probably it may be worse. The Christian need not dread it, for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by death. Still, for the sake of others, he may well pray that God would avert his hand, and not let His anger burn. But, since it is here, I think it ought to be a motive for active exertion. If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad.

I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then. All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine.

And now, again, is the minister’s time; and now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that —

There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

Tell them that He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. Tell them that He is able to save even at the eleventh hour, and to say to the dying thief, “to-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

[https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-autobiography-of-c-h-spurgeon-volume-i#flipbook/380; Autobiography 1:371 ‘in sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, July 29, 1866’]

2019-2020 Wuhan China

On January 24, 2020 Pastor Paul Peng shared the gospel over the phone with a Zhang, a woman from Wuhan who while visiting her son in Chengdu, China, had become ill and was quarantined. Five days after putting her trust in Christ, she became the first coronavirus fatality in Sichuan province. Peng held a memorial service over a videoconferencing platform, preaching to about 100 of her friends and family that ‘calamity should lead people to pray not only for God to rescue them, but also for people to repent and turn to God’ [https://world.wng.org/2020/02/seeking_peace_in_sickness ]

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

I want to close today with the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism, a teaching tool for Christians in the form of questions and answers.

Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own (1Cor.6:19-20), but belong—body and soul, in life and in death (Rom.14:7-9)—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ (1Cor.3:23; Titus2:14).

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood (1Pet.1:18-19; 1Jn.1:7-9; 2:2), and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil (Jn.8:34-36; Heb.2:14-15; 1Jn.3:1-11). He also watches over me in such a way (Jn.6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2Thess.3:3; 1Pet.1:5) that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven (Matt.10:29-31; Lk.21:16-18); in fact, all things must work together for my salvation (Rom.8:28).

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life (Rom.8:15-16; 2Cor.1:21-22; 5:5; Eph.1:13-14) and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him (Rom.8:1-17).

***

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

March 16, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment