PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 2:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man

05/30_Daniel 02:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210530_dan02_1-16.mp3

Daniel chapter 1 tells the story of God’s grace even in the midst of trauma, oppression, exile. Daniel and his friends were ripped from their homes, taken hundreds of miles away to a pagan city, a city opposed to God, but we learn that God was still in control; that it was God who gave the king of Judah and the treasures of his own temple into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. We learn that in the face of pressures to conform, to assimilate, God gave Daniel and his friends grace and mercy, favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. And God gave these four youths learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. They resolved not to allow their hearts to become ensnared by the pleasures of Babylon, and their God-given wisdom proved ten times better than all their teachers.

Dream Interpretation and Dream Manuals

Chapter 2 moves the story forward with a demonstration of God’s wisdom in action, when the gifts of Daniel and his friends are put to the test in contrast to the wisdom of Babylon.

Daniel 2:1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”

Dreams were considered significant, meaningful, communication from the gods. Not to be able to interpret a dream was considered a worse omen than even a dream which predicted unfavorable events.

We have discovered ancient dream manuals; the extensive Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, (668-627 BC) was discovered in Mosul, or Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. This library contains over 1,000 Babylonian divination texts, including the 11 tablets of the Iskar Zaqiqu, a manual on interpreting dreams. These manuals catalog various dream symbolism and potential outcomes based on the records of the experiences of others with similar dreams in similar circumstances. The library pre-dates Daniel by 50 -100 years, and is representative of what would have been available to the various groups of Babylonian dream interpreters. This would have been part of the training of Daniel and his friends in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Aramaic

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

This is a language cue. The text from this point to the end of chapter 7 was written in Aramaic, the common language of the world in that day. Up to this point Daniel wrote in Hebrew, and chapters 8 to the end are again in Hebrew, the language of the people of God. Chapters 1 and 8-12 address the concerns of Israel more specifically, while chapters 2-7 have a more universal scope.

The Confidence of the Chaldeans

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”

The magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, the Chaldeans are confident in their ability to interpret dreams. They had studied the dream manuals and case histories of dreams, they were experts in the art of dream interpretation. They could look up any dream scenario and give an interpretation.

Daniel is so relevant to today. A simple internet search to find information on these ancient dream interpretation manuals, and the majority of things that come up are modern day versions. You can enroll in a course to teach you how to unlock your dreams, an online dictionary with ‘over thousands of skillfully interpreted dream symbols for people who want to access the deeper parts of their minds’, a dream interpretation manual ‘written by a scientist who has decades of experience and great expertise in dream interpretation.’ And of course, there are principles of Christian dream interpretation, a biblical dream dictionary, and prophetic training to unlock your dreams. We are still captivated today, even Christians, by the hope of accessing hidden wisdom.

The King’s Demand for Proof

The Chaldeans address the king with the appropriate formalities and respect, and ask to be given the contents of the dream so they can offer an interpretation. They are confident there is no dream they cannot interpret. But king Nebuchadnezzar throws them a curve ball.

Daniel 2:5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”

King Nebuchadnezzar is asking for more than the interpretation of his dream. He demands that they give him both the dream and the interpretation. The consequences for failure are severe, the rewards are great, and the demand is resolute. Make known to me the dream and its interpretation.

Skeptical Demand for Evidence

There must be some misunderstanding. That’s not how this works. You tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation.

Daniel 2:7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”

Here we learn that Nebuchadnezzar is a skeptic. He wants proof. This is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, probably not counting the year of his accession to the throne after the death of his father in 605 BC. These would have been the counselors to his father, likely older than him, and for whatever reason, he was suspicious of them, of their loyalties, of their abilities. He is going to test them. If they really are magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, in touch with the gods, then they ought to be able to tell him his dream. If they can accurately describe to him what he alone knows, then he can have confidence that their interpretation of the dream would also have a supernatural source.

Nebuchadnezzar is the opposite of the evil king Ahab of Israel, who preferred 400 prophets who told him pleasant lies over one prophet of YHWH who told him the hard truth; ‘I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil’ (2Chr.18:7). Nebuchadnezzar cared about truth.

The Admission of Incompetence

Listen to how the Chaldeans respond to this skeptic’s demand for proof.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

They admit their own incompetence. They can’t bluff their way out of this one. In the face of this demand for evidence, they are empty handed. They resort to say that the thing is too hard, it is humanly impossible. They even appeal to his pride – no great and powerful king has asked such a thing. You need to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings and not ask such things. You ask too much of us; only the gods could grant your request, and we don’t have access to them. All the magicians, the sorcerers, the enchanters; the wise men of Babylon admit their lack of the required wisdom.

The wisdom of Babylon is ultimately bankrupt. Sorcery is bankrupt. Magic is bankrupt. Divination is bankrupt. Astrology is bankrupt. Over and over again we are shown the bankruptcy of this world’s wisdom, and yet we still run to it time and again as if we don’t know the one who is sovereign over all.

The Very Furious King

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

The king was furious with his deceiving wise men. But he was not just furious. He was very furious. He was not just very furious, he was angry and very furious. He had proved them all frauds. They failed to give evidence of ultimate supernatural access. He may have been thinking back on all the times they offered interpretations and counsel to his father Nabopolassar, and how they tried to explain their way out of circumstances not going exactly according to their predictions. He may have based his own decisions on their so-called wisdom in the past, and he was angry at being conned. He had entrusted them with the education of the best and brightest of his conquered peoples, and they had wasted three years worth of his lavish resources. “You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change…there is but one sentence for you… You shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.”

These were the experts, the Chaldean teachers. If the teachers are corrupt, their students likewise would be corrupted. All the wise men of Babylon, teacher and student alike, were to be destroyed.

God’s Favor and Daniel’s Wisdom

Daniel 2:14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed great wisdom to his executioner. In chapter 1 we were told that ‘God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs’ (1:9). Here it is not stated, but something happened behind the scenes to give Daniel favor and compassion now in the sight of Arioch the king’s captain. Arioch didn’t owe Daniel an explanation. He didn’t have to make the matter known to Daniel. In fact, he had every reason not to waste his time answering questions of the trainees. He had been given a huge task, and the king was in no mood to put up with delays in carrying out his orders. In fact this would entail personal risk. If he fails to carry out the king’s edict, he could expect the kind of punishment that he was commanded to carry out on others. Although God is not mentioned, he is evidently at work behind the scenes.

Where the Chaldeans approached the king with confidence in their own ability, Daniel approached the king with confidence in his God. Where the Chaldeans were treated with suspicion, ‘accused of trying to gain time,’ Daniel is treated with respect, granted the time he requests. Where the Chaldeans were helpless in the face of the king’s impossible demand, Daniel knew exactly where real help was to be found.

God Who Dwells With Man

Look back at the confession of the Chaldeans:

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand… 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

The Babylonian gods may not dwell with flesh, they may be aloof and inaccessible, distant and devising, but the God of Israel is different. He is a God who dwells in the midst of his people (Ex.25:8; 29:45-46); who ‘will walk among you and be your God’ (Lev.26:11-12). The Chaldeans only knew their false gods. They didn’t know the one true God of Israel. Daniel is set to show them what God is really like.

The God of Israel is not only a God who will dwell with flesh, he will dwell in flesh. The divine Word who was with God and who was God, himself became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He is God with us, Immanuel (Mt.1:23; 28:20).

God Who Knows Our Thoughts

The Chaldeans were right. There is not a man on earth who can tell you the secrets of your heart. Paul asks ‘who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). But in John 4, a man was at a well looking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. She went away and told everyone

John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” …39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” …41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Multiple times in the gospels we read:

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (cf. Mt.12:25; Lk. 6:8; 9:47; 11:17)

Not even Satan knows our thoughts. No doubt, he has learned to guess well, but Jesus knows the thoughts of our hearts. And Jesus said:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Jesus controls the future. He can tell what will happen before it happens so we know that he is the I AM, the one who writes history. The Old Testament test for genuineness of a prophet was 100% accuracy (Deut.18:22).

Christ In You

The God of Israel is a God who dwells with his people. Daniel and his friends had the Spirit of God with them to help them. But Jesus promises something even better for us. Jesus promised that the Spirit who dwells with you will be in you (Jn.14:17). Jesus said I and the Father, ‘we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (Jn.14:23). Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). The riches of the glory of God’s mystery is ‘Christ in you’ (Col.1:27).

***

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

June 5, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Deceptive Transformation

11/08_2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Deceptive Transformation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201108_2cor11_13-15.mp3

Done Beating around the Bush…

In 2 Corinthians Paul paints a picture of what authentic gospel ministry looks like and smells like and walks like. Authentic ministry is ministry that follows in the footsteps of Jesus and is patterned after his sacrifice for the good of others.

In chapter 10 he began to point out more directly the character of those who were leading the Corinthians astray. He contrasted his own Christlike meekness and gentleness with their boldness; he said he wages war with divine power to demolish spiritual strongholds. His authority was given to build them up not tear them down. His opponents were classifying and comparing and commending themselves. They measured themselves by one another. And they boasted in the labor of another.

In chapter 11 he warns them that he is going to come out to play and meet the false teachers on their own boastful turf, and he tells them why.

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

Here in chapter 11 he becomes much more direct in pointing out the problem. He says that he betrothed them to one husband, Christ. But the Corinthians were under a satanic deception, being led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ to receive a different spirit, a different gospel, a different Jesus.

2 Corinthians 11:5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

He is accused of contemptible speech. Here he ironically calls these skillful speakers ‘super-apostles’, but says that he does not come up short in his knowledge.

2 Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

In verses 7-12 he undercuts their claim to work on equal terms with him, because he refuses to be a burden, he refuses to take any money from them for himself, where these ‘super-apostles’ were clearly in it for the money. Paul forces their hand; if they want to claim they work on his terms, they will have to give up taking money from the Corinthians, something Paul is confident they will not do.

Calling a Spade

Everything Paul has said so far should have led them to draw this conclusion, but in case anyone missed it, here in verses 13-15 he directly labels the super-apostles for who they really are.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

In the previous verses, he labeled them ‘super-apostles’. Here he calls them false apostles, deceitful workers, servants of Satan. This is even more confrontational, more in-your-face than what he said to the Galatian churches. He said:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

He warns that even if an apostle or an angel from heaven brought to them a different gospel, they should not accept it. But here he directly labels his opponents as false apostles, deceitful workers, servants of Satan.

False and Deceptive

Paul has carefully laid out the character of a genuine apostle, and now he points the finger and says your so-called super apostles are not it. They are false. They are phony. They are liars. They are workers of deceit, using bait to entrap, they are crafty, employing trickery. They are not transparent. What you see is not what you get. They hide their true character behind a disguise.

Paul has shown that they proclaim another Jesus a different gospel and a different spirit. If they are apostles of a false Jesus, preaching a false gospel, then they are false apostles. They were not commissioned by the real Jesus and they are not testifying to who Jesus truly is. No matter how well they say what they say, the content of what they say condemns them.

The Danger of Appearances

Paul has already rebuked the Corinthians for looking at appearances and not at the heart (5:12; 10:7). Here he pulls off their clever disguise. The false apostles go to great lengths to transform themselves into apostles of Christ. But only Jesus can bring true inner transformation. That’s how Paul uses this word in Philippians 3

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.

The transformation of the false apostles is in form, not in substance. And Paul is not surprised.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising [transforming] themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises [transforms] himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise [transform] themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

The servant does what his master does. Paul has shown this in genuine apostles, who follow in the footsteps of their suffering Savior. This is also true of false apostles, who are servants of Satan. He pulls off the mask and says ‘even Satan transforms himself as an angel of light.’ ‘The great dragon, …that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world’ (Rev.12:9). You are not going to catch a whiff of sulfur or the glint of a pitchfork in his red cloven hoof. He is called the dragon and the serpent, but he is not going to appear like one. Few who recognize him for who he is will listen to his lies.

He didn’t convince Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by telling her that it was foul smelling and rotten and would plunge her into ruin and sever her relationship with a good Creator who loves her. He convinced her that it was ‘good for food, …a delight to the eyes, and …to be desired to make one wise,’ and that God was withholding something good from her (Gen.3:4-6).

Jesus called him ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn.8:44), and that applies not only to the content but also to the form. He warned ‘of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves’ (Mt.7:15). They appear to be sheep, but it is a disguise. Satan, Paul says, transforms himself into an angel of light.

‘Do not believe every spirit’, John says, ‘but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1Jn.4:1). Test the spirits by the content of their message, not by how they appear. Do they confess the truth about Jesus? Jesus is God come in the flesh, to suffer in our place, to rescue us. Or do they proclaim a distorted Jesus?

Do not judge based on appearances. Isaiah 14 refers to the one who fell from heaven as ‘day star’ or ‘Lucifer,’ a shining one. Ezekiel 28 gives this description:

Ezekiel 28:12 …“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. 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. …17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. …

Servants of Righteousness

Do not be deceived by appearances. Do not be deceived by a smooth tongue, by eloquent speech, by lofty arguments. Paul is in a spiritual battle for the souls of people. He is warning them of satanic deception that transforms its servants into servants of righteousness. In the name of Jesus they promote a false Jesus, under the guise of the gospel they proclaim a distorted gospel, and in the power of another spirit they promise present blessing by that spirit.

Paul claimed to be a minister of a new covenant (3:6), ministry of the life-giving Spirit (3:8), the ministry of righteousness (3:9), so that

2 Corinthians 3:18 …we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…

Transformed in true inner righteousness, not in an outward show of righteousness that is not really righteousness.

So far in 2 Corinthians, we have seen that there is unforgiveness (2:7) and Paul exhorts them to forgive,

2 Corinthians 2:11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

They were yoked together with unbelievers and idolatry (6:14-16). And they were not pursuing holiness (7:1).

He appeals to them to be reconciled to God (5:20);

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

We become truly righteous with God’s own righteousness credited to our account because God credited our sin to Jesus on the cross. Righteousness only comes to us through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for us. The false apostles masquerading as servants of righteousness were not righteous themselves; they were deceitful, disgraceful, cunning, underhanded (4:2), tampering with God’s word. They were not righteous themselves, and their message did not produce righteousness in their converts. They proclaimed a Jesus who didn’t suffer for our sins, a gospel devoid of the power of the cross, a spirit who cannot transform and produce holiness. The did talk about the spirit, the gospel and Jesus, but they twisted those words and filled them with foreign content. On the surface it sounds right, but it is not what it appears.

End Corresponds to Deeds

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Paul reminds them that God’s Holy Spirit produces the fruit of holiness. As he told the Ephesians:

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. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Anyone teaching that morality doesn’t matter is deceiving you with empty words. The true gospel is never earned, but it produces heart transformation. The false apostles were promoting a spirit that isn’t holy and can’t produce the fruit of holiness. As Jesus said;

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. …

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If the false apostles disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, but in truth are serving Satan and unrighteousness, their eternal end will correspond to who they really are, as it will be with all those who follow their teaching. This is a sobering passage. Paul is warning us that it is essential to guard the purity both of our doctrine and our living. He has ‘betrothed us to one husband, to present us as a pure virgin to Christ’ (11:2). Do not be led astray by satanic seduction from your single-hearted devotion to Christ.

***

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

November 11, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:2; Characteristics of Authentic Ministry

07/29_2 Corinthians 4:2; Characteristics of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180729_2cor4_2.mp3

The Roots of Authentic Ministry

Therefore, on account of this; because we have this kind of ministry, a new covenant ministry, Holy Spirit ministry, ministry driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, ministry that gives life, ministry that brings righteousness, ministry that creates lasting transformation, ministry that removes the veils that obstruct the glory of God; because we have this kind of ministry, we do not faint, fail, lose heart, get discouraged, give up.

We do not lose heart because we have this ministry by God’s mercy. Not because we deserve it, not because of our performance, not because of our strategies or techniques, not because of our skill or expertise, or our tenacity, not because of our methods or our success rate. We have been entrusted with this transformational ministry by God’s mercy.

Last time we defined mercy as divine pity or compassion resulting in action to help one who is powerless to remedy his own situation. It is God’s rescue in response to our need. Each part of this definition is important; it is rooted in God’s emotional response to our need – he feels pity or compassion. This emotion of pity results in action to rescue – God does something to help. And it is God’s action toward those helpless to do anything – we are powerless to do ministry apart from him.

We do not give up even in the face of discouraging circumstances and failure because of God’s mercy. God’ feels divine compassion toward us. He feels compassion or pity because we are really and truly helpless, powerless to effect any change in anyone on our own. And his divine pity moves him to action; to show up with supernatural power to do what is beyond our reach.

We have experienced God’s mercy in salvation. We must also experience God’s mercy in ministry; in our service to others. Just as we are helpless to save ourselves from our sins, so we are helpless in ourselves to truly serve others. We must depend completely on the mercy of God to empower our service, our ministry to others. It is only in this way we can love and serve others and persevere in ministry.

Authentic Christian Ministry; What it is Not

In verse 2, Paul lays out what authentic Christian ministry looks like. He begins by renouncing the things Christian ministry must avoid, and then he gives us what authentic ministry consists of. Paul is defending the integrity of his apostolic ministry, but remember, we are all called to ministry, to love and serve others.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, …

Paul renounces the hidden shameful things. This word ‘renounce’ is a strong word, meaning to disown. This is the only place it occurs in the entire New Testament. He utterly rejects secret or hidden methods in ministry; he divorces himself from tactics that are shameful or would bring disgrace.

What kinds of things come to mind? Scandal, immorality, pornography, greed and financial corruption, manipulation, abuse of authority all come to mind. Anything that would bring shame on the name of Christ. Anything secretive, hidden, underhanded. What does Paul specifically have in mind when he says ‘we have renounced the hidden things of shame?’

Not Crafty or Cunning

He lists two things. First, not walking in craftiness or cunning. This word literally means the ability to do anything and everything, and it is always used in a negative sense. This is the willingness to do anything necessary to accomplish the desired ends. The scribes and chief priests sent out spies to catch Jesus in his words in Luke 20. They used flattery and asked him if it is lawful to pay the tribute tax to Caesar. We are told that Jesus ‘perceived their craftiness’. They were willing to use any means possible to bring an accusation against Jesus to get rid of him.

This word shows up later in 2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

There it speaks of the temptation of Eve to disobey and rebel against God in the garden. Satan employed every means possible; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life to deceive and lead her astray. He worked all the angles. He came at her from every side.

We’ve had our share of door to door sales people come to sell us stuff we didn’t need. They are masters at working all the angles. We were newly married and had a vacuum salesman show up at our door. He demonstrated how amazing his vacuum was, and we were impressed, but when he told us the price tag we both laughed. That’s more than I paid for my car! Can I drive it to work? But he worked all the angles. He had won a new vacuum that he didn’t need and he was willing to give it to us for a fraction of the sticker price. I’m a sucker for a deal, so he had us. Another time, we were listening to a sales pitch for a time share resort we couldn’t afford. The salesman made the mistake of looking at my wife and asking me ‘but isn’t she worth it to you?’ That was low and dirty. Yes, she is worth it. She is worth protecting from financial ruin by not spending more than we can afford for something we don’t really need. We walked. Sales people learn how to work all the angles, manipulate emotions and personalities and they will do anything to close the deal.

Ephesians 4:14 is another place this word shows up. We are to equip the saints toward unity and maturity and Christ-likeness,

Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

There are a lot of winds of teaching blowing around. There is a lot of human cunning and deceitful schemes sold to Christians today. We all need to be plugged in to a solid Christian church, and be rooted in the truth of God’s word so that we aren’t tossed around and blown away by the latest thing that seems impressive.

I once attended some training on evangelism that sounded too much like door to door training for some multi-level marketing scam. Try to get a feel for where the person you are talking to is at, what they are struggling with, and adapt your presentation to target those felt needs, work to move the conversation toward a decision point, and don’t forget to close the deal. Now there is wisdom in listening well to where a person is at and skillfully applying the gospel personally to that individual, but we must be very careful not to be so eager to see a profession of faith in Jesus that we compromise the message, withhold vital information, or deceive in any way. We have renounced disgraceful underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning.

Not Adulterating God’s Word

Or tamper with God’s word. The word ‘tamper’ is a word that means to adulterate, falsify, to make false through deception or distortion. Peter, in 1 Peter is talking about our new birth brought about by the word of God

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

…25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

And then he says:

1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

He uses the root of this word twice in these verses. ‘Deceit’ is the noun form, and ‘pure’ is also the noun form with a negative prefix. We are to desire unadulterated milk, untampered with milk. We are to put away tampering or adulterating. Who would think of messing with a baby’s bottle? ‘It’s mostly milk; I’ve only added the tiniest amount of poison. I’m sure it’s not enough to do any harm.’ We have renounced disgraceful underhanded ways. We refuse to tamper with God’s word.

Turn over to 1 Thessalonians 2. Verse 3 contains this word; there it is translated ‘attempt to deceive.’ It is worth reading that passage because in it Paul is also defending the integrity of his ministry.

1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

Paul spoke of his boldness or openness of speaking in 2 Corinthians 3:12. He goes on to refute false motives:

1 Thessalonians 2:3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

It was not out of error or impurity or deceit; there was no flattery, no greed, no glory seeking. He was entrusted with the gospel, and his only aim was to please God. In 2 Corinthians 2:17 he said:

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

He goes on in 1 Thessalonians to lay out his heart and motives:

1 Thessalonians 2:7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really [truly] is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Here he equates the gospel he preached, the gospel of God with the word of God. In 2 Corinthians 4 he refuses to deceive or tamper with or adulterate God’s word. That is the negative.

The Open Statement of the Truth

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Now he gives the positive, what authentic ministry consists of – the open statement of the truth. He puts the truth out on open display. Nothing hidden, nothing secret, no sales pitch, nothing tampered with. Plain, up front, transparent, honest integrity.

What is the truth of God’s word? We saw in 1 Thessalonians that he equates the word of God with the gospel of God, the gospel he preached (2:4, 8-9, 13). In 1 Corinthians he equates the gospel with the word of the cross (1:17-18); he preached Christ crucified (1:23); he decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2). Here in 2 Corinthians he says that God is through us spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere, an aroma that brings death or brings life, to those perishing or to those being saved (2:14-16). In 1 Corinthians 15 he summarized the gospel he preached by which you are being saved this way: ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…’ He points to Christ, the long awaited promised King. But he gets right to the point; he died. He doesn’t waste any time with ‘Jesus was a great prophet, a great moral teacher.’ He came to die. And what is really offensive is why. He died for our sins. He doesn’t leave out the fact that I am a sinner. That I have a need. That I deserve death. ‘Don’t you think if you left out all that morbid death stuff and telling people they are sinners that less people would be offended and more people would want to listen?’ Maybe, but that wouldn’t be the gospel, and that wouldn’t save anyone. The gospel is Jesus Christ crucified in my place, now having conquered my guilt he rose victorious and he is alive. Today we can know him, have a relationship with him.

Ministry in the Presence of God

Paul commends himself to everyone’s conscience; even those who are perishing must admit he tells it like it is, he is up front, he shoots straight, he holds nothing back.

But the ultimate judge of his ministry is no man. As he said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

In 2 Corinthians 1:12 he said:

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

He speaks and lives in the presence of God. As he said in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ‘so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.’ He plays to an audience of one. He aims to please only one. He lives and ministers, he serves not to win the approval or the applause of those he serves, but in everything only to please the Lord God.

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

August 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20130714; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20; Stop Deceiving Yourself!

07/14 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 Stop Deceiving Yourself! Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130714_1cor3_18-20.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

18 Μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω· εἴ τις δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, μωρὸς γενέσθω, ἵνα γένηται σοφός, 19 ἡ γὰρ σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν· γέγραπται γάρ· Ὁ δρασσόμενος τοὺς σοφοὺς ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν· 20 καὶ πάλιν· Κύριος γινώσκει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς τῶν σοφῶν ὅτι εἰσὶν μάταιοι. 21 ὥστε μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις· πάντα γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν, 22 εἴτε Παῦλος εἴτε Ἀπολλῶς εἴτε Κηφᾶς εἴτε κόσμος εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα εἴτε μέλλοντα, πάντα ὑμῶν, 23 ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ, Χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ.

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Have you ever been deceived, misled, lied to? You spend a lot of money on something only to find out it is not as it was advertised to be. In a relationship you find out that the other person was not being totally honest with you. You were misled. Whether intentional or unintentional, you end up hurt, feeling ripped off, used, abused, taken advantage of.

Have you ever tried to put yourself in the sandals of blind old Isaac, whose own wife and younger son through eavesdropping, fine cooking, goat’s hair and borrowed clothes, conspired to deceive him into giving the blessing to his younger son Jacob (Gen.27)?

Or have you ever imagined what it would have felt like to fall deeply in love with a beautiful woman, to work hard for your uncle for 7 years to earn the right to marry your heart’s desire, ‘and in the morning, behold, it was Leah’ the ugly older sister (Genesis 29)?

Helpless frustration, offended outrage, betrayal, broken trust. We resonate with the Psalmist when he prays:

Psalm 43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!

Our passage today is about deception, but of a worse kind than even these examples portray. In each of these, there is the one who is deceived, and someone else who is deceiving them. Even worse to be the one being deceived and also the one to blame for the deception! This passage warns of the danger of self-deception.

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

This could be translated ‘stop deceiving yourself!’ Self-deception is something that is currently going on, and the command is to break the pattern.

The Deceptiveness of Self-deception

Does anyone here think you are deceiving yourself? Of course not! If you were lying to yourself and you knew you were lying to yourself, you wouldn’t be deceived, you would see right through it. Deception happens when you believe the lies you tell yourself are true. No one thinks a passage like this is addressed to them. That is part of the deception. ‘I know some of those kind of people, the self-deceived. Too bad they’re not here today to hear this!’ No, this is for each one of us. God is speaking directly to you, for your good, because he loves you, and he says ‘stop deceiving yourself’. He is alerting you to a destructive pattern in you that you are not aware of. We can argue with him, and say ‘no, you are wrong, I am not deceiving myself’, or we can say ‘God, I believe you only speak what is true. Thank you for loving me enough to point out the painful truth that I was not aware of, to spare me from greater pain. In what way am I deceiving myself, and what can be done to stop it?’

Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 ​He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 ​He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

God says that the person who trusts in himself and whose heart turns away from the Lord is cursed, but the man who trusts in the Lord is blessed. We tend to trust in ourselves, in our own strength, in what we can do, more than we realize. That’s why God goes on to say

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 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.”

We know we need to depend on God. We know that our only hope is to trust in God alone and not ourselves. But our own hearts are treacherous and fraudulent. Our own hearts are twisted and sick. We are biased; only God is objective and fair. Only God can truly discern who or what we are trusting in. The appropriate response is:

Jeremiah 17:14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.

We need a good physician to point out and address the sickness and sin in us that we cannot see.

Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Self-deception is Still Wicked

Notice that this is not an innocent ignorance. To deceive someone is evil. Satan is called ‘the deceiver’ (Rev.12:9). But the one who is deceived is still held accountable for listening to a lie. Think back to the garden of Eden. Eve was deceived by the serpent, but she was still held accountable for listening to his lie, and she was disciplined for it (Gen.3:13, 16). To deceive someone is wicked, and to allow yourself to be deceived will have consequences.

Paul quotes two Old Testament scriptures (Job 5:13; Psalm 94:11) to reinforce this truth. God is seen to be the one who fights against the deceiver. Eliphaz says in Job 5 ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.’ This is good news if you are being deceived and need someone to rescue you. But this is very bad news if you are the one who is doing the deceiving. In our self-deception, we are both. Psalm 94 begins by calling on YHWH the God of vengeance to rise up and repay the proud and arrogant wicked what they deserve. He will entrap the cunning in their own wicked schemes. As deceivers who are deceiving ourselves, we are doubly guilty.

Self-deception of Human Wisdom

The self-deception Paul addresses among the believers in Corinth is that they think they are wise. In chapter 1, he pointed out that the gospel he preached was the foolish message of a crucified Messiah, and that God’s message and method of salvation run contrary to the so-called wisdom of this world. He quoted scripture to show that God opposes the wisdom of the wise. He stated that the same message of the cross comes to those who are being saved as the power of God, but to those who are perishing, foolishness. God’s foolishness is wiser than men. Here he states that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.

Folly of Human Wisdom

What does the wisdom of this age, the wisdom of the world look like?

*This age says that truth is relative. As long as we are all nice to each other, and don’t judge anyone, it doesn’t matter what anyone believes. We will all be alright in the end. God says, Fool,

Proverbs 14:12 ​There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (also Prov. 16:25)

*The world’s wisdom says the bible is a great work of ancient literature, full of good moral lessons and entertaining bedtime stories, but as a whole it is outdated, unreliable, and even offensive in points, and it would be foolish to simply accept it as true. Fool, Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

*The wisdom of this age says that morality is relative. God won’t judge homosexuals or liars or gossips or people who have sex with someone they’re not married to. We can’t help it, we were made that way. We can’t be held responsible for our actions. God says, Fool,

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

*This age says that God is all love and forgiveness and hell is just a scare tactic thought up by uptight preachers to keep people from finding out how much fun sin is. Fool, God says, Jesus is coming

2 Thessalonians 1:8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

*The wisdom of this age tells us that religion is OK, as long as we don’t get carried away with it. If a little religion helps you be a good and productive member of society, that’s nice, but you should keep your religion in church and don’t let it tamper with other areas of your life. Fool, Jesus said:

Mark 8:34 …“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

*Human wisdom says you don’t need to gather with other believers. You can connect with God at home or in the mountains or wherever you are. Fool, God says:

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

*This world’s wisdom accuses us of arrogance if we claim that there are no other valid paths to God.

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.

What it takes to be Truly Wise

We all have a tendency to be self-deceived. Our self-deception is not innocent ignorance but willful and wicked rebellion against God.

Romans 1:21 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…

We want to be thought well of, and we want to appear wise, so we often adopt the wisdom of this world. God tells us to stop deceiving ourselves. What can be done about our deadly self-deception? The remedy is clear.

Become a Fool

1 Corinthians 3:18 …If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

The remedy is to become a fool. What does it mean to become a fool?

*Empty

To become a fool means to be emptied of all the world’s wisdom. I cannot cling to the wisdom of this age and also hope to become wise in God’s estimation. ‘We must be empty in order to be truly filled. We must renounce our own righteousness, in order to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We must renounce our own strength, in order to be made strong. We must renounce our own wisdom, in order to be truly wise.’ (Hodge, p.60)

*Humility

To become a fool means to be truly humbled. I must be willing to be thought a fool. I must let go of reputation, of what people think of me. I must be humbled in my own estimation of myself. To become a fool is to humbly acknowledge that my self-deception runs so deep that my own heart and mind cannot be trusted to rightly discern the truth.

*Become like a little child

To become a fool is to become simple, to become dependent, trusting. To acknowledge our need and to admit there is no way we can fix our own situation. Jesus said:

Mark 10:15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (cf. Lk.18:17)

We must have the foolishness of a child if we will enter the kingdom.

*Embrace the Cross

To become a fool in the eyes of the world means I must embrace the foolish message of the cross. To freely confess that I am a sinner who deserves to die seems foolish. To admit that I can do nothing and contribute nothing to my own rescue is pathetic. To believe that the eternal invisible God became human so that he could die for my sins seems the pinnacle of gullibility. The good news that Jesus died in my place as my perfect substitute is viewed as a weak, foolish, and shameful message. But that is the gospel message, and it is the wisdom of God and the power of God for salvation to all who believe.

Be emptied, be humbled, become like a little child, embrace the cross and you will find Jesus to be your wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1Cor.1:30) 

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

 

July 14, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment