PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Whole Fruit; Spirit Produced Character

08/27 Whole Fruit: Spirit Produced Character Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170827_spirit-produced-character.mp3

In Galatians 5, Paul lists 9 attributes or character qualities that he says is the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is what the Spirit controlled life looks like. This is one fruit. Fruit is singular. It is not a buffet line where you take what you like an pass on the things you are not so fond of. No, the Spirit controlled life is all of these things in perfect balance and symmetry.

The Spirit’s fruit is not like the Spirit’s gifts. The Spirit ‘apportions’ the gifts ‘to each one individually as he wills’ (1Cor.12:11), ‘each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another’ (1Cor.7:7). Not any person has all the gifts. But every believer is expected to produce fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit consists of all these characteristics together. In every Christian all the gifts are under development. The gifts without fruit can be abused as happened in Corinth. I Corinthians 13 tells us that the gifts without love are nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all. Love is fruit.

The Spirit’s fruit is not occasional. The follower of Jesus is not to be sometimes loving, sometimes patient, sometimes gentle. The person who is sometimes self controlled does not have self control. The person who is occasionally joyful is not a joyful person. A person who is joyful when things are going well does not have the fruit of the Spirit. It is natural to experience joy when things are good. But the Spirit’s fruit is supernatural. The Spirit’s fruit becomes evident especially when things are not going as hoped or as planned. The fruit is to characterize the follower of Jesus all the time. 24-7; 365; Sunday through Saturday.

This does not mean that you never have a bad day, that you’re never down. Paul got discouraged. When he was in Corinth, he was so discouraged that Jesus appeared to him to encourage him.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul was afraid. He was understandably tired of being attacked and beat up for his faith. He was tempted to just be quiet and stop proclaiming Jesus. He was discouraged over a lack of ministry effectiveness. The Lord himself appeared to him in a vision to encourage him. Paul struggled. We all struggle. This does not mean that the Spirit is not at work producing his fruit in our lives.

Paul said:

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.

Paul felt burdened beyond his ability to handle it. Paul experienced despair. Paul felt hopeless. Paul came to the end of himself.

2 Corinthians 1:9 …But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Notice the purpose? There was divine purpose in his despair. This was to make us rely on a resurrecting God. This was to keep us from relying on ourselves, our strength, our gifts, our abilities. This was to turn our focus to the God who gives supernatural life to dead things. This is the Spirit’s fruit, that in the midst of despair we set our hope on God. The fruit grows as we believe in God, trust God, rely on God and not on ourselves. Fruit grows by faith.

Remember, the Spirit’s fruit grows. It is not suddenly ripe the day after we trust Jesus. It is there, but in seed form. It will grow. We can encourage growth, we can take steps to produce an environment where growth is facilitated, we can remove obstacles to growth. But God himself produces the growth.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

The power belongs to God and not to us. The surpassing power to bear this kind of fruit even in the midst of adverse circumstances. The Spirit’s fruit is the life of Jesus manifested in our bodies.

Fruit Described

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Biblical love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Real joy is unaffected by circumstances, overwhelms suffering, rejoices in trials. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. Patience or being slow-to-anger bears a long time with others and graciously forgives the wrongs of other. Kindness is palatable, functional, comfortable; not severe, biting, harsh or chafing; it is redemptive. Goodness is the generous outward expression and overflow of a kind heart, especially to the undeserving. Faithfulness is doing what the Master commands when he commands, in utter dependence on him, taking risks in service to others. Gentleness or meekness is aware of deep personal need, spiritual poverty, and in helplessness seeking help from God alone. Self control is Spirit supplied inner strength over lesser desires.

This is a comprehensive list of Christian qualities, but it is not an exhaustive list. Paul often gives lists that cover a topic, but he varies his vocabulary, and in different contexts, he gives variations on the content.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul points to the more excellent way of love over even the greatest gifts. In his description of love, he includes joy or rejoicing, patience, kindness, faith or faithfulness, and he adds hope, endurance, and bearing all.

In Ephesians 4, Paul urges us to

Ephesians 4:1 …urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

To love, peace, patience, faith, and gentleness he adds humility, unity, hope, and bearing with one another.

Ephesians 4:23 commands that we

Ephesians 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness….32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Here he adds to kindness a tender heart, forgiveness, righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3 tells us to

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

To love, peace patience, kindness, and meekness, he adds humility, compassionate hearts, bearing with one another, forgiving, and thanksgiving.

Paul says to Timothy

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

In 2 Timothy he says:

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. 22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. … 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. …

Even Peter points us to this divine power given to us through the knowledge of him

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter mentions the fruit of love, faith, self-control, and adds virtue, knowledge, steadfastness, godliness, and brotherly affection.

If we look at Ephesians 6 from this perspective, we see among the full armor of God, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the gospel of peace.

This armor imagery is Old Testament imagery. In Isaiah 11, after describing the Spirit of the LORD that rests on Jesus as the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the LORD, we are told that

Isaiah 11:5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

1 Thessalonians 5 also points us to our armor.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. .. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

If we put this all together, we get this composite picture of the Christian life controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Love selflessly seeks the good of the other. Joy is unaffected by circumstances. Peace rests in God and his control of all things. Patience is slowness-to-anger and bears with others and graciously forgives the wrongs of others. Steadfastness or endurance stands firm under adverse circumstances. Kindness is fitting, functional, comfortable, tasteful; not severe, biting, harsh or chafing. Merciful compassion, a tender heart, literally inward affections moved for others; brotherly love. Goodness gives especially to the undeserving. Faithfulness steps out in total dependence on God, taking risks to serve others. Gentleness, meekness or humility is aware of deep personal need, and seeks help from God alone. There is a pursuit of unity, a priority on truth, knowlege, virtue, righteousness, godliness, holiness. We determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. Our righteousness is not our own but is Christ’s righteousness credited to us. He changes our hearts to love what is right and just and true. He sets us apart as holy, begins to form God’s own character in us. Self control is Spirit supplied inner strength over lesser desires. All this is saturated in thanksgiving, because all this is a gift from God, by grace, through faith. It is character produced in us by God’s Holy Spirit. It is fruit.

Simplicity in Jesus

This is whole fruit, well rounded integrated all of life character. If that’s too complicated, too much to remember, let’s let Paul boil it all down for us. In Romans 13, he picks up the put off / put on clothing metaphor, laying aside those things that were characteristic of our fleshly desires and putting on those things that flow out of our new life with Jesus, and weaves it together with the armor metaphor and the contrast between light and darkness.

Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. … 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

This is it. Simplicity in Jesus. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Clothe yourself in his character. This is the fruit of the Spirit. Put on Jesus. Clothe yourself in Jesus. Remember the gospel. How did Jesus treat us? How did Jesus interact with people? How did Jesus respond to difficult circumstances? How did Jesus respond to difficult people? Treat others the way Jesus treated you. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

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August 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus

07/23 The Spirit’s Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170723_faithfulness-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking together at the fruit of the Spirit, the character that the Holy Spirit without fail produces in the life of every follower of Jesus.

Today we look at the fruit of faithfulness. If you are using the old King James, it will have ‘faith’ instead of faithfulness. This word, along with all 8 of the other words in this list of fruit is a noun. This word is most often translated in other contexts simply as ‘faith’. But in this list it indicates an ethical quality, so it is translated as an adjective. The Greek word is [πίστις] from the [πιστεύω] word group. It means to have faith; to believe, trust, to depend on. With the definite article it can refer to the faith, the teaching, the content of the gospel. The adjective form means to be faithful, dependable, trustworthy, or reliable.

Faith Defined

We can look at Romans 3 to see some of the ways this word is used. In Romans 3, Paul is asking if Jews are not automatically saved, but must believe the gospel just like everyone else, and the gospel has gone out to all people, then is there any advantage in being an ethnic Jew. The first advantage he lists is that

Romans 3:2 … To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with [v. πιστεύω] the oracles of God.

‘Entrusted with’ translates the passive verb form of this word ‘faith.’ They were believed in or trusted with the Scriptures. They were considered faithful in the task of transmitting Biblical revelation to us. In the next verse, he uses both the verb and the noun of this word.

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful [v. ἀπιστέω]? Does their faithlessness [ἀπιστία n.] nullify the faithfulness [n. πίστις] of God?

‘Unfaithful’ or ‘unbelieving’ translates the negative verb form. They were without faith. They did not believe. Those who did not believe are called ‘faithless,’ the negative noun form. In contrast, God is called ‘faithful,’ the noun form we see in Galatians 5. Verse 4 goes on to describe the faithfulness of God.

Romans 3:3 …Does their faithlessness [n. ἀπιστία] nullify the faithfulness [n. πίστις] of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

God’s faithfulness is his truthfulness, his righteousness or justice, that what he said certainly happens. His words, when examined, prove to be flawlessly true and trustworthy.

The next chapter, Romans 4, has my favorite Biblical definition of faith.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes [v. πιστεύω] in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith [n. πίστις] is counted as righteousness,

…16 That is why it depends on faith [n. πίστις], in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith [n. πίστις] of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed [v. πιστεύω], who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed [v. πιστεύω] against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith [n. πίστις] when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief [n. ἀπιστία] made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith [n. πίστις] as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

From this passage we see that to have faith or to believe is opposite of works; it is depending on or trusting in the work of another; ‘to the one who does not work but believes in him’. It is depending on a gracious promise; something we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, but is freely offered to us; ‘that is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace’. Faith must have the proper object; it is faith in the God ‘who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist’. Faith must have content; ‘he had been told.’ Faith is trusting the impossible promises of God in spite of the circumstances to the contrary. Unbelief is doubting or questioning the promises of God, wavering in confidence in God. Faith gives all glory to the God who is able to do the impossible. Faith is being ‘fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised.’ Our faith must be placed in the promises of our faithful God.

Faithful Service

Galatians 5 tells us that faithfulness is fruit of the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness is produced in us when we look at our faithful God and trust his character. To have faith is to believe, trust, depend on one who is faithful. To be faithful is to be dependable, trustworthy, reliable; to keep your word.

In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus is talking about the signs of his coming, and the unexpected nature of his return. He says:

Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 “Who then is the faithful [adj. πιστός] and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus encourages us to be always ready for his return, to be faithful and wise with what he has entrusted to our care. He has trusted us with caring for his household. We will be rewarded for faithful service. There will be punishment for unfaithfulness. Unfaithfulness looks like self-centered abuse of authority and taking advantage of the absence of the master for personal indulgence. Faithful service looks like doing exactly what the master requested at the proper time, serving others, providing for the needs of others.

Jesus asks ‘who is the faithful and wise servant?’ Then he tells a story in Matthew 25 about wisdom or foolishness in being prepared at all times for his coming, and he tells a story about faithfulness or unfaithfulness.

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Faith is confidence in the God who entrusts us with gifts, that he is wise and good. Notice, it says he gave differing sums of money to the servants, ‘to each according to his ability’. He knew he servants, he knew their capacity, their capability. He gave them exactly what he knew they could handle.

We all tend to doubt this. We all tend toward unbelief. Pastors tend to look around and see other pastors with larger congregations and ask ‘why can’t I have a bigger church?’ He gives to each according to his ability. Then you have a pastor of a large congregation who knows that more people equals more problems and he looks at the smaller church and says ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have fewer problems’. He gives to each according to his ability. God knows what he is doing. I’m sure this is true of everybody. ‘Why was I entrusted with this? Why wasn’t I entrusted with that? Why did he get five and I only got two?’ In order to be faithful, we need to have faith that God knows what he is doing when he gives us what he does. Has he given you resources? Health? Sickness? Adversity? Prosperity? Be faithful to glorify him with whatever he has entrusted to your care.

I want you to see something else about faithfulness in Jesus’ story. Look at what the servant who was given five talents did. He put them to work. He took what he had been entrusted with and made use of it. We are not told exactly what he did, but a 100% return on investment is pretty substantial, and probably indicates a high level of risk. He invested the money aggressively and doubled his investment. Safe investments don’t produce that kind of return. He took risks with his master’s money. And he is commended for it. The master doesn’t come back and say ‘what were you thinking? You could have lost it all! You got lucky this time, but I’m never trusting you with my money again.’ No, “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.” Being faithful means taking great risks with what we have been given in hopes of great gains for our master. Remember, the money does not belong to us. It belongs to the master. Neither is the gain ours. The profit goes to the master. God expects us to step out of the safe zone. William Carey, missionary to India, remembered as the father of modern missions, said ‘expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.’ We can take risks with what God entrusts to us, because God is ultimately in control. This too is a matter of faith. Do we believe God’s promise that ‘for those who love God all things work together for good’ (Rom.8:28), even the bad things? Is any risk too great that has the potential of advancing the glory of Christ in the world?

Notice in Jesus’ story, both servants who invested what they had been entrusted gained 100%. There was no servant who invested and lost money. There was no servant who invested and only gained 50%.

2 Corinthians 9:8 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.

Notice also that there was no differentiation between the servant who gained 5 and the servant who gained 2. Both were faithful with what they had been given. Both heard the words ‘well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master.’

But there was one servant who was not good and faithful.

Matthew 25:24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

This servant misunderstood his master. He thought him to be a hard man, a lazy man, a greedy man. He had no confidence, because he did not understand his master was gracious and forgiving. He acted out of fear and unbelief. He played it safe with the master’s money. He buried it. He hid it. He preserved it. He was careful not to lose any. He returned what he had been given. And he was called ‘wicked and slothful.’ Not good and faithful, but wicked and slothful. He was not faithful; he failed to invest at all. He was slothful.

God’s Faithfulness and Ours

You see, faithfulness is fruit. It grows in a heart that is looking at our faithful God. We can risk being recklessly faithful because we know God. Our confidence is not in our skill or ability, in our effectiveness in planting or watering, but on God who gives the increase.

Paul, addressing the messed up church in Corinth, points them to:

1 Corinthians 1:7 …our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul’s confidence for the Corinthian believers was not in them. His confidence, his faith, was in the fully capable faithful God. He said the same to the Thessalonian believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

In 2 Thessalonians, he asks for prayer in the risky venture of advancing the gospel into places where Christ was not named.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 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.

His confidence for himself and for them was in the faithfulness of God. He was faithful in his mission, because he knew God would always be faithful to his promises.

The author of Hebrews points us always back to Jesus.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, … 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

Because of Jesus, because we have confidence to enter by the blood of Jesus, because we have a great priest who invites us to draw near, we can hold fast without wavering, we can be faithful, because he who promised is faithful. We can be faithful to love and stir each other up to love because he will never let us down.

He who promised is faithful. God is dependable, trustworthy, reliable. We can count on him, we can bank on him. He will never let us down. He will never go back on his word. Because we have this kind of confidence in this kind of God, we can become this kind of people. We can be know as dependable, reliable, trustworthy, women and men of our word. Even when others let us down, we can follow through.

Martin Luther writes sees the passage this way: “In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?”

In 2 Timothy 2, Paul encourages Timothy to ‘be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ and entrust what you have learned to faithful men who will pass it along. He encourages him to be a good soldier, to live an unentangled life. He reminds him of Jesus, and Paul’s own sacrifice and suffering ‘for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus’ as he risks his very life for the gospel. And he recites this well known saying:

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

We can risk suffering, even death, because we have his word, his promise, he will be faithful. And we can have this gospel confidence, knowing that it is not contingent on our performance. Even if we are a failure, even if we are faithless, if we confess Jesus as Lord, he will be faithful to his promises because his own character is at stake. He will not deny his own faithful character just because we falter. He who promised is faithful; he will surely do it.

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

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Names of God

03/20 Names of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160320_names-of-god.mp3

We have been savoring God together, treasuring him for who he is, who he reveals himself to be. We are concluding a study on who God is, what he says about himself, what he is like. We have studied his character, his nature, his attributes, his personality, the Tri-une God, not merely to know more about him, but to know him, to enjoy sweet communion, fellowship with him.

My prayer is that these 24 sermons are not the end, but the beginning, because we have barely skimmed the surface of who God is. By God’s grace, we have gotten a taste, and I pray that that taste gives us an insatiable appetite for more, that it drives us deeper, deeper into who God is, who God is for us, and that we begin to experience the immeasurable greatness of our great God.

Names

Today I would like to look at God’s name. Names are important, they are intended to communicate something about the person, and even more so in the ancient world. Names identify a person, and distinguish that person from others. If you remember someone’s name, that person feels valued by you, important. Names are a way to connect with someone, we use them to communicate. To know someone’s name means that they have given you access to them, you don’t just know their title, you know their name. When we become close to someone, we say we are on a first-name basis. We don’t like it when someone gets our name wrong. God teaches us much about himself by his names, and he takes his name very seriously. The third commandment in God’s top ten list is this:

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

God takes great care in defending the honor of his name (Ezek.36:20, 23). His name is holy and awesome (Ps.111:9). His name is a strong tower (Prov.18:10). His name is glorious, awesome, to be feared (Deut.28:58). His name is to be proclaimed in all the earth (Ex.9:16). We are to acknowledge his name (1 Ki.8:33); love his name (Ps.5:11); exalt his name (Ps.34:3); wait for his name (Ps.52:9); seek his name (Ps.83:16); give thanks to his name (Ps.122:4); desire his name (Is.26:8); glorify his name (Jn.12:28); make known his name (Jn.17:26).

God is one, but he has many names. Some count over 200 names. If you include all his titles, the number swells to over 700. We can only look at a small sample of his names today.

El, Eloah, Elohim; The Strong One

What is God’s name? What does God communicate to us about himself through his name? In the very first words of Scripture, God is seen as Creator. The Hebrew word there is Elohim. This is a common word for God, used over 2,000 times in the Old Testament. Like our word ‘god’, it is a generic term, sometimes used of false gods or even human judges or governments. It is more of a title than a personal name. Although the singular form of this word ‘Eloah’ occurs a little over 50 times, the plural form is much more common. Most often this plural form is used with singular verbs and adjectives, indicating that we should not understand it as speaking of multiple gods, but of the one God in all his fullness, an intensive plural, indicating a fullness of life and power. The word ‘Elohim’ means the Strong One, the Mighty One, the One to be feared. God is the Strong Creator. The simplified form ‘El’ is often prefixed to other words to give a compound name.

El Elyon; God Most High

In Genesis 14, after Abram defeats the four kings and rescued his nephew Lot, we are introduced to Melchizedek, king of Salem, who is priest of God Most High, El Elyon (v.18, 19, 20, 22). Although there are other so-called gods, God is exalted above all gods. Abram won the victory because he is blessed by God Most High, who delivered his enemies into his hand.

El Roi; God who Sees

But in Genesis 16, God spoke to a pregnant runaway slave girl named Hagar who had been mistreated and who was wandering in the wilderness.

Genesis 16:13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

She names him ‘El Roi’ the God who Sees, because he looks after me. This God, who is God Most High, is a God who looks after the broken, the needy, the hurting, the mistreated, the outcasts, the rebels, the runaways.

El Shaddai; God Almighty

In Genesis 17, God comes to make promises to Abram, the 99 year old fatherless wanderer whose 90 year old wife was barren. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, from ‘exalted father’ to ‘father of a multitude’. Into this impossible situation God gives Abram a name to hold on to.

Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

I am El Shaddai, God Almighty. Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Gen.18:14). Romans 4, looking back on this event, says:

Romans 4:17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

Into human weakness, the Lord comes as God Almighty, the God who gives life to the dead, who brings something out of nothing, who is fully able to do what he promises. God is the Omnipotent One, the One who bends the laws of nature to make them bow down and serve his purposes of grace.

El Olam; God Everlasting

After the promised son was born, and the Philistines recognized that ‘God is with you in all that you do’, and came to make a treaty with Abraham, Abraham planted a tree, and called on the name of El Olam, the Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33). Abraham was beginning to recognize that God was not going to disappear on him one day and leave him without help. God would always be there to make good on his promises.

YHWH, Yah; The I AM, Unchanging in Grace and Faithfulness

In Exodus 6,

Exodus 6:2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.

The LORD, the unpronounced four letters, translated in some English Bibles as Jehovah, probably something closer to Yahweh. God is not saying here in Exodus that his name YHWH was unknown before Moses’ time. In fact, we see this name throughout the book of Genesis. But here in Exodus he is making known what this name means.

Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

YHWH is Elohim of your fathers. His name is ‘Ehyeh ‘Asher ‘Ehyeh, I Am that I Am, I will Be what I will Be. I am the First and the Last, I Am the same yesterday, today, and forever. What I was for the patriarchs, I will be for you. God is and remains God to his people, unchangeable in his grace and faithfulness. He is the I Am. This name occurs some 6,800 times in the Old Testament, and it occurs in combination with many other words that give us insight into who God is. It occurs frequently with Elohim, The LORD our God, The I AM, the Strong One; with El Elyon; The I AM, God Most High; with El Shaddai, The I AM, God Almighty; with El Olam, The I AM, the Everlasting God.

YHWH Rapha; The LORD our Healer

At the waters of Marah, where the people grumbled and God turned the bitter waters sweet, the Lord said:

Exodus 15:26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.

YHWH Rapha, The I AM, your Healer. Even when we are grumbling because circumstances seem to be against us, God is our healer. He can take what is bitter and make it sweet.

YHWH Nissi; The LORD my Banner

In Exodus 17, when Amalek came out to fight with Israel in the wilderness, and Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands on the mountain while Joshua defeated the Amalekites in the valley.

Exodus 17:15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

God granted the victory over the enemies of his people, and Moses responded with worship to YHWH Nissi, The I AM, my Banner. His banner flies over us when we seek his face and obey his command. He gives us victory over our enemies, trials, temptations. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

YHWH Mekoddishkem; The LORD who Sanctifies you

When God gave Israel the Sabbath to set them apart from all other nations, he said:

Exodus 31:13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

YHWH Mekoddishkem; The I AM, the one who sets you apart, makes you holy, sanctifies you. In the very next chapter, the Israelites worship the golden calf. We learned quickly that we can’t sanctify ourselves. He sets us apart. He makes us holy. It is the Lord who is our sanctification.

YHWH Shalom; The LORD is Peace

In Judges 6, Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites, who had been terrorizing Israel. When the Lord appeared to him, Gideon questions why all the bad things are happening if the Lord is with them; he complains that the Lord has forsaken them. The Lord commissions Gideon conquer the Midianites, but Gideon asks for a sign. When Gideon brings food, the Lord consumes his offering with fire and disappears.

Judges 6:22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” 23 But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

Even in the midst of complaining, doubting, testing; even when we try the patience of the Lord, even when we are riddled with unbelief, The Lord is gracious. We understand the consequences of our unbelief; the wages of sin is death. But God speaks Peace. YHWH Shalom, The I AM, our Peace. God is our peace, even in the midst of danger and turmoil and hardship, even when we respond to his rescue with doubt and fear and complaint, even when what we deserve is his righteous anger, he gives peace that passes understanding, that guards our heart and mind.

YHWH Sabaoth; The LORD of Hosts

In 1 Samuel, Hannah, a barren woman in a polygamous relationship, bitter in soul, prayed to the Lord for a son.

1 Samuel 1:10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

YHWH Sabaoth, The I AM, the Commander of angel armies. God is a Mighty Warrior, with infinite resources at his command, and he fights for those who are helpless to defend themselves.

YHWH Tsidkenu; The LORD our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23 holds a Messianic prophecy in the middle of a chapter about lying prophets and shepherds who scatter the flock

Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (cf. 33:16)

YHWH Tsidkenu, The I AM, our Righteousness. When all are acting unrighteously, when all are looking out for their own interests, The I AM is faithful to his own character. He always acts righteously. And he covers us, he clothes us with his own perfect righteousness. We are given a righteousness not our own. He is our Righteousness.

YHWH Raah, Rohi ; The LORD is my Shepherd

Psalm 23 says:

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

YHWH Raah, YHWH Rohi; The I AM is my Shepherd. He cares for me, provides for my needs, protects, leads, guides, comforts, corrects, gives rest, restores, nourishes, heals. When the LORD is my Shepherd I lack no good thing.

YHWH Jireh; The LORD will Provide

In Genesis 22, God called Abraham to take his only son Isaac, the son he loved, up on the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice. After Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood and bound his son and laid him on top oft the wood, and took the knife in his hand to slaughter his son, the Lord stopped him.

Genesis 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

YHWH Jireh; the I AM will Provide. God provided a substitute. God provides his own Lamb for the sacrifice. When we finally let go of what we were clinging to, lay it all on the altar, offer it up to him, we are able to see that God provides everything in full.

Jesus; YHWH; Kurios; Lord

If we jump ahead to the New Testament, in John 8:

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

We see Jesus claiming to be the I AM, the one who was and is and is to come, the one who is what he has always been for his people, faithful and full of grace, YHWH of the Old Testament.

In Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2, he quotes the Old Testament prophet Joel.

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (cf. Joel 2:32)

In Joel, the name of the LORD is the name of YHWH. Peter exhorts his hearers to call on the name of Jesus to be saved. Jesus is YHWH our Righteousness, our Sanctification, our Redemption, the Lamb of God, our Shepherd, our Peace, God’s Provision, our Healer; he is the Seed of the Woman, the Man of Sorrows, the Suffering Servant, the Son of Man. He is the Lord, the King, the Strong One, the Creator of all that is. He is the Holy one of Israel, our Portion. He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He is the Word. He is Immanuel, God with us. “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt.1:21)

*** You Are our Everything! ***

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

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glorious Blessed Perfection

03/06 Glorious Blessed Perfection; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160306_glorious-blessed-perfection.mp3

We have been studying our God, the character and nature of God, what he says to us about himself, how he reveals himself to us in his Word. Today we will look at the glorious blessed perfection of God. To say that God is perfect is to say that there is no imperfection, no inadequacy, no lack in his character. Another way to say this is that God is all that he ought to be. He fully comes up to the ideal. He falls short in no area.

Even in our understanding of this we tend to be man-centered. We hear this and automatically think of our conception of who God ought to be, and we are glad to hear that God fully meets our expectations of what we feel he ought to be. This is arrogance; this is idolatry, to elevate our opinions above God and demand that he submit to our ideas of what is best and right. No, to say that God is perfect is to say that God fully meets his own idea of what it means to be God. There is no standard outside of God that God must live up to. God is his own standard.

If I were to ask you that question; ‘Are you all that you ought to be?’ I wonder how you would answer. Some might say ‘I’ve never even thought about a question like that. I’ve never stopped to think about what I ought to be.’ Others may answer ‘Of course I’m not perfect, but I think I am doing well. I contribute to society, try not to hurt others, and live a happy life.’ Many of us would probably answer something like this: ‘No, there are so many areas where I fall short of my own standards, I know my flaws, I am acutely aware of my shortcomings. I wish I could change this or fix that area of my life. I am striving, growing, moving forward, but I am not all that I ought to be.’ If we all examine ourselves carefully, we can all identify areas of potential improvement. But think of this. God is all that he ought to be. There are no areas in which he could do better, no areas of potential improvement. He is perfect. He is perfectly satisfied with his own character. He never looks back on an interchange and says ‘I wish I had responded differently than I did.’

Some people read things God has done or said, and they wish he were different than he was. They arrogantly presume that they could improve on his character. But to wish he were different than he is is to wish he were less than he is. He is absolute perfection, and any change from what he is would be to introduce a flaw, an imperfection.

Perfect, Lacking Nothing

James tells us that trials produce character with the end that we ‘may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing’ (1:4). When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus pointed him to the commandments.

Matthew 19:20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The man was aware of a lack, something in which he did not measure up. Trials produce steadfast character and mature or complete or perfect us. To be perfect means to have no lack, no shortcoming, no flaw, to fully live up to what we were meant to be. This helps us understand what Jesus meant when he said:

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

This does not mean that we must become gods as our heavenly Father is God. That would contradict the very nature of God, that there is and can be only one true God. But God is perfect, he has no lack. God is fully what he ought to be as God. We as humans are to be perfect, complete, mature, fully what we were made to be as humans, fully reflecting the image and glory of God, living wholeheartedly to love God and bring him glory.

Ezekiel 28, speaking of Lucifer’s fall, says:

Ezekiel 28:12 …Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; …On the day that you were created they were prepared. …14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.

This anointed cherub was perfect. His perfection was to perfectly be what he was created to be, to cry out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ to bring praise and glory and praise to Almighty God. He did not become perfect, he was created perfect, but he abandoned his perfection; we are told: ‘unrighteousness was found in you.’ Verse 2 said “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god”. Isaiah 14 tells us he said in his heart “I will ascend to heaven… I will set my throne on high… I will make myself like the Most High.”

To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is to be fully what we were created to be, just as God is perfectly what he ought to be as God. It is not, like Lucifer, to lift oneself up and strive to become equal with God in power and glory. That would be to deviate in the most loathsome way from what we ought to be.

Perfection of All His Attributes

God is perfect. He lacks nothing. He is all that he ought to be.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

God is perfect in every way. His way is perfect. His works are perfect. God is perfect in his being, in his essence. God is perfectly self-existent, he is not dependent on anything outside himself. God is unchanging; he cannot improve, and he will not decrease in his perfections. God had no beginning and will have no end; he is perfectly eternal. God is spirit, completely present everywhere. God is tri-une, three persons yet one God, perfect in relationship. God is perfect in power, perfect in freedom, perfect in wisdom and knowledge. God is perfectly set apart. He is perfect in goodness, perfect in mercy, perfect in grace, perfectly compassionate, perfect in steadfast covenant keeping love, perfectly just, perfectly faithful, perfectly true. God is perfect in all his character, all his attributes. And in the perfection of his attributes and being, he is not a composite or conglomerate of differing attributes; he is one. He is. He is who he is, he is God. He is not made up of parts, pasted together, some parts in tension with others. No, he is perfectly one.

Glory

The perfection of God is a glorious perfection. The Bible talks much about the glory of God. We were created for the glory of God (Is.43:7). We are to glorify God in our bodies (1Cor.6:20). We are to do everything we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31). We are to ‘live in harmony with one another’…

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We are to ‘glorify God for his mercy’ (Rom.15:9). We believe, and we speak,

2 Corinthians 4:15 …so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Financial gifts are given ‘for the glory of the Lord himself’ (2Cor.8:19). The conversion of a persecutor led the leaders of the church ‘to glorify God because of me’ (Gal.1:24). In Ephesians 1, the eternal purposes of God for salvation are ‘to the praise of his glory’ (v.6, 12, 14). God is ‘the Father of Glory’ (Eph.1:17); He strengthens us to comprehend his love ‘according to the riches of his glory’ (Eph.3:16). Our ‘fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ is to the glory and praise of God’ (Phil.1:11). One day ‘at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth …to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil.2:10-11). The eternal punishment of 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 is to be ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.’ The blessed hope of the believer is ‘the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ’ (Titus2:13). When our faith is proved genuine by fire it ‘results in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. (1Pet.1:7). Our conduct and good deeds bring glory to God (1Pet.2:12). When we utilize our gifts to serve one another by the strength that God supplies, it is ‘in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen’ (1Pet.4:11). When we suffer for being a Christian, we are to ‘glorify God in that name’ (1Pet.4:16). God’s glory is primary throughout Scripture. That is why the Westminster shorter catechism begins with the statement on our main purpose, ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ The Bible is peppered with doxology; ascribing glory to God.

Romans 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jude 1:25 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.

Revelation 5:12 … “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Revelation 7:12 … “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

What is Glory?

So what is the glory of God? What is glory? From the passage in Exodus 33-34 that we have been studying, when Moses requests to see the glory of God, and God’s glory passes by while Moses is covered in the cleft of the rock, God declares his name, his character to Moses.

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

The glory of God is the perfection of his being and attributes. Isaiah 42 says:

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

God’s glory is parallel with his praise. In Isaiah 66:19, God’s glory is parallel to his fame declared among the nations. God’s glory is the full perfection of who God is, his fame, his praise, his renown. In 1 Corinthians 15, the word glory is used to describe varying brightness of stars. The glory of God is said to give light in Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21. 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 compare the radiance of Moses’ face when he served under the law with the glory that comes with the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

And in 2 Corinthians 4 he says:

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

The light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Glory is the radiant brilliance of who God is blazing forth in splendor. Notice, the knowledge of the glory of God comes in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus communicated to us most clearly the character and nature of God.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Hebrews 1 tells us Jesus:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…

The radiance of the glory of God is the brilliant display of the manifold perfections of the nature and character of God.

Blessed Perfection

The glorious perfection of God is a blessed perfection. When God answers Daniel’s prayers, Daniel blesses God and says:

Daniel 2:20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.

And he goes on to extol the great power and worth of God. In Psalm 72, Solomon blesses God as he prays for the Messianic king.

Psalm 72:17 ​May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! 18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. 19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!

This Psalm is a prayer that the Messianic king reflect the character of God, and bring good to all who are under his rule. What does it mean to be blessed? For those who are under the Messiah’s rule, it means good will come to them. They will find justice, righteousness, prosperity, deliverance, protection, peace; they will flourish. It was promised to Abraham that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Good would come to them through him. Psalm 21 connects the blessings of the king with joy and gladness.

Psalm 21:2 You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. — Selah 3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head. …6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

In the beatitudes, Jesus contrasted the blessedness of the poor, the hungry, those who weep and are hated and persecuted with woe to those who are rich and full, who laugh and are well spoken of (Luke 6:20-26). Good things, great joy, will come to those who are blessed. But there will be terrible woe, pain and misery on those who experience their good only in this life. If for us to be blessed means to experience good and great joy, primarily and ultimately the joy of God’s presence, then what does it mean for God to be blessed? When we bless God, we ask that good and great joy come to him. But where does blessing come to God from? Does it originate in us? Of course, we can do what we were made for and give glory to God, and this brings him great pleasure. In Luke 15 Jesus tells us there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. But ultimately even this does not originate with us.

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Even in Romans 1, where the wrath of God is revealed against truth suppressors who exchange the glory of God for images, who exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, even there God is declared to be ‘blessed forever! Amen (Rom.1:25). God is blessed forever in spite of the rebellion of his creation. God is full of great joy. Where does this come from? If our blessedness is ultimately found in the joy of God’s presence, where do you think God’s greatest joy comes from? God’s joy is not ultimately dependent on his creation, whether rebel or repentant. God’s greatest joy is the unshakable joy of his own presence. To say that God’s perfection is a blessed perfection is to say that God is delighted with his own perfect character and nature. God’s glorious name is blessed forever, and this was true before he brought anything into existence. God’s ultimate happiness is not dependent on his creation, or on anything outside of himself.

In 1 Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to defend the sound doctrine that is:

1 Timothy 1:11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

The good news is good news of the glory of God. The radiant brilliance of God’s nature and character as seen in our Lord Jesus Christ is good news. Sound doctrine is according to the good news of the glory of the blessed God. It is good news that God is blessed, that good comes to God, that he is filled with great joy, primarily the joy of his own presence, the eternal satisfaction and delight within the persons of the one triune God. God is fully pleased with the perfections of his own glorious nature and this is very good news for us.

Proverbs 18:10 ​The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

We will close with the doxology from 1 Timothy 6 that praises God who is happy, delighted to be who he is, filled with joy at the glory of his own infinite perfections; the blessed and only sovereign.

1 Timothy 6:13 …of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, …15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

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

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Faithful and True

02/28 Faithful and True; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160228_faithful-true.mp3

What is God like? What can be known about God? What does he tell

us that he is like? We want to know God, to enjoy God, to delight ourselves in his presence, to experience him as he really is, to savor him. Jesus told us

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Suppression of Truth

Jesus tells us that eternal life consists in knowing God. But not just any idea of God will do. Eternal life consists in knowing the only true God. We must be careful. There is a grave danger that we would formulate an idea of God that does not correspond to the reality of who he is, and we would be found guilty of idolatry. Romans chapter 1 says

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 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.

We as fallen mankind have an inclination to suppress the truth about God. Although we know true things about God, we do not act consistent with that knowledge. We do not honor him as God or give him thanks. We tend to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of created things. We have a tendency to exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. This tendency in us is unrighteous, ungodly, and deserves God’s wrath. We must be alert to this tendency in ourselves, and be ware of taking the things God has revealed to us about himself and suppressing those things by our unrighteousness.

We want to enjoy God by experiencing him as he truly is. We do not want to be guilty of suppressing the truth about him or exchanging that truth for a counterfeit. One of the things God says about himself is that he is true. He is the only true God. What does it mean when the Bible says that God is true?

Full of Truth

Turn with me to the beginning of John’s gospel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

We see in this passage that life comes by the light shining in the darkness. We see that the Word was the true light shining in the darkness, and that the Word became flesh and lived among us to show us the glory of the Father. We see that the Word, the only Son from the Father was full of grace and truth. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus has made the invisible God known.

This passage in John directly connects back to the passage in Exodus that we have been studying. Keep your thumb in John 1 and turn back with me to Exodus 33. In Exodus 32, the people had become impatient with Moses’ delay on the mountain, and had made an image of God in the form of a bull-idol and worshiped and sacrificed to it. God threatens to wipe out all the people and start over with Moses, but Moses intercedes for the people and God allows them to live. In chapter 33, God is threatening that he will keep his promises and send Israel in to the promised land, but that he will not go with them because they are persistently rebellious and he would destroy them.

Exodus 33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Moses desires to know God, to know his ways, and he insists that the presence of God go with them. When God answers favorably, Moses requests to see the glory of God. God will reveal his character, his goodness, to Moses, but no one can see the face of God and live. John tells us that the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, Jesus has made his Father known. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth. In Exodus 34, The Lord proclaims his name:

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness

The Lord is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Jesus, the only Son from the Father is full of grace and truth. God is abundant in steadfast love, full of grace. God is abundant in faithfulness, full of truth. God reveals his full glory, the truth of who he is, in Jesus.

Light and Truth

This concept of truth or faithfulness in John’s gospel is coupled with light shining in the darkness. In the dark it is difficult to distinguish what is real from that which is a counterfeit. But in the full light the true character is seen for what it is.

In Jeremiah 10 the prophet sheds light on the people’s idolatry. He contrasts their idols with the one true God. Their idols are vanity, they cannot move, cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot do evil, cannot do good, they are stupid, foolish, false, worthless, a delusion;

Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. 11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

The Lord is the true God. He is incomparable in power, wisdom, understanding, his voice forms and brings about all things. The Lord is the true God in contrast to false gods who threaten harm and promise help but are impotent to do either. The Lord our God is true, he is no counterfeit; he is real, he is living, he had no beginning and will have no end.

Correspondence Between Word and Being

James warns against the deception of counterfeits.

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 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.

God is free from inconsistency or forgery. He is the Father of lights. He is the real thing, and the source of all that is true and genuine.

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. …18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. …22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Do not be deceived and do not deceive yourselves. God is authentic. He birthed us by the word of truth. If we hear the word but do not do it, we are not true. We lie to ourselves. We prove not to be genuine. Truth is when the word and the deed are one. Falsehood is when the word does not match the reality. We also see this theme in 1 John.

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 2:4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Truth is when our claims perfectly correspond to reality. We had a friend who got a job as a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman. As a friend, we allowed him to come to our house and practice his sales pitch on us. He told us how the unit that he was selling far surpassed every other vacuum in sucking power. To demonstrate this, he had us turn on our vacuum cleaner (which was a shop-vac) and he stuck his credit card over the end of our hose. Then he proceeded to turn on his vacuum and attempt to suck his card away from our vacuum with his vacuum to demonstrate how much more powerful it was. He made several attempts, but completely failed. He was a bit embarrassed. His vacuum sucked. But our shop-vac sucked more powerfully. He was embarrassed because his words didn’t match the actual performance. He spoke bigger than the reality. His claims were demonstrated to be false. (And by the way, my friend didn’t remain in door-to-door sales for long).

God is true. His claims perfectly correspond to reality. God never inflates his claims. He never speaks bigger than he is. And have you read your Bible?! Have you listened to the things God says about himself?! Think for a moment of some of the things God says about himself. If someone came to your door claiming the things God claims for himself in his word, how would you respond?

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Every word of God perfectly corresponds to his essence, his being. He is what he says. His representation of himself matches exactly the reality of who he is. He is true.

I Am The Truth

In John 14, when Jesus is about to go to the cross, Jesus says:

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

And he tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them, to bring them to be with him where he is. When Thomas expresses confusion as to the destination and how to get there, Jesus responds:

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

Jesus does not claim merely to know the truth, or to tell the truth; Jesus claims to be the truth. He says: “I am the truth.” He says “you believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus is the truth. He is all that he claims to be, all that he ought to be. Jesus’ very essence embodies exactly who God is. As Hebrews tells us,

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. …

Jesus is the perfectly accurate representation of who God is. He is the truth.

In Revelation, Jesus is called “the holy one, the true one; the Amen, the faithful and true witness; Sovereign Lord, holy and true (Rev.3:7, 14; 6:10). In Revelation 19,

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

True Satisfaction

Jesus is faithful and true. In John 6, after Jesus fed 5,000 and the crowds pursued him to the other side of the lake, seeking more food, Jesus said:

John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

In what way does Jesus mean that he is the true bread from heaven? Does he mean true as opposed to metaphorical? In what way is his flesh true food and his blood true drink? Does he mean that we are to eat and drink his flesh and blood in a literal physical way? Clearly not. In the rest of the passage he clarifies that what is required is to come to him and believe in him. But he is saying that his flesh and blood is that which nourishes, sustains and satisfies us in a more genuine, real, and lasting way than any physical food. That which is true is that which is reliable, which can be depended upon, which does not fail or disappoint.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. … 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Nothing satisfies human need, human longing like Jesus.

True and Trustworthy

Because God is true, he is trustworthy. He will live up to every expectation. He will perfectly keep his word. He will never disappoint those who trust in him, those who believe in him. Paul addresses Titus:

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

God never lies. When God promises, he binds himself to make good on his promises. God is truth and God is completely trustworthy.

Hebrews 6:13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, …17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

When God takes an oath, he swears by himself, because there is none higher, none greater, no more sure standard of truth than himself. He is the absolute standard of truth. All truth comes from him. And the truth of God should give us strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us in the promises of God.

The Gospel is the Word of Truth

In the New Testament letters ‘the truth’ or ‘the word of truth’ comes to be synonymous with the gospel, the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, securing our forgiveness. (2Cor.4:2; Gal.2:5, 14; Eph.1:13; Col.1:5). We are to obey the truth, believe the truth, know the truth, love the truth, walk in step with the truth, be established in the truth… (Rom.2:8; Gal.5:7; Col.1:6; 2 Thes.2:10, 12, 13; 1Tim.2:4; 4:3; 2Tim.2:25; 3:7; 1Pet.1:22; 2Pet.1:12; 2Jn1:4; 3Jn.1:3)

Obtaining Truth

God is faithful and true. He is abundant in faithfulness and full of truth. He is the light by which we can discern what is genuine and what is counterfeit. How he portrays himself exactly corresponds to what he is in reality. Because he is true, he can be depended on, he will not disappoint or fail us. Jesus is the truth, the perfect expression of who God is, and the good news of Jesus is the truth that must be loved, embraced, obeyed.

In 2 Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth (2Tim.2:15). He says:

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Notice how a knowledge of the truth comes. It does not come from hard study or persuasive arguments. It is repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth; a turning, a change of mind and heart. And notice, this is a gift of God. If we have come to know and believe and love the truth, if we have come to see Jesus as the truth, we should not suppress that truth; rather we should honor God as God and give thanks to him.

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

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

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just and Righteous

02/21 Just and Righteous; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160221_just-righteous.mp3

We have been looking at the character of God, specifically at the goodness of God, his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. We defined mercy as God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace as God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, God’s love, which is his special favor toward his people. Today we will look at God’s justice and righteousness, which is his goodness expressed by rewarding each one according to his work, and treating the righteous and the wicked distinctly (Bavinck, p.206, 215).

In Exodus 33, when Moses asked to see the glory of God, God replies:

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

In the next chapter God proclaims his character.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.

There seems to be dissonance in this verse. We might be inclined to replace the comma with a full stop in the middle of verse 7. We like to hear about a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” But it might make us squirm a bit, and it is clearly contrary to our cultural climate to finish the sentence. We might not be so bold as to take out our black highlighter and strike the words from the page, but our voice might trail off, a bit embarrassed, and mumble the last lines under our breath. But we must finish the sentence! We want to know God, not as we wish for him to be, which would be to form a god after our own image, and worship and serve the created thing rather than the Creator, but we want to know God as he truly is, as he reveals himself to be. And he revealed himself to Moses as a God “who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

God is just. God is righteous. God will not let sin go unpunished. God will by no means clear the guilty. We might naturally recoil at this idea, or be embarrassed by it. We might feel a bit like the child of a father who easily loses his temper and flies into a fit of rage. The child is embarrassed by the actions of his father, especially if an outburst happens in front of his friends, but he loves his father and tries to downplay his imperfections, drawing attention rather to his better qualities. But to feel this way is to reveal that we misunderstand God’s justice, God’s righteousness, God’s wrath. To view God this way is to impose the limitations and imperfections we see in sinful creatures on the perfect and sinless Creator. We should not be embarrassed by God’s righteousness, or try to explain away his wrath. Rather we should delight in the justice of God, as an aspect of God’s goodness, because God delights in his own justice.

The Lord Delights in Justice and Righteousness

Listen to how the Bible speaks about God’s justice and righteousness.

Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Isaiah 5:16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Hear this: the Lord loves righteousness and justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice. The Lord delights in practicing justice and righteousness. God’s justice is a grounds for our boasting. God delights to reward each one according to his work. God is exalted in his treating of the righteous and wicked differently, as they each deserve.

Notice also, how justice and righteousness are coupled with his steadfast love. God’s justice and righteousness are not the opposite of his grace, mercy and steadfast love, they are not contrary to or in tension with his other attributes. Rather, God’s justice and wrath, and his love, mercy, and grace, rightly understood, are in perfect harmony.

Justice and righteousness are a positive expression of God’s goodness. To clarify this, it may be helpful to imagine a god who had no concern for justice, who was soft on sin and tolerated evil, who allowed the wicked to prosper and the upright to be persecuted. When we see images of persecution and slavery, of racial inequality and child prostitution, drug lords and terrorists, when we see wicked men prey on the innocent and helpless without consequence, our hearts cry out with the Psalmist “how long O Lord?”

Psalm 94:1 O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 ​Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! 3 O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. 5 They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage. 6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7 ​and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”

The Psalmist sees injustice and cries out for the Judge of the earth to repay to the arrogant proud wicked evildoers what they deserve; he cries out for the God of vengeance to shine forth.

Many times in Scripture, we see God pouring out on his enemies what they deserve as a ground for worship

Revelation 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39-43; Revelation 11:15-18; 16:4-7; Psalm 96, Psalm 98, etc.)

That God is just, that he punishes evil is grounds for worship. That God does what is right, that he rewards the righteous and punishes evildoers is something to rejoice in.

The Judge of All The Earth

In Genesis 18, God came down to give promises to Abraham and to punish Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

The Lord is revealing his own just and right dealings with these wicked cities as an example for Abraham to learn justice and righteousness. He is teaching him to keep the way of the Lord by modeling his own righteousness and justice.

Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

The Lord does not fly off into a fit of uncontrolled rage. The outcry was great and their sin was grave, so he investigates. He goes down to see.

Genesis 18:22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Abraham understood that the Lord is the Judge of all the earth. And as judge, he must do what is just. Abraham understood that it is unjust to sweep away the righteous with the wicked, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, to treat the righteous and wicked in the same way. For the sake of 10 righteous people God would spare the entire city. In the next chapter, we see the angels seizing Lot and his wife and his two daughters by the hand and bringing him out and setting him outside the city. The angel said “escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.”

Peter holds this episode up alongside Noah and the destruction of the ungodly world with a flood to demonstrate that

2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

The Judge of all the earth will do right. He differentiates between the righteous and the wicked, giving to each what he deserves.

God Repays Each According to his Deeds

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The Lord does not judge based on appearances. He searches the heart and tests the mind, he judges every man justly. Jesus says

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

Peter says to the church,

1 Peter 1:17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed … 19 …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Our Father judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. Paul spells this out in Romans. In chapter 1, he says that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In chapter 2 he says:

Romans 2:2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

God shows no partiality. God is a righteous judge, and his righteous judgments will be revealed on the day of wrath, when he renders to each one according to his works.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

In Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31, God clarifies a misunderstanding of his people when he said that he will visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deut.5:9). There came to be a proverb ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Jer.31:29; Ezekiel 18:2), implying that God punishes innocent children for the sins of their fathers. This, indeed would not be just. But fathers need to realize that they set patterns for generations to come. There is a tendency for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents, and the children will not be able to excuse their sins because of the bad example of their parents. God says:

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Ezekiel 18:29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. As we have seen, God is good, he is inclined to extend undeserved mercy and overwhelming grace. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands [of generations].’ He prefers to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. He invites us to turn and live!

The Good News of God’s Righteousness

But if God is just and righteous and will by no means clear the guilty, if he must treat us as our works deserve, if he must punish sin, then that leaves us all in a whole heap of trouble, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s the point of Romans 1 and 2, that ‘every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.’

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We return to the tension we felt in the beginning. How can God be merciful and gracious, abundant in steadfast love, inclined to forgive iniquity, transgression and sin, yet he is just and will by no means clear the guilty? How can God forgive, and yet repay each person according to what he has done? This is the power of God and the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel that addresses the problem for us of the wrath of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

God’s righteousness. Righteousness given to believing sinners by grace as a gift. We are all guilty. To get what we deserve is to experience hell. But if we will cry out to God for mercy, if we depend on the work of another, we can be given a gift we do not deserve. We can be declared righteous as a gift through the redemption and propitiation of Jesus. Jesus became our substitute. He took my place, and I take his place. All my sin was laid on him, he became sin for me, and God’s righteous wrath was propitiated, satisfied, in him. My sin got what it deserved; death. I now get what Jesus’ perfect obedience earned; the declaration of righteousness, and the reward; eternal life. Notice the concern to demonstrate God’s justice and righteousness.

Romans 3:25 …This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded…

God’s own justice does not allow him to merely pass over sins. God’s righteousness is upheld both in punishing the evildoer in the person of the Lamb of God who became sin for us, and in rewarding the righteous, as I now come to be in Jesus through faith and enjoy his inheritance.

We see this same emphasis on God’s justice in 1 John 1:9.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we turn and agree with God about our sin, his justice is satisfied, because we see sin as it really is, as an offense that must be punished, and he is just to forgive and cleanse us, because the punishment has been poured out on Jesus. This is no mere outward declaration. It changes us. If we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, then we are righteous. We are born anew, given a new heart, given the Holy Spirit, and we begin to hate what God hates and to love him above all else. The Spirit begins to bear fruit in us, and God, who searches the heart will give to us according to the fruit of our deeds.

May we praise God for his justice! We don’t want a God who doesn’t take sin seriously. A God who is soft, compromising, inconsistent is not worthy of our worship. The cross of our Lord Christ is a public demonstration of both the justice and mercy of our overwhelmingly loving God.

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

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merciful, Gracious, Compassionate

02/07 Merciful, Gracious, Compassionate; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160207_merciful-gracious-compassionate.mp3

We are seeking to know God, to increase in our affection for him as we listen to what he says about himself. This greatest of all beings, is profoundly worthy of our adoration and worship. We have looked at some of his essential attributes, those describing his very being, his essence, how he relates to his creation, to time, to space. We have looked at some of the characteristics which set him apart from us, in a class by himself, utterly unique and different – holy, and we are looking at some of the characteristics of which we find a faint reflection in us his creation, we who are made to reflect his image.

Last time we looked at God’s goodness. We used Stephen Charnock’s definition: “the goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures.” We saw that God is good in and of himself, in his very nature. He is the source of all good. And although he is not obligated to extend his goodness to any, he is good to all. In varying degrees, as he sees fit, he gives to each one better than we deserve. He is inclined to do us good. And he is our ultimate good. Although many settle for enjoying his good gifts, our supreme good is to enjoy forever the good giver of all those gifts.

In Exodus 33,

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

God’s goodness is defined here by God’s right to freely extend grace and mercy to whom he will. His goodness is then declared to Moses in chapter 34

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God’s goodness is proclaimed as mercy, grace, longsuffering, covenant love, faithfulness, and justice. Today we will look at God’s mercy, his grace, and his patience.

Although there is much overlap in these concepts, the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921; p.206 ff.) helpfully distinguishes them according to whom they are directed. He writes that ‘mercy is God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace is God’s goodness toward the guilty; longsuffering is God’s goodness manifested in patience toward those who are deserving of punishment.’

Moses (d. 1406 or 1220 BC)

Throughout the Scriptures we see that God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger. God revealed this to Moses. In Moses’ instructions to the generation who would enter the promised land under Joshua, in Deuteronomy 4, he warns the people in coming generations not to fall into idolatry. He says that you will ‘provoke the Lord to anger… you will soon utterly perish from the land … you will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples… you will be left few in number …where the Lord your God will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands.’ but he gives them hope and confidence, based on the character of God.

Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

He grounds this hope, hope for repentance, hope of forgiveness, on the fact that the Lord is a merciful, compassionate God. God is inclined to be good toward those in misery and distress, even when that misery is self-induced.

Jonah (c.782-753 BC)

Some 500 – 700 years after Moses, Jonah, the reluctant prophet, is sent by God with a message of judgment to Nineveh, the great city of Assyria. When he finally delivers his message, the pagan king proclaims a fast, for everyone to turn from evil and cry out to God. He says:

Jonah 3:9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah’s refusal to proclaim God’s judgment on this wicked enemy of Israel was due to his understanding of the goodness of God, his inclination to extend help toward those in distress, to be patient toward those who deserve punishment, to be forgiving toward those who are guilty.

Hezekiah (715-686 BC)

Some 30 – 50 years after Jonah, Hezekiah had already seen the northern 10 tribes of Israel conquered by Assyria because of Israel’s idolatry. After the wicked King Ahaz led Jerusalem in the abominations of rampant idolatry, King Hezekiah sought to cleanse Jerusalem from idolatry. He sent out an invitation to the remnant of Israel and Judah to return to the Lord and keep his Passover in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 30:6 So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

Hezekiah finds hope for wayward people punished for their idolatry in the character of God. God is compassionate, merciful, gracious. He will turn away his fierce anger if his people will return to him.

Nehemiah (445 BC)

300 years later, after Judah had spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, and with Ezra sought to restore proper worship to God. In Nehemiah 9, a public prayer of worship and confession of sin, they recount the history of God’s grace and mercy from Abraham through Egypt to Moses into freedom,

Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go.

Then they recount the supernatural conquest of the promised land under Joshua, and their subsequent slide into complacent idolatry.

Nehemiah 9:27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies.

After the time of the judges, throughout the time of the kings,

Nehemiah 9:30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. 32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.

The people under Ezra and Nehemiah turn to the Lord in hope in spite of their repeated history of sin because of God’s character. He is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, great in mercies. He does not forsake them.

Undeserved, Unmerited, Free

Mercy is God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. Grace is God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment. In order to truly appreciate, to truly enjoy God’s mercy and grace, we need to grasp what mercy and grace really mean, and how we relate to them. Mercy means I am miserable and needy. I am in a position with no way out and no way to help myself. To cry out for mercy is to recognize the desperate nature of my situation and ask for help from outside. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story that helps us to feel the weight of our desperate situation.

Matthew 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’

This is where the footnotes in your Bible can be very helpful. This servant owed ten thousand talents. What is that? What is a talent? The footnote in my Bible says that a talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer. I’m not sure what you take home in a year, but this man had embezzled 200,000 years worth of wages. He could not pay. He could never pay. So he was being sold. His wife, his children, everything that was dear to him was being sold. There was nothing this man could ever hope to do that would dig his way out of a hole that deep. It seems he didn’t even understand the depth of his situation. He doesn’t ask for mercy. He asks for patience. He asks for more time, an extension on the debt. As if given enough time he could somehow pay of the debt. But God doesn’t work that way. Look at the response of the king.

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity [σπλαγχνίζομαι] for him…

Out of pity. Literally, his innards were moved for him. In the depth of his gut, he was moved with compassion. Pity. His situation was hopeless. The king knew that no amount of time would make it possible for him to repay even a fraction of what he owed.

But the king had been wronged. Robbed blind. This man was a liar. A cheat. An enemy. He had abused the king’s trust, misused the king’s resources. He deserved to be sold. He probably deserved much worse. He deserved to be hated. But instead the king was inclined toward pity. In verse 33, the king says ‘I had mercy on you.’

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

The master released him fully. Complete pardon. The debt forgiven.

If you go on to read the rest of this parable, you will see that the point of the parable is how utterly out of place our unforgiving attitude toward the petty offenses of our brothers is in light of the staggering debt we have been released from. Clearly the servant didn’t grasp the magnitude of the undeserved mercy that had been freely extended to him when he deserved so much worse. He just didn’t get it. Although offered free pardon, he continued to operate as if he were under a system of debt. His heart wasn’t moved. He wasn’t changed.

Grace vs. Debt

Romans helps us understand grace by contrasting it with its opposite. In Romans 3:19, Paul has established the universal guilt of all mankind before God.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

And then in verse 23 and following, he holds up the hope of grace.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Justification, legal pardon, forgiveness, being declared not guilty, our debt expunged, is a gift rooted in God’s grace. It was not free. It is the most costly of all gifts. God paid the purchase price. Redemption in Christ Jesus, propitiation by blood sacrifice. God is not righteous if he merely lets sin slide, looks the other way, brushes it off as if it were no big deal. God in his patience had passed over former sins. This left a question mark on the righteous character of God. Does he really care about justice? How can he justify ungodly people? The price was paid in full. He paid it himself. He gives it to us by grace as a gift. Romans 4 clarifies what this means.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

If you work, you earn wages. They are owed to you. They are due. Literally, this phrase could be translated ‘to the one who works, the wages are not counted according to grace but according to debt.’ Grace is the polar opposite of debt. Grace is unearned, undeserved, freely given, with no obligation. If you work you are entitled to a paycheck. And we have worked. We are entitled. The wages of sin is death. God owes us. He owes us death. He is only obligated to give us what we have earned. Grace is in a completely different category. We cannot demand it. We cannot presume upon it. God is in no way obligated to extend to us the least bit of grace. He is free to give us what we deserve, but it costs him dearly to extend to us grace. Faith is in a different category. It is not work. It is a total departure from the system of debt and obligation. It is a helpless dependence on the promised generosity of another, taking him at his word, gladly receiving a gift.

In Romans chapter 11, Paul speaks of the future of ethnic Israel, and the current unbelief of the majority of Jews, and he says:

Romans 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Grace is freely extended to a remnant of Israelites, like Paul. It is not based on performance. If it were in any way attached to merit or obligation or earning, it would not be grace. Grace ceases to be grace if you are entitled to it.

2 Timothy 1 speaks of

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

God saved us, God called us not because of works but because of his own eternal purpose in Christ, because of grace – God’s inclination to extend goodness toward those who deserve nothing but evil.

Ephesians 1 is an extended hymn of praise of God’s glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 2 describes us as

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

And then he says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember…

Remember that you were separated, alienated, strangers, having no hope and without God. But now you have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Remember the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Remember God’s undeserved, unmerited, unrestrained, free gift.

Until we feel the weight of the debt we owed, until we realize the extent which it cost God to forgive us, until we recognize he wasn’t obligated to, he is just and free to exact from us every bit of what we owe, we, like the ungrateful servant, will not get grace. We will not understand mercy. Our hearts will not be moved. We will still operate under a system of debt. And we will miss out. If we feel entitled, if we feel God owed it to us to extend grace and mercy, we just don’t get it. God would be just to give us all what we deserve, but God is inclined to deal well and bountifully with us. God is inclined to pity us, to extend goodness toward those in misery and distress. God is inclined to withhold his punishment toward those who continue to sin, eager to bring us to repentance. God is inclined to extend his voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting us justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which we deserve. Let us praise the immeasurable riches of his mercy and grace!

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

February 7, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Good God

01/31 Good Good God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160131_good-good-god.mp3

Review of Attributes

We are going to jump back into a study of who God is for the next weeks. We have been studying what God is like, what he says about himself in his word, not merely to satisfy our curiosity or to promote our own wisdom because we know more about him, but because we want to know him, to enjoy relationship with him, so that we can worship him in truth, as he is, not as we imagine him to be. We have seen that God is incomprehensible, yet knowable. He is infinitely far beyond our ability to know exhaustively, yet he is a God who desires to be known, and has made himself known. He is self-existent, not dependent on anything outside of himself for his own existence. He had no beginning and will have no end, he is eternal. He is unchangeable, consistent, he will not be different tomorrow than he is today, he is perfect and cannot improve. He is unlimited by time and space, fully present everywhere. He is spirit, not subject to the limitations of the material universe which he brought into existence with his word. He is unlimited in power; nothing is too hard for him. He is the absolute authority over all things, he is free to do what pleases him, he is unlimited in knowledge and wisdom. He is utterly unique, there is no other being like him, he is in a class by himself, yet he reveals that he eternally exists in the three distinct persons of Father, Son and Spirit, in satisfying relationship with one another.

These are some of the things God has revealed to us about himself. This is a terrifying being. He possesses all authority, all power, he is the uncaused cause of all things, he knows all, sees all, is invisible yet present everywhere, and answers to no one outside himself. If the maxim is true without exception that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then God would be the most unfathomably terrifying tyrannical despot, a sheer horror, a monster. But this is not how he reveals himself to us.

God is Good

The Bible tells us that God is good. In Exodus 33, Moses made a bold and startling request.

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Moses asked to see God’s glory. A full revelation of all that God is would undo any mortal man, but God offers to give him a glimpse of his name, his character, who he is. He says ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you’. God defines himself as good. In the next chapter we see God’s goodness declared:

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God’s goodness, his very nature is described as the perfect blend of mercy, grace, patience, steadfast love, faithfulness, and justice. God is good. Psalm 25:8 says:

Psalm 25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

Psalm 100 says:

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

God’s goodness is worthy of praise. Psalm 106 says:

Psalm 106:1 Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (cf. 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1)

God is good, and his goodness is cause for worship and thanksgiving.

Jesus, in Mark 10, was approached by a rich young man.

Mark 10:17 …a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (cf. Luke 18:18-19)

Jesus claims that God is exclusively good. He is challenging this man to consider what goodness is and the true identity of Jesus.

Defining Good

But what does it mean that God is good? That might sound like a silly question at first. Of course, everyone knows what good means. Until you try to articulate a definition. What exactly do we mean when we say ‘God is good?’ Stephen Charnock, a puritan minister who died in 1680, citing an older work, defined God’s goodness this way “the goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures” (Stephen Charnock 1628-1680, vol.2, p.219, cited from Coccei, sum. p.50)

God’s goodness is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with us. He deals well with us. He deals abundantly, bountifully with us. And he is inclined to do so. He prefers to be so with us.

Romans 5:7 helps clarify for us what good means. In this verse, a contrast is drawn between a good person and and a righteous person.

Romans 5:7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—

It is more likely that a person would voluntarily die for a good person than for a righteous person. A righteous person is just, keeps the law, does what is right. The righteous person is self-focused, making sure they do everything right and are perceived as righteous. A good person, on the other hand, may not be quite so conscientious about his own righteousness, but he is others focused. He is generous and kind, goes out of his way to bless others. Someone might dare to die for a good person. Of course the real contrast shows up in verse 8,

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

Our God is the kind of God who lays down his life for his enemies.

A. W. Tozer, in his ‘Knowledge of the Holy’, expands on Charnock’s definition. He writes: “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”

He goes on to say: “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty is eager to be friends with us. But sin has made us timid and self-conscious, as well it might. Years of rebellion against God have bred in us, a fear that cannot be overcome in a day. The captured rebel does not enter willingly the presence of the king he has so long fought unsuccessfully to overthrow. But if he is truly penitent he may come, trusting only in the loving-kindness of his Lord, and the past will not be held against him.” (Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p.57-58)

Mark 10:17 … “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

If God is truly inclined to deal well and bountifully with us, is it too much to imagine that God would be inclined to give us the free gift of eternal life, rather than require us to earn it? Is it even possible for us to earn it? Jesus, like the Psalmist in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, encourages this man to re-evaluate his standard of goodness. “There is none who does good, not even one” (Ps.14:1, 3; cf. 53:1, 3) Could it be that Jesus might himself be God’s ultimate expression of his inclination to deal bountifully with us, paying a price we could never pay, in full?

God is Good to All

Psalm 145:9 The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

God is good to all. There is no part of his creation that escapes his inclination to do good. The context of this statement in Psalm 145 spells this out.

Psalm 145:5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. 7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. 10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! …13 ​…[The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.] 14 The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

God is not obliged to extend the same level of goodness to each of his creatures. We tend to suffer from the disease of entitlement. We assume that God owes us all equal benefit and privilege. God is free.

Matthew 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

He is not obligated to extend his generosity to any. But he does give to each one better than they deserve. He could have sent Jesus to Sodom and Gomorrah, and they would have repented. But instead he sent righteous Lot. And it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those to whom Jesus came. (Mt.11:24).

Jesus said in Matthew 5:

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.

God is good even to his enemies, to the evil and unjust. Listen to the abundant bounty of God poured out on his creation in Psalm 104.

Psalm 104:10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; 11 they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. 13 ​From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

God is indeed good to all.

God is the Source of All good

All good comes from God.

Genesis 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

In the beginning, God made all that is, and all that he made was very good. His inclination to deal bountifully was expressed in his creative acts. He gave existence to that which did not exist. And he blessed everything he made.

James tells us that

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.

God is the source of all good. All good that we experience ultimately comes from God. Any goodness in us or in our fellow man does not originate within us. It is a reflection of his image in us. It is a gift.

God is the one who equips us for every good work. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, God makes all grace about to us, so that we may abound in every good work. In Ephesians 2:10, we are God’s workmanship, created to walk in the good works he prepared in advance for us. In Colossians 1:9-10, we are filled with the knowledge of his will so that we can bear fruit in every good work. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, we are given good hope through grace to establish us in every good work and word. In 2 Timothy 3:17, we are given God’s word so that we may be equipped for every good work. In Hebrews 13:20-21, we are equipped with everything good that we might do his will, and he works in us that which is pleasing in his sight. God’s goodness is the source of any goodness in us.

God is Good In and Of Himself

Psalm 119:68 says:

Psalm 119:68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.

We defined God’s goodness as his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. God does good because God is good. God is good in and of himself. God would be good if he had never expressed the overflow of his goodness in creation. God would remain good if he never demonstrated his goodness in redemption. Any goodness we experience from God is a free and unnecessary overflow of his goodness. Because God is inclined to deal bountifully, it does not necessarily follow that he must deal bountifully. For his own wise and good purposes, he is free to restrain his inclination to deal bountifully and instead give us what we have asked for. Hebrews 2:16 tells us that he chose not to rescue the angels who sinned. God makes it clear that his inclination is to forgive. Ezekiel 18:23 says:

Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (cf. Ez.18:32; 33:11)

2 Peter 3 says:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God’s inclination is that we turn and find forgiveness. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and our God is mighty to save. But we know that not all people will be saved. God is free to restrain his inclination to deal bountifully with us for his own good purposes.

The prodigal’s father was clearly inclined to deal bountifully with his son, and he could have pursued his son into the far country, but he restrained his inclination and waited for his son to come to his senses and return. He was inclined to deal bountifully with his older son, and could have given him a calf to kill and make merry with his friends in spite of his hardness of heart toward his younger brother, but this inclination was restrained by a greater purpose. The son must come in to experience his bounty.

God is the Ultimate Good we Seek

God does good to all, he is the source of all good, God is good in and of himself, and God is the supreme good of every creature.

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” …5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. …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.

The Psalmist cries out that there is no good apart from God. God is our supreme good. To be contented with God’s good gifts and not pursue him, a relationship with him, is to settle for something fleeting and temporary. At the end of Psalm 17, the psalmist prays for deliverance from the wicked men of the world.

Psalm 17:14 … from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. 15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Their portion is in this life. They, like the rich man in Jesus’ story, received their good things in this life. But far better to accept hardship and persecution in this life, with our eyes fixed on he alone who can eternally satisfy. Jesus said in Luke 9,

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Psalm 73 says:

Psalms 73:25 ​Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. …28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

What is your greatest good? What is it that you are pursuing? Psalm 34 is an invitation … to you!

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

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

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Holy Holy God

12/06 Holy, Holy, Holy God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151206_holy-holy-holy-god.mp3

What is God like? When we think of God, what characteristic defines him? How does he define himself? If we could say only one thing about God, what would most capture his nature? Think for a moment, what word would you choose? This is really an unfair question, because God’s attributes cannot be separated or isolated from one another, and God’s characteristics are not in conflict with one another. Everything God does is an expression of all his attributes. I think many people today would say ‘God is love’ or ‘God is grace’, and that is true. We might choose love because we can think of a Bible verse that says ‘God is love’ (1Jn.4:8). And we might choose love or grace because that is how we want God to respond to us. We are rightly grateful that he is loving and gracious toward us. But at the root we want to elevate these characteristics of God because we are really all about ourselves. We know he is just and righteous, but we would rather experience his love and grace. That is what we want from him. But what is the emphasis in the Scriptures? What does God highlight for us about himself?

There is only one characteristic of God that is repeated three times consecutively in worship and praise to him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is given a vision of the presence of God.

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. I3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

These six-winged seraphs surrounding God’s throne are continually crying out ‘holy, holy, holy’. They are not crying out ‘love, love love’ or ‘gracious, gracious, gracious’. God is not heralded as ‘righteous, righteous, righteous’ or ‘eternal, eternal, eternal’ or ‘almighty, almighty, almighty’.

John, in his revelation of the presence of God, witnessed a similar scene around God’s throne.

Revelation 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Holy, holy, holy. They never cease to say ‘holy, holy holy’! Throughout eternity, the praise of God’s holiness reverberates around his throne.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began by teaching them:

Luke 11:2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…

The first thing we are to pray is that the Father’s name be hallowed, or treated as holy… on earth as it is in heaven. The third commandment is:

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

God’s name is to be treated as holy. It is not to be used in vain, in a worthless or common or ordinary manner.

God says in Leviticus 22:

Leviticus 22:32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,

And in Ezekiel 39:

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God’s name is holy, and his name is not to be profaned or made common. He calls himself the Holy One.

What does Holy Mean?

God declares that he is holy, and demands to be recognized as holy. What does it mean to be holy? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a clear picture of what it means to be holy. In these verses in Leviticus and Ezekiel, we see that to be holy or to sanctify, is contrasted with to profane or treat as common. The basic meaning of holy is that which is set apart. To sanctify is to set apart. There are clear instructions in the Old Testament law about how to set things apart to God. Something or someone who was to be holy was cleansed and removed from common or ordinary use, and through some ritual or process was dedicated or consecrated to be used in the worship or service of God. There was a negative and positive aspect to holiness or sanctification. Negatively, it was cleansed and removed from circulation in its ordinary use. Positively, it was dedicated or consecrated to be exclusively used in the service of God and to bring him glory. So when a priest was sanctified or made holy, he left his ordinary daily routine, came to the tabernacle, he was washed, clothed with different clothes, and anointed to serve as priest. He was set apart to the service of the Lord. He was not allowed to participate in common activities for the time he was appointed to serve. When someone dedicated a gold bracelet or earring to the Lord, it would be melted down, reshaped into something for the worship and service of the Lord, and then washed and anointed, never to be used for common purposes again. Whatever it came in contact with would also become holy, set apart exclusively to the Lord’s use. The specific blend of spices used as anointing oil and incense to the Lord (Ex.30:22-38) was to be holy. No one was to make any like it or to use it for any common purpose.

I The Lord Am Holy

Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

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.

We understand what it means for us to be holy. We are no longer to be involved in that which is common, ordinary, we are to be cleansed and set apart exclusively for the service and worship of God. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) But what does it mean for God to be holy? If holiness is being set apart, what is God set apart to or for? What is higher or more worthy that God must dedicate himself exclusively to?

What if what it means for God to be holy is very similar to what it means for us to be holy? For us to be holy is to turn from that which is common, and be dedicated exclusively to that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is God. For God to be holy means that he is exclusively dedicated to valuing that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is himself. Holiness in us is to seek the glory of God above all else. Holiness in God is to seek his own glory above all else. Might this be what God means when he says that he will not share his glory?

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 48:11 ​For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

If God were to dedicate himself to anything other than himself, he would become an idolater, worshiping and serving something that is less than God, and by that act he would communicate falsely that there is something higher and more worthy of worship than God.

Isaiah 6:13 …Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

God’s holiness is his utter separation from valuing anything above himself, and his complete dedication to promoting the praise of his own glory.

We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to treasure God above all else, because he values himself above all else. We are to have no other gods beside him, because he honors no gods outside himself. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because God loves himself completely.

This idea that holiness in God means that he loves himself above all and seeks his own glory at first sounds uncomfortable, and we might even recoil from it, because it seems we are attributing to God something that is sinful. For me to love myself and seek my own glory would be arrogant, narcissistic and sinful, because I would be robbing God of the honor due to him and taking it for myself, when I do not deserve it. But for God to fail to love himself and seek his own glory would be sinful. For God to love or seek the glory of anyone above himself would be for God to become a liar and an idolater. It is right for God to treasure that which is most valuable, which is himself.

Delighting in God’s Holiness

I think this will become clearer as we look at some of the passages that talk about God’s holiness. Exodus 15 speaks of the incomparable holiness of God.

Exodus 15:11“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

God is unique in his holiness. God does wonders, he is awesome in glorious deeds to demonstrate that he is most worthy to be praised. David’s song of praise when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16 says

1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

We are called to delight, to rejoice, to glory in the holy name of God. We seek the Lord and delight ourselves in him because he delights in himself.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.

God’s salvation, his marvelous works, his glory is great and worthy of praise.

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

God’s name deserves glory. The splendor of his holiness deserves to be worshiped. God is right and good to display his greatness and worth so that we will respond with appropriate worship.

1 Chronicles 16:35 Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

We glory in his praise. We give thanks to his holy name. God is worthy to be praised, and he holds up his own name and his glory to be adored.

Psalm 29 says:

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96 says:

Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

We owe it to God to glorify his name. Angels owe glory to God. His holiness is splendid!

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

His holiness of putting himself first in everything increases our gladness in him. He is our everything. We wait for his help and protection. We trust in his holiness, because he values what is most valuable. Our hearts are glad in him, because he is delightful!

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word

God exalts his own name and his own word above all things. He is holy. He puts that which is most worthy of praise first, namely himself.

In Psalm 89 (and also in Amos 4:2) God swears by his holiness.

Psalm 89:35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. (cf. Amos 4:2)

God can use his own holiness as the basis of his oath to bind himself because he will consistently uphold his own worth. He swears by something he holds dear, something that will require him to keep his word.

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

Proverbs 9:10 ​The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

We gain insight, wisdom by fearing the LORD, by knowing the Holy One. To know God as holy, zealous for the honor of his own fame is wisdom.

Listen to Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, …

His name is Holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place. This seems to put him out of reach. He is entirely separate, other, inaccessible. But listen to what God says:

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God’s holiness inclines toward humility. The holiness of God must crush the proud, to demonstrate that he alone is worthy, but to those who are contrite and lowly, he is favorable.

After the angel announced to Mary that she would carry the coming King,

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 ​and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His name is holy, and he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

We can join in praise to God that he treasures that which is most valuable, himself. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge his surpassing greatness and delight ourselves in the splendor of his holiness. May we glory in his holy name!

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

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God All Knowing and Wise

11/29 God All-Knowing and Wise [omniscience] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151129_god-all-knowing-wise.mp3

We are spending some time savoring together what God tells us about himself. He is the most perfect being, and to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment. We have the pleasure of enjoying a blood-bought relationship with this God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are pointed back to the character and nature of God as the foundation for our lives, for hope in troubled times, as an anchor for our souls. We are warned of the dangers and consequences of believing false things about God or imagining him to be other than he is. We want to know God, to see what he has said about himself, to worship him in truth.

The Good News of Omniscience

Last time we looked at the power of God, the freedom and authority of God. God is sovereign. God has the right and ability to rule over his creation however he sees fit, and that is good news because he is good and only does what is best.

Today we will look at the wisdom and knowledge of God. The Bible teaches us that God ‘is perfect in knowledge’ (Job37:16); that ‘he knows everything’ (1Jn.3:20); Peter told Jesus ‘Lord, you know everything’ (Jn.21:17); Solomon addresses God ‘you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind’ (1Ki.8:39); the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 ​Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This is terrifying to those who do not know the forgiveness that comes only through a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows my heart, and my heart is ‘deceitful and desperately sick’ (Jer.17:9-10). I must ‘give account for every careless word’ I speak (Mt.12:36). But to those who do know him, this is good news indeed! He knows everything about me, and he loves me anyway?! He will never find out something about me that he doesn’t already know, that would cause him to turn away from me? There is nothing I will do in the future that he doesn’t already know, that would change his heart toward me? Truly, as David said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity… (Romans 4:7-8)

God who Cannot Learn

We stand amazed at a God who is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God does not fully know. God cannot increase in knowledge, because he is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God must learn. God will never be surprised, or caught off guard by new information.

So often our decisions are just plain bad. Have you ever made a bad decision? We make the best decisions we can based on the information we have, but we never have all the information. And the information we do have, we do not always know how to best utilize it. Have you ever said after the fact, ‘well that would have been really helpful to know’?

When I was younger, my mom used to make homemade frosting, and put it in these little orange Tupperware containers in the fridge. I would often spread some on a graham cracker for an after school snack. One day I remember coming home from school, opening the fridge, grabbing the little orange container, scooping up a finger full of the ‘frosting’ and popping it in my mouth, only to learn too late that this little orange container did not contain frosting, it was lard! That would have been nice to know before I stuck some in my mouth!

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

Sometimes our decisions are based on bad information. Did you know that sometimes people will tell you only part of the story in hopes that you will make the decision they want you to make? We have learned this through the challenging process of raising kids. ‘Dad, my brother sat on me and tried to scratch my eyes out! Look what he did to me!’ Your sense of justice is roused and you let the gavel fall. Then, through the tears, you come to find out that there is another side to this story. The ‘victim’ had been ruthlessly taunting and provoking her brother to the point where out of sheer frustration he responded the way he did. There is guilt on both sides. Sometimes people are less than truthful. How do you know who is telling you the truth? How do you know if it is the whole truth? God is never left to wonder. God knows the truth. God sees the thoughts and intents of the heart. God is never duped into making a judgment based on false information. God is perfect in knowledge.

God and ‘Chance’

But even if we had access to all the information, even if we had all the facts, we still can’t know what will happen in the future. Companies spend lots of money on surveys and statistical studies and analyzing trends and data and probabilities, but in the end, they have to roll the dice and take a chance. God never takes a chance. God ‘declares the end from the beginning’ (Is.41:22-26; 46:9-10).

It is true that the Bible talks of God as ‘regretting’ or ‘repenting’ or ‘changing his mind’ (Gen.6:5-7); but should we understand this to mean that God didn’t know what would happen before it happened? Should we understand that God took a chance and was surprised and caught off guard by what happened, and through the experience learned some things, and needed to quickly come up with plan B? God is grieved by the sinful choices of his creatures; he responds differently to disobedience than he does to obedience, but he is not surprised. He does not regret in the sense that he wishes he had had access to better information on which to base his actions.

Proverbs 16:33 ​The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

In fact, there is no such thing as chance. God’s providence rules the world, he determines the outcome of every roll of the dice. ‘Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’ Jesus said (Mt.10:29). We can take comfort that the things we view as chance are in the omnipotent hand of an all wise God who loves us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, even death, even the uncertainties of the future, (Rom.8:35-39) God will work even these things together for our good.

God Aloof or Involved?

In Psalm 139, the Psalmist expresses amazement at the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

God knows all my actions, even insignificant ones. God knows all my thoughts. God knows my plans, my habits. God knows how I will respond to any given situation. God knows everything I will ever say before I ever say it.

But is God a passive spectator? An all-wise sideline observer? He never interferes, right?

5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 ​Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

This word ‘to hem in’ means to bind, confine, cramp, enclose, shut in, secure. This seems to indicate that God is not passively watching, but is actively involved. And the Psalmist responds that this knowledge is wonderful.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 ​If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

God is present to lead, guide, or govern; and to hold, grasp, seize, take possession of, or enclose.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 ​even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 ​My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 ​If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Every day of my life was written in God’s book before I existed! Every one of my days was formed as a potter forms the clay. There is no room here for the god of the deist, who set creation in motion, and then passively observes from a distance, aloof and uninvolved. God is intimately involved in our lives, leading, holding, hemming in, forming. And this is a good thing. God’s thoughts are incalculably great and precious, treasured, valuable.

The Psalmist concludes with a glad invitation to God’s interference in his life.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

God’s knowing is not a mere distant awareness of facts, but an involved nurturing protecting directing care.

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

God knows all things, even what might have been, had things been different than they are. In Jeremiah 38:14-23, God reveals to King Zedekiah what will happen if he surrenders to the King of Babylon, and warns of what will happen if he does not surrender. In 1 Samuel 23:10-13, God tells David what Saul will do, and how the people of the city he is hiding in will respond when Saul comes to seek him, so David and his men escape from the city.

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

Matthew 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus tells us what might have been if things had been different. If Jesus had done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, or in Sodom, they would have repented, and they would not have been destroyed. We are left to ask why? Why, if God knew that they would have repented, did he not send Jesus to them? God did not lack the power to act differently than he did. Jesus could have done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom. God could have acted differently to bring about different results; however for his own wise and good purposes, he always chooses to bring about the highest good. It is right and good and wise to punish evil, and although God did not do all he could do to bring about their salvation, he also did not leave them without a witness. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, and Zechariah prophesied against Tyre and Sidon. Peter says:

2 Peter 2:6 …by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter holds up ‘righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ (2Pet.2:7-8); Lot who was rescued from Sodom as an example that ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment’ (2Pet.4:9)

This is a sobering reminder that God is not obligated to save anyone. God is able to save, but he is wise and just to punish evildoers, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should thank God that he does not give us what we deserve.

Jesus in the next verses of Matthew 11 responds to this with praise to God:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus rejoices (Lk.10:21) at his Father’s gracious will to hide these things from some and reveal them to others. In the same breath he invites all who recognize their need to come to him and find rest for their souls.

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks of the seeming foolishness of the message of the cross, which is in reality the power and wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The good news of the cross seems foolish to the perishing, but God uses this foolish message to confound the wise and save all who humbly believe. God in his wisdom saves in this way ‘so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’.

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

In Romans 11, Paul responds to the wisdom of God’s plan with a shout of praise, his wisdom to show mercy to both Jew and Gentile, even when this means that many Jews will reject Jesus for a time in order to open a door of salvation to the Gentiles, so that God may show mercy to all.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

God is deep and rich in wisdom and knowledge. He does not need advice. His ways and judgments are inscrutable and unsearchable. Everything he does wisely moves toward the one overarching purpose of bringing him glory. From him and through him and to him are all things.

Ephesians 1 talks about God’s wise purpose to bring praise to his glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God works all things according to the purpose of his will, in all wisdom and insight, to the praise of his glory. Our salvation is according to his wise purpose, according to his wise counsel, to bring praise to his glory. Paul goes on to pray that we might have eyes enlightened to know the riches of our hope, our inheritance, his power toward us who believe; that we might know him.

In chapter 3 of Ephesians, Paul spells out for us what is the mystery of his will, that Jews and Gentiles together are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (3:6). The many faceted wisdom of God is made know to everyone through the church according to God’s eternal purpose (3:10-11). Paul uses this as motive to not be discouraged in the face of suffering, and he prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the immeasurable love of Christ to us (3:13-19). He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

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

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment