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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 1:24; Co-Laborers for your Joy

02/18_2 Corinthians 1:24; Co-Laborers for Your Joy ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180218_2cor1_24.mp3

Last week we saw Paul begin to reveal his heart for the Corinthian church. His integrity is under scrutiny. He makes plans in the flesh. He says he’s coming to visit, and then he doesn’t come as promised. He doesn’t keep his word. He doesn’t really care. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.

It was to spare you. I didn’t come because you wouldn’t have wanted me to come like that. As Apostle, Paul bears the weight of Christ’s authority. This church is not as it ought to be, and for him to come would mean that they would find him to be not as they would want him to be (2Cor.12:20). This assumes his authority to confront sin, and it also communicates his heart, that he doesn’t wish to be heavy-handed, he isn’t puffed up, gloating as he throws his weight around. Sometimes it is better not to come. Sometimes it is better to wait, to stay away and write a letter through your tears, saturated with your prayers. He warns in chapter 12 that if he comes again and finds no change in heart, he will not spare them. Then he says:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

He would prefer to be with them as weak, gentle, tender, as a nursing mother, not strong, with the firm hand of authority as a disciplining father. His heart, and his authority is for restoration, for building up, not tearing down.

But sometimes tearing down must happen before building up can. Sometimes there is a structure that is dangerous, that is not well built, that has a poor foundation, and it needs to come down before a sound, safe, enduring structure can be built in its place. Sometimes the ground needs to be cleared. And when that is the case, even the demolition is constructive. There is a plan, a dream, a desire to see full potential realized. But the ground has to be cleared, a foundation has to be dug.

He wants to make it clear, that his responsibility, his authority, his severity, is:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith,… for you stand firm in your faith.

As far as the gospel message, he is not over them but together with them, by faith standing firm. He and they deserved nothing but punishment and separation. But in God’s amazing undeserved grace, he extended rescue from sin and eternal separation through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. This is a gift, to be received by depending on it, trusting in it, believing, receiving. If you are believing in Jesus, you are on a firm foundation. You can only stand firm by leaning on, depending completely on Jesus. Paul says that we brought the gospel to you; it is through our preaching that Jesus came to live in you. But the message is not about us. It is all about Jesus. We are fellow-recipients of God’s grace in Jesus. We are not over you in the gospel, but we are alongside and underneath you, serving together with you.

Fellow-Workers for Your _______

Last week we closed by asking how you might fill in the blank. Paul had co-workers, fellow-laborers with him in his ministry whom he names, who came alongside him to help him, to serve him, to support him, to encourage him, with him to advance the gospel. And here in verse 24 he turns that around and addresses this church and says ‘we (the Apostles) are fellow-workers with you, we come alongside and under you, serving with you. What? Paul and the other apostles come alongside us, labor together with us?

And we asked, to what aim? What is Paul’s great goal? What would it be that Paul aims to partner with this church to accomplish? How would you fill in that blank? I can think of some great gospel ambitions that I would expect to hear on the lips of the Apostle Paul. We work with you to make disciples of all nations! We work with you to bring the good news of Jesus to every creature! We are co-workers with you for your sanctification, that Christ would be formed in you! We are laboring together with you to advance the glory of God in all the earth!

I am shocked that Paul doesn’t say any of these things here. What does he say in the middle of verse 24?

…but we work with you for your joy,…

We are co-laborers with you for your joy? That seems anticlimactic. That seems like a low aim. That seems secondary, of lesser importance than so many of his other great aims.

Joy and Rejoicing

Why joy? Today I want to set out to answer this question. Why joy? Is joy really a primary ambition we are to strive for?

I got on my bible software and looked up joy in the concordance. 223 verses. Rejoice; 200 verses. Just for fun, I looked up some other words; salvation; 169 verses. Forgive; 106 verses. Jesus; 925 verses. The Bible is all about Jesus, and the Bible is very serious about joy.

Just scanning through those verses that contain the word ‘joy’ or ‘rejoice’ was very enlightening. Did you know there are 8 verses in Deuteronomy that command the Israelites to rejoice in the presence of the Lord your God? Deuteronomy 28 lays out severe consequences for not serving God with joyfulness and gladness of heart. It matters not only who you serve and that you serve; it matters how you serve! Attitude matters! Read the book of Numbers; God sent snakes to bite the people because they had bad attitudes. Nehemiah 8:10 says “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” In Philippians 4:4 we have the double command: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 we have this concise command (which in the original is actually shorter than John 11:35) “Rejoice always.”

Did you know there’s about 20 Hebrew words and about 6 Greek words that communicate joy? This theme of joy is rampant in the Psalms. Gladness, pleasure, mirth; rejoicing, jubilation; exulting or jumping for joy, to display joy; shouting or singing for joy, a ringing cry of joy or praise; being bright, cheerful, exceedingly glad, delighting in. This is a big vocabulary for all the nuances of joy.

Why does Paul put the emphasis on the joy of this church? Why is he laboring together with them for their joy and not for another worthy end?

False Dichotomy

The way I have framed the question is not entirely fair. By putting it that way I imply that there is a choice between joy and some of these other aims, as if it is joy or the gospel; joy or the glory of God. That is not fair, because it is not a choice between joy or these other things, but rather joy in these other things. But I want you to see the emphasis on joy. When the angels proclaimed the gospel, announcing the good news of the birth of Christ, they said it was “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk.2:10). When Paul prays for the believers in Romans 15, he asks “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom.15:13). Peter also talks about our believing in Jesus

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Jude, speaking of our final sanctification, looks to the day when Jesus will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

So it is not joy or the gospel, joy or believing, joy or sanctification; rather it is joy in the gospel, joy in believing, joy in sanctification.

But the joy is essential. The gospel message is a message of great joy. There is great joy, inexpressible joy in believing. Our presentation as blameless before the throne in glory is an occasion of great joy. It is an occasion of joy for us, for the angels, and even for God himself. Jesus said “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven… there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk.15:7,10). There is no room in the Bible for a sour gloomy Christianity.

Not Duty but Delight

Christianity is not a religion of duty but of delight. Christianity is not trying to do enough, to attain to a standard, to merit enough to win God’s favor. Christianity is a relationship of mutual delighting. God is a God who “rejoices over you with gladness…” who “exults over you with loud singing” (Zeph.3:17); he says of us “in whom is all my delight” (Ps.16:3). And in response we ‘delight ourselves in the Lord, we delight to do his will for his law is in our hearts’ (Ps37:4; 40:8; Rom.7:22).

Joy Spreads

What is the Christian life without joy? Where is the beauty, the attractiveness of the gospel without this delight? Paul is willing to come alongside this church and get dirty and messy, laboring alongside them for their joy, because joy is essential to the Christian life and to the spread of the gospel. The gospel is attractive not merely because we have better arguments than other religions, not because we have more compelling truth claims, or more evidence to support our claims. That is essential. But Jesus is attractive because he delivers real true enduring joy.

There are some who have been persuaded by the evidence to assent that Christianity is true and Jesus is the only way, but they choose not to follow Jesus because they see the loss they will sustain if they do. They are weighing the outcomes and what they have that they risk losing seems greater to them than the joy they might find in following Jesus. Could it be because they are not seeing joy in the followers of Jesus?

Paul is strategic in targeting their joy, because joy is contagious. Joy spreads.

God is Joy

Followers of Jesus can have joy because we follow a joyful God. Or to turn it around, a joyless Christian misrepresents God because God is joy. God is love and God is joy.

The fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is really the character of God, a reflection of Jesus in you. The fruit of the Spirit is love, then joy. Love tops the list, and joy is a close second. The Spirit of God is out to produce the fruit of joy in your life as a follower of Jesus. Joy is a main evidence that the Spirit is at work in you. Joy is the character of God produced in you, because God is joy.

1 Timothy 1:11 speaks of “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” Blessed means full, fortunate, happy, praised; we could paraphrase ‘the good news of the radiance of the happy God.’ 1 Timothy 6:15 lists blessed as a characteristic of God alongside some of his other attributes.

Jesus speaks of filling us with joy. In John 10 he says

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

In John 15. He says:

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He says that his word, what he said, will fill his followers with joy. But notice whose joy it is, what kind of joy it is. Jesus says ‘that my joy may be in you’; Jesus is saying that he is going to take his own joy and put it into his disciples. The joy of God, the joy of Jesus, in us!

Deep Unquenchable Joy

Notice also that this joy is not superficial happiness dependent on circumstances. In John 16, he says ‘you will weep and lament… you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy’ (16:20). Jesus does not say that your sorrow will be replaced by joy, that the bad circumstances will go away and happy circumstances will come and then you will have joy. No, he says that your sorrow will become your joy. He goes on in the next verses to use the illustration of childbirth. Giving birth, we call it the pain of labor, is anguish, there is sorrow. But that anguish is swallowed up and transformed by joy in the baby. The joy comes through sorrow. The sorrow is transformed into joy. In verse 22 he makes it clear that our joy is the joy of seeing Jesus, and no one will take your joy from you.

In Luke 6, Jesus tells his disciples

Luke 6:20 …“Blessed are you who are poor, … 21 … hungry… who weep now,… 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

This joy is not dependent on circumstances; it is joy even in, especially in the midst of adverse circumstances. James says:

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

This is Jesus’ own joy, joy that no one can take from us.

Pursuing Joy in Jesus

Paul says that he is laboring together with us for our joy. That means that we ought to be working to pursue our own joy. How do we pursue this kind of joy? What does this look like? George Mueller wrote:

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.”

How do I get my soul happy in the Lord? How do I labor for my own joy in Jesus? The simplest way I know is to simply preach the gospel to yourself daily. The gospel is God’s message of good news, good news about God’s grace toward me. Reminding myself of the great truths of the gospel is the best way I know to get my soul happy in the Lord. This includes confronting the lies of the enemy with gospel truth. This means taking advantage of the gospel access we enjoy to spend time in the presence of God, in whose presence is fullness of joy (Ps.16:11).

Messy Joy

In 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he is a co-worker with them for their joy, specifically in the context of rebuke, difficult interaction and confrontation over their sin. Pursuing joy is not a cutesy happy-go-lucky affair. This labor for joy is a gritty messy gutsy relational thing. Paul says, my confrontation of your sin, my not coming to visit but writing you a painful letter, my tears, my prayers, is not lording it over your faith, but laboring together with you for your joy. There were lawsuits, sexual immorality, power struggles, popularity contests, divisions, and resistance to authority going on in the church in Corinth.

Paul seeks to come alongside them and labor together with them to turn their pursuit of joy away from position and power and pleasure and possessions, and to ground their joy in gospel truths. He reminds them of the gospel truth that it is by faith that they stand firm. He reminds them that all God’s promises are yes to them in Jesus. He reminds them that God establishes us together in Christ through the anointing, sealing, guaranteeing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He reminds them of the gospel, laboring alongside them for their eternal joy.

2 Corinthians 1:24 …we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

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

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February 21, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pleasure and Privilege of Prayer

01/17 Pleasure and Privilege of Prayer ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160117_pray.mp3

As we look at a new year together, I like to ask the question ‘What do we need to focus on? What do we need to be reminded of? What is most important?’ Two weeks ago we looked at Psalm 1 and what it has to say about the word of God and the blessings, the delights of meditating on the word. Today I would like to look at prayer. I want to look at the pleasure and privilege of prayer. My goal is that we would be encouraged to pray, empowered to pray, equipped to pray, motivated to pray, that we would treasure the privilege of prayer.

Commanded to Pray

The way we view prayer affects how we approach prayer, and how we pray (or don’t pray). We often feel that prayer is an obligation, something that Christians are supposed to do, and we often feel that we ought to do it more or longer or better than we do. We often feel guilt over our shortcomings in prayer. And in part, we are right to think this, because prayer is something we ought to do. We are commanded to pray.

1 Thessalonians 5 says

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

God’s will for you is that you pray. Pray continually. But not grudgingly. With rejoicing. Overflowing with thankfulness in all circumstances. Ephesians 5:20 tells us that we ought to be filled with the Spirit, “giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Ephesians 6 concludes teaching on spiritual warfare with “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Colossians 4 says:

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Romans 12 says:

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

We are to continue steadfastly in prayer, to be watchful in prayer, to be constant in prayer. Anybody living up to this? Philippians commands:

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.

Paul says:

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Paul claims to pray constantly. Night and day. Anyone discouraged yet? Is this just Paul? In Colossians 4:12, Paul mentions Ephaphras, “one of you” who is “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers” In Acts 1:14, 2:42, and 6:4, we see the early church – the whole church – “devoted to prayer.” In Acts 16:25 we find Paul and Silas in prison at midnight, “praying and singing hymns to God.” In Acts 9:11, when Ananias was hesitant to go see Saul, the persecutor of the church, the comfort and confidence God gave that he was now converted was “for behold, he is praying.”

Jesus in Luke 18

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

We are to always pray, be devoted to prayer, constant in prayer, characterized by prayer, continue steadfastly in prayer, pray without ceasing, and rejoice always. This feels overwhelming. Discouraging. Unattainable. And I’m supposed to rejoice?

The Privilege of Prayer

I believe the pleasure of prayer is rooted in the privilege of prayer, so we will start by looking at the privilege of prayer. An Old Testament illustration from the book of Esther will help us understand the privilege of prayer. Esther, a young Jewish girl, was taken to be the replacement queen for Ahasuerus, king of Babylon, because Queen Vashti had been banished for refusing to appear before the king when summoned. Haman, one of the king’s top advisers, had plotted the genocide of all the Jews. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, called on Esther to intercede with the king and plead for the lives of her people. She responded in Esther 4

Esther 4:11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

Esther rightly feared for her life if she approached the throne unbidden. She did not have access to the king unless the king called for her. The king had already been counseled to do away with one queen. Even if she risked her life to approach the king without being summoned, she had no guarantee that her request would be granted. Esther was rightly terrified, but it seemed like the only hope for the Jewish people, so Esther responded to Mordecai:

Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

We are told

Esther 5:1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

Put yourself in Esther’s shoes. She was desperate, she was risking everything, but she seemed to have no choice. I can only imaging the knot in the pit of her gut as she entered the inner court unbidden.

Our situation was far worse. Esther was the queen. The king took great pleasure in her. Imagine how much worse the situation would have been if it was the former queen Vashti, who had been banished from the kingdom, who was now seeking audience with the king. Vashti’s hopes for a hearing would be far less than zero. But that was our condition.

We read in Genesis 3

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

…23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Mankind had been banished from the presence of the Lord. You see, God had given us everything good we could imagine, provided for all our needs, fulfilled all our desires, and we enjoyed sweet fellowship with him. There was but one rule, a test really, to demonstrate whether we would be faithful to him. But we sided with his enemy, doubted his goodness, and committed high treason. So we were cut off from his presence, banished. Isaiah 59 says

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.

Even this separation was mercifully less than we deserved. God had promised that the wages of sin is death, and yet he accepted the death of a substitute, promising one day to crush the skull of the enemy and bring us back to himself. This is what Romans teaches. Although God’s righteous wrath had been revealed against all mankind because of our failure to honor him as God, he sent his only Son Jesus to be our substitute, to bear the punishment we deserved, so that we could be declared righteous, as if we had kept God’s law perfectly. Although we had made ourselves his enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Romans 5 says

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Think of this. Savor this. Treasure this. Access. We have access, not to an earthly king or president, not access to a human political ruler, but to the King of kings, to the throne room of the all sovereign Creator of all things, to the one who spoke all that is into existence, access to the God who rules all things! ‘We have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.’ We stand in grace, God’s free and unmerited favor poured out on his enemies, giving access to himself, to his throne. This, friends, is cause for rejoicing! This is a high honor indeed! Listen to Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

We are reconciled to God through the cross. Jesus himself is our peace. We have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Through Jesus we have access in the Spirit to the Father. Access to the Father! Brought near! Look over at Ephesians 3. In Christ Jesus our Lord,

Ephesians 3:12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Through our Lord Jesus, we have access. Not a timid, hesitant, halting, fearful access, but confident boldness, a frank openness, blunt, fearless, unreserved freedom, total unhindered freedom to speak in his presence. This is the blood bought free access we have through Christ with the Father!

Look over with me to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews points us to Jesus, our great High Priest.

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We can with free and open confidence draw near to the throne of grace. What a title! The throne of grace! The place where we find, not justice and judgment for all the wrongs we have done, but gracious pardon and acceptance extended to the undeserving. The throne of grace, where we find all the blood-bought blessings we do not deserve, where we find mercy that releases us from the burden of guilt. We go confidently, because nothing is there for us but grace to help in time of need. There is no condemnation there, no judgment, no rejection. There is help. We are needy. We come with confidence, we come to receive, because he is the gracious giver of all good things, and because in him we find the help we desperately need.

In Hebrews 7:19, a better hope is introduced, a better hope than the law, which made nothing perfect, Jesus, our better hope, through which we draw near to God. Jesus is the better priest of a better covenant, he lives forever,

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

We have access to God, we draw near to God through Jesus, who always lives to make intercession for us. Brothers and sisters, Jesus is continually, before the presence of his Father, praying for us, interceding for us. Did you know, loved one, that even when you or I are prayerless, Jesus is praying for us? Jesus does not just save us part way. Jesus is the great High Priest who saves fully, completely, to the uttermost! In Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10:17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

In Jesus our great High Priest, we have received forgiveness. We have confidence to enter by the blood of Jesus. Let us then draw near, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith. Let us draw near to God. Boldly, confidently, enjoying free access.

The Pleasure of Prayer

I started by saying that I believe the pleasure of prayer is rooted in the privilege of prayer. Now that we have looked at the privilege of prayer, I probably don’t need to even finish this sermon, because the pleasure of prayer should become self-evident. We have access to God. Our God is incalculably good. Gracious, merciful, eager to help. To know him is to know life.

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.

Psalm 21:6 says ‘you make him glad with the joy of your presence.’

Psalm 4:7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

Psalm 36 says:

Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

Listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 73:

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. … 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Nothing in heaven or on earth compares to God. You are my portion. It is good…it is good to be near God. And through Jesus we have access to God!

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

If you have not experienced the pleasure of prayer, I would invite you to taste. Come. Take refuge. Taste. Develop a hunger and thirst for him.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

So my advice to us is to go. Remind yourself of the inestimable privilege we have through the blood of Jesus, and go. Recognize your need and go boldly. Go confidently. Go with reverence and worshipful awe, but go. Go with the blood bought confidence that belongs to you in Christ Jesus. Push open the doors, throw back the curtains, and approach the God who has made himself approachable. He invites you in. He has paid the way. Enter and enjoy!

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

January 17, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Be Happy (Psalm 1)

01/03 How to Be Happy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160103_be-happy.mp3

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

The Pursuit of Happiness

It is not just an American thing to pursue happiness. We all want to be happy. We all endeavor to pursue our own happiness. That is part of what it is to be human. We bought Satan’s lie and bit the fruit in the first place because we saw that it ‘was good for food, …a delight to the eyes, , and …to be desired to make one wise’ (Gen.3:6). We want to be happy. We eat lots of sweets because we want to be happy. We try to eat healthier because we want to be happy. We lounge around and watch TV because we are seeking happiness. We decide to exercise more because we want to be happy. We indulge in great pleasures, we make great sacrifices, all in pursuit of our own happiness.

I thought it would be fitting, at the beginning of this new year, to preach on how to be happy. It is not wrong for us to desire happiness. We are wired for pleasure. God designed eyes with the ability to perceive color and texture and depth and beauty. God created taste buds capable of savoring all varieties and complexities of flavors from salt to sweet to bitter to sour. He created ears that could delight in beautiful melodies. He gave us a nose that can appreciate savory aromas. God saturated our skin with nerve endings that respond to touch and warmth and sensation. God made us with the capacity to experience a rich complexity of emotions. God placed mankind in a garden of delights and he blessed them and said be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, exercise good authority, enjoy. God holds out to us the prospect of happiness. He invites us to pursue happiness. The book of Psalms begin with the word ‘happy’, and the word ‘happy’ occurs 25 more times throughout the Psalms. Most English translations render it ‘blessed’, although there is another Hebrew word that more properly means ‘blessed’.

What we are talking about is a happiness that is substantial. This is not empty frivolity, but settled joy; happy in the richest, deepest, most lasting sense. Happiness that satisfies the longings of our soul at the deepest level.

So what does the Bible say about how to be happy? How should we pursue our happiness in such a way that we taste it and enjoy it and it lasts? How do we pursue happiness in a way that it is not continually just out of reach, that it does not, as so often happens, slip through our fingers?

Look with me at Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Three Paths to Death

This Psalm starts in the negative; telling us three things that do not bring happiness. That which is morally wrong does not bring happiness. That which is offensive to God does not bring happiness. Happiness is not found in pride, scorning, mocking, or looking down at others. Getting advice from those who are morally bankrupt will never bring the happiness we desire. Fixing yourself in the path of resistance to God will never satisfy. Proud looking down at others will never bring true joy.

We say, ‘of course, who would embrace a wicked, sinful, prideful lifestyle as a means to happiness?’ The reason this Psalm lays out these three things as paths that do not lead to genuine happiness is because these are three places we naturally seek happiness in. Is there not something within us, when we see the ‘no admittance, danger keep out, do not touch’ sign, that thinks that pleasure is found in that which is forbidden? This was the first seed of doubt planted by the snake in the garden; ‘Did God really withhold a pleasure from you?’ Or do we not look around and ask ourselves ‘why do the wicked prosper’ (Ps.73:3)? You can’t really make it in the world without bending the rules, stretching the truth, cutting some corners. Do we not, in our minds, or among our friends, criticize others, point out their flaws, their shortcomings, and think that we are just a bit better than they? The Psalm warns us because these are paths we often take. That which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which inflates self, these are not paths to the joy we seek.

The Path to Life

The Psalm warns against three paths that do not lead to happiness, but only one that brings true joy. That is the law of the Lord; the Torah, the instruction, the direction of the Lord. This is inclusive of all God has said to us, all God’s instruction, all his Word. What we know as the Bible is the collection of all God’s instruction to us. The counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers all lead to ruin, but the instruction of the Lord leads to lasting happiness.

Notice our response to God’s word determines our eternal happiness. The one who is happy delights in God’s instruction. John Calvin wrote “that forced or servile obedience is not at all acceptable to God, and that those only are worthy students of the law who come to it with a cheerful mind, and are so delighted with its instructions, as to account nothing more desirable or delicious than to make progress therein …all who are truly actuated by love to the law must feel pleasure in the diligent study of it.” Grudging or obligatory attention to God’s word is empty. We may take medicine because we are supposed to, and we hope that it will be good for us, but it tastes terrible. We plug our nose and swallow the pill. It is distasteful, but good for us. God’s truth is not like that.

Psalm 19 describes God’s word as “pure, reviving the soul; …sure, making wise the simple; …right, rejoicing the heart; …pure, enlightening the eyes; …clean, enduring forever; …true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. … in keeping them there is great reward.” (v.7-11)

Psalm 119 says:

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

Psalm 34 says:

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

Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

God’s word is precious, good, sweet, rewarding, valuable, more to be desired, reviving, rejoicing, enlightening. The one who finds true happiness finds God’s word as a treasure, as a pleasure, as delicious, as a delight. The one who is happy views God’s instruction with delight.

Notice also, the one who would be truly happy meditates on the words of God. Taste, take time to enjoy, savor, pay attention to, focus on, study, speak it, mutter it, muse on it, memorize it, turn it over and over and over.

My kids eat candy as if it were a race. Like a pack of insatiable piranhas they are attracted by the scent of sweets. They descend ravenously on the bag of M&M’s that was just opened, and sometimes when its over, I wonder if some of the wrapper got consumed in the frenzy. I don’t think they taste it at all. It seems the goal is to ingest as much sugar as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. I wish they attacked their chores like that! Don’t read God’s word like that. I want to warn you, that is a danger with Bible reading plans. Reading plans are good, they are helpful, and I would encourage you to read intentionally, with a plan. But the danger lies in it becoming a chore, a box to check off, a task to accomplish, something to get through and finish, something you feel bad about if you get behind, or you feel good about yourself if you keep up, a conquest. Don’t read God’s word merely to get through it. Slow down. Savor. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Enjoy him!

Spurgeon said “The inward meditation is the thing that makes the soul rich towards God. This is the godly man’s occupation. Put the spice into the mortar by reading, beat it with the pestle of meditation—so shall the sweet perfume be exhaled.” [Spurgeon, Ps1:1-3, # 3270]

Meditation is a process that cannot be hurried or rushed through. Eliminate distractions. Focus your attention. Think. Ponder. Muse. Prayerfully consider. Savor. Take time to enjoy. Delight yourself in the instruction of the Lord. Meditate on it day and night.

A Tree Planted

The Psalm compares the person who delights in and meditates on God’s word with a tree planted.

Psalm 1

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

He is compared to a tree, not a vegetable or a grain or a shrub. This is one who stands the test of time, one who has staying power, one who lasts. This is a tree planted. It is not a wild tree, an unplanned tree, a volunteer. This is a cultivated tree, carefully selected, intentionally placed by a wise gardener. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:13 …“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

This is a tree planted by streams of water. Not in a desert. Not by a stagnant pool, not by a wadi or wash that fills with water during a rain and is dry the rest of the time. This speaks of intentional consistent irrigation. This is a tree that yields its fruit in season. This is not a decorative tree, or a shade tree. This is a fruit bearing tree. It is a cultivated tree, intended to be productive. Fruit trees are beautiful and good for shade, but their main purpose is to bear fruit. Jesus said:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Fruit bearing is directly proportional to abiding, delighting, meditating. The fruitful tree is nourished by the word. A tree without adequate water supply will wither. The one who day and night drinks in the word will not wither.

This is the happiness that comes from a purpose realized. In all that he does he prospers. He advances, makes progress, is profitable. This is not the empty happiness of fleeting pleasures. This is the enduring happiness of a purpose fulfilled, the enjoyment that comes from knowing what you were made for, being who you were created to be, doing what you were meant to do. This is the substantial satisfaction of being fruitful.

The Wicked are Not So

The contrast is drawn between the happy one who delights in and meditates on the truth of God’s word and the wicked. Notice, by the way, there is no third category. There is no category for nominal, complacent, comfortable, non-abiding, non-fruitful trees. There are those who treasure God’s word, and the wicked.

Psalm 1

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

After grain is harvested, it is beaten and winnowed out to separate the kernel of grain from the chaff. Chaff is the useless husk that surrounds the grain. The contrast could not be more stark. On the one hand, a firmly planted well nourished fruitful tree, and on the other hand, the empty husk of grain blown by the wind. There is the one with purpose, rooted, alive, thriving, growing, productive, and there is the lifeless empty shell. What a description of a life with no purpose, with no joy. A mere empty husk blown away by the wind.

The Way of the Righteous

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The one who is rooted in God’s word, nourished and satisfied, the one who delights in the Lord, knows that there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:10, 23). But the righteousness of God has been manifested, not a righteousness that comes from keeping the commandments, but a righteousness the entire scriptures point to, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom.3:21-22), the righteousness of Christ that is counted to us, credited to us as a gift (Rom.4). By the obedience of Christ we are made righteous (Rom.5:18-19). The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The only path to a righteousness that pleases God is the sinner humbly trusting God to credit us with a righteousness not our own, the righteousness of Christ.

There are 25 other places in the Psalms where we are declared to be happy. Those who are truly happy are:

those who delight in the instruction of the Lord (1:1 cf. Prov.3:13; 8:32, 34; 29:18)

those who trust in the Lord (2:12; 34:8; 40:4; 84:12; cf. Prov.16:20)

those whose God is the Lord (33:12; 144:15 (x2); 146:5)

those who enjoy the presence of the Lord (65:4; 89:15)

those whose strength is the Lord (84:5)

those who fear the Lord (112:1; 128:1-2; cf. Prov.28:14)

those who are forgiven (32:1-2)

those who are disciplined by the Lord (94:12)

those who do righteousness (106:3; 119:1-2; cf. Prov.20:7)

those who consider the poor (41:1; cf. Prov.14:21)

those who enjoy their children (127:5)

those who execute God’s judgment (137:8-9)

Known By the Lord

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. Those who are justified, declared righteous, credited with the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus, are known by the Lord. The Lord know those who are his (2Tim.2:19). Those whose delight is in the word of God, who meditate on it day and night, are characterized by an intimacy with God. They are known by God.

Would you find real happiness? Do not seek it in that which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which looks down at others in pride. Do not listen to the counsel of unbelievers or follow their ways. Seek the righteousness that comes by faith in the finished work of Christ. Delight yourself in the Lord, in his word, treasure it, savor it, meditate on it, draw from it your nourishment day and night.

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

January 3, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Holy Holy God

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

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

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

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. I3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God says in Leviticus 22:

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

And in Ezekiel 39:

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

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

What does Holy Mean?

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

I The Lord Am Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delighting in God’s Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 29 says:

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

Psalm 96 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

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

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

Listen to Isaiah 57:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 13:6; What Love Rejoices In

01/25 1 Corinthians 13:6 What Love Rejoices In; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150125_1cor13_6.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν, 6 οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ· 7 πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει. 8 Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends...

We are working through 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, allowing the wrecking ball of this scathing indictment to rip through our hearts and reveal to us where we are failing to be Christlike, and where we need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to mold us and shape us into the image of our Lord Jesus.

Life in community with others without God’s love displayed through us to others is empty, vain and worthless. This chapter is intended to be read in the context of the local church, a church made up of individuals with different backgrounds, different gifts, different personalities, different experiences, different tastes, different preferences, who are in different places in society, who have different incomes, who are simply different and sometimes don’t understand one another and who sometimes even hurt and offend each other.

It is in this context of relationships with other people, annoying people, irritating people, people who do wrong things and sin against us, it is in the context of the local church that we are to reflect the character of the God who is love, to take the love with which he has loved us and to extend it to those who sin against us, love that has a long fuse, love that is graciously kind to those who don’t deserve it, love that does not get upset when good things go to someone else, love that does not speak large, does not inflate self to appear more than it is, love that does not act inappropriately or indecently, love that does not seek its own, does not respond to provocation with irritability, does not keep score of wrongs done, does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

This last in a list of eight negatives, which is mirrored by a positive, will be our subject today. What does love rejoice about? Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. What can we learn about this from the God who is love? What can we learn from Jesus? What needs to change in us to become more Christlike?

Joy

First, we need to notice that love, real genuine love that reflects God’s love is not cold dead emotionless will to do the loving thing no matter how we feel. In the Christian community we sometimes overreact to error with an opposite and equally deadly error. We see people around us falling in love and just as quickly falling out of love, we hear husbands or wives saying that the love is gone from their relationship, we feel the thrill and appeal of forbidden attraction, and we react. Love is not a feeling, we say. Love is a verb. Love is a choice. You can perform loving acts without feeling some mushy gooshy sentimental attraction for someone. This is a dangerous pendulum swing. It is true that love is not merely emotion or feeling. It is true that love is action. These 15 descriptions of love are all verbs, they look at what love does, what love looks like. But to say that love is not an emotion and that we can do loving acts without feeling love toward a person is Pharisaical and false. As the first three verses of this chapter point out, many people do loving acts without having genuine love in their hearts, and it is worthless and empty. It profits nothing. I can give away all that I have to care for the poor, even give my very life and although people might think of it as a very loving act, the text says that I can do these loving actions and not have love. Love is action, but it is action rooted in and growing out of emotion. Deep, hearty, robust, passionate emotion. Love is evidenced by doing loving acts, but love is more than those actions. This verse makes it clear that love is more than a commitment to doing loving deeds. Love rejoices. Love is all tied up in joy. What it is that we find joy in will show us what we love. If a husband brings his wife a rose, and tells her that he is simply doing what he is expected to do as a husband, not because he wants to, not because he desires to, not because it brings him joy, but because it is the right thing to do, will his wife be pleased with the rose? Will she feel loved? Love is not less than doing loving deeds, but love has everything to do with where those loving deeds come from.

So if you are in that relationship where you are simply going through the motions but there is no emotion, no attraction, no joy, there is hope for you – not outside the relationship but in it. If you look at a fellow believer and know you have a duty to act in a loving manner toward them, but you feel nothing (at least no positive affection), there is hope for you. Remember, this chapter is not a dissertation about the concept of love in the abstract; this is about love toward real people, especially people you don’t naturally get along with, people who may have hurt or wronged or offended you. We must not be content with simply doing the right outward thing toward the one we are supposed to love; we must pursue real rich robust passionate love that takes pleasure in loving the beloved. Our affections, our joy must be involved.

This chapter is a rebuke, a corrective. It is meant to examine us and show us where we fall short. If we have gone through the checklist and passed, if you can say ‘I am patient and kind, I don’t envy or boast, I am not arrogant or rude, I do not seek my own, I am not irritable or resentful… (you are probably not being honest with yourself), but if you can get this far and say ‘I am doing all these things, I do act in a loving way toward others, but I don’t have joy’, then there is a problem. Love rejoices. In real love there is joy, there is pleasure, there is passion, there is delight.

The Joy of God

Let’s look at God’s love to see this. What does God rejoice in? What does God delight in, find joy in?

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

God takes joy in practicing steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. This is not something he does because he is obligated, but it is what he finds delights in. God delights in all that is right and just and good. Psalm 5 states the opposite.

Psalm 5:4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.

God loves justice and righteous. He hates wickedness and will not tolerate evil. The Proverbs lay out the contrast.

Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.

Proverbs 11:20 Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight.

Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

God takes joy in faithfulness, blamelessness, and justice. He hates lying lips, a crooked heart, and a false balance. He is passionate about what is true and right and good and he must punish evil. But listen to what God says about himself:

Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Ezekiel 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Sometimes we view God as carefully watching, eagerly waiting to see just one mistake so that he can jump on us and punish us for it. This is not God’s heart. God does not delight to destroy wicked people. He will. He is just. But he is eager for the wicked to turn to him so that he can forgive.

1 Timothy 2:3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Peter tells us:

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

Jesus said:

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

God rejoices over every sinner who repents. This is the heart of our great God.

1 Corinthians 13:6 [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Jesus and Truth

Jesus was full of truth.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus was passionate about the truth.

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus invited people to follow him and to be set free by the truth. Jesus confronted the religious leaders over their lack of love for the truth.

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Jesus made it very clear what was true.

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.

This is a radical exclusive claim. ‘No one comes to the Father except through me. I am the truth.’

John 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Pilate questioned the very existence of truth, and yet he testified to the sinlessness of Jesus. Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to Jesus.

1 Corinthians 13:6 [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Truth or Unrighteousness

We see in I Corinthians 13:6 and consistently in other places in scriptures an interesting contrast. We might expect the contrast to be between truth and falsehood, or between righteousness and unrighteousness, but here we see injustice, unrighteousness, wrongdoing contrasted with truth. We see this also in:

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. Romans 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

2 Thessalonians 2:10 and with all wicked [unrighteous] deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

2 Thessalonians 2:12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Those who are condemned take pleasure in unrighteousness, they are deceived by unrighteousness, they obey unrighteousness, they practice unrighteousness and suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Those who are saved take pleasure in the truth, believe the truth, love the truth, obey the truth, and embrace the truth. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices together with the truth. Where truth is not embraced, obeyed, loved and believed, unrighteousness happens and results in condemnation.

Through this we get a fuller picture of saving faith. Sometimes the gospel is presented this way: ‘Do you believe that Jesus is God, that he became man and died on the cross for your sins? If you do, then you are saved, you are going to heaven.’ James would say, ‘even the demons believe… and shudder’ (James 2:19). The demons believe the facts. They believe them to be true. But they hate the light and will not come to the light. They know who Jesus is, they know the gospel, and they hate it. The kind of believing that results in the gift of eternal life is an embracing of the truth, obeying the truth, loving the truth, rejoicing with the truth. This kind of embracing the truth results in the kind of love that Paul describes for us in this chapter, a love that no longer rejoices in unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 13:6 [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

What Was Wrong at Corinth

Paul was rebuking the church at Corinth because they were not rejoicing with the truth; they were rejoicing at unrighteousness. In chapters 1-4 they were delighting in high-sounding worldly wisdom rather than the good news of Christ crucified; in chapter 5 they were boasting about sexual immorality being tolerated in the church. In chapter 6 they were taking one another before unrighteous judges to rip off their brothers, and some even believed it was acceptable for a Christian to indulge in sexual immorality. In chapter 7, wives were defrauding their husbands and husbands their wives by withholding intimacy. In chapter 8-10, they were participating in idolatry. In chapter 11 they were dishonoring one another and humiliating the poor in public worship. In chapters 11-14, they did not recognize the truth of the unity of the body of Christ, and were being disorderly in the worship gathering. They were celebrating unrighteousness. They did not rejoice with the truth.

Tolerance or Truth?

What about us? Do we rejoice in tolerance or in truth? Our society would rewrite this verse ‘love does not rejoice in differentiating between right and wrong, but rejoices in tolerance.’ The greatest sin in our society is to tell someone that they are wrong. ‘If you continue in that belief or behavior and refuse to repent and run to Jesus to be rescued, you will spend eternity in hell.’ Our culture cries out ‘you can’t say that! That’s not a loving thing to say. That’s hate speech’. But love must be truthful. If it is true, and the Bible says it is, it is not loving to nod and smile and act as if everything were okay when your friend or neighbor is careening headlong into an eternity of torment, separated from Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral [involved in pornography], nor idolaters [who treat anyone or anything as more important than God], nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [active or passive homosexual partners] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers [physically or verbally abusive], nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

We must truly care for people, people created in the image of God, people created to bring him praise. We must care about them more than we care about ourselves, about our reputations, about our freedom. We must care about them enough to tell them the truth. We must tell them about a God who is slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness, who is just and will punish sin, but who rejoices to extend forgiveness to sinners who repent and turn to Jesus.

What do we rejoice in? Do we find pleasure when others get what they deserve? Are we like Jonah, who was eager to see the destruction of his enemies, disappointed when they repented? Love rejoices together with the truth.

2 John 4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

3 John 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Our joy must be the joy of God, who does not delight to see wrongs punished, but rather rejoices to see lives transformed by the Holy Spirit.

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

January 25, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:5b; Love Seeks Not Its Own (part 2)

12/07 1 Corinthians 13:5b Love Seeks Not Its Own (Part 2); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141207_1cor13_5b.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 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. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Review

We are in the middle of 1 Corinthians 13,where we are looking at what real love is, at what real love looks like. God is love, so we are looking first to God, to what he is like to understand how we should love one another. And we get the clearest understanding of what God is like by looking at Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God.

We are looking at the seventh verb in the series, and the fifth negative: ‘love seeks not its own’. Last time we looked from one angle at this phrase, seeing that although God is love and love does not seek its own, God does indeed seek his own glory. But the way this plays out in the triune nature of God is that Jesus does not seek his own glory but the glory of his Father, the Father seeks the glory and honor of the Son, and the Spirit seeks the glory of the Son and the Father. Each seeks to outdo the other in showing honor. God indeed is love.

Today I want to look at this same phrase from a different angle. Love does not seek that which is its own, and this is a rebuke to our selfish self-seeking, yet over and over and over in the scriptures we are commanded by God to seek our own happiness. Does this mean that God is on the one hand commanding our self-seeking, and on the other hand forbidding it? God is truth, God does not change, God never contradicts himself.

God Commands our Self-seeking

You might ask ‘where does God command us to seek our own happiness?’ Just think for a moment of the very first commandment, not the first commandment of the ten given at Sinai, but all the way back in the garden. Do you remember what it was? The very first command issued from God to man, found in Genesis 1:28 was this:

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

We see right from the beginning that God is ultimately commanding us to be happy. This was a command, but it was a commandment of blessing. God’s commandment is a blessing. This flies in the face of the common stereotype of God as a cosmic killjoy who sits in heaven thinking up rules to keep us from having any fun. The God who designed the human body with all its sensory receptors and neurotransmitters connected to the pleasure centers of the brain, with optical and sensory stimulation, with emotional attachment and the capacity for joy, commands us to be fruitful and multiply, and in that to enjoy all the pleasures he designed in to the process of producing children. God commands us to have dominion, not in a sinful hurtful way, but in a care-taking, cultivating way, where we find joy in seeing that which has been entrusted to us thriving and bearing much fruit.

And then there is the second command. It tends to get lost under the third. But we need to see it for what it says. We find it in the very next verse:

Genesis 1:29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Thou shalt eat! This is a command to eat. God gave us everything good to enjoy. This is more than simply fuel for energy. We see the context of this in chapter 2:

Genesis 2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God gave them everything pleasant to the sight and good for food. God planted a garden, watered by three rivers. God commands our happiness. He reiterates this third command in 2:16, and adds a third.

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

You may surely eat of every tree of the garden. That is overwhelming goodness in this garden of delights. Enjoy! And notice even in the third command, the prohibition of the one tree, the grounds for the command is their own happiness. Do not do this because it will hurt you. It will damage your perfect happiness. It will kill you. It will destroy your joy. The motive for obedience God holds out to us is life, abundant life. He appeals to our desire to be happy.

Listen to some other commands in the Scriptures. A few examples will be adequate to demonstrate what I mean, but once your eyes are open to it, you will see it everywhere

Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

God commands us to pursue the things that will truly satisfy. He rebukes us for pursuing things that do not satisfy. He commands us to find delight in him. He says:

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

The Psalmist says to God:

Psalm 4:7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

And again:

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.

And again:

Psalm 63:5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

God says:

Psalm 81:10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. …16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

God seeks our pleasure, and he commands us to seek our own pleasure. Throughout the Bible God offers us rewards that appeal to our desire for our own happiness. From deliverance from enemies, to long life, to descendants, to a land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 11:9), God invites us to seek our happiness. And this is not restricted to the Old Testament. Jesus holds out to us staggering promises of reward. Jesus said:

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus said:

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” …35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Jesus warns of the danger of eternal punishment, outer darkness, eternal fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt.25:30,41,46) and he promises to us eternal life. All of this is an appeal to our self-seeking desire to be happy. Does this mean that love, which does not seek its own, must disobey God’s command to be happy and instead choose the misery of eternal separation from God in order to be truly loving?

I’m going to leave this question hanging for a bit while we look at the self-seeking of the Corinthians, which Paul is directly addressing.

The Corinthians Were Self-Seeking

As we look through the letter we call 1 Corinthians, we see that they were divisive and quarreling, arguing over which leader was better. They wanted to be thought wise and spiritual, they sought their own power and position. They were puffed up, living like kings. Some of them were indulging the flesh in sexual immorality and feasting at idol temples, while others self righteously looked down their noses in judgment at others. They were seeking their own gain, and seeking to defend themselves and their reputations in the courts of law. They were seeking the best place at the table, going ahead with their own meal, eating the best food without waiting for others. They were self-absorbed, thinking they were most important and didn’t need anyone else; or self-focused, feeling like they were unimportant, unneeded, and unloved, claiming that they didn’t belong. This is the kind of self seeking that Paul rebukes when he says that ‘love does not seek its own’.

How Jesus Did Not Seek His Own

If we look at Jesus, what can we learn about what self-seeking ought to look like?

Jesus did not seek his own. Romans 15:3 tells us that Christ did not please himself. It says:

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Psalm 69:9)

Christ did not please himself. He willingly received the defamation and disgrace that was directed toward his Father. He intended in everything he did to bring glory to his Father. Jesus is held up to us as an example, that we are not to please ourselves, but rather we have an obligation seek to please our neighbor for his good, to see him established.

Jesus said in John 5:

John 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus did not seek his own will. In everything he endeavored to please his Father. But on a deeper level, we read that Jesus did indeed do everything he did for his own pleasure. We read in Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Why did Jesus endure the cross? One answer is that he was being obedient to his Father, and seeking to please not himself but his Father. But Hebrews gives us another answer. Jesus was pursuing his own joy. He endured the suffering and shame because it would ultimately bring him great pleasure. “For the joy that was set before him.” How could Jesus find joy in the horrific torture of the cross? This verse says that he is both the founder and finisher of our faith. Our faith must be in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for us. He could not bring our faith to completion if he failed to follow through with his plan to pay our debt in full. We would then be left with nothing substantial to put our trust in. This verse also tells us that he is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. His work on the cross pleased his Father. The greatest joy of Jesus was bringing joy to his Father. In his Father’s joy, he found joy, enough joy to endure the shame and agony of the cross.

This sheds much light on how we are to show love by not seeking our own, yet we are commanded to seek our joy in God. With his view narrowed to the isolated event, Jesus might have found his pleasure in escaping the torture of the cross. “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mt.26:39). But keeping the big picture in view, seeking his eternal joy in the joy of the Father, he said “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

We are to seek our own joy, not in the things that ultimately will fail and leave us empty, but in the things that will bring us eternal joy and satisfaction. We tend to think that we must pursue our own joy if we will ever be happy, because if we don’t pursue our joy, no one will. But that is false thinking. God says:

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

If we look to God for our delight, he will make it his business to satisfy us more deeply and richly than we could ever be satisfied by seeking our own pleasure. Our focus needs to shift from seeking our own pleasure to seeking the pleasure of God.

The greatest command, Jesus said, is this:

Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Love God by seeking not your own but that which brings joy to God. Love neighbor by seeking not your own but that which brings joy to your neighbor.

The Assumption of Self-Love

And notice, love for self is never commanded in Scripture, it is assumed. It is a given that you seek your own happiness. Whether that be indulging in pleasure or denying self of all pleasure, even harming self in hopes of earning some future good, we are all seeking our own good. Whether things are going well, and we are attempting to buy insurance that will protect us from any pain, or we are in the midst of pain, and are just looking for some way out, we all love ourselves. We all seek our own good. God uses our natural love for self as the standard by which we evaluate our love for neighbor. God commands that we take that love for self and bend it out toward our neighbor.

Paul said to the Corinthians in chapter 10 when they were inclined to insist on their rights:

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. …31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Do not seek your own good, but the eternal good of your neighbor, that they might be saved. Do everything you do to the glory of God, seeking his good and not your own.

Not Disinterested

Notice also that there is no room here for the modern notion that the highest form of love is not self-seeking in a detached or disinterested sort of way, where the less I have to gain from it, the more it can be called real love. If I can be shown to benefit in any way from the love I show to another, my motives are called into question. But the love we see in the Bible is a love where my joy is utterly contingent on and fully invested in my love for you. In the words of John the Baptist,

John 3:29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.

John found his greatest joy in seeing people connected to Jesus. John the Apostle sounds much the same:

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John writes his testimony of Jesus so that his readers would believe in Jesus, bringing them into fellowship with the Father and the Son, and with all other believers, and in this he finds his greatest joy. Paul says the same in Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

His own joy is wrapped up in his eagerness to see the character of Christ formed in the lives of his disciples.

This is the truest way to seek your own good. When your focus is that for which you were created, bringing glory to almighty God, when your focus bends out toward bringing others into that kind of forgiven satisfied God glorifying relationship with the Creator and King, then you will find that that words of the Psalmist come true for you:

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

Jesus said:

Matthew 6:32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Then you will realize the words of Jesus

Acts 20:35 …remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

True joy, true delight, true satisfaction comes not in chasing your own satisfaction and delight, but instead looking away from self and seeking the joy of God and the eternal good of others. This often demands trading short term desires for eternal joy. This is where denying self and ultimately seeking our own greatest good come beautifully together.

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “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? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?

Pursue your greatest profit and your greatest joy by laying down your life for the sake of Jesus and for the good of others that they might be saved.

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

December 7, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, 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

1 Peter 1:14-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But praise God, he goes on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job 36:5 “Behold, God is mighty…

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

Psalms 7:11 God is a righteous judge,

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

Psalms 68:19 … God is our salvation.

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

John 3:33 … God is true.

John 4:24 God is spirit…

Romans 3:30 …God is one…

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful…

1 John 1:5 … God is light…

1 John 4:8 …God is love.

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

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

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

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul describes it this way:

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

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