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1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Slavery and Contentment

12/01 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 Remain As You Were Called; Slavery and Contentment; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131201_1cor7_20-24.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

We find in this passage strong encouragement from the apostle to enjoy the status God has given to each one of us in Christ Jesus. These verses give the core principle that Paul applies to the different circumstances he addresses in this chapter: married, widowed, divorced, and single. In verse 17 he states the principle:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Then in verses 18 – 19 he illustrates this principle with the racial issue of circumcision. Jews prided themselves in being God’s chosen people. Gentiles were excluded from a relationship with God unless they became Jews. But in Graeco-Roman society being a Jew could be detrimental to social advancement. Paul says that it doesn’t matter what your racial background is. God’s call cuts across all ethnic barriers. Jesus sent his disciples not only to Jerusalem and Judea, but into Samaria and to the ends of the earth to make disciples. God will bring people from every tribe and language and people and nation to worship around his throne. Racial background has no effect on one’s relationship with Jesus. In verse 20, Paul restates his guiding principle.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

And in verses 21-23 he applies this principle to the difficult social issue of slavery. Then in verse 24, he repeats the principle again.

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Bondservants and Freedmen

In order to better understand this passage, we need to gain a proper understanding about the background of slavery in the Graeco-Roman world that Paul was writing to. Set aside for a moment the American and European ideas of ethnic based slavery. Slavery in the ancient world was an issue of social status. One became a slave by being on the losing side of a battle, by being born to slave parents, or by entering into a contract of slavery, often to pay off a debt. The kidnapping and sale of adults and children as slaves was illegal, but did happen. Slavery was typically not lifelong; slaves were often manumitted (or granted freedom) when they were in their early 30’s or after around seven years of service (NIGTC, p.564-5). A former slave who had been released gained the status of ‘freedman’. The status of a slave or a freedman depended greatly on whom he served as slave. Slaves were sometimes cruelly abused and mistreated, and sometimes released when they had passed their prime as a way for the owner to escape the obligations of providing for them. But it was a matter of public honor to provide well for the needs of the slave, and to reward loyal service with manumission. Some slaves were menial laborers, but a wealthy patron would often delegate great responsibility to a trusted slave to carry out business and manage affairs in his name, and that slave would be given the respect that was due their patron. When a slave was released, they continued to be indebted to their patron, owing them honor, respect, gifts, and often a set number of days’ work per week or month or year (BECNT, p.314-5). Some estimate that about one third of the population of ancient Corinth were slaves, and another third were freedmen. Freedmen took great pride in their patrons. Common tombstone inscriptions have been discovered that read (so-and-so) the freedman of (patron’s name).

Circumstances and Attitudes

Paul restates his governing principle of living the life the Lord has assigned and to which God has called in verse 20, and he now applies this principle to slavery and freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Literally verse 20 reads ‘remain in the calling in which you were called’. It is not social standing that counts for anything, it is God’s call.

This is intentionally an extreme application of the principle, and it helps to clarify what he does and doesn’t mean by it. It is one thing to apply ‘each one should remain in the calling in which he was called’ to circumcision; don’t reverse the irreversible. But to say ‘if God called you as a slave, remain as a slave’ is more difficult to swallow. But he doesn’t exactly say that. He doesn’t say ‘you must remain a slave’ Instead he says ‘don’t worry about it.’ He turns our focus from the circumstance to our attitude toward the circumstance. If you are a slave, don’t let it concern you. You can be so focused on your circumstance, so controlled by an all-consuming desire to escape your situation, that you become a slave to your desire. You don’t have to become a Jew to follow Jesus, and you don’t have to become free to follow Jesus. A slave can be just as faithful a follower of Jesus as a free man can. This is radical contentment irrespective of circumstances.

This is not just talk. Paul modeled this radical contentment for us in his own life. He wrote in Philippians:

Philippians 4:11 …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

He wrote these words from a Roman prison, probably chained to Roman guards. He did not pout and whine and complain. He was not consumed with self-pity. Instead he viewed his circumstances as ordained by God and took advantage of his situation for the glory of God and for the advance of the gospel. He writes in the beginning of the letter:

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Throughout the Philippian letter Paul is overflowing with joy. Joy is not contingent on circumstances; joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit, who resides in every believer. Paul views his imprisonment not as a hindrance to the gospel, but as brought about by God to advance the gospel throughout the whole Roman guard. His imprisonment has given confidence to many brothers to speak the word more boldly. Paul is content in his God-given circumstances and finds multiple reasons for joy and thanksgiving to his all-wise God. Paul gives us his recipe for contentment in Philippians 4:6.

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

Or as Peter says it:

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Remain as you are. Bring your concerns to God. Be content in whatever circumstance God called you.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

We can easily apply this principle to our situation today. Often when someone becomes a follower of Jesus, they feel a strong inclination to really make their lives count for the Lord. They mistakenly think that the best way to do this is to quit their day job and go into ‘full time Christian ministry’. This is right and wrong. They definitely should seek to make their lives count for God and they should go into full time Christian ministry. But that does not require a change of occupation. Paul’s advice here is ‘remain as you are called’. Don’t quit your day job. You are called to be an ambassador for Jesus where ever you are. Are you presently serving someone? Employed by someone? Be faithful to use those relationships for the advance of the gospel and the glory of God. Are you in a position of authority over someone? A business owner or employer? Recognize that you are a slave of Jesus, you belong to Jesus, and he determines how you conduct yourself and how you relate to other people.

Make Use Of…

We could take Paul’s principle that ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’ as an absolute rule in every circumstance. But Paul is not so simplistic. He adds a ‘but if’ clause; ‘but if you can gain your freedom, rather make use…’ But he leaves the sentence hanging. Make use of what? This has led to a debate among biblical scholars. Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should rather make use of your slavery to the glory of God and remain a slave? Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should use your new status as a freedman to bring glory to God? More likely he is allowing for the exception and turning our focus from our circumstances to our calling. If you were called by God as a slave, don’t let it concern you, serve your earthly master to the glory of God. If God opens the door to freedom, make use of that freedom for the glory of God.

Upside Down Kingdom

He finds the reason in the gospel, where the calling of God shames the wise and chooses the nothings of this world, where the first will be last and the last first.

1 Corinthians 7:22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

The cross of our Lord Jesus turns all social status on its head. If God called you when you were a slave, you become a freedman of the Lord. Still a slave of a human master, the Lord Jesus has become your patron and you enjoy true freedom from the power and consequences of sin, a freedom greater than any earthly liberty. You now owe your primary allegiance to Jesus. You can claim the identity of the King of kings and Lord of lords. If on the other hand God called you when you were free, you have become a slave of Christ. You have come under the control of a Master who has the absolute right to make use of you, your time and talents and resources, as he alone sees fit (Thrall, p.56). So the slave moves up in social status, and the free man moves to the bottom.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Matthew 20:25 … “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The greatest one in God’s kingdom is the one who serves others. Jesus, our example, did not come to be served but to sacrifice himself for others.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. …12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus

Philippians 2:6 …did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The God who created the universe became part of his creation in order to serve us by dying in our place. Because of the cross, we who were slaves are set free from sin to live lives that bring glory to God. We who were free are now owned by Jesus.

Bought

Paul’s instruction to slaves is not to worry about it. If you can become free, use that for the glory of God. More important than your circumstances is your attitude. Your station in life does not define you. Your relation to Christ is what defines you.

He now instructs those who are free.

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

In that culture, becoming a slave of an affluent and important patron could be a way to climb the ladder of social status. Paul warns them against the foolish wisdom of this world’s status seeking hunger. He takes them back to the cross. You were bought with a price. Jesus paid the price for your freedom at the infinite cost of his own precious blood. You are owned by the King of kings. It would be incongruent for a possession of Christ to sell himself into slavery to another master. At the end of chapter 6 in a warning against sexual immorality, he said

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

Here, in the context of social relationships, he repeats this theological truth. You were bought with a price. You are owned. You belong to Jesus. You must live consistent with your new identity in Christ.

Content in Any Relationship

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Paul is saying all this to illustrate his principle governing marriage, divorce, remarriage, and celibacy. His principle is ‘remain as you were called’. If you are married, you must not seek to change your status. Enjoy your marriage and use it to bring glory to God. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, take advantage of the freedoms of singleness to bring glory to God. But his illustration of slavery introduces possible exceptions to the principle. You are not required to remain in that state. Interestingly, he parallels marriage with slavery and singleness with freedom. But whatever your situation, don’t be concerned about it. More important than your circumstances is your attitude toward those circumstances. Are you bitter, frustrated, depressed, suffering from the greener grass syndrome, wishing to be on the other side of the fence? Or have you learned the secret for contentment in whatever circumstances you find yourself in? In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain, but you are not to remain there alone, in your own strength. You belong to Jesus, you are with God, and in that relationship there is ample strength. The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in you to produce the fruit of joy regardless of outward status or standing, to produce peace and confidence in your identity in Christ as belonging to him. You were bought with a price. You are a bondservant of Christ, a freedman of Christ. You are with God, and that relationship must define you.

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

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December 1, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:1-10; Covenant Treason

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120708_exodus32_1-10.mp3

07/08 Exodus 32:1-10 Covenant Treason

We come now to a terrifying, terrible and tragic portion of Exodus. If it were possible, we could delete chapters 32, 33, and 34 from the book of Exodus, the book would still make perfect sense and flow quite nicely. As we have been studying chapters 25-31, God’s instructions for building a tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people, a central place for worship, we have also looked at chapters 35-39, which mirror the earlier chapters and record quite repetitiously the careful exact obedience of God’s people in following his instructions down to every detail. The structure of God’s commands and the people’s fulfillment of God’s commands are roughly parallel, with the command section concluding and then the fulfillment section beginning with God’s requirement to rest. But if these chapters were missing it would change the whole tone of the book. We could look at God’s instructions and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, they performed God’s instructions so carefully and precisely, displaying flawless obedience.’ But with these chapters in place, our response is much different. We look God’s command and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, God is truly merciful and gracious, generous to forgive, patient and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, faithful to his promises, able to conquer hard rebellious hearts and use flawed fallen people for his glory.’

You see, chapters 32-34 record the covenant treason of God’s chosen people. God had rescued them from slavery so that they would be a people who would worship him exclusively. He saved them when they had no hope. He conquered their enemies. He provided for their needs. He spoke to them audibly from the mountain and entered into a covenant agreement with them, and they promised ‘everything that the LORD has said we will do’ (19:8). They requested that Moses act as a buffer between them and God, because they were terrified at God’s presence. And for the next 40 days, from 19:21 to the end of chapter 31, Moses is up the mountain, in the presence of God, receiving God’s instructions on what life lived in relationship with a holy God should look like, and instructions for the tent where God would dwell with his covenant people.

Exodus 31:18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Then chapter 32 switches settings, kind of a ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch…’

Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

A few comments about the text here. When it says that ‘the people gathered together to Aaron’ the language used is not that of a friendly gathering. Maybe we could translate it ‘the people ganged up on Aaron’. This was a hostile gathering. They were threatening, making demands, and not in polite terms. They said ‘up, make us gods who shall go before us’ – not exactly a polite way to address the one who was left in charge. This was not a request; it was a demand. And the way they refer to ‘this Moses’ is less that courteous as well. ‘As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt’ whoa! Moses the man brought you up out of Egypt? If I remember correctly, God takes credit for the exodus. In 3:8 he says ‘I have come down to deliver them’; in 3:17 he said ‘I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt’; in 13:8 they are to teach their children ‘it is because of what the LORD did for me’; in 14:30 it says ‘thus the LORD saved Israel that day’; in 15:1 the people ‘sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously’; at the beginning of God’s ten words, he reiterates ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’ (20:2). So quickly they forget that not long ago they were groaning and crying out because of their cruel slavery. Now they seem to want to go back. This rings back to Exodus 14, where they were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.

Exodus 14:11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?

Or chapters 16 and 17, where they were hungry and thirsty.

Exodus 16:3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Here again their tone is discontent. They are not satisfied with where God has them. We don’t know what has happened to ‘that guy’. Stephen, recounting this event in Acts 7

Acts 7:39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

In their hearts they turned to Egypt. They thrust Moses aside. Now let’s think this through. The people cried out because of their slavery and God saved them. He brought them safely to the foot of Mount Sinai and spoke to them audibly there. They had heard God’s ten words to them, words that began this way:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

They responded by saying ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Ex.19:8; 24:3, 7). But they were terrified and pleaded that Moses go between and tell them what God said because they couldn’t endure hearing God’s voice directly again. Now, when the people saw that Moses delayed, they said ‘as for this Moses …we do not know what has become of him. From the people’s perspective, Moses was delaying. But we hear God’s perspective in verse 8; ‘they have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them’. From Exodus 24:18, we learn that Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. That’s just shy of six weeks. Let’s put that time period in perspective. It was about seven weeks or 50 days from their exodus out of Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. A lot can happen in six or seven weeks. But think of this; they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. It had been some 700 years since God had first promised to Abraham that he would bless the world through his descendants. Now God had shown up in power and glory and they had entered into a covenant with God. We are told at the beginning of this narrative:

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

So there is a visible manifestation of God’s glory on the mountain during these 40 days of waiting, and still the people turn their backs on God and worship the work of their hands. Consider another time comparison.

Genesis 29:18 Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” …20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Imagine this. Your prince charming comes, sweeps you off your feet, gets down on one knee and asks ‘will you marry me?’ to which you reply ‘yes, I will’. He says ‘wait for me’ and rides off on his white horse to make preparations for the wedding day. Forty days later he returns, only to find you shacked up with the loathsome lug from the other side of town. You broke your promise, you violated your covenant, you couldn’t endure a forty day engagement! God is making preparations to dwell with his people and they eagerly turn and break his first two commands and prostitute themselves with other gods.

This reads like a replay of another event much earlier. God had fashioned and formed the first beautiful place where he intended to enjoy fellowship with his creation. He had communicated clearly his requirements for their obedience. And it seems before you could turn around, they were questioning the goodness of God, doubting the truth of God, impatient and dissatisfied with all the good God had lavishly poured out on them, bowing to the serpent, eating the fruit.

Romans chapter 1 reads like a play by play on the golden calf event.

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 reptiles. 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. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They knew the only invisible God, but they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the image of a bull. The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. We need to take God’s diagnosis seriously. He disowns them.

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. They had taken an offering, used their skill in working gold, they had made an altar, they proclaimed a feast day, they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. These are all things that God had given them to do in relationship with him. But now they are using all these things to worship an image, the works of their hands. God says ‘they have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside. They have worshiped and sacrificed to a false God. God says they are a stiff-necked people. And he says they deserve death. ‘Let me alone that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you’. God sees their response to his kindness and grace, and he is ready to wipe them off the face of the earth. This is not an account of God throwing a divine temper tantrum. They deserve it! They had experienced more direct supernatural revelation of God than any other generation. They watched the ten plagues bring the mighty nation of Egypt to its knees. They walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. They ate bread from heaven. They were overshadowed by the pillar of cloud and fire. They drank the living water that poured out of a rock. They heard the voice of God thunder his truth from the mountain. They felt the earth shake at his words. They had promised that everything he had said they would do. And now, a mere 40 days later, they are out of control in worship of an idol that they have made. God would be more than just to wipe them out and start over. In the days of Noah, God regretted making man because of their wickedness and rebellion against him (Gen.6:5-7), and he chose to blot them off the face of the land that he made and start over with Noah. He was right to do so, and he would be justified to do it again here with the exodus generation. The amazing thing, the stunning thing in this story, the astounding shocking staggering unexpected surprise ending to this event is that it is followed by five chapters that describe in detail the careful obedience of the people to build what God had commanded and then God himself comes in his glory to live in the midst of this people! These people shouldn’t exist! They don’t deserve to live! What great mercy is this, what long-suffering, what patience and overwhelming undeserved love extended to the most ungrateful unworthy wretches that have ever tainted this planet. And we can see so much of ourselves in these people. We are impatient, dissatisfied, ungrateful, unfaithful, quick to turn aside from following our great God. We have received great grace. We have been shown much light. And we deserve his wrath.

This is the good news – that this is the kind of God we worship; a God who is just to punish us because we deserve it, yet a God who so loves wretches like us, that he gave his only Son Jesus to bear in his body the wrath that I deserve, so that I can now walk in Spirit empowered obedience, transformed to live a life pleasing to him, and enjoy his presence forever!

Ephesians 2:3 …and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 … made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–

Amazing love, how can it be! 

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

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: Enjoy God Today!

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111211_advent-enjoy_god_today.mp3

12/11 Advent – Enjoy God Today
Is the holiday season ever frustrating for you? Life is busy and the season snuck up on me once again. There were several projects I wanted to get done before the snow flew, and, well, here we are. The house is not as clean as it should be. I don’t have as many lights up as I would like to have, and the ones that are up are not as straight as I want them to be. And there must be one bad bulb somewhere that’s keeping half that string from lighting! I wanted to have all the shopping done by now. Half the kids have terrible coughs, and all the kids are half as obedient as they should be… For that matter, I’m not the person I wish I was. Things are not as they ought to be. Things are not the way I want them to be. Do you ever feel this way? Frustration. Dissatisfaction. Disappointment. Discouragement. Merry Christmas!

Is this what Christmas is really all about? For many of us, this is the unhappy reality. In a moment, we’ll turn to God’s word to see why this is such a common experience, and what to do about it. I want to pass along some very practical advice that has helped me out this week, and I pray it will be useful to you not just during the holiday season, but every day of your life.

[pray]

Our Problem

First, I want to ask the question ‘Why?’ Why is life so often not what we had hoped it would be? In the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Why is life interspersed with frustration and disappointment?

The feeling we sometimes have that things are not the way they ought to be is one of the few times that your feelings are telling you the truth. In the beginning God created everything, and he said it was very good. And then he put us right in the middle of it, and we were quick to make a mess of it all. God said ‘I know what’s good for you. Follow my instructions and you will live.’ And before we had tasted a fraction of the pleasures of God’s good garden that he freely gave to us, we went after the one thing that was off-limits. We disregarded his instructions, as if we knew better. We disregarded him. We brought entropy and death into his perfect world, and we reap what we have sown every day. Things are indeed not as they ought to be. We were created as the image of the invisible God (Col.1:15), to reflect his glory to each other and to all creation, to bring him praise. We were created to enjoy his presence. Instead we dishonored him. We disobeyed.

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

This is what is wrong with the world. We are. We were made for so much more. But we have opted for frustration and disappointment rather than finding fulfillment by living life as God designed it. We are without excuse. We did not honor God as God or give thanks to him (Rom.1:20-21). The whole world is accountable to God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:19, 23).

God’s Solution

Now praise God, he did not leave us without hope in this desperate situation. He intervened to give hope where there was no hope. God the Father sent his one and only Son Jesus into this world to become a man, to take our place, to take our guilt on himself, to pay the price that justice demands, and to secure forgiveness for all who would come to him and trust in him. God justifies the ungodly by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom.4:5; 3:24). That is what Christmas is all about.

Our Frustration

But why is it that for us who are his, who have received his salvation and who are reconciled to God, who have our sins forgiven and are restored to a right relationship with God, life can still be so frustrating and discouraging? Why do we still experience dissatisfaction and disappointment?

The Bible tells us why. The Bible tells us that if we are followers of Jesus, our citizenship is in heaven (Phil.3:20, Eph.2:19). We are strangers and exiles on the earth (Heb.11:13, 1Pet.1:1,17), sojourners (1Pet.2:11). Paul said “indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Tim.3:12). Jesus said:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are no longer of the world. You don’t belong. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are a stranger, an exile, a sojourner here on this planet. You will naturally feel out of place.

So part of our frustration comes from the fact that we don’t belong and we aren’t home yet. We should not be content here. We have an unfulfilled longing for our true home. Paul describes it this way:

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

And in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

The apostle John tells us:

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of our true home:

Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face…

Diagnosing the Problem

Part of our frustration and disappointment is because we don’t belong, because we aren’t home yet, because we are longing to see our King. But, at least in my experience, that is not my major source of discontent. I wish I could say it was. So much of my frustration is stupid and self-imposed. I choose to be frustrated when I don’t have to be. If I’m honest with myself, I would see that it is a self-centered discontent that things aren’t the way I wish they were. I get upset that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I’m failing to be content with what I have been given. Jesus warned us in his parable about the different soils that:

Mark 4:19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Desires and cares choke out the fruitfulness of the word like weeds. I love this world and its pleasures too much. I want something that I don’t have. I want things to go my way, and they seldom do. I am too self-centered to be truly happy. My affections are in the wrong place.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world––the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions––is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Paul warns Timothy of the deadly danger of dissatisfaction.

1 Timothy 6:9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Here the severity of this issue – it is a snare, a trap. They never saw it coming. It is senseless and harmful. It plunges people into ruin and destruction. It has caused some to wander from the faith. It is a self-inflicted injury. Dissatisfaction is deceptive and deadly.

Taking it Even Deeper

Jesus said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). But here is a more subtle danger. Even this can be twisted by my selfish heart. I can give in such a way that I am celebrating my own generosity, deriving enjoyment out of what a benevolent person I am. I get pleasure by my ability to give to others. I am giving ultimately to get. Which means that my joy is still dependent on my circumstances. I cannot be happy if I have nothing to give. I am frustrated if my gift is refused, or if the recipient of my gift does not respond the way I want them to. This is self-centered giving.

Choose Contentment

Let’s go back to 1 Timothy for help with a solution. In the context of warning against the danger of dissatisfaction, it says this:

1 Timothy 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. …11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Here is the key: contentment. Godliness with contentment. Here we find a focus on character, not circumstances. If I am focused on circumstances going the way I would like them to go, I will be disappointed and frustrated most of the time. If I am focused on building character, I can look at any and every circumstance as an opportunity to deepen godly character. I can be content with whatever circumstance I am given as an essential step in the work God is doing in my life. This is how James can say:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

Because trials produce character. Peter takes us behind this joy to its source.

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

The joy is not in the trial itself. It is in this you rejoice. Peter has been recounting the treasures that we have in Christ: God’s mercy toward us in new birth, our living resurrection hope, our inheritance that God is keeping for us, God’s keeping and preserving power at work in us, our final salvation that will be put on display in the end. When circumstances go the way you don’t want them to, choose to rejoice in this – in all that God has done and is doing and will do in you and for you. Cultivate gratitude by recounting what God has done for you in Christ. I am Forgiven. Justified. Redeemed. I am being sanctified. I have been set free. Reconciled to God. Adopted. Loved with an everlasting love. Given eternal life. I am a recipient of God’s mercy.

God Does Not Change

Circumstances change. This is why it is frustrating when we make our joy dependent on our circumstances. But God never changes.

Malachi 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

If our joy comes from God alone, we will never be disappointed. In contrast to changing circumstances and fickle people,

Zephaniah 3:5 The LORD… is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail;

God Commands our Happiness Be in Him

This is why God commands us to seek our happiness in him

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 40:16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!”

Psalm 64:10 Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!

Psalm 97:12 Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Psalm 105:3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

When we find our joy in the unchanging faithfulness of our great God, our happiness is totally independent of our circumstances. We can say with Habakkuk

Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

With Job we can respond to the most terrible circumstances:

Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

We can say with Paul:

Romans 5:11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We can sing with Isaiah

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Choose Joy

Frustration and enjoying are alternative choices. Remember Martha and Mary.

Luke 10:38 …Martha welcomed [Jesus] into her house. … 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

What is the one thing that is necessary? What was the good portion that Mary had chosen?

Luke 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

Circumstances come. How will you choose to respond? Will you be ruled by your immediate circumstances? Or will you choose to enjoy the fact that you have been chosen by God, purchased with the blood of Jesus, your sins, all of them, were nailed to the cross, that this life is short and you will spend eternity in the presence of God with great joy? Will you choose to enjoy the presence of Jesus with you right now in the middle of your circumstances? Will you be irritated and irritable, or will you enjoy sweet fellowship with your Creator, Redeemer and Friend?

Choose to enjoy God today!

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

December 11, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:17 Word #10 Covet Only the Right Things

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110918_exodus20_17.mp3

09/18 Exodus 20:17 Word #10 I Shall Not Want; Don’t Desire the Wrong Things

God is addressing his covenant people whom he has rescued out of slavery and taken to be his own. He is declaring to them what it will mean to be in relationship with him. I am YHWH who brought you out of slavery. #1. You must have no other gods before me. #2. You must not misrepresent me with images. #3. You must uphold my reputation. #4. You must set aside time to enjoy your relationship with me. #5. You must show honor to those I have placed in authority. #6. You must honor life that I created. #7. You must honor your covenant commitments. #8. You must protect the rights of those around you. #9. You must uphold the reputation of those around you. And #10:

Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

This word takes God’s commands to a whole ‘nother level. When Jesus pointed the rich young man to the commands ‘you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall honor your father and mother,’ the young man felt he could honestly say ‘all these I have kept from my youth’ (Mt.19:20; Mk.10:20; Lk.18:21). Saul the Pharisee, was able to say that he was, ‘as to righteousness, under the law blameless’ (Phil.3:6), but he confesses that this particular command aroused the sinful passions of his flesh (Rom.7:5). He says,

Romans 7:7 …Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. …18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

This particular command makes it clear that God requires more than superficial external obedience. God is concerned about our hearts and our inward desires.

Good Coveting

The word translated ‘covet’ means ‘to desire or delight in’. When Moses repeats this command in Deuteronomy 5:21, he adds another similar word that means ‘to desire, long for, or lust after’. Both of these words are used in both good and bad ways in the bible. Desiring or longing for your neighbor’s wife or his possessions is wrong. But in Genesis (2:9) God filled the garden with all kinds of trees that were desirable. And he gave it all to our first parents for their pleasure and enjoyment. In the Song of Solomon (2:3) this word is used of good sexual desire between a husband and wife. In Isaiah (53:2) it is used for a desire for the Messiah. Listen to how this word for coveting or desire is used in Psalm 19:

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Here we see that coveting is commended when we covet God’s truth and God’s ways more than much fine gold.

The synonym that Moses uses in Deuteronomy is used of David’s reminiscent longing for water from the well of Bethlehem (1Ch.11:17); It is used for the soul’s yearning for God (Isaiah 26:9).

Both of these words are used of God’s own holy desire for mount Zion (Ps.68:16; 132:13)

When the New Testament translates the tenth commandment it uses the Greek word (epiyumew epithumeo), a compound of (epi epi) – on upon or to, and (yumov thumos) – which means passion, heat, boiling up. This is a word that communicates intensity of desire or fervent passion. It, too is used in both bad and good ways. When Jesus talks about adultery of the heart (Mt.5:28), he uses this word. Jesus also uses this word (Mt.13:17) to describe the passionate longing of the prophets and righteous people to see the days of Messiah. Jesus used it of his own desire to eat the final Passover with his disciples (Lk.22:15). Galatians 5:17 draws a contrast between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit – the very same word is applied to both good and evil desires. Paul in 1 Timothy (3:1) tells us that aspiring to serve the church as an elder is a noble desire.

So the tenth command does not simply say ‘thou shalt not covet’ or ‘you may not desire’, because there are good things that we should desire, and passion and desire are God-given drives that can and should be used for his glory. This final command is not so much a new and distinct command as a summary command that under-girds all the others. What we are forbidden to desire is specifically that which would lead us to break God’s other commands. Do not long for someone else’s wife, which would lead to adultery; or someone else’s property, which would lead to stealing or jealousy or even murder. This command comes under and behind the others and says not only don’t do these things, but don’t even allow your heart to be enticed by these things.

Idolatrous Coveting

In fact, the New Testament equates covetousness with idolatry.

Ephesians 5:5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

So if covetousness is a form of idolatry, and the covetousness that is forbidden is desiring the wrong things, and idolatry is worshiping the wrong things, then our desires are a form of worship. The person or thing that we long for, that we delight in, that we look to for satisfaction, that has become our God. The longing, delighting, desiring, is worship.

What we are saying goes something like this: ‘I think this thing or this relationship will satisfy my deepest longings, but God says that this is off limits for me, so I will have to go against what God says in order to have what will satisfy me.’ I have elevated the thing to the position of a god that I look to for satisfaction, and I have dethroned God, who has become an obstacle to my happiness.

Cultivate Contentment

This is why God tells us that it is so important to be content with what we have. Jesus tells us:

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Take care and be on your guard, because everything in our consumer society cultivates covetousness. We must battle this tendency that is resident in our hearts. Paul tells young pastor Timothy:

1Timothy 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

It is not having riches that is wrong. It is the discontent, the desire, the love, the craving for something we don’t have that is so deadly. When we are so caught up and focused on the thing that we don’t have, we neglect to thank God for all the good that he has given us. We imply that he is not good for withholding the thing we think we need. We demonstrate our unbelief in him as our provider. We become focused on the gift and lose sight of the giver.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Be content and lift your eyes to remember that you have the one thing that will truly satisfy. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” If God himself promises to always be with us, we possess the one thing that will bring lasting joy. Being content is not settling even when there is something better to be had. Being content is realizing that we have the best thing and we can stop looking and simply enjoy.

Enjoying God

Let’s dwell for a moment on what we have.

Psalm 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

How often do you stop to count God’s blessings to you? My sins have been forgiven! I have been bought with the precious blood of Christ! God’s steadfast love and mercy is abundantly poured out on me. On top of all that, he satisfies my soul with good!

Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

God has chosen us to be near him, to enjoy his presence forever. What greater benefit is there than that?

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

We turn so quickly to people and things to bring happiness. We have deceitful desires (Eph.4:22) that lie to us and persuade us that we can find fulfillment in more or better or bigger or different or new. “In your presence there is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Genuine fulfillment is found only in God.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We must realize that it is truly all about God. Heaven is all about God. Not the gold, not the gates, not the loved ones – all those things are good, but there is nothing, no-one in heaven or on earth to be desired besides God. God is my portion forever. You shall have no other gods before me. When God is at the center, all other desires fade in importance. I desire nothing besides you!

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

One thing. One thing is the passion of my life, my heart’s desire. One thing I seek after. One thing I covet, I long for. One thing is the burning passion of my heart. To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD. To be with him forever.

Luke 10:38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Is this the one thing you covet? To sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to his teaching? To enjoy the satisfying richness of his presence?

Psalm 23:1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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

September 18, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment