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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 1:1-8; Train Up Your Children

05/09_Daniel 01:1-8; Train Up Your Children; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210509_dan01_1-8.mp3

Today is mother’s day, and we are in Daniel chapter 1, where we are introduced to four teens who have been ripped from their homes and transplanted into a society where they will be re-programmed to live and think as citizens of a country who is opposed to God and his ways. We are not told who Daniel’s parents were. We don’t know what kind of upbringing he had. But we can look at what the Bible does say about the essential nature of parenting, and I think we can safely infer some things about the upbringing of these four that we are introduced to here in the first chapter of Daniel.

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. 8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. …

Preparing Your Children to Live as Exiles

How do you prepare your children for captivity and exile? How do you get them ready to live as strangers and aliens in a land full of false gods and deceptive temptations? Let’s say that we could predict the future and could see that America and its leadership will continue to decline, and in five years, a foreign military will march in our streets, destroy our infrastructure, take our children captive, haul them away to re-education camps where they will be taught that it is absurd and naive to believe in the existence of God. How would you parent in such a way as to prepare them to live in a society whose very moral and spiritual fiber is opposed to everything you believe and hold dear?

Or if that seems too far-fetched, lets say that in five years America continues on unchanged, and your child goes off to high school or college, where they will be taught that it is absurd and naive to believe in the existence of God. How are you preparing them to live as strangers and aliens in a land full of false gods and deceptive temptations?

Remind Them Of Their Identity

First, lets look at their identity. Verse 6 gives us their names; ‘Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.’ If you are familiar with Hebrew names, you will hear the names of God; ‘El’ and ‘Yah’ in those names.

Daniel “God is my judge”

Hananiah “Yahweh is gracious”

Mishael “who is what God is?”

Azariah “Yahweh has helped” or “will help.”

We don’t put as much significance in a name, but these boys were given an identity. Every time they were called, they would be reminded of the nature and character of God. God is the ultimate and only judge, before whom we all will stand to give account. Yahweh is gracious; he is generous and gives good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. God is holy, unique, in a class by himself; who is what God is? There is no one like our God; he is most high over all. Yahweh will help; whenever we face difficulties or are in need, it is to him we must look. He is our only unfailing source of help.

Daily they were reminded of their identity, that they belong to God, that God is sovereign over all, that God is to be honored, that God is holy, unique, that Yahweh is gracious and that he will help all who call on him. Do you see how their parents were daily involved in reminding them of the character of God, and who they are in relation to this God?

In Babylon, their identity was stripped away. They were given new names, a new identity that replaced the names of the one true God of Israel with the gods of Babylon, Bel, Aku and Nebo. God is my Judge is renamed ‘Bel-belteshazzar’; Bel, protect his life! Yahweh is Gracious is renamed ‘Shadrach’; command of Aku the moon god. Who is what God Is is renamed ‘Meshach’; who is what Aku is? Yahweh will help is renamed ‘Abednego’; servant of Nebo or Nabu.

Parents Train Up Your Children

But these new names couldn’t erase the faithful training of faithful parents who faithfully taught them who God is, and their identity in relationship with that one true God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Parents, we are to know and love the Lord our God with heart and soul and mind and strength. We are to walk in his ways, and to non-stop train our children. Whenever you’re at home, talk about the Lord. Whenever you’re out and about, talk about the Lord. When you go to bed, when you get up in the morning, love him and keep his word in your heart and in front of your eyes.

The theological training of your children can’t wait until Bible college; that may be too late. And it can’t be handed over to the church; the church doesn’t tuck your kids into bed at night and drag them out of bed in the morning. The church isn’t often in your homes or on your vacations. The church simply cannot do in one hour on Sundays and maybe an hour midweek what it is your job as parents to do day in and day out.

Remember, training is not just passing on information. Your kids will learn from how you live, the choices they see you make, your attitude, the way you respond to circumstances. They will learn from what you do much more than from what you say.

Prepared for Sacrifice

Daniel 1:3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

The requirement of the king was among other things, that these youths must be without blemish. This is a term that is most frequently used in the requirements that both priests and sacrificial animals must be without blemish to be acceptable to God (Lev.21-22). What we offer to God must be our first and our best. What Nebuchadnezzar demanded was young men without physical defect, but this language connects us back to the sacrificial system. A lamb without blemish or spot is fit for sacrifice.

Parents, think about this. Are you preparing your children for sacrifice? Romans 12 uses this kind of imagery.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Are you teaching your children that they should expect the best in this life, an easy life, that they are entitled to blessings? Or are you teaching them that it is often costly to follow Jesus, but that it is worth it?

Circumstances for these families went as bad as could have been imagined. They lived under the reign of kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jerusalem was given into the hand of the enemy. The temple was plundered. Their children were carried off into captivity; although we don’t know for sure, they may have been castrated in literal fulfillment of Isaiah 39:5-7. The hope of any grandchildren was lost. We aren’t told what happened to the parents, but it is likely they never saw one another again. Would this fiery trial come to them as a complete shock and surprise, as if something strange were happening to them (1Pet.4:12)? Would it cause them to doubt their faith and question the reality, the goodness, the power of their God?

Jesus promised us who follow him that ‘In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world’ (Jn.16:33), and he promises us his peace in the midst of adverse circumstances.

What are your expectations for your children? Is your heart set on the American dream, or are you preparing them to present themselves to God as living sacrifices? To endure suffering for the sake of his name?

Show Them Where True Joy Is Found

Sacrifice is difficult, so we must prepare them for suffering, but pleasures often prove more lethal than persecution. Don’t neglect to teach your children where true joy is found.

Daniel and his friends would face great temptations where it was expected they would indulge their flesh. ‘The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.’ This was the best available. They were far away from home, out of reach of all accountability. This would appeal to all their senses. And it seems no one else was resisting. How could they possibly stand up to this kind of temptation?

The best way to inoculate our children against temptation is to expose them to greater pleasures. Psalm 16:11 says

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore are found in the presence of God. Moses, in similar circumstances,

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

The pleasures of sin are real, but they are fleeting. Worldly treasures are real, but they pale in comparison to the eternal reward, against which ‘all the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom.8:18).

The king of Babylon showed them what they had to gain by allegiance to him. He invited them to feast on the abundance of his house and to drink of his own wine. But listen to Psalm 36

Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Is the Lord’s steadfast love precious to you? Savor the preciousness of God’s grace to you in the gospel daily, and it will put your mouth out of taste for the sweets of this world.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! …

You have got to taste for yourself the sweetness of God. Our kids must see us drinking deeply of the river of his delights. And we must give them the opportunity to taste and see for themselves.

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

Teach them not to trust their deceitful desires (Eph.4:22); teach them where every truly good gift comes from.

The Wisdom of Humility and a Biblical Worldview

It seems that Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel were equipped with a comprehensive view of God’s sovereignty over all things, even the worst imaginable circumstances, and they trusted that he is judge, he is gracious, he is above all other gods, and he is the source of their help. They must have had a taste of something better, so they were able to resist the temptations that appealed to their deceitful desires.

But they had been selected because they were ‘skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace.’ This was greatly flattering. They were to be taught ‘the literature and language of the Chaldeans.’

… They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.

This was a huge boost to the ego, and an incentive to forget their pain and plunge themselves into learning and literature.

But all literature, every story, every song is leading somewhere, engaging the emotions, teaching something. Stories shape our world view. Can these four be immersed in the world view of the Babylonians without losing their own?

In verse 17 we read ‘God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom.’ God gave them the wisdom to learn what was taught, to discern what is true, and to hold fast to him.

They had been given the humility to know that what they knew was a gift from God.

Know, Love and Serve Jesus

Parents, teach your kids humility. Show them where true joy is found. Prepare them for suffering and sacrifice. Remind them of their true identity. Remind them whose they are. Prepare your children to live as sojourners, as exiles. This world is not their home. Entrust them to a faithful God who loves them more than you do and who is able to keep them.

More than anything else, here’s what I want for my kids. I want you to know and love and serve Jesus.

Know him, get to know him, enjoy being with him, be in constant communion, in communication, in relationship with him.

Love him; affections inflamed, not motivated by duty but by delight. Look! Look at the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ for you (Eph.3:18). We love because he first loved us (1Jn.4:19).

Serve him; spend your life to bring him glory and praise, to bring others into the joy of knowing him.

The order matters. I want your life and service to flow out of relationship and love, not out of obligation and duty. You have to know him and love him before you can offer any acceptable service to him.

***

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

May 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Worship in Spirit and Truth

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

Wrath Revealed Against Worshipers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Different From Service

During the temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4,

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

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

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

Worship Wars

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

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

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

Place To Worship

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

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

Who To Worship

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

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

Spirit and Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The I AM is Here

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

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

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

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

Jesus the Temple

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

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

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

Worship Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sit At Jesus’ Feet

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

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

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

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

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

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

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

Luke records it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tested Genuineness of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

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

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

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

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

The Steadfastness of Christ

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

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

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

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

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

The Lord is Faithful

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

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

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

Kept to Keep Yourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

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

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

***

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

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

Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds… (Matthew 5:14-6:21)

06/21 [Father’s Day] Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200621_righteousness-exceeds.mp3

Today is Father’s day, and I want to look at Matthew 5-6 where Jesus teaches us about our relationship to our Father. We are all in different places regarding our relationship to our fathers. Some of us have lost a father, some never knew their father. Some love and admire their father, others have been deeply wounded by their father. Some of us are fathers of young children, some fathers of adult children. But Jesus points us to the perfect Father, his Father in heaven, and he addresses us who have been adopted into his family, who can now also call God ‘Father’.

The Light of Our Works Give Glory to Our Father

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus is teaching us what our lives are to look like as his followers. We are to be like a city set on a hill, like a lamp up on a stand, giving light to the world. Children are often scared of the dark, and life is hard when you stumble around in the dark and stub your toe. But understand, not everyone loves the light. When the lights are turned on, the cockroaches scurry for cover. Jesus said ‘the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil’ (Jn.3:19). We are to be the light of the world, a city on a hill, a lamp on a stand. We are told to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ Let the light of your commendable conduct shine in such a way that people see you and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How does this work? I remember (and it has been a long time since this has happened), when our children were younger, and we would herd them into a nice restaurant to have a special dinner together as a family, when we entered you could feel the people we were seated near brace themselves as this large family intruded on their otherwise peaceful dinner. On several occasions, as a neighboring couple would finish their meal and get up to leave, they would come over to Deanna and I and say ‘your children are so well behaved!’ Like I said, this was a long time ago. We would thank them and let them know that it was by the grace of God. But what they were doing was exactly what this verse is talking about. Sometimes they would direct a complement toward our children, but they would always bring it back to the parents, recognizing that we were ultimately responsible for our children’s behavior. ‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ When our conduct is like a light shining in a dark place, it reflects on our upbringing, on our parenting. It reflects on our Father in heaven. We are always representing our adopting Father in heaven. We are either bringing him honor and glory or we are shaming his name.

The Heart of the Law

Jesus continues by pointing us back to the law of God.

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. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus came not to abolish but to fulfill the law of God. He came to do what we cannot. He says that we are to do and to teach the law of God. He condemns those who relax one of the least of these commands. And he says that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, or we will never even enter the kingdom of heaven. God’s children must conduct themselves as his children. And then Jesus goes on to expound some of the commands of God.

In verses 21-26 he reminds us of command #6 in the 10 commandments, ‘you shall not murder,’ and he addresses the root of anger in our heart, and commands us to seek reconciliation.

In verses 27-32 he reminds us of command #7 ‘you shall not commit adultery,’ and he addresses the root disease of lust in our heart.

In verses 33-37 he reminds us of command #9 ‘you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor’ and he tells us that we should not even have to take an oath; that we should be known always to speak the truth.

In verses 38-42 he reminds us of the law of retribution; an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Ex.21:24) and he teaches us that rather than demanding and exacting the justice that is due to us, we should rather be wronged and go the extra mile to serve others.

In verses 43-48 he reminds us of the requirement to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev.19:18), and he extends this to love of even our enemies.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Jesus doesn’t relax the requirements of the commandments; he says that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. He digs down to the heart issues that underlie the outward actions. The religious leaders, seeking to justify themselves by their conduct, made them merely about outward observance, and defined exactly when and how far and to what the commands did and did not apply. Jesus says the issue is our hearts; what do you love? Is your heart formed after the heart of your father? Do you bear the resemblance of your Father and his heart toward people?

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Our hearts must be reshaped by the new birth to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Our hearts must grow to resemble the heart of our heavenly Father.

Not Works Righteousness But Real Spirit Wrought Righteousness

Please don’t misunderstand, Jesus is not driving us to pursue a righteousness that we earn by our good performance. The point of the law is that we can’t, that we fall short. The standard is absolute. The standard is perfection. The law teaches us that we need a hero that fights the battle for us; who can fulfill the law for us and give us his perfect righteousness as a gift that we don’t deserve. This is exactly what Paul understands in Philippians 3. He counts his earned righteousness under the Law as loss and rubbish,

Philippians 3:8 …in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him…

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them, to accomplish them. He fulfilled the commandments in our place, as our hero, and he clothes us in his perfect righteousness as a gift, received by faith. He makes us his own.

But do not make the other mistake that because Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf that it no longer matters how we live. Now that we have been clothed in his perfect righteousness as a gift, now that we are reconciled to God through the death of his Son, now that we have received the gift of the Spirit of the living God through faith, now, the Holy Spirit living inside begins to transform our hearts to make us into what we are. We are perfectly righteous before God by faith in Jesus’ finished work, and we are becoming righteous day to day, as the Spirit brings about his holiness in us as we let our light shine before others.

Seek the Reward of your Father

Jesus goes on in Matthew chapter 6 to warn us:

Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

And after teaching us to pray to our Father in heaven, he continues:

Matthew 6:16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

At first read this passage seems to directly contradict what went just before. In 5:14 he said ‘You are the light of the world, a city on a hill, a lamp on a stand;’ in 16 he said ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ Now in 6:1 he says ‘Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.’ Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works,’ and ‘beware of practicing you righteousness before others in order to be seen by them.’ How do we put these together? Do we let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works, or do we beware of practicing our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them? Do we let our light shine before others, or do we only practice our righteousness in secret to be seen only by our Father who is in secret? Do you sense the problem here?

Jesus is cautioning us against a dangerous and seductive motive. He is commanding us to let our light shine before others, but he is warning us not to do so in order to pursue the praise of others. Our hearts love praise. We want to be praised by others. We want the affirmation and approval of people. How many people desperately seek the affirmation and approval of their earthly fathers? How many people have been deeply wounded because no matter what they did or how hard they tried, they could never measure up and never feel the approval of their father? We naturally long for the approval of those who are important to us. Jesus is warning us against the danger of seeking the praise and approval of people.

I want us to see something here. Do you see how repeatedly Jesus encourages us to seek the reward? He warns that if you pursue the praise of people, their praise will be all the reward you ever receive. But if you seek to glorify your Father, if you give in secret and pray in secret and fast in secret, then your Father who is in secret and sees in secret will reward you.

This is the context of verse 19:

Matthew 6:19 “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.

Do not seek the praise that comes from people. Seek the reward that comes from your Father who sees in secret.

Here’s the thing, we do long for approval, especially approval from those who are most important to us. If we live to pursue the affirmation of people, that will be all we get, and that won’t last. But if we seek the approval of our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God, we are guaranteed to get it, and it will last forever!

Remember the parable of the talents?

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Two of the servants put what he had entrusted to them to work. The one buried what he had been given. When the master returned, the servant who distrusted his master and did nothing with what he had been given was thrown out, but the two who had put what they had been given to work both experienced exponential increase, and heard these words:

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (cf. v.23)

The reward we are to pursue is the approval of our Father who loves us and who has freely given us much. Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, it must be a righteousness that flows out from a Spirit transformed heart, who does not practice righteousness in order to be praised by other people, but rather ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion

11/24_2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191124_2cor9_13-14.mp3

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The question we have is ‘How do we glorify God? What does it mean to glorify God? What does that look like in practical daily life?’ This passage in 2 Corinthians 9 gives us one clear way we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God.

Glorify God by Loving God and Neighbor

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous (single-hearted) in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you for all simplicity, for abounding in every good work. When we use what God has freely given us to extend his grace to bless others, it does more than just meeting that need. It produces thanksgiving to God.

We want to live for the glory of God. We long for the Lord alone to be glorified. We want him to get the thanks he deserves. Paul tells us in these verses how to produce thanksgiving to God. He tells us that our unmixed devotion and love for the Lord will produce thanksgiving to God. For the Corinthians, this was specifically in the context of the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Our context will be different, but the results can be the same. This will look different for each of us. There are myriads of ways we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God in daily life. Whenever we in simplicity love God and love neighbor, we glorify God.

Approval and Authenticity

Paul goes on in the next verses to tell us how this works. How does our love for God and practical expression of love for neighbor bring glory to God? He says of the saints in Jerusalem:

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity (simplicity) of your contribution (fellowship) for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

By the approval (δοκιμή) of this service they will glorify God. It is through their approval of this service or ministry. The service of cheerful giving is proved or tested and approved by them. Paul used a related word to this word ‘approval’ in 8:8.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove (δοκιμάζω) by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Prove that your love is genuine. Proving demonstrates the genuineness of a thing. A thing is approved when it is proved to be what it claims to be. It is by the approval of this service that they glorify God. There is such a thing as service that is not really service, ministry that is not really ministry. It appears to be, but it is not genuine. The outward thing might look identical, but it is intrinsically different. Fools gold might appear to be gold, but in the furnace it is proved to be a different thing altogether. In this context, cheerful giving is the service. There might be two givers who give, and the amount might be identical. The outward act is the same. But what is the heart and attitude behind the gifts? The one might be out of a simple affection for Jesus and a desire to honor him with what he has given. The other might be mixed with a desire to be noticed, to be perceived as generous, to gain the status and respect of a generous giver. It might be out of a sense of pressure or obligation, or out of a desire to repay a debt. It might be a way to relieve guilt. Both gifts might meet the need, but as we’ve seen throughout these chapters, the heart of the giver is most important. One is proved genuine, the other proves to be fools gold.

Which is it? Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. What is the ultimate result? Who gets glory? Jesus said:

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

Let your light shine before men. Do good works. But do them in such a way that God gets the glory. The giver gets the glory. If the giver is God and it is clear that I am merely a conduit or channel through which God’s good gifts flow, then God gets the glory. If I attempt to share his glory, to claim credit for myself, I obscure where the gift comes from, and I attempt to steal glory for myself, glory that rightly belongs to God alone.

Remember Annanias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5)? Many of the believers were selling their possessions and sharing what they had. They sold a piece of land, and presented part of the sale price as a gift, but secretly withheld part for themselves. It was not wrong to keep some of the proceeds. It would not have been wrong to keep the entire amount. The apostles make this clear. What they were accused of was lying to God. They were not genuine. They were trying to deceive, trying to be perceived as something they were not. Their hearts were wrong. They were seeking to impress others, to be perceived as generous, to gain status and approval. Instead they were exposed for what they were, and they dropped dead on the spot. Our hearts matter greatly to God.

People may be deceived. People may misread motives, but God knows our hearts.

Gentile Submission to the Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.

This word ‘submission’ is used in contexts of submission to authority, submission of children to parents, of a wife to her husband, of slaves to their masters, of citizens to their governing authorities. It is used of the submission of Jesus to his Father. It is used of the submission of demons to Jesus, and ultimately of all things under God. This is an interesting use of this word here in this context. What is ‘the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ’?

This word submission seems to have a large overlap with another word, often translated ‘obedience’. Both are used for submission to or obedience to parents, to masters, of demons to Jesus. The obedience word has more to do with hearing and obeying; as the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ voice. This submission word has more to do with being subject to authority. The obedience word is used several times in the context of obeying the gospel, as almost synonymous with believing. To hear his voice and respond to him is to believe. This is the only place that this submission word seems to be connected with the gospel. But it is not just submission to the gospel, but the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ.

This idea of submission points to something bigger. There are some verses that use this submission word to speak in a cosmic context of all authorities and powers and everything being put under the authority of Jesus, and ultimately of his Father. Here’s just one example:

Ephesians 1:19 …according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things [in subjection] under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

This points to a time when the whole universe will be under the dominion of Jesus. That there are non-Jewish people who are trusting in the Jewish Messiah, that there is a church of Jesus followers in Corinth and in Philippi and in Ephraim Utah is a big deal! This is a foretaste of everything in the universe being in subjection under King Jesus! For the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to see that there were genuine followers of Jesus from every tribe and nation was a big deal.

Confessing The Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

The submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ. What does it mean to confess to the gospel of Christ? Gospel means good news. To confess is the compound word ὁμολογία from homo – the same and logia or logos – word or reasoning. Literally it is to say the same thing. We confess or profess the gospel when we say the same thing. What the gospel says is what I say. If the good news is that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned but has eternal life (Jn.3:36) then I say the same thing. I trust in Jesus so I am no longer under condemnation but I have eternal life. If the good news is that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph.2:8), then I say the same thing. There is nothing I can do to rescue myself. I am depending on Jesus, I receive his free and undeserved gift. I confess the gospel. What the gospel says, what God says is true, I say is true.

The good news is Christ. The good news is a person. In confessing the gospel of Christ I am submitting to a person. I surrender. I place myself under his good authority. I trust him and entrust myself to him.

Communion and Community

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They give praise and honor to God because you are believing the gospel. You are confessing the gospel of Christ. You are placing yourself under the rule and authority of Jesus.

And they glorify God because of the generosity (literally simplicity or sincerity, openness) of your fellowship. When they see your single hearted love for God and neighbor, they see the genuineness of your faith, and they glorify God.

The gospel creates communion, fellowship, something in common. People who had nothing at all in common, when they belong to Jesus, now they have a common bond, a connection, something in common. The most important thing in common. People of different language and culture and ethnic background, when they belong to Jesus, have the most important thing in common. And this creates a bond, a connection. Have you experienced this? You meet a total stranger, someone you have nothing in common with, and you discover that they too are a lover of Jesus, and you suddenly have this unity, this connection, you can enjoy communion. The opposite is true. You might have so many shared interests, so much shared life experience, you might have so much in common, but if the other person is not a believer, you can’t have true fellowship, true communion. Not at the deepest, most important level. They see the simplicity of your communion to them and to all. There is a connection with every other believer, and that brings glory to God.

Passion and Prayer

This communion is reciprocal. What this looks like is described in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Have you ever had someone tell you that they have been praying for you? Maybe someone you’re not really all that close to? Yet they are invested in you enough to take you into the very presence of God and speak to him about you. That is humbling and amazing. They long for you and pray for you. Their affections are involved. They care about you. They care enough to pray for you. They are bringing you into the presence of God as a praise. They are thanking God for you, for the work God has done in you. You are loving God and loving neighbor, and maybe you don’t even feel like you’re really doing that much. But they recognize the grace of God on you, that you are a trophy of God’s unmerited grace. And they glorify God because of you. That is a humbling, encouraging experience. That creates a connection. That is communion.

Surpassing Grace

And this brings us full circle. Your ministry, your simplicity of service to others is evidence of the tested genuineness of the submission of your confession of the gospel of Christ. This is evidence of the surpassing grace of God on you. Paul started this section encouraging simplicity and generosity by pointing to the grace of God,

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

The grace of God had been given, and it overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted simplicity, love first for God and then for neighbor. Now he comes full circle. He began with the grace of God given to them, and he ends with the surpassing grace of God on you, recognized by others.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

This generosity, this love, this openness and simplicity, this ability to increase thanksgivings and glorify God is all of grace from beginning to end.

****

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

November 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:5; Give Yourself First to the Lord

08/11_2 Corinthians 8:5; Give Yourself First To The Lord; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190811_2cor8_5.mp3

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Review

Paul is talking about giving. He is encouraging the Corinthians to give generously. But he avoids using the word ‘giving’ or ‘collection’ or ‘offering’; instead he fixes our attention on the grace of God given. God is the giver. It is God’s gift of grace that necessarily precedes and motivates any acceptable giving. We love because he first loved us (1Jn.4:19); we give because he is the supreme giver and first gave freely of himself to us.

God’s grace was given and this was evidenced in the overflow of a wealth of generosity. Generosity is an interpretive translation based on the context; literally it ‘superabounded in the riches of their simplicity’. Simplicity is a word Paul uses to describe single-hearted devotion to Christ in contrast to double-minded or divided affections. God’s undeserved grace poured out on the Macedonians ignited in them single-hearted affections for the Lord, and this spilled over in an urgency to extend grace to others. They begged for the grace and the fellowship of the ministry to the saints.

This service, this ministry was a grace; it was ‘favor;’ it was undeserved. They didn’t earn the ability to serve others; it was given to them. First of all it was grace to them. Then it welled up into grace from them. It was grace in that they gave freely, not under compulsion. They were eager for the opportunity. They were not the originators of the grace, but they were a channel; they passed it on to others. Freely they had received; freely they gave (Mt.10:8).

This ministry was grace and it was also fellowship; it was communion. They were ‘taking part;’ it connected them to the community of faith; to other believers; to the saints. They were eager for the connection, for the fellowship that bearing one another’s burdens created. They were eager for connection with the wider body of Christ.

Paul is holding up the Macedonians as an example, but not primarily an example of giving or generosity. They got grace; they did not receive grace in vain; it changed them. God’s undeserved grace freely given to them ignited in them a single-hearted affection for the Lord, and an eagerness to extend grace and fellowship in service to others. They understood that following Jesus was costly; they were in a severe test of affliction. They were in the depths of poverty. And yet in the midst of those circumstances, God’s grace created in them an unquenchable overflow of joy in Jesus. This is what Paul is eager to see formed in the Corinthians, and in us. He is after not our money but our hearts. What we do with our money is merely an outward indicator of where our affections are.

Given to the Lord

Their single-hearted service was according to their power, even beyond their ability.

Look at verse 5. And not according to what we had hoped; but their own selves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

They gave. This passage is about giving, and this verse says that they gave. But it doesn’t say that they gave their money, their resources. It says they gave more. Themselves – that’s emphatic – their own selves they gave.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

They gave themselves first to the Lord. ‘First’ doesn’t mean only first in time. It means first in importance. Most importantly they gave themselves to the Lord. What does that mean? How do you give yourself to the Lord? We use those words, but what exactly does it mean? What does it look like to give yourself to the Lord?

You Are Not Your Own

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. God owns you. He paid dearly for you. Romans 7:4 says that ‘you died …so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead.’ How does one give oneself to the Lord if you already belong to him? Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 6 is helpful here

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

He tells them what is true. As believers in Jesus, they belong to him. They are under new ownership. They were bought. His exhortation is based on their identity. Therefore, because of whose you are, live consistent with your new identity, your new ownership. Because you are owned by God, you should seek to glorify God in your body. He uses this again as a foundation for his argument in the next chapter:

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

Because you have a new Master, don’t divide your interests and sign up as a slave of someone else. Live consistent with what is true; be who you are. This is the Christian life. This is what following Jesus looks like. Learn to live in line with your new identity in Christ.

The Macedonians had responded to the call of Jesus when Paul preached the gospel to them, and so they belong to Jesus. And now they are living consistent with who they belong to. They gave themselves first to the Lord.

All You Have Is Not Yours

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul says:

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

We need to remember this. Everything we have is a gift, grace, given to us by a good God.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

King David wrestled with this question when he was making a collection for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. In 1 Chronicles 29:6 it says:

1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.

Then it says in verse 9:

1 Chronicles 29:9 Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.

The leaders made freewill offerings. Pay attention to the language here. They had given willingly, with a whole heart, offering freely to the Lord. They were under no compulsion; they were free, they chose to do it, and they did it gladly. It brought them joy to give, and it brought joy to the king. But listen to how David prays in the next verses:

1 Chronicles 29:10 Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

Do you hear what he is wrestling with? Everything belongs to God. Everything in heaven and in the earth. Riches and honor come from the Lord. Even our strength comes from the Lord. All things come from you. And yet the people are giving freely and willingly of all that is in their power, of all that belongs to God. Who am I? There is this tension between God’s ownership of everything and our ability to give freely, of our own will. How are we able to give willingly when everything we have is yours? You already own everything we have given. It came from you and it belongs to you. How is it then that we can offer it back to you?

He continues:

1 Chronicles 29:16 O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

It is with upright hearts that they freely and willingly and joyously gave. They gave to God what already belonged to God. And God was pleased with their hearts. God tests the hearts of his people by putting in our possession some of what belongs to him. God is pleased when with upright hearts we freely and joyously give back to him what is his.

And then David prays:

1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. 19 Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”

David understood that even their willingness, the purpose of their hearts, even that was from God. God directs the hearts of his people, so he asks God to ‘keep such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people’. David doesn’t praise the people for their willingness; he praises God for the willingness of the people, and he asks God to maintain and sustain their joyful generosity.

This is grace! God first freely gives to us, and his gift ignites a response of joyful generosity in us; a single-hearted simplicity of affection toward him, an eagerness to please him, to extend his grace to others.

Paul here in 2 Corinthians tells us that this is ‘by the will of God.’ ‘Themselves they gave, first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.’ They gave, and they gave by the will of God. The other place we see this phrase is in the opening lines of both his letters to Corinth.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus…

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

This is the sovereign will of God, calling Paul as his apostle, and Paul gladly responded. Paul recognized the same sovereign purpose of God at work in the Macedonians, as they gladly and single-heartedly gave themselves by the will of God to the Lord and to him in response to the grace of God that had been given to them.

Application

So what does this look like for us? What does it mean to give ourselves first to the Lord? It must start with receiving God’s grace. We can attempt to do things for the Lord and give things to the Lord, but if we haven’t first experienced his grace toward us in Jesus, then it is self-effort and self-righteous performance, and it is actually offensive to God. First we must receive before we can give. We receive his grace, we receive forgiveness through the finished work of Jesus. We receive new life and the gift of the Holy Spirit living inside. In response to God’s free and undeserved grace, we gladly see that all that we have and all that we are come from the Lord and we can eagerly give ourselves back to him.

In the words of Romans 12,

Romans 12:1 …by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

In Colossians 1 he prayed that they would have the spiritual wisdom to know God’s will

Colossians 1:10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Jesus said:

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ …40 …‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

These are some of the ways we can give ourselves first to the Lord. Does Jesus have first place? First priority? Does he have access to all that you have? To all of you?

***

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

August 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:2-3; To Die Together and Live Together

05/26_2 Corinthians 7:2-3; To Die Together and Live Together Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190526_2cor7_2-3.mp3

Authentic Ministry

Paul has written to the Corinthians to address a problem in their understanding. They were questioning his qualifications as an apostle. He wasn’t what they expected. They expected someone who had it together, who was impressive, who commanded attention, who didn’t struggle, who didn’t, well, who didn’t suffer so much.

They were measuring success by the metrics of power, influence, position, possessions, progress, popularity, wealth, health, strength. They were measuring successful ministry according to the world’s standards; they were not measuring according to the gospel.

Paul redefines for them what authentic ministry looks like, smells like. He teaches them to measure by a different standard. He teaches to measure according to Jesus, measure by the gospel, by the cross. There success looks like suffering, weakness, dependence, selfless sacrifice in service to others. He’s taken 5 chapters to lay this foundation reshaping for them what authentic Christian ministry is.

Make Room!

In 6:11 he comes to the point; he applies what he has been teaching to them directly.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

They were listening to other voices; they had become enamored with false apostles, and had begun to doubt Paul. As a means of enlarging their affections for their apostle, he exhorts them to cut off all inappropriate affections. Do not be yoked together in service with those who don’t hold the same beliefs.

Although this is a personal issue, rather than take it personally, Paul uses it as an opportunity to teach truth. He points them to the promises of God as a foundation for holy affections; because of who you are in Christ, because God has promised to live in you and to adopt you as his own, don’t live like those who don’t know God; don’t love the things that displease him. Pursue a life that pleases him.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

And here in 7:2 he comes back around to their affections;

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us.

Having cut off unholy alliances, make much room for the apostle and authentic apostolic teaching. This word is the opposite of that in 6:12 ‘restricted or constricted, squeezed out’; you had no room for us in your affections; now make room for us.

Paul’s Integrity

Paul again affirms his integrity. We have seen him defend his character multiple times in this letter. Here he puts it staccato; no-one wronged; no-one corrupted; no-one exploited.

2 Corinthians 7:2 …We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.

These are things Paul is likely being accused of. No one wronged. Some may have objected that he was overly harsh and unjustified in his demand in 1 Corinthians 5 to turn the unrepentant brother over to Satan. He was not wronged; it was for his good, ultimately for his salvation. It is possible that his firm stand against idolatry and immorality had cost some of the business owners in Corinth and they resented the loss. Paul would say ‘any profit made that way will not profit you.’ No one corrupted. Then and still today Paul is accused of corrupting or leading astray by his teaching, as if grace was a license to sin. No one exploited. Some were accusing him that his collection for the poor was a pretense for lining his own pockets and taking advantage of them. Paul flatly denies any of this. None of these are legitimate reasons to squeeze us out of your affections.

In fact, it is the false teachers who are peddling God’s word for profit, who are leading astray to a different Jesus and corroding the relationship between this church and their apostle, who threaten to cost them great spiritual loss.

Paul’s Affection

Paul is terse in his rejection of these false accusations, but he does not want them to misread his heart.

2 Corinthians 7:3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

He goes out of his way to reiterate his affections for them. Referring to his previous painful letter in chapter 2 he said:

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

In chapter 3 he said that Corinthians are written on his heart. In 6:11 he said his heart is wide open to them. In 7:1 he addresses them as ‘beloved’. Here he says ‘you are in our hearts.’ Paul is not reluctant to express his affections. He loves them. His heart is open to them, and that leaves him open to the real potential of being hurt by them.

To Die and Live Together

He affirms his affection by a common expression that he is willing to live or die with them. We see ‘to live together and to die together’ in classic literature as an expression of loyalty and friendship. Think of Peter’s exclamation “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Mt.26:35). David sings in his lament over Saul and Jonathan “In life and in death they were not divided” (2Sam.1:23).

Paul makes use of this common expression, but he doesn’t use it unaltered. He adjusts it. He tweaks it to suit his purposes. Whenever we see Paul taking a common expression and changing it, it should alert us to pay attention and ask what he means by changing it.

The first thing he does is he makes this into a purpose statement. ‘You are in our hearts, in order to die together and to live together; you are in our hearts so that we die together and live together.’ His grammatical structure [εἰς τὸ + inf.] indicates purpose. Why? Normally we would expect a phrase like this to be conditional: ‘if we live or if we die; whether we live or die; come what may, we are sticking together, we are in it to the end.’ This is not what Paul says. Paul’s aim is to die together and live together with this church, and so he keeps them in his heart.

The order here is also unusual; we would expect ‘to live and die together.’ But Paul reverses this intentionally, and puts death first.

When we see things like this, we should ask why? Why does he say it differently than we might expect? He is not sloppy or haphazard with his words. He is intentional. Every word is breathed out by God and profitable.

We think of the normal sequence, life and then death. But in the Christian experience, death comes before life. Romans 6 paints this picture.

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

You see, death must come before new life. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal.2:20). He says in Romans 6:8

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

He says the same thing in 2 Timothy 2:11

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

Peter says it this way:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Death comes before life. This comes directly from Jesus’ teaching.

Mark 8:34 …“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 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. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

This teaching shows up in all four gospels more than once. Here in Mark it comes right after Peter rebuked Jesus for talking about his coming death. Death must come before life. We must die with Christ, die to ourselves if we would truly live. Jesus established this pattern himself. He says in John 10:

John 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

He says in John 12

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Fruitful life comes after death, not before. Paul restates this teaching of Jesus in Romans 8:13

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

This is really what the letter of 2 Corinthians is about. Authentic ministry is sacrifice, suffering in service to others. Ministry, really the entire Christian experience is death before life, suffering before glory, the cross before the crown. We are:

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Union and Communion in Community

Paul puts death before life, and he says that he has them in his heart so that he will die with them and live with them. Paul’s life is wrapped up in the lives of his spiritual children. For Paul the Christian life is a life in community, a life together with. We died with Christ. We are united to him in his death, and in his resurrection. And if each of us individually is united with Christ, there is a sense in which we are united with one another in death and in life. There is a union with others in the body of Christ. None of us are solo Christians. We are connected.

On an objective theological level, we died with Christ and so we are united together in his death and resurrection life. That is true. But it seems Paul is looking at something more. He is looking to bring this theological reality out into practical experience. He wants to experience death together with them and life together with them. You are in our hearts in order to die together and to live together. There is an aspect of union and communion that is only experienced when we suffer together. He said back in chapter 1

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

Do you hear that? Suffering comes before comfort; death before life. We share in Christ’s sufferings, and then we share in his comfort. And there is a together with aspect; we are afflicted for your comfort and salvation. And you experience comfort when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. There is a fellowship, a union and communion in suffering.

We know this to be true. When we suffer together there is a knitting together that happens. Soldiers on the battlefield together experience this. Hostages or captives that experience suffering together experience this. Unbelievers who suffer together can experience a union because of shared suffering.

But when this knitting together in suffering is combined with the theological reality of our union with Christ, this is the union and communion that Paul is after. We are not suffering together merely because of circumstances; we are suffering together because of Christ. The Corinthians can be experiencing affliction because of Jesus in Achaia, and Paul in Asia or Macedonia, but they are suffering together as Christians. They are experiencing a dying together and living together in affectionate relationship. You are in our hearts.

Paul longs for this relationship, for this connection. For this theological union to be played out in real communion. The connection is open on his end. He urges them to open the connection on their end.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us. … 3 …you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

Are we experiencing this battlefield unity with other believers? Are we united in death and in life? Do we have each other in our hearts in order to die together and live together?

***

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

May 27, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections

04/28_2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190428_2cor6_11-13.mp3

Paul’s Resume

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul commends his ministry; he gives us his resume, but not as anyone would expect. He highlights his ministry as a ministry that reflects the great Shepherd. Jesus said:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Authentic ministry is patterned after Jesus; authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

In verses 4-5 Paul lists his endurance in the midst of the hardships of ministry as evidence of his authenticity. He experienced general troubles: in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities; specific persecution: in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots; voluntary hardships: in labors, in sleeplessness, in hungers. Then he lists God’s grace in action in his life producing the fruit of character: in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness; and he points us to the source: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

He goes on in verses 7-8 with the means of authentic ministry; through the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, through glory and shame, through slander and praise. Ministry is war, and he is thoroughly equipped to glorify God even when he is put to open shame; even when slandered to offer a life of praise.

Verses 8-10 he points to the paradoxical nature of gospel ministry;

2 Corinthians 6: 8 …We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

We are not what we seem to be. Inward (or should I say Godward) reality often differs greatly from outward appearances.

Gospel Issues

Paul is building a case for authentic ministry, gospel ministry that is shaped by the gospel, ministry that follows Jesus, even becoming like him in his suffering.

Remember, he is writing to a church that he planted, in a city where he preached the gospel, as he said in 1 Corinthians 15

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

In 1 Corinthians he was fighting for the gospel, and the issue was primarily doctrinal or theological. They were doubting the resurrection, and he was bringing them back to the gospel, lest they had believed in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

In 2 Corinthians, no less, he is fighting for the gospel. He pleads in

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Be reconciled to God. The implication is that there is a fracture in their relationship that needs to be healed. He goes on in chapter 6:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 …Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Paul is again fighting for the gospel, urging them to be reconciled to God. Where the issue in 1 Corinthians was theological; some were questioning the resurrection, here in 2 Corinthians the issue is relational; their relationship with the apostle Paul was strained and tenuous, and as we learn in chapter 11, they were developing relationships with false apostles. They were in danger of being led astray from the simplicity of the cross to a different gospel, and this was happening as they began to distance themselves from Paul.

This is no less a danger today. It is a danger for us to fit the gospel to our culture, rather than allowing the gospel to transform our thinking and shape our culture.

There are some even today who are rejecting Paul, leading people back into bondage under the law. They are rejecting the true gospel of grace. Beware of those today who undermine Paul and the gospel he preached.

Be Reconciled to Paul; Open Mouths

After painting a picture of his character in the midst of sufferings, a picture of cross-shaped ministry, after calling them to be reconciled to God, he calls them now to reconcile with him.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

This is direct. Paul addresses them affectionately only here as ‘Corinthians.’ He says literally ‘our mouths are open to you Corinthians.’ Our mouths are open.

Now for most of us, that’s not a good thing. Our mouths are open too much. The wisdom books, especially Psalms and Proverbs have much to say about the dangers of the tongue, as does James. Psalm 64 speaks of enemies,

Psalm 64:3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,

Does that describe much of what we see on social media today? Many of us have a Peter problem; in Mark 9 he spoke, because he did not know what to say. He opened his mouth just to stop the silence.

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

There is wisdom in knowing when to keep silent, when not to answer. Jesus, when he was falsely accused ‘opened not his mouth’ (Is.53:7; Mk.14:61).

Some have taken Paul to be saying that he has said too much. But the context makes it clear that this is an expression of affection.

Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Words can do great harm, or they can bring great healing. Isaiah says:

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…

Paul’s mouth is wide open in the sense that he will not withhold good any good from them. As he said to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:

Acts 20:18 …“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.’

Acts 20:27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

In verse 32 he says:

Acts 20:31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The word of his grace is able to build you up. Paul is confident in God and his word. He told them in Ephesians 4:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

What comes out of our mouths can be corrosive, or it can build up. Your words, what comes out of your mouths, can give grace to those who hear. What you say can actually convey God’s grace.

Paul says ‘our mouths are open to you.’ We are holding nothing back that would be good for you.

Enlarged Hearts

Not only are our mouths open to you, but our hearts are widened or enlarged. This is in contrast to constricted or restricted in verse 12. That word means a tight narrow place. Back in 4:8 he used this same word ‘restricted;’ ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed‘. Crushed or in a tight narrow place with no way out. Our hearts are not narrow or constricted with no room for you; they are wide; we have plenty of room for you in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

If there is any narrowness, any constriction of affections, it is on your side; you are not squeezed out by us; rather you are squeezed out in your own affections. He changes words here from ‘heart’ to ‘affections;’ literally bowels or intestines, the seat of intense emotion. We might say ‘he experienced gut-wrenching sorrow’ or ‘I had knots in the pit of my stomach’. When we read in the gospels that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’ (Mt.9:36), it is the verb form of this word ‘affections’ or ‘bowels’.

The point is he is talking about emotions, affections. The Corinthians had begun to squeeze him out of their affections. He is asking for a fair exchange, as to his own beloved children, you also make room.

How To Enlarge Affections

I want to end today with a very practical question: How do you make room in your heart? How do you enlarge your affections?

You hear of married couples saying ‘The flame is gone, I just don’t think I love him anymore.’

Or you have someone who has been hurt so badly, so deeply, that they could never love, never open themselves up.

Or there is someone in your life, maybe someone in the church, maybe someone in the community, that you find difficult to love. The Bible says I have to love them, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them, right?

This is imperative; it is a command. Make room in your heart, in your affections. How do we do that? Can we do that? Can we obey a command to feel differently about someone? The biblical answer is ‘yes’. Yes, by the transforming power of God and the help of his Spirit we can obey this command. And he tells us how.

Cut Off All Inappropriate Affections

In the next verses we find that there are inappropriate affections going in other directions. The Corinthians are enamored with the false apostles. They don’t have room for Paul in their hearts because he has been squeezed out by others. They have given their affections to others, to false apostles, to a false gospel. We will plan to look at these verses next time. That is often the case. When love grows cold, the affections are being channeled in a different direction, an inappropriate direction. Something else is competing for your heart. Stop giving your heart to another. You are cheating yourself; you are constricting your own affections. Cut off all inappropriate affections.

Drink in God’s Love

But how can our heart be enlarged? Psalm 119 says:

Psalm 119:32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

It is God who enlarges a heart.

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

Our love is a response to being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

We are to love others as we have been loved by Jesus. We our enabled to love others because we have been loved by Jesus.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

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

We forgive because we have been forgiven. We are kind and tenderhearted to others, because God has been abundantly kind and tenderhearted to us when we didn’t deserve it. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. All our affections flow out of this love that we have experienced.

That’s where the love comes from.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Do you feel your affections are drying up? Go to the unquenchable fountain and drink in God’s unwavering love. Saturate your shriveled soul in Christ’s sacrificial love for you, his enemy. Let God’s love in the gospel fill your heart to bursting. We love because he first loved us.

***

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

April 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:14-16

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081019_1peter1_14-16.mp3

1/19 1 Peter 1:14-16 be holy; don’t act like you’re still stupid!

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1:14 wv tekna upakohv mh suschmatizomenoi taiv proteron en th agnoia umwn epiyumiaiv 15 alla kata ton kalesanta umav agion kai autoi agioi en pash anastrofh genhyhte 16 dioti gegraptai [oti] agioi esesye oti egw agiov

We are looking today at the second command that Peter gives us in his letter. And here Peter gets to one of the main points of his letter. But he had to lay the foundation first so that it would be properly understood. So today, we will look at the demand for us to be holy, we will look at the importance of holiness in the life of every believer, we will ask what it means, we will see the high standard and foundation of holiness and the way to pursue it. Then we will see why this command comes second and not first in this letter.

The command is for holiness. We are to be holy. We desperately need to know what this means and understand how essential this command is. We tend to feel that holiness is a nice extra for a few highly advanced Christians. It is certainly not for all of us. We can all think of someone with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, and we don’t feel we could (or would even want to) rise (or stoop) to their level of spirituality. What often comes to mind is a puritanical hyper-legalistic life that is defined by what you don’t do. (By the way, the puritans were deeply concerned about holiness, but they were not the legalistic prudes that they have been caricatured as; dictionary.com defines puritanical as ‘very strict in moral or religious matters, often excessively so; rigidly austere’ – I would encourage you to pick up their writings and discover a gold mine of spiritual depth and richness of Christian joy.) So we need to put holiness in the biblical perspective. What does the bible say about holiness, what does Jesus say about holiness? What’s so important about being holy?

Maybe we should start with a definition. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines holiness as follows:

‘The state of being holy; purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; sanctity. Applied to the Supreme Being, holiness denotes perfect purity or integrity of moral character, one of his essential attributes.

1. Applied to human beings, holiness is purity of heart or dispositions; sanctified affections; piety; moral goodness, but not perfect.

2. Sacredness; the state of any thing hallowed, or consecrated to God or to his worship; applied to churches or temples.

3. That which is separated to the service of God.’

Holiness is purity of heart or dispositions; sanctified affections; being separated or set apart to the service of God. God told his people in:

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. …45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 19:2 … You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

But is holiness only an Old Testament demand on the people of Israel that doesn’t apply to us today? We are under grace, right? That’s why Jesus died -because we couldn’t live up to the standard. The answer is ‘yes, we are under grace’ and ‘yes, Jesus died because we couldn’t live up to God’s holy standard’ and the answer is ‘yes, God saved us by grace through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus from sin so that we could live holy lives.’

2 Timothy 1:9 [God] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

It is by the gift of God’s grace and not by our works that we are saved, but we are saved from sin and for our holy calling. He goes on to say:

2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

So we must cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable – not in order to obtain God’s grace and favor, but because of God’s grace and favor already demonstrated in our holy calling. But how serious is this call to holiness? Here’s what the author of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

If you do not pursue holiness in your life you will not see Jesus. That’s huge and heavy. Can that really be what this means? Paul elaborates:

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

But praise God, he goes on:

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Jesus came to seek and to save lost sinners. But did Jesus have anything to say about the necessity of our holiness?

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

Jesus says you have to get passionate about your holiness and fight violently against the sin in your life or you will go to hell. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. The stakes are high. We are not talking about an optional extra in the Christian life. If you don’t pursue your holiness with a vengeance, you don’t see Jesus; you go to hell. Your holiness is not a suggestion or a recommendation; it is imperative.

How do we respond to sin in our lives? Do we tend to justify and defend it; even pride ourselves in being free in Jesus? Are we oblivious to the sin in our lives? Do we compare ourselves with others and begin to think that we’re really not so bad? If we do that, the bible says we are not wise. Are we grieved? Acutely and painfully aware of the deep roots of sin in our lives? Are we broken before God crying out ‘who will rescue me from this body of death?’ Do we long for holiness? Are we willing to aggressively attack the secret sins of our heart, dragging them out into the light and butchering them like the wicked traitors they are?Do

How do we go about this thing called holiness? Let’s go back to 1 Peter and see what he has to say about our holiness, and then we’ll put it in the context of the passage and see how it all fits together.

1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We again have one imperative in the sentence; it is ‘be holy’. It is preceded by a participial phrase that describes what it’s not, and a phrase that describes the foundation for personal holiness. Then he follows the command with his textual basis – a quote out of Leviticus. Let’s work backward through the text and then put it all together.

The substantiation for the demand for holiness is the character of God. God said over and over in Leviticus ‘you be holy because I am holy’. And Peter tells us ‘you be holy like God is holy; God’s holiness is the pattern for your holiness’.

So let’s look for a minute at God’s holiness. In the bible we are given many descriptions of God’s character and nature:

Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God.

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God

Deuteronomy 10:17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords…

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,

2 Chronicles 30:9 … the LORD your God is gracious and merciful …

Job 36:5 “Behold, God is mighty…

Job 36:22 Behold, God is exalted in his power…

Psalms 7:11 God is a righteous judge,

Psalms 47:7 For God is the King of all the earth;

Psalms 68:19 … God is our salvation.

Isaiah 26:4 … the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

John 3:33 … God is true.

John 4:24 God is spirit…

Romans 3:30 …God is one…

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful…

1 John 1:5 … God is light…

1 John 4:8 …God is love.

But there is only one attribute of God that is tripled in scripture. In Isaiah 6 and in Revelation 4 the seraphs cry out ‘holy holy holy is the Lord’. They don’t cry out ‘love, love love’ or ‘merciful, merciful, merciful’. Jesus, when he taught said ‘truly truly I say to you’; doubled as a way of emphasizing the authority and accuracy of what he taught. But no other characteristic of God is tripled like his holiness is tripled. We even find ‘the Holy One’ used as a title for God about 50 times.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

God’s holiness is made completely emphatic. He is holy to the third power. God is completely other, wholly set apart, totally distinct. He is the creator and we are created. He is infinite and we are finite. Our power is limited and his power is limitless. We had a beginning, he had no beginning. We are sinners, he is perfect in his moral integrity. He is in a class by himself. That is part of the definition – set apart from. But part of the definition of holiness is set apart for or set apart to. The vessels used in the temple in the Old Testament were holy – they were to be used for nothing else but the service of God. The clothes that the priests wore were not common clothes; they were to be worn for nothing else than approaching God in worship and prayer. The priests themselves were set apart to the service of God. They didn’t have other employment – their lives were completely dedicated or devoted to God. Is there anything that God is set apart for or completely dedicated and devoted to? I think the only answer that we can give is that God is completely devoted to himself. There is nothing higher for him to be devoted to. Devotion to any higher principle or purpose would be idolatry. Just as it is idolatry for us to set anything higher in our hearts than God, it would be idolatry for God to be devoted to anything outside of himself. God is passionate about his own glory. There is nothing higher or more beautiful or more worthy of praise than himself. We can join God in his holiness by being entirely devoted to God. this is the same thing as keeping the first and greatest commandment;

Mark 12:30 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.’

So holiness is not so much a negative command of what you don’t do, but a positive affirmation of what is highest in your affections. Be holy – be passionate about who God is. Be consumed with delight in God. Let God meet all your needs and satisfy all your longings. You be passionate about God because God is passionate about God. Value God more than anything else in your life because God is more valuable than anything else. And we are instructed to demonstrate our passion for God in every area of our lives. As it says in

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This of course has some negative implications. That’s why Peter describes holiness by what it’s not:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

Being set apart for God could be described as not conforming to your former passions. You have a new passion; a new desire, a new lust. Your former lust was stupid. That’s what Peter says: ‘the passions of your former ignorance’. You had an appetite for things that could never satisfy. But you had an excuse then; you didn’t know any better. Now you know that when you immerse yourself in the pleasures the world has to offer you come up with a mouth full of sawdust. Be holy! Develop a hunger for God; develop a taste for what truly satisfies. Have a holy lust for intimacy with Jesus. You are different now – you have a new driving passion in your life. Your spiritual taste buds have been awakened by the truth. Don’t act like you’re still stupid. ‘Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance’.

He tells us to be holy as obedient children; literally ‘as children of obedience’. Notice he doesn’t tell us to be holy in order to become children; the assumption is that we are already children of the Father. We are not commanded to become something we are not; we are commanded to be who we are. As children characterized by obedience, be like your father – be holy in all your conduct. Peter has established in verse 3 that God caused us to be born again – so we are his children by new birth; and in verse 4 that entitles us to the inheritance that is being kept for us. Back in verses 1 and 2 he tells us that we were chosen for obedience – obedience to Jesus Christ. We have a new nature – a nature of obedient children on account of our new birth. The phrase ‘as he who called you is holy’ points back to God as the origin of their new nature – God called you into a relationship with himself. God called you for obedience, so be who he called you to be – be holy!

Now that we understand the gravity of the demand – holiness is essential, not optional if you want to see Jesus; now that we understand what holiness means – that we are to find our delight in God and in all that he is for us in Jesus, that we are to live for the glory of God in every area of our lives, now let’s put this in the context of the passage and see where it fits in the argument. Peter has spent twelve verses telling us how God is at work in us securing our salvation, preparing our inheritance and preserving us so that we make it. His first command in verse 13 hangs on all this like a hinge and says ‘therefore – because of all this’ put your hope fully in God’s future grace. God is going to continue to pour out his grace in your life. You can put your full weight on his promise – it will be there. As John Newton sang ’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. The Lord has promis’d good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures.’

You can bank on the fact that God’s grace will be there to sustain you tomorrow. In light of God’s work initiating your new birth; in light of God’s work preparing you for your inheritance, in light of the fact that your present trials are serving to prove your faith genuine; in light of the fact that your salvation is the focal point that angels and prophets and evangelist longed to see and the Holy Spirit brought about; in the confidence of God’s future grace you can be holy. God called you to be holy and is at work in you to make you holy. His Holy Spirit lives in you. He is bringing trials to purify your faith; he has adopted you as his child and he wants you to be like him, so be who you are. Don’t act like you’re still stupid. With all your effort and passion and will, strive to be holy. Work hard, passionately and violently pursue your personal holiness because you know that God’s grace will be sufficient to see you through.

Paul describes it this way:

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment