PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus: Love Others

05/24 Obey Jesus: Love God, Love Neighbor, Love Enemy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200524_love-others.mp3

We are called to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded; so what does he command us as his disciples?

In the past weeks we have looked at what we love. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, spouse, son or daughter. Giving to him our primary allegiance may prove very costly, even alienating the closest of earthly relationships. But our allegiance to him must run deeper than blood.

We saw that he warns us to beware what we treasure, because some loves are treacherous and will seek to displace him as our primary affection. We cannot serve both God and money. He commands us to drop our baggage, the things that hold us back from following him wholeheartedly, and come, follow him.

Today we are going to look at another command of Jesus regarding what we love. Let’s start with the greatest command according to Jesus.

The Great and First Commandment

In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked a question by a religious expert to test him.

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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.

Which is the great commandment in the Law? The question suggests that we ought to go to God’s top ten list, the Ten Commandments, and pick one to hold up above the others. But Jesus doesn’t even go to the big ten. He goes to Deuteronomy 6, the ‘Shema’; a regularly recited passage well known to every Jew. Love God with your whole being. The law is not so much about keeping commandments, following rules, prioritizing which rule to put above others. It is really about affections. It is about what you love. And you must love God above all. Your primary allegiance must be for God alone. All your emotional energy, all your mental capacity, your whole inner being must be fully engaged in loving God. This is the great and first commandment. Love for God is foundational. Above any commandment keeping must stand our treasuring of God, our love for God.

The Second is Like It

But Jesus makes this a two-for-one deal. He was asked which is the great commandment, and Jesus gives him two. The second that he pairs with the first comes from Leviticus 19:18, 34.

Matthew 22:39 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.”

The second is like it. We must love neighbor as we love ourselves. We are commanded to expend the same mental and emotional energy, the same impulse to self-preservation, the same commitment to the good of others that we naturally give to ourselves.

All The Law and the Prophets

Jesus pairs loving God with loving neighbor, and says that on these two together hang all the Law and the Prophets. These two sum up the entirety of what the Old Testament Scriptures taught.

God created man to be in loving relationship with himself, and to care for his creation under him. But we rebelled and loved the things he created more than himself. Our lust for power and possessions spiraled so low,

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…

He chose one man and called him out of his idolatry to follow him, and promised that through his descendant he would bless the nations. He gave his chosen people his commandments, but they continuously went astray. He sent prophets to call them back to himself, to love for God and neighbor, to be blessed in relationship with himself, and to be a blessing to others.

Love God and love neighbor. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Every other command is expansion, clarification, application of these. As Paul says in Romans 13,

Romans 13:9 …and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And in Galatians 5,

Galatians 5:13 …use your freedom … through love [to] serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

All the commandments are summed up in this one word. The whole law is fulfilled in one word.

John, in his first short letter to the churches, says

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

It is easy to say you love God, but that is difficult to prove or disprove. But how you treat your brother is easily seen. And John says, if you claim to love God but hate your brother, you’re a liar.

Who Is My Neighbor?

In Luke 10, Jesus is being put to the test by another religious expert. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(10:25). Jesus pointed him to the Law and asked him how he understood it. This man replied with the same summary Jesus gave: to love God with heart and soul and strength and mind, and neighbor as self.

Luke 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Who is my neighbor. He wanted to justify himself; he wanted to feel that he was doing well. He wanted to limit the scope of God’s command to make it doable. Define who it is I’m to love, and I’ll work hard to do it. If my neighbors are the two people who live on either side of me, it will be hard, but I can suck it up and tough is out and show love and kindness to them, if that’s what it takes to gain eternal life.

To answer his question, ‘who is my neighbor, Jesus paints a picture of a man in desperate need, and a priest and Levite come across his path, both interested in pleasing God through ritual purity, but not willing to compromise their purity to help a man in need. The shocking hero to Jesus’ story is a Samaritan low life half-breed good-for-nothing, scorned and despised by the Jews. Samaria was the northern neighbor to Judea, who after Israel had been conquered by Assyria in 722BC had intermarried with pagans and integrated their pagan worship practices (2Ki.17). The Samaritan in Jesus’ story is the one who had compassion and went far out of his way to put the needs of this man above his own. Jesus concludes:

Luke 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Your question should not be ‘Who is my neighbor?’ The question must not be one of limiting the scope to justify yourself. That is wrong-hearted. The question is ‘Do I prove to be a neighbor to those around me, those in need? Do I seek to show mercy or do I steer clear?’

The way Jesus framed his story using a despised Samaritan as the hero stirred up all kinds of resentment and animosity and show them their hearts and how they really felt about their neighbors.

Notice how this man answered. The three characters in Jesus’ story were a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. But this religious expert couldn’t even answer Jesus’ question by uttering the name ‘Samaritan.’

Luke 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. Be a neighbor to those in need. You, show mercy to others, even if they are different from you, even if they are your enemies.

Love Your Enemies

Jesus takes this up a notch in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

Jesus says,

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Love, do good to, bless, pray for. When Jesus says ‘love’, he doesn’t have in mind a mere emotion. That is part of it, but it is more. The good Samaritan saw the need, he had compassion, and his compassion led to action, he invested time and energy and his own resources. Loving involves doing good, praying for, and seeking to bless others.

Jesus commands that this kind of love be extended even to our enemies, those who hate and persecute and curse and abuse you. Seek to bless them, to do them good, pray for them.

Actions have consequences. Evil actions will be punished. So Jesus is not saying that when it is in our power to escape from or stop the evil action, we allow an abuser or persecutor to continue. That’s not loving. Jesus is saying that we do good to them, we pray for them. This means that our prayer ultimately is that they would turn from their evil deeds and find forgiveness and freedom and new life in Jesus.

Impossible Love

Luke 6:29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Matthew 5 has:

Matthew 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. …48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

You must be perfect. Love your enemies. Be kind, even to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful to the just and the unjust.

If you are honest with yourself, you know this is impossible. But as we have seen throughout this study, that’s what Jesus’ commands are. Impossible. It is impossible to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. It is impossible to love neighbor as self. It is impossible to love, do good to, pray for and seek to bless our enemies. That is humanly impossible. This requires the work of the Spirit of the living God inside of us.

Corrie ten Boom

I want to end with a story from Corrie ten Boom, who was arrested for hiding Dutch Jews from the Nazis, who survived the horrors of a concentration camp (although her sister Betsie did not). She went on to share God’s love and forgiveness with many. She writes

It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. …

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5 says:

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. …8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …10 …while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…

***

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

May 30, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Primary Allegiance (Matthew 10:24-39)

05/10 Obey Jesus: Primary Allegiance; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200510_primary-allegiance.mp3

We are looking at what it means to obey Jesus. Jesus instructed us to make disciples who make disciples who obey Jesus in everything. So What did Jesus command? We’ve been looking at some of the commands of Jesus, to know what he expects of us his followers, and to equip us to better disciple those who become his followers. He commands that we come to him and believe in him, that we believe what he says about himself, that he is the I AM come down from heaven to give life to the world. We are to find him in all of Scripture, because he said the whole of the Scriptures point to him. We are to meet with him there in his word. We are to abide in him, stay connected to him in relationship, pray to him and pray in his name so that we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God.

A Servant Not Above His Master (Matthew 10)

Today I want to look at what Jesus says about our primary allegiances. In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his followers for what it is going to be like for them in this world. He said:

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

If we are following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to be treated better than he was treated. If he was slandered and maligned, we should not be surprised if we experience the same.

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus talks to us about our fears. He knows our tendency to be afraid, and he reminds us who to fear. What anyone says about us falsely will be brought into the light, so we don’t have to lose sleep over it.

They may kill the body. Many of Jesus’ followers have been killed because of their faith in him. But he reminds us not to fear those who have the power to kill only the body but cannot touch our soul. He reminds us that God alone is to be feared. We possess an invincible hope, that even death cannot quench!

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Two sparrows were sold for one small coin. Luke 12:6 has five sparrows sold for two of these coins; they were of so little worth that if you buy four you got one thrown in for free. And yet not one insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from the sovereign will of their omnipotent Creator. He has numbered the hairs on your head, and he has numbered your days on this earth. You are of more value than many sparrows. So fear not.

Primary Allegiance

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

Our allegiance to Jesus matters. To be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge him before people is to say that what they think is more important, more weighty than what God thinks. It is evidence that we don’t really believe in him. Jesus continues:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus is the great divide [this is fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 7:5-6]. Jesus polarizes people. You are either with him or against him. He tolerates no lukewarm opinions about himself. Jesus divides.

I know some of you know personally the cost of following Jesus, and have experienced exactly what Jesus says here.

Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

For Jesus to say that we are to love him above father and mother is to affirm the value of those relationships; family love and natural allegiance run deep. But he is to take precedence over even the highest of natural affections, the deepest of natural allegiances.

This is strong language. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, son or daughter, more than our own skin. He picks our closest ties, our deepest allegiances and demands that we are committed to him above all.

It is worth noting here that this demand would be audacious and unthinkable if Jesus were not God. To demand our unqualified allegiance is a clear claim to be the only one worthy of that kind of allegiance. Jesus is demanding that our love for God (and thus for him because he is God) must supersede every other affection and devotion

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his own skin more than me is not worthy of me.

Not worthy of me; not worthy not in the sense of not having earned or achieved the right, but rather not fit, not equal to the task. Those who are not willing to put God above all other loves are not willing to be Jesus’ disciples. They are not believing that the Lord is worthy of our highest love, not believing that in order to love others rightly, they must be loved in their proper place under God; the Lord must be loved first and above all.

In Luke 14, he says:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is not justifying hatred toward family members. But some of our actions and decisions may be perceived that way, because of our overriding allegiance to him. When we put Jesus first, everyone else comes in second, and nobody likes to be second. This is not dislike or disdain, but a supreme loyalty.

What This Does Not Look Like

Jesus affirms that we ought to honor father and mother. He even rebuked the Pharisees who created a legal loophole so that children could get out of the responsibility of taking care of their parents. What they were doing, it seems was taking the resources that they should have used to support their parents, and declaring them as dedicated to God, to be given to the Lord at some future date. This was a hypocritical way to say they were putting God first, while really they were avoiding responsibility to their parents and keeping it all for themselves. Jesus

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mk.7:9-13)

Jesus affirms that it is commanded by God to honor father and mother, but we must honor them under the Lord. Our loyalty must be to Jesus above all.

Government Submission

We can extend this to civil authorities, to states and empires. Peter tells us we are to

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Timothy tells us that we are to pray for those who are in authority over us;

1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And keep in mind that the context of these letters would have been the evil emperor Nero who was no friend of the cause of Christ.

Jesus answered a question about paying taxes:

Matthew 22:21 …Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Their coins had the image of the emperor on them. We bear God’s image. We are to give the government its due, but we must give God that which bears his image.

But when it comes to it, when the two are in conflict, our allegiance is to Jesus above all earthly allegiances. When the Jewish leaders rebuked the disciples

Acts 5:28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We are to pray for our leaders and be subject to our earthly governments as far as possible, but when the demands of these two collide, we must submit to the higher authority. We must obey God rather than men.

Gospel Community

In Mark 10, when Jesus pointed to the difficulty people have with following him, with giving him their undivided allegiance,

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands that we put him higher than every other love. Although the cost of following Jesus may be great, the reward will be far greater. Because Jesus demands our highest allegiance, this will mean that we seek to honor him above all. For some, this may actually mean walking away from a close relationship with an unbeliever, although in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul clarifies that it will be the unbeliever who wants out; so far as it depends on us we are to seek to live peaceably will all (Rom.12:18). But according to Jesus, whoever leaves family for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this life, brothers and sisters and mothers and children. What does he mean by this? Although in some cases blood relatives may want nothing to do with a believer, as believers we are adopted into the family of God. Although these relationships man never replace a lost relationship, we become part of a much larger family with a depth of unity through our common allegiance to Jesus. We become family. It is a beautiful thing to meet a believer from another place, maybe another country and a different culture, and discover that depth of connection we have in Jesus.

Invited In

In Mark 3, there was such a crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. The religious leaders were saying he was possessed by a demon, and his family came to get him, thinking he was out of his mind.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is not negating the importance of family. But he is inviting us in to his own family. My disciples, those who obey me, those who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. That’s the depth, that’s the intimacy, that’s the loyalty Jesus invites us in to. He takes the closest relationships we experience and says that is the kind of relationship I want with you.

What about you? Jesus invites you in. He wants that kind of depth, that kind of closeness with you. He is inviting you in. But he wants you to count the cost. It is costly to follow Jesus. He demands your highest devotion, your undivided loyalty, your absolute allegiance. He requires that you take him for who he is, to acknowledge him as God, with absolute rights over you. He commands that you devote yourself to him above every other affection. Will you take up your cross and follow him and not look back? Will you follow him wherever he leads? Will you obey everything he commands? Will you be his disciple?

***

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

May 11, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Find Me in Scripture

04/26 Obey Jesus: Find Me in the Scriptures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200426_find-me-in-scripture.mp3

This is the second Sunday after the resurrection. Acts 1 tells us Jesus

Acts 1:2 …had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

This is day 15 of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances to his disciples. Before he ascended he charged his disciples to make disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples,

Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…

So we are looking at what Jesus commanded his disciples. Last week we looked at Jesus’ appearance to doubting Thomas, where he presented him with the evidence and commanded:

John 20:27 …Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus commands us to come to him, to believe that he is the I AM, the Word who was with God and who was God, come in the flesh to rescue us. He requires that we turn from whatever else we are trusting in and depend on him alone, that we trust him completely.

The Emmaus Road

Today I want to look at Luke’s account of Jesus appearing to some disciples on the road to Emmaus that first resurrection Sunday.

Luke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Do you hear where these disciples are at? They are lost, confused. They had hoped that Jesus was the one they had hoped for, but then the Jewish leaders had him crucified. Now his body is missing, and there’s some crazy rumors that he is alive. We just don’t know what to believe.

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Do you hear what Jesus says? He rebukes them for being slow of heart to believe the prophets. He says they should have known that the Christ must suffer these things before entering into his glory. He rebukes them for not knowing their Bibles better. Not just that they didn’t understand something they should have known, but that their hearts were slow to believe. They were slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets had spoken. They embraced some of it, but not all.

The Scriptures Fulfilled; It Is Written

If we look back early in Jesus’ ministry, in Luke 4

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah, and claims to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. Today, this has been fulfilled!

When Jesus was coming down with his three disciples from the transfiguration mountain in Mark 9, he charged them to tell no one until he was risen from the dead, and they were wondering what this ‘rising from the dead’ might mean. He said:

Mark 9:12 … And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

He just revealed to them his glory, and now he asks ‘how is it written that the Son of Man should suffer?’ He is pushing them to believe all of Scripture. It is not going to go the way you think. The Son of Man should suffer. What do you do with these Scriptures? Where do they fit?

At his last supper, when he predicted that he would be betrayed by one of them, he said:

Mark 14:21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him. When they went out to the Mount of Olives,

Mark 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 and says it is pointing to what is about to happen. Then, after Judas betrayed him with a kiss, and he was taken,

Mark 14:48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Let the Scriptures be fulfilled. The Scriptures must be fulfilled, and they were being fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for breaking the commandment and making void the word of God for the sake of their traditions (Mt.15:3,6). He said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He came to accomplish every dot, every iota of the Law. He came to be the summation, the culmination, the end goal of all the Scriptures.

The Central Focus of the Scriptures

Notice the central focus of the Scripture according to Jesus is his suffering and death in place of sinners. His work as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is why he came and what it all was pointing to. Listen to what he said in Luke 18 on his way to Jerusalem.

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

It is the sufferings, the death, and the resurrection of the Messiah that is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms.

To the disciples after his resurrection, on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24,

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Imagine being in on that Bible study! The risen Lord himself, the very Word incarnate, taking them through the word written, interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Jesus taught that all the Scriptures were meant to point us to him.

Obeying Jesus about the Bible

We are looking at what it means to be a disciple, a learner, a follower of Jesus. We are looking at what it means to obey all that Jesus commands. We need to follow Jesus on what he teaches about the Bible, the word of God. Jesus commands us to find him in the Scriptures, to meet him there, the living Word in his word written. It is all about him, and to rightly use God’s word, we need to see Jesus there.

Spiritual Blindness and Inability

But we have a problem. We can’t. We can’t see Jesus. We are unable. We are blind to him. And it is a satanic blindness. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4 that

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Remember, Jesus told his disciples plainly what was about to happen to him,

Luke 18:34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

The risen Lord walked with these two disciples on the road and gave them Bible study,

Luke 24:16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

When they arrived at the village of Emmaus, Jesus went in to stay with them. It says:

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?

Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Him!

These disciples rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples,

Luke 24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Then Jesus appeared to the whole group gathered there in Jerusalem.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He opened their eyes to recognize him! We can’t, we can’t see Jesus in all of Scripture unless and until Jesus opens our blind minds. This is a sovereign creative act of God, illuminating our minds. Remember, God loves to give good gifts to those who ask. He loves to pour out his Spirit on all who ask him (Lk.11:9-13). If you are struggling to understand the Bible, ask! If it is confusing, a big book of rules and regulations, if it is heavy and oppressive, full of duty rather than delight, ask! Ask him to open your mind to see that it’s all about Jesus. That he came to do what you could not and to fulfill every command so that you could enjoy him in relationship. Ask that the promised Holy Spirit would show you Jesus (Jn.15:26). Ask God to do a supernatural creative act in your heart.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God is the one who gives this light, and you and I are blind without it, so ask!

How To Find Jesus in The Scriptures

In John 5, Jesus rebuked the Jews for missing the main point. He said:

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Scriptures bear witness about me. They studied the Scriptures, but they failed to hear the voice of God. They memorized the Scriptures, but they failed to have God’s word abiding in them, because they failed to see that the Scriptures were meant to point to Jesus, to bear witness about Jesus. They failed to believe in Jesus. The point of the Scriptures was not to try to earn life by obeying all the Scriptures, but to come to the only one who could perfectly fulfill all the Scriptures. They refused to come to Jesus and find life in him.

So, be ready to believe in Jesus. Put your trust in him completely. Recognize that it is all about him, and seek to meet him in the pages of his word. And ask. Ask God to show you Jesus in all of Scriptures.

That is the most important instruction I can give you.

See Jesus in All of Scripture

Get to know Jesus in all of Scripture. Get to know him through the gospels. They are eyewitness accounts that invite you in to his life and teaching. Sit at his feet and listen to him. Learn from him. Watch him interact with real people, people like you, people with needs.

But Luke tells us that the story of Jesus doesn’t end with the ascension. In Luke volume 2 (or the Acts of the Apostles) he tells us that his gospel was about all that Jesus began to do and teach until he was taken up (Acts 1:1-2). The book of Acts is about what Jesus continues to do and teach through his followers in his church. And the book of acts doesn’t end. It actually leaves us hanging in chapter 28 with Paul in prison in Rome awaiting trial and likely execution, for two whole years,

Acts 28:31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Like Mark’s gospel, the story is left hanging. And you are invited in. We, the church, are the continuation of the story of what Jesus began to do and teach.

The New Testament letters are instructions to the church on how to follow Jesus, what the gospel is, what is central, what to believe, and how to live life walking with Jesus, in step with the gospel.

But the New Testament also gives us a lens with which to read the Old Testament.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus was active in Creation with his Father. Throughout the narratives we see people like us, struggling to believe the promises, some turning their backs, some believing, and we see the consequences of those decisions. Paul tells us (1Cor.10:4) that the ever present life giving Rock in the wilderness that accompanied the wandering people of God was Christ. We see the Lord make extravagant promises to his people, and we learn that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus Christ (2Cor.1:20). We read laws we can’t keep, showing us our need for rescue, and creating a desperation for one who would keep them in our place. We see the tabernacle and temple, the one place people can meet with God, but only through the appropriate sacrifice. And we see that Jesus came to pitch his tent among us, came to be God with us, came to give his own life as the once for all sacrifice that would finally take away our sin and conquer death forever. We read poetry that expresses discontent with the way things are, longing for things to be made right, and we read poetry that expresses hope, a longing for the one who would come to set all things right, for God himself to come down. We read disconcerting things about a suffering servant who would bear our sins and be punished for what we deserve, (Is.53) and we hear him cry out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ (Ps.22:1). We read the prophets, rebuking the people for their hard hearts and wandering lusts, telling them to turn back to the Lord, telling them that one day he himself would come,

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

And we see in the final Revelation, that Jesus is coming back, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes, and we will join the angelic hosts through eternity worshiping,

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

***

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

April 26, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Believe in Me

04/19 Obey Jesus: Believe in Me; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200419_believe-in-me.mp3

Disciples who Make Disciples who Obey Everything Jesus Taught

After his resurrection and before he ascended to the right hand of his Father, Jesus told his followers to make disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples to the end of the age. He told them to make disciples of all nations.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We as followers of Jesus are to continue to make disciples who make disciples. Part of making disciples is immersing them in the name of the triune God. Another essential part of making disciples is teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We are to be disciples and make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught.

So what did Jesus teach? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What are some of the central things Jesus taught that we need to observe and pass on to others? While following Jesus is a lifetime commitment, I hope over the next several weeks to highlight some of the central commands that Jesus gave us, and my prayer is that this would be one useful piece in a lifetime characterized by following Jesus.

Discipleship is Relationship not Rightness

One thing you will notice as you get to know Jesus is that following him is so much more than believing things about him. Following Jesus is a relationship. It involves getting to know him, listening to him, and responding to him by doing what he says.

In teaching all that Jesus commanded, we are not aiming for a pharisaic rightness, knowing the right answers with the ability to sniff out those who do not have it quite right and critique and criticize. Rather, what we are after is a humble and steady quiet walking with Jesus. Notice, Jesus did not say ‘teach them everything.’ He said ‘teach them to observe or obey or keep all that I have commanded you’ That means that we are to walk it, and lead others in walking with Jesus. It is more than just knowing stuff; it is doing it, walking it, living it.

His Commands Are Not Burdensome

When you hear words like ‘command’ and ‘obey,’ something in you might naturally raise walls of resistance, thinking ‘the last thing I need right now is more duty, more obligation, more requirements and responsibilities, more things to check off my list.’ Before you go there, listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 11.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus is inviting you in to rest. He is inviting you to learn from him, but he says that is where you will find rest for your soul. He is not riding behind you adding to your load, cracking the whip to keep you pulling. He wants us to walk along side him, in the yoke with him, doing life together with him. He is willing to share your burden, and thus make it lighter not heavier.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a weight to pull and that you won’t face difficulties along the way. But it does mean that you will never be alone in them. Jesus yokes himself together with you.

Believe that I Am Lord and God

I want to start today with one of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples, a week after his resurrection. His disciples were discouraged, confused, afraid, hiding behind closed doors. They were hearing rumors, some of them had claimed to have seen Jesus alive. That first Sunday evening, he appeared to the whole group of disciples, minus Thomas.

John 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas refused to believe. In fact, he said ‘unless I have undeniable proof, I will never believe. John 20:26 says ‘eight days later’. Imagine, a full week of doubting, questioning, wondering. That following Sunday,

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus was offering the proof Thomas demanded. And he was commanding Thomas to believe. Believe what?

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Confronted with irrefutable evidence, Thomas grapples with the implications of a man who had clearly been executed and buried, who was now alive in the flesh, standing right in front of him, still retaining the wounds of his execution. Peter had earlier confessed Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Here Thomas worships Jesus as God. He calls him ‘my Lord.’ a connection with the Greek of the Old Testament YHWH, God’s name, the I AM. Thomas addresses Jesus with the language of prayer; ‘my Lord, my God’. He has come to believe in Jesus as the I AM of the Old Testament, the Sovereign One of Israel.

John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John gives the purpose of his writing. He is recording signs that offer evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; YHWH of the Old Testament; the Word who was with God and who was God, come in the flesh to save us. He writes so that we, his readers, would believe in Jesus. Jesus himself pronounces a blessing on us who believe in him now, not having seen him ourselves, but believing the testimony of the eye witnesses.

Believe and Be Born Again

In John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus ‘you must be born from above, born of the Spirit, born again’ (Jn.3:3-8), he reveals his identity to Nicodemus:

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God gave his only Son. Whoever believes in him has eternal life. You must be born again.

Jesus said in John 5 that John bore witness about me (33-35); the mighty works I have done bear witness about me (36); the Scriptures bear witness about me (39); and the Father himself bore witness about me (37); But he said

John 5:38 …you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. …40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Jesus commands us to believe in him, to come to him.

Come to Me and Drink

In John 7

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…

Jesus invites the thirsty to believe in him, to come to him and drink, to have their need satisfied. Those who come, the Spirit will produce new and overflowing life in their hearts.

Believe that I AM

In John 8, addressing the Pharisees who refused to believe in him, Jesus said:

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Unless you believe that I AM. This is the same phrase we find in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14, I AM Who I AM, the self-existent one. Jesus is demanding that they believe in him as the I AM, YHWH of the Scriptures. Jesus makes this explicit in verse 58, when he responds to their question:

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

The Jews understood what he was saying, and they considered it blasphemy for a man to claim to be the I AM of the Scriptures.

But this is exactly what Jesus was commanding them to believe. You must believe that I AM or you will die in your sins.

Believe in God and Also in Me

In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples:

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

In John 16, Jesus tells his followers that the coming Spirit would

John 16:8 …will convict the world … 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

The sin that the world will be convicted of is unbelief toward Jesus. We are commanded to believe in Jesus, and to disobey this command means condemnation and death.

The Impossible Work of Believing

In John 6, people were pursuing Jesus, not because they believed in him, but because he was feeding them.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 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.”

Jesus tells them to labor for eternal food, not temporary food.

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

What must we do? What is the work God requires? To believe in Jesus. But these same people who had eaten the multiplied loaves, who were seeking Jesus because of the great signs he did, asked him for a sign.

John 6:30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?

We scratch our heads, wondering at their unbelief. But Jesus was not surprised.

John 6:35 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. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

All that the Father gives him are the ones who come to Jesus. Then he said:

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

No one can come. Jesus said:

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Something we will see as we look at the commands of Jesus is that obeying Jesus is not something that is hard to do; it is not difficult; it is impossible. We can’t obey Jesus.

When Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God, Jesus responded:

Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Peter didn’t come up with this on his own. It was revealed to him by God.

In Mark 10, a man came running up to Jesus asking him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus showed his followers how difficult it is to trust him completely,

Mark 10:26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It is not difficult to obey Jesus, to believe in him, to trust him; it is impossible. But not with God. It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is no help at all.

Just before this, in Mark 10, his disciples were rebuking those bringing children to him.

Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

We must come to Jesus as a child, expectant, eager to receive his gift; not trying to earn it or work for it.

Become like a child! Ask! Ask him to give you his Spirit. Ask him to give you the faith to let go of whatever else you are holding on to and trust him completely. ‘Everyone who asks receives!’ (Lk.11:10-13). So ask! Come as a child and ask. Ask him for the faith to believe in him.

Application; Believing in Jesus

The most important thing Jesus commands his followers is that we come to him, that we believe in him, that we take him at his word and believe that he is indeed who he claims to be, who he demonstrated himself to be. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Jn.3:18)

Believing is the way of life for the follower of Jesus. We are to walk by faith. So what does it mean to walk day by day believing Jesus? Believing Jesus is the I AM? Believing that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Not just knowing it to be true, but truly walking in the light of that truth, knowing that he is with us, that he will never leave or forsake us?

If you truly believe in Jesus, that he is the I AM, my Lord and my God, God become flesh to save you, and that he is with you always, to the end of the age, it will change everything. It will change what is most important to you. It will change what you are afraid of. It will change your attitude and your outlook. It will change how you love and serve others. His yoke is easy and his burden is light and when we walk beside him, believing in him, we find rest for our souls.

***

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

April 26, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging Community with the Gospel – Matthew 28

01/26 Vision– individuals engaging the community with the gospel (Matthew 28); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200126_church-outreach.mp3

We’re looking at the church, God’s vision for the church, what it means to be a healthy church, to re-focus our vision for what we are meant to be as a local church.

We’ve seen from Matthew 16 that the church belongs to Jesus. It is a gathering of Jesus followers built on the identity of Jesus and the offense of the cross, united into one body by the Holy Spirit through the new birth.

A local church is made up of individual believers, so a healthy local church is made up of healthy believers. From Colossians 3 we saw that followers of Jesus live by faith, keep their minds fixed on God and his glory, live in love and forgive as they have been forgiven. We are to live lives are saturated with the word of God and with prayer.

From Romans 12 we saw that the church is the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual believers, and as individuals, we each bring something to the table, something to the body. We are individuals transformed by the good news, and God has given each of us different gifts that we are to use to build up one another in love. We are meant to experience the gospel in community.

As Hebrews 10 tells us

Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, … 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are to draw near to God through Jesus, to hold fast our confession of the gospel, we are to meet together, to encourage one another in the gospel, to stir up one another to love and good works. We are to experience the gospel in community. And we are to engage our community with the gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus

We looked at the great confession in Matthew 16 that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God as the foundation on which Jesus builds his church. Now we will look at the great commission in Matthew 28, how Jesus goes about building his church.

Matthew 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus tells his eleven disciples to make disciples who will make disciples. Luke gives more detail on the great commission in Luke 24.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

The Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead to fulfill the Scriptures. Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations. A gospel foundation.

Paul summarizes the gospel this way in 1 Corinthians 15; the gospel he proclaimed, that was to be received and held fast, the gospel that was saving those who were believing. ‘That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, that he appeared…’ (1Cor.15:1-5). Making disciples must be built on a gospel foundation.

Witnesses, Wait

You are witnesses of these things. A witness testifies to the truth of what he has experienced. Jesus went on to say in Luke 24

Luke 24:48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

But stay until. In Matthew 16 Jesus told his followers that he would built his church on the confession of his identity as the Christ, Son of the living God, but that they were not to reveal his identity, not yet. Luke continues the story of what Jesus began to do and teach in his book of Acts.

Acts 1:1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

He ordered them to wait. Wait for the Holy Spirit. Jesus continues:

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

You will be my witnesses. You will be immersed in the Holy Spirit, clothed with power from on high to be my witnesses.

The Power of the Holy Spirit

The very first thing we need to note is that we are to be his witnesses, to make disciples, not in our own power, not with our own natural wisdom or ability. We are to fulfill the great commission in the strength that God supplies. Natural means produce natural results. Supernatural means produce supernatural results. Jesus told his disciples to wait. The Holy Spirit was sent, Peter preached, and

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2 closes with these words:

Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The Lord added to their number. In Acts 11 the church was scattered because of persecution, and some disciples preached the Lord Jesus to the Greek speaking Jews in Antioch

Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

When news of this reached Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas.

Acts 11:23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

God’s grace made visible! In Acts 16, Paul and Silas traveled through Asia minor visiting the Gentile churches and bringing news of the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15) that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Jesus is building his church through the witness of his followers empowered by the Holy Spirit.

It’s important to say here, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living in you. Paul writes to the Romans

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Believers, you have the Spirit of God, and you are called to be his witnesses!

The Authority of Jesus

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples…

Before Jesus commissions his disciples to go and make disciples, he claims to have all authority. It is ‘therefore’, because of this, that he authorizes them to make disciples. Jesus possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. Philippians tells us that because Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus holds all authority, and he authorizes us to make disciples.

The Presence of Jesus

Matthew 28:20 … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew’s gospel began with the introduction of Jesus as the one who will save his people from their sins, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Immanuel, God with us (Mt.1:21-23). Now, at the close of this gospel, Jesus promises to be with his people, his followers throughout history, to the very end. Jesus’ own authority remains with us today, because Jesus himself is with us today!

Disciples of All Nations

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, …

Make disciples of all nations. Where Judaism was ‘come and see’; there was only to be one temple, only in Jerusalem; Christianity is ‘go and tell.’ Jesus explicitly includes as an essential part of his great commission that the good news is meant for all the nations. We are not to be comfortable or isolated or exclusive. The ultimate goal is people ‘from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb’ (Rev.7:9) worshiping. Jesus is more than just King of the Jews. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, King of the nations! The book of Acts chronicles the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. As followers of Jesus, we are to engage our community and beyond with the gospel.

Disciples are Baptized in the Triune Name

What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner, a follower. We make disciples by proclaiming Jesus, proclaiming in Jesus the forgiveness of sins. Repent or turn from whatever else you are hoping in, trusting in, holding on to. Turn to Jesus alone as your only hope. Disciples make a clean break. Baptism is a picture of that. You go down into the water. What you were is dead. You come up a new creation in Christ.

Throughout the New Testament, believers are baptized. This is a public statement that you have made a break with your past and now you are following Jesus. Jesus commands that we baptize his disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Notice, ‘name’ is singular; we are baptized into the one name of the triune God, who eternally exists in the distinct persons of Father, Son and Spirit. We are immersed into God himself.

Baptism is identifying with a new group. It is saying ‘I belong with these people.’ Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. …27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

We are baptized into one body by the Spirit. Water baptism is an outward declaration of what happened in us when we believed the gospel and turned to Jesus.

Disciples Obey Jesus Always in Everything

Those who believe the good news and turn to Jesus are to be baptized, identifying publicly as followers of Jesus, identifying with the body of Christ. But it doesn’t stop there.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A disciple is a learner. A follower of Jesus follows Jesus. That seems like it should go without saying, but Jesus thought it was important enough to include it in his great commission. Disciples obey Jesus in everything all the time. To follow Jesus is to give up following yourself. ‘Here’s what I want to do, but Jesus, if you are King, if I now belong to you, then I have to give up being king of me.’ I get to obey, to do what he says.

This doesn’t happen overnight. When you hear ‘disciples obey Jesus in everything all the time’ you might get discouraged or doubt, thinking ‘I certainly don’t obey Jesus in everything all the time, maybe I’m not really a follower.’ Maybe. But remember, Jesus’ command is that we make disciples, teaching them to obey Jesus. Teaching is an ongoing process. A disciple is a learner, a lifelong learner. None of us has graduated. We are all by God’s grace still learning. We are learning to love God more than anything else, and love neighbor as we love ourselves. We are learning to surrender every area of life to his loving control. We are learning to be his witnesses and make disciples. We are getting to know Jesus and what he demands of his followers, and we want to please him. We are learning what it means to be a part of his body, to love and serve one another. We are learning to forgive like we have been forgiven. We are walking. We are following.

What a disciple does not say is ‘I understand Jesus is calling me to do this, but I will not do it.’ That is what it means to not be a follower of Jesus, to not be a disciple. A disciple does not refuse to follow Jesus. At least not for very long. Remember, Jesus has all authority. Hallowed be your name (not mine). Your kingdom come (not mine), your will be done (not mine). To follow Jesus is to have a new Master, a good Master.

And remember, we are not alone, trying to do this on our own. Jesus is with us, always, to the end of the age. We are empowered by the gift of his Holy Spirit who lives inside.

Summary

Jesus is building his church. We as his disciples, followers of Jesus, are to engage our community with the gospel. Empowered by the Spirit, under the authority of Jesus, we are to make disciples, other followers, of all nations, identifying them as followers by baptizing them into the name of the one triune God, teaching them to obey Jesus always in everything. And we are to continue following, continue learning. Continue spending time with Jesus.

***

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

January 27, 2020 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:4-6; Are You Weak Enough?

05/13_2 Corinthians 3:4-6; Are You Weak Enough? ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180513_2cor3_4-6.mp3

Confidence of Ministry Competence

Are you competent to minister to people? Are you confident of your competence? Do you possess confidence? Even boldness?

Specifically when you see spiritual needs around you; hurting broken people who don’t know Jesus. Self-righteous people who don’t think they need Jesus. Brothers or sisters struggling to follow Jesus, faltering or wandering away. Do you look at those spiritual needs around you with confident boldness that you are competent to minister to them?

In 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, Paul is talking about confidence in ministry competence.

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

Such is the confidence that we have. We have this kind of confidence. What kind of confidence does he have? ‘Such’ refers back to his last paragraphs.

It is this kind of confidence or boldness or persuasion:

2:14 confidence always to be led on display by God in Christ

confidence to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere

2:15 confidence to be the fragrance of Christ to God

2:16 confidence to be the aroma of death to the perishing;

confidence to be the aroma of life to those being saved

2:17 confidence to be people of sincerity /integrity

confidence as (sent) of God and in the presence of God

confidence to speak in Christ

3:3 confidence that through our ministry Christ has been written on your tender hearts with the Spirit of the living God

This is staggering confidence! Startling boldness! Would you be able to claim this sort of confidence?

Means and Scope of Confidence

Where does he get this kind of confidence?

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

The means of his confidence is ‘through Christ.’ Oh do not slide casually over words in the text of Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (2Tim3:16). Every word of God proves true (Prov30:5). Not the smallest stroke of a letter will pass away until all is fulfilled (Mat5:18). It is easy for us to just slip past words that God gave us for our building up. We can only have this confidence through Christ or not at all. It is through faith in Christ, by means of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross for my sins that I can have boldness and confident access through grace into the presence of God. It is only because of the finished work of Christ that I have any good message to give to sinners alienated from God. The only means of our confidence is through Christ.

The scope of his confidence is ‘toward God.’ As a kid, you talk big with your friends, but when the powerful or important or intimidating person is in the room, suddenly all that confidence gets deflated. Are there people around whom you have more confidence than others? In your circle of friends, around those you know love and accept you, you have a level of confidence. But around those you are intimidated by, that confidence evaporates. Paul says that his confidence is ‘toward God.’ That is an amazing statement. Who is possibly more intimidating than God, the God of the universe, the holy and just judge, against whom we have sinned, the one who spoke all things into existence by the word of his power. He is the one we ought to be most intimidated by, and we are constantly under his watchful eye. If we can be confident in his presence, no human power ought to intimidate us. And Paul says that it is toward God that he is confident. He is confident of his identity, and he is confident of where his identity comes from. Yes, Paul is a sinner, the chief of sinners, who fully deserves the just wrath of the all-holy God. But Paul knows peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul knows the forgiveness of sins through his blood. Paul knows the love of God poured out in his heart through the Holy Spirit whom he has given to us. Paul knows his identity. He is a pardoned sinner, washed clean, given new life, reconciled fully, loved extravagantly, accepted, adopted. Paul knows who he is, and he knows where his identity comes from. It is through Christ that he has been forgiven, cleansed, set free, reconciled, loved.

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

He has confidence of his sufficiency as a minister of the gospel to spread the knowledge of Jesus all the time in every place, to those who are being saved the aroma of life to life, to those who are perishing the aroma of death to death. He is confident of his competence before the all watchful eye of God the Father.

No Sufficiency From Ourselves

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul is confident of his identity before God, and he knows where his competence or sufficiency comes from. It is not from himself. It is not internal. It is from outside himself; it is a gift given to him.

In 2:16, after describing a ministry that brings eternal life to some and eternal death to others, Paul asks ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ Here he answers his own question. ‘We are sufficient, but our sufficiency does not come from us.’ We have confidence of our sufficiency in Christ before God, but our sufficiency does not come from ourselves.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim [lit. to reckon, suppose, conclude or think] anything as coming from us. This is humbling. Any ministry I do, I am not to draw the conclusion that any of that was from me. I can’t take credit for anything. That’s what the text says. Any competency, any sufficiency, I am not to think that anything, anything, ANYTHING came from me. I am not sufficient, I am not competent, I am not adequate in myself. Didn’t Jesus say ‘apart from me you can do nothing? (Jn.15:5)’ Zero, zilch, nada, nothing. I am not sufficient to think of anything as coming from me.

Full-Time Ministry

How many of you are in full-time ministry? Show me hands. How many of you claim to be followers of Jesus? If you are a follower of Jesus, you are in full-time ministry. We use that phrase to describe people who earn a living by their ministry. And that is legitimate. But I don’t care where you earn your living, if you follow Jesus, he has called you to full time ministry. In your family, with your friends, at your work, in your free time, you are a minister. But at my job, they don’t allow me to talk about Jesus. That’s fine. You are a testimony to the transforming power of the gospel by your quiet character and integrity, your faithfulness, your diligence, your self sacrificial service for the good of others. Let me ask again, how many of you are in full time ministry? Ministry means service. Service to others.

We tend to think of ministry in terms of preaching and outreach and church service. And that is important. Paul is talking here primarily about his own apostolic ministry. But I want you to see all of life as ministry. Paul’s apostolic ministry wasn’t only when he was preaching in front of a crowd. Paul at times worked a regular job. How are you serving your employer, your co-workers? How are you serving your spouse, your children? How are you ministering to every person you come in contact with? Paul says that ‘through us God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere.’ Not only in words that are heard. But in a fragrance that is smelled. Do people around you sense something different about you? Without you having to say anything?

Broken people were attracted to Jesus. Needy people were following him around all the time. It seemed he couldn’t get away from them. They sensed something about him that gave them hope. Are they attracted to you? We have a message that can raise the dead!

This verse absolutely blew my mind when I first read it. I still remember where I was and who I was with. Jesus said to his followers:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Greater works than Jesus? Jesus was healing the lame, opening blind eyes, cleansing lepers, even raising the dead. Greater works than these? How can that be? Notice, he doesn’t say a few select church leaders. He says ‘whoever believes in me.’ That means me. That means you! Through our ministry the Holy Spirit will open blind eyes to the beauty of the gospel, through our ministry he will cleanse people from their sin, through us he will raise dead sinners to eternal life and make them whole and complete in Christ. Greater works than these? Yes!

Are broken people attracted to you? You have a message that can set them free, give them life! Who is sufficient for these things?

Upside-down Confidence

You are, if you recognize that ‘you are not sufficient in yourself to claim anything as coming from you, but your sufficiency is from God.’

Are you weak enough to be confident? This is upside-down thinking. You have to go back to progress; you have to go down to rise up, you have to empty yourself to make room for God to fill you to overflowing. Does your adequacy come from an acute aware of your own incompetence? You have to recognize that your fitness, your competence, your sufficiency for ministry does not come from you. Do you think that anything comes from yourself? To the extent you conclude that you contribute, that you have something you can claim as your part, that you can boast about, to that extent you are unfit for ministry.

Paul said in chapter 1, talking about his afflictions,

2 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

God used affliction to wean Paul away from any self-dependence and force him to rely completely on the resurrecting God. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, speaking of his role as apostle,

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Do you hear that? Paul considered himself unworthy. But his identity came from God’s grace. And God’s grace transformed him into something he was not fit to be. God’s undeserved kindness is powerful and transformational. And he says, comparing himself with the other apostles ‘I worked harder than any of them.’ But he is quick to clarify. I worked harder than any of them, but none of that was me. It did not come from me. It did not originate with me. It was God’s grace at work in me.

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

God made us sufficient. Do you feel insufficient? Do you feel inadequate? Do you feel unworthy? Good! You should. You are. I am. That is a prerequisite for fruitful ministry. Are you weak enough for God to use you?

So That God Gets the Glory

Remember Gideon? The Angel of the LORD addressed him ‘O mighty man of valor’ (Jdg.6:12) while he was beating out the wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. When he was told to pull down his father’s idols burn them and make a sacrifice to the LORD, he did it by night, ‘because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day’ (Jdg.6:27). But it says ‘the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon’ (6:34) and he rallied an army of 32,000 to fight against the Midianites and Amalekites and the people of the East who had assembled against them, who ‘lay along the valley like locust in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance (7:12).

Judges 7:2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

Do you hear what God says? Against an innumerable multitude, 32,000 are too many because you might be tempted to claim something as coming from yourselves. You might take credit. You might boast over God, saying ‘my own hand saved me’.

Judges 7:4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many.

10,000 is still too many. God was going to give the Midianites into their hand, and he refused to allow them to think that they contributed in any way. So God thinned the army down to 300 men. And the 300 men were armed with trumpets and empty jars and torches inside the jars. No sword, no spear, not even a sling is mentioned. Just musical instruments, and empty clay pots with a fire burning inside. And the LORD gave the host of Midian into their hand. They were told to make some noise and stand their ground. They could claim nothing as coming from themselves. Their sufficiency was totally from God.

Psalm 115 begins:

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, because not from us, not from us, we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, so no glory comes to us. Instead, to your name give glory. It is your steadfast covenant love, it is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 …but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

We are sufficient, because we freely acknowledge that we are insufficient in ourselves. Our sufficiency comes from God. He makes what we are not. He makes us sufficient. Sufficient for ministry. Sufficient to be ministers of the life giving ministry of the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant.

Are you weak enough for God to transform lives through your service, because you recognize that you are not sufficient to consider anything as coming from yourself? Are you weak enough for God to use you, are you weak enough to give God all the glory for what he does in you and through you?

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

May 16, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:14-21; The Relation of Fathers to Children

09/01 1 Corinthians 4:14-21 The Relation of Fathers to Children; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130901_1cor4_14-21.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

14 Οὐκ ἐντρέπων ὑμᾶς γράφω ταῦτα, ἀλλ’ ὡς τέκνα μου ἀγαπητὰ νουθετῶν· 15 ἐὰν γὰρ μυρίους παιδαγωγοὺς ἔχητε ἐν Χριστῷ, ἀλλ’ οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας, ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς ἐγέννησα. 16 παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε. 17 διὰ τοῦτο ἔπεμψα ὑμῖν Τιμόθεον, ὅς ἐστίν μου τέκνον ἀγαπητὸν καὶ πιστὸν ἐν κυρίῳ, ὃς ὑμᾶς ἀναμνήσει τὰς ὁδούς μου τὰς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, καθὼς πανταχοῦ ἐν πάσῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ διδάσκω. 18 ὡς μὴ ἐρχομένου δέ μου πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐφυσιώθησάν τινες· 19 ἐλεύσομαι δὲ ταχέως πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ, καὶ γνώσομαι οὐ τὸν λόγον τῶν πεφυσιωμένων ἀλλὰ τὴν δύναμιν, 20 οὐ γὰρ ἐν λόγῳ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει. 21 τί θέλετε; ἐν ῥάβδῳ ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἢ ἐν ἀγάπῃ πνεύματί τε πραΰτητος;

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

The Corinthian believers are proud, puffed up, arrogant. They really think they are something. They are full of themselves. They are boasting. Their pride has manifested itself in divisions, quarreling, jealousy, and strife. Paul will not tolerate this in the church. So he uses harsh words, biting sarcasm, to take them down a few notches. Then he softens his tone and makes a fatherly appeal. And here we find yet another metaphor describing and defining the relationship between Christian leaders and those they are called to lead. So far, he has used the metaphor of a field-hand, planting and watering seed; of an architect, building on a firm foundation; of an under-rower, rowing alongside other servants below deck; of a custodian, entrusted with the care and proper distribution of a great treasure. Here, in verse 14-21, he adds the powerful metaphor of a father to his beloved children.

1 Corinthians 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Not to Shame

Paul is clarifying why he is writing the way he is writing. His sharp sarcasm was not meant to shame. He was admonishing, gently reproving, correcting. His goal was not to berate, shame or humiliate. We might take this passage and think that it would never be appropriate to shame someone, but if we think that, we need to read more widely. When Paul is dealing with the issue of believers taking other believers to court in chapter 6, he says:

1 Corinthians 6:5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,

When addressing their questions about the resurrection in chapter 15, he says:

1 Corinthians 15:34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

So there are times when the apostle does intend to shame his readers on serious issues. But here, although what he has said could be perceived as shaming, he is intending to correct without shame.

My Beloved Children

He addresses them as ‘my beloved children’. So far in this letter, he has addressed his readers as the church, as saints, those set apart, and six times as brothers. We might perceive it as an insult to be called children, but that is not the idea here. ‘Brothers’ is a strong family relationship term. My beloved children is even stronger and more intimate. This is the closest of biological relationships, it involves dependence and responsibility, as well as tender affection.

I Begat You

Paul claims a unique relationship to the Corinthians, and he contrasts it to their relationship with other teachers and leaders. The term he uses is ‘pedagogue’ a servant hired to make sure that the child made it to school and behaved properly. You might have a million babysitters, but you only have one dad.

‘I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.’ Paul says that he begat or sired them, he was responsible for their conception and new life. But Paul is careful to give credit where credit is due. He conditions his statement with two qualifiers, in and through. It was ‘in Christ Jesus’ that he fathered them, and ‘through the gospel’. Paul himself was in Christ Jesus, and Jesus was in him, living through him when he became their father, so the real credit goes not to the one who plants the seed, but to God who gives the growth. He fathered them in Christ Jesus, and through the gospel. This was no original message that Paul came up with. This is the message he was entrusted with and commanded to proclaim. This is the good news that he defines early in this letter as ‘the word of the cross’ and ‘Christ crucified’. Paul became their father through the gospel, because as he sowed gospel seed in their hearts, it took root and began to grow. Any other seed would lack this transformational power. Charles Hodge sees three causes or agencies in this spiritual generation. Think of a defibrillator. There is the electric current that is the effective cause, the paddles are the instrument, and the administrative agent is the person who applies the paddles to the patient. Hodge says:

There are three agencies in the conversion of men. The efficiency is in Christ by his Spirit; the administrative agency is in preachers; the instrumental in the word. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. We cannot do without the first and the third, and ought not to attempt to do without the second. For though multitudes are converted by the Spirit through the word, without any ministerial intervention, just as grain springs up here and there without a husbandman, yet it is the ordinance of God that the harvest of souls should be gathered by workmen appointed for that purpose.” (C.Hodge, on 4:15)

Paul was the one who brought the gospel to the city of Corinth. In Christ, through the gospel, he begat them to spiritual life.

So Imitate Me

He says in verse 16 ‘therefore’ or ‘then’, because of this, as a result of this. Because it is true that in Christ, through the gospel I begat you, I now urge you to imitate me. Because you are my spiritual children and not another’s, you should look like your father and act like your father. You have shared DNA, character traits have been passed on. There should be a resemblance between father and son. In the ancient world there was even more of a connection between father and son. If your father was a watchmaker or a carpenter or a fisherman, you would imitate him and apprentice under him, learning his skills and methods, his style and character. You would follow him, becoming like him, and eventually replacing him. Paul says that because I am your father in Christ, you should be imitating me.

What does he mean by imitating him? What should that look like? I think he has done a good job of spelling that out in his sarcastic tirade. He has described himself as slandered, persecuted, reviled, exhausted, homeless, beaten, naked, hungry, thirsty, dishonored, weak, on exhibit as scum and refuse, condemned to die, fools for Christ. This is what it looked like to imitate Paul, not always to suffer in the same ways he suffered, but to place an absolute priority on the gospel, no matter what it cost. It was the polar opposite of pride and selfish ambition. It was his aim that Christ be magnified in his body, that he would please him, whether by life or by death (Phil.1:20; 2Cor.5:9)). Paul was a man under authority, a servant of the Master, a subject of the King. He was a follower of Jesus, and Jesus was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is.53:3).

The Example of a Faithful Follower

1 Corinthians 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

Paul tells the Corinthians (and us) to imitate him, and then he explains ‘that is why I sent you Timothy’. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make sense. I want you to imitate me; that is why I sent Timothy to you. He can say this because Paul had discipled Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy in disciple making in 2 Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Paul was so accurately reproduced in the life of Timothy that to be in the presence of Timothy was to be reminded of Paul’s ways in Christ. Paul was sending a letter. But he was also sending a person. It is not enough just to have correct doctrine. That is essential. But it is equally essential to know what to do with that doctrine. It is essential to be able to live out the implications of the gospel. And that is where the Corinthians went wrong. They were living below what they knew. They had the gospel, they understood the gospel, they believed the gospel, but they weren’t living in light of the gospel. They needed to be reminded of Paul’s ways. How he lived was radically altered because of what he believed. What he was willing to risk and sacrifice and suffer was profoundly impacted by the surpassing worth of the gospel. As we read our bibles, we may be amazed to see how much is biographical and not doctrinal. The bible is filled with stories of people. We learn what the gospel looks like when we see it in the lives of people. We see what it should not look like when we see failures and shortcomings and negative examples. Paul tells the Philippians:

Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul sends Timothy because he knows the Corinthians need to see it.

Paul calls Timothy his beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He had just referred to the Corinthians as his beloved children. But apparently faithfulness was missing. He just said a the beginning of this chapter:

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

In the introduction of the letter he thanks God for many things about the Corinthians, but not for their faithfulness. But he highlights the fact that God is faithful. Timothy is faithful. So he sends faithful Timothy to remind them of his ways in Christ.

The Corinthians prided themselves on their uniqueness and individuality. Paul brings them back to consistency and sameness. In the introduction to this letter, he highlighted their unity with every other believer.

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Here he holds up his ways in Christ, which are what he teaches everywhere in every church. In other words, if you refuse to follow the ways of Paul, then you would cease to qualify as a legitimate church. There is consistency among the followers of Jesus. Not uniformity, but consistency. You don’t have to be a tent-maker to follow Paul. You may be a policeman or a garbage man or a stay at home mom, but your lifestyle, how you spend your time and your money and what you love should demonstrate that you are a follower of Jesus and that the cross is central to your way of thinking. Our ways should be in Christ, and they should make us distinguishable from the rest of the world.

Puffed Up

Now he speaks directly to his opponents in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.

Pride was a problem in Corinth, as it is in us today. We tend to be puffed up, inflated, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We think our ways are best and our opinions are right. Apparently there were some of these people in Corinth. They understood Paul’s ways, and despised them. They thought they had figured out better ways. They thought Paul had abandoned this church, and they could talk as if he were out of the picture. This comes back to Paul’s avoidance of words of eloquent wisdom, which could empty the cross of power. These people were puffed up and they talked a big talk. Anybody can talk. Paul says, I am coming, and don’t want to hear talk, I want to see power. I want to see the power of the gospel at work transforming rebels into worshipers, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, conquering sin in the lives of believers, destroying wicked desires and creating new godly desires. I want to see a demonstration of the Spirit at work. The kingdom of God, the rule of God, God ruling and reigning over his people is God’s awesome power unleashed in the lives of his followers. Jesus said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:18).

Of course, as a servant under God’s reign, Paul subjects his own plans and desires to the omnipotent will of God. His plan is to come soon, but he will come only if the Lord wills. Paul himself was not free to make his own plans and go where he wanted to go when he wanted to go there. He did make plans, and he did go where he thought was best, but he was always aware that God was able at any moment to sovereignly override his plans.

Fatherly Discipline

Paul concludes this section with a fatherly question.

1 Corinthians 4:21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

The Corinthians are Paul’s beloved children in the Lord. He cares deeply for them. His heart is not to shame but to correct. He has brought them back to the simple truth of the gospel. He has reasoned with them, he has used persuasive rhetoric, even sharp sarcasm. But as a good father, he was not afraid to exercise his authority in a painful way. The author of Hebrews asks:

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

‘What son is there whom his father does not discipline?’ This is a rhetorical question, and the answer is supposed to be ‘there is none!’. Unfortunately this is not true in our day. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

As a good parent, Paul is offering them a choice. They can submit to his authority and enjoy his presence in love and a spirit of gentleness, (which is what every good parent would prefer) or they can continue to be puffed up and go their own way, and they will get a spanking and it will be painful. If the character and conduct of the child is not in line with the character and conduct of the father, then discipline should be used to train up the child in the way that they should go. Paul demonstrates that this is also the case in good Christian leadership. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the church to oversee that conduct and character of the church is shaped by the cross. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

When conduct and character is out of step with the gospel, it is their responsibility to gently admonish, and when necessary, to firmly discipline.

We are all to become faithful children, imitating Jesus, walking in the gospel, shaping our lives around the cross. And we all are to become spiritual fathers, making disciples, inviting them to imitate us as we imitate our Lord Jesus.

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

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

Luke 5:1-11; Making Disciples

06/16/2013 Making Disciples; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130616_making-disciples.mp3

Luke 5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Matthew and Mark record an abbreviated form of Jesus’ call to discipleship. Jesus is proclaiming good news from God and commanding that people turn and believe that good news. He said ‘follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’. ‘Follow me’ – that is the call of discipleship. Disciples are followers of Jesus. That is what followers of Jesus do; they follow Jesus. I don’t think that’s too hard to understand. It is hard to live out, but it is not hard to understand. Many people claim to be followers of Jesus, but if Jesus says ‘follow me’ and I am going off in a different direction, I can’t really say I am following Jesus. Followers of Jesus follow Jesus. The good news Jesus proclaimed was ‘the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel’ (Mk.1:15). The kingdom of God is at hand because the King has come down! The King is here! The King must be obeyed. When the King says ‘follow me’, immediately, you drop everything and follow the King. This is what a disciples is. Absolute submission to the King. Immediate obedience to King Jesus.

Let Down Your Nets

In Luke’s account, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat as a platform to teach from. When he was done teaching, he instructed Peter to do some fishing. Peter was obviously a bit put out by this. He was happy to let the Rabbi teach from his boat, because that’s what teachers do. He probably would have been fine if Jesus gave him some pointers on building something, because Peter knew that Jesus had been trained as a carpenter. But now the Carpenter is telling the fisherman how to fish. Peter lets him know that they spent all night working hard doing what fishermen best knew how to do and caught nothing. But with that protest, he obeys. What happens next is nothing short of supernatural. Contrary to all his years of fishing wisdom and experience, they do everything wrong as far as fishing is concerned, and their nets were incapable of holding the multitude of fish that came into their nets. This is grounds for celebration. I would expect shouting and hoots and hollering, a party atmosphere, ‘Jesus, you’re my new best friend and permanent fishing buddy’. But Peter’s reaction is telling. This is no party. He is on his face before Jesus acknowledging his own sinfulness. Peter has realized who got into his boat. This is no ordinary rabbi, no mere carpenter, this is the Lord of land and sea, the God of the universe, the one who spoke all creation into existence, to whom every fish in the sea obeys his command. In the presence of Jesus, Peter is painfully aware of how far he falls short.

I Am A Sinful Man

Why does Peter ask Jesus to depart from him? I think he realizes that as a sinner in the presence of the all-holy God, he is in trouble. Because God is holy, it is his character to judge sin. Peter as a sinner, acutely aware of his own sinfulness, is rightly afraid. That is the right response to God’s presence. God is good, God is righteous, God is holy, and God is just to judge sin. We all have rebelled against him, we have rejected his authority in our lives, we have failed to give thanks to him, we refuse to honor him as God. All that sinners should ever expect from a holy God is judgment. What I have earned by my God dishonoring sin is death. When God shows up in my boat, it means he is coming to pay me what I deserve. Peter is pleading for mercy. ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’. ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’.

Do Not Be Afraid

Jesus’ response to Peter breathes life and hope. ‘Do not be afraid’. Peter understands his own situation and has every good reason to be terrified to the core of his being, and Jesus says ‘do not be afraid’. Jesus says ‘I did not come to judge the world but to save the world’ (Jn.12:47); I am not here to punish your sins, I am here to pay for your sins. Turn and believe the good news. This is good news indeed! For the sovereign Judge to say to a sinner ‘do not be afraid’ is the best news.

Catching Men

But it does not stop there. Jesus calls us into a relationship with himself. ‘From now on you will be catching men’. ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. Jesus calls us to a higher purpose. No longer fish but people. We are called to follow King Jesus, and we are commissioned to invite others to follow Jesus. We are to be disciples and we are to make disciples. Every follower of Jesus is to be a disciple-making disciple. This becomes explicitly clear when we come to the end of the gospels and hear Jesus’ final instructions.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus instructs his disciples to make disciples and to teach those disciples to obey everything he has commanded them, which would at least include this command to make disciples. Jesus’ promise confirms this, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. As long as this present age lasts, Jesus promises to be with us, his followers as we obey him in the disciple making task. Not only has King Jesus, Lord of the universe, come not in judgment but with mercy, but he has commissioned us to be the bearers of this good news to the nations.

Make Disciples of All Nations

Why are we commissioned to make disciples of all nations? Why does Jesus place an emphasis on making disciples of different people groups? This helps us get at the end goal of the gospel.

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

Psalms 117:1 Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!

The goal of the gospel is worship. God deserves to be worshiped. He deserves to be worshiped from all his creation. We see this unfolding in Revelation:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. We are not done yet. According to the global research department of the international mission board May 2013 data, they categorize 11,301 people groups in the world. They define a people group as ‘the largest group through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance’. Of these 11,301 people groups, 6,941 are considered unreached, that is, less than 2% of the total population are Evangelical Christians. Of these 6,941 unreached people groups, 3,041 are considered unengaged, where there is no known Evangelical church planting underway. We have some work left to do. For the glory of Christ, we must engage every tribe with the good news.

What Does It Take?

What does it take to engage people with the gospel? Romans gives us the missionary outline of gospel advancement to the unreached nations.

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Anyone from any ethnic background who calls out to Jesus will be saved. In order to call out to him for salvation, they must believe in him. In order to believe in Jesus, they must have heard of him. There are people in the world today who have never heard of Jesus. For anyone to hear about Jesus, someone needs to go and preach to them. So some of us need to go. Some of us need to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. Some of us need to learn new languages so that we can communicate the truth about Jesus to people who have never heard. Some of us need to let go of the comforts and conveniences that we enjoy, say goodbye to friends and relatives and go. Some of us need to let go of the illusion of safety and security and take some risks, even lay down our lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus. ‘How are they to hear without someone preaching?’

But there is another step behind gospel advancement. ‘How are they to preach unless they are sent?’ Some of us need to give. Without sending, gospel advancement doesn’t happen and unreached peoples stay unreached. A very practical part of sending is financial. If we are serious about the glory of God, some of us need to change our lifestyles and sacrifice deeply and give generously so that others can go. Paul points to the grace of God demonstrated among the Macedonian believers:

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

What an interesting recipe for abundant generosity. Most of us think that if we could only win the lottery or make a lot more money, then we could really be generous. But the Macedonians were experiencing a severe test of affliction. Their extreme poverty combined with their abundant joy to overflow in a wealth of generosity.

But sending is more than financial. Paul on several occasions asked for prayer and thanked the churches for their prayers and their encouragement. Even the apostle Paul needed prayer and encouragement. Paul described the relationship between the senders and the goers as a partnership in the gospel (Phil.1:5).

This is a historic moment for this local church. We are a church plant in a difficult mission field. Today, we have the great privilege of sending out workers into the nations to make disciples for the glory of Christ.

I want to end with some gospel encouragement. 6,941 unreached people groups, over 3,000 unengaged people groups may sound overwhelming. And remember, Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). I want to encourage us with a few of the ‘I will’ statements in the bible. Peter told Jesus ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing’. But the one who is sovereign over the fish of the sea and over the hearts of men said ‘I will make you fishers of men’. We might be saying ‘I can’t do this; depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord’ But it is not our job to become expert evangelists. Jesus says ‘I will make you fishers of men’. The one who can cause fish to swim into a net can also give faith to those who are vehemently opposed to him. The Carpenter from Nazareth said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:18). Our job is not to build the church; our job is to follow Jesus, and to invite others to follow Jesus. God says:

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

This mission cannot fail. We as individuals can fail, we can fail to follow Jesus, but Jesus’ promises will not fail. The followers of Jesus will succeed in making disciples of all nations because Jesus is with us to the end of the age, He purchased with his blood people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, he will build his church and he will be worshiped by the nations.

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

June 16, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 8:34-38; Follow Jesus

04/14/13 Mark 8:34-38; Following Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130414_follow-jesus.mp3

He is Risen! (He is risen indeed!) He is Risen! (He is risen indeed!) Jesus Christ is still risen. Some of you are wondering if I am confused, and forgot what day it is. I am aware that we celebrated Resurrection Sunday two weeks ago. But I wonder if we are aware that Jesus is still risen. Jesus is really alive. Acts chapter 1 tells us:

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

We only have a little more than a handful of resurrection appearances recorded for us in the New Testament. Did you realize that Jesus continued to appear to his disciples and to teach them for forty days after his resurrection? My calendar puts ascension day on May 9 this year. The resurrected Jesus ministering among them for 40 days. Do you think that the disciples continued to celebrate the resurrection of their Lord throughout those 40 days, and beyond?

The resurrection is not something we celebrate once a year. The resurrection of Jesus reshapes all of life. Are you living like Jesus is really alive? Are you living like someone was raised from the dead? Imagine with me for a moment that one of your loved ones who died and was buried was resurrected and is now alive and with you. How would that change things for you? Do you think that would make a difference in the way you lived? Do you think you would be eager to spend time with them? Do you think you would treasure your conversations with them? Do you think you’d tell anybody? Do you think that news would shake your friends, your family, your community? As amazing as that would be, that would not change things nearly as much as the fact that Jesus is alive. Death is a reality that we all have to face. Resurrection is a reality that we don’t know what to do with; we don’t even have a category for it because none of us have ever seen it. But Jesus is really alive. He presented himself alive by many proofs. And he intends that this radically alter the way we now live.

To let this truth grip us, we need to go back and look at what it means for us to be followers of Jesus, and to live life in the power of the resurrection and not our own strength.

Follow Me

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? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus’ demands of his followers are high. These demands were not for only a special class of super-dedicated disciples; this was his announcement to the crowd. This call was to anyone who would follow him. To follow Jesus means to deny self and take up your cross. How Jesus describes what it means to follow him makes it clear that this is a matter of eternal life or forfeiting your soul. He says that the one who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. If you are killed for Jesus’ sake, and that means you save your life, the life you save can only be eternal life. If saving your life means losing it, that must mean that tenaciously grasping at life in this world will result in losing your life for eternity. If that is not clear enough, Jesus asks, what profit is there if you gain the whole world and forfeit your soul? The time context is ‘when [Jesus] comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’.

The first thing Jesus demands is that we deny self. We might think that we are denying ourselves when we deny ourselves of something. I think it would be a great sacrifice to deny myself chocolate. But Jesus doesn’t tell us to deny ourselves something. He tells us to deny our self. We are to deny, to reject, renounce, or disown, not something, but our very self. Jesus says that if I would save my soul, I will lose it. Denying self means that I give up trying to save my self. I can never be righteous enough to earn favor with God. I cannot dig my way out of the pit of sin I have dug myself into. Denying self means I renounce my own ability to contribute to my own salvation. Denying self also means a change in who we are living for. Denying self means I am no longer living for my own sake. I am no longer living for my own profit. Denying self means I am living for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of his gospel.

The next thing Jesus demands is that we take up our cross. This would be easy to misunderstand, because we hear people say things like ‘we all have our own cross to bear’, and by this, they mean that each of us have our own unique trials or difficulties in life that we need to buck up and persevere through. The people listening to Jesus would never hear Jesus tell them to take up their cross and interpret him as meaning that they need to tough it out through their physical disability or emotional wounds or painful circumstances. Neither would they conclude that they should go to the local hardware store, purchase some lumber and nail it in the form of a cross and carry it around town. Jesus didn’t say ‘take up my cross’; he said ‘take up your cross’. The cross was a Roman instrument of cruel torture and execution reserved for the worst of condemned criminals. The only people in that day who would ever be seen carrying a cross were condemned criminals on their way to die. To take up your cross was a public display that you were guilty of treason and your life was over. When Jesus tells me to take up my cross, he is telling me to publicly admit that I am guilty of treason, not against Rome, but against the King of the universe, and that I deserve to die. I have placed myself at the center of the universe and given my allegiance and worship to myself and not to Jesus. I must renounce self and sit down in my electric chair and die to myself.

Only when I have renounced allegiance to self and owned my rebellion against God as worthy of capital punishment am I ready to really follow Jesus. Many people want to follow Jesus. Some want to follow him because he is a means to political reform. Some want to follow him because he is a great teacher. Some want to follow him because it will look good on a resume. Some want to follow him because they like his strict morality. Some want to follow him because they think he will give them a free ticket to heaven and allow them to live as they please. Some want to follow him because they think he will meet their needs and give them what they want. Jesus demands that we deny self, that we let go of our own life for his sake and the sake of the gospel. Jesus demands that we take up our cross, own our guilt before him, and follow him. To follow him literally means to accompany him where he is going, to be on the road with him, to do life with him and let him set the agenda.

This is what it means to believe in Jesus. We stop believing in self or relying on self and depend on him. We recognize that we have sinned against God and that the wages of our sin is death. We begin to do life with him in control, letting him set the agenda for our lives. We give up our plans and submit to going with him where he is going.

Discipleship Illustrated

We are so thick-headed that we need a picture of what this looks like in real life. When we watch the disciples we can allow Jesus to shape our idea of what discipleship looks like, what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Mark 1:16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Mark 2:14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Following Jesus meant leaving things behind. It meant joining Jesus and going where he was going. It meant personal cost. But this is not sacrifice. It means leaving behind something of value to gain something of infinitely greater value. But too often, the disciples got discipleship wrong. They misunderstood what it was that they would gain in following Jesus. It seems they envisioned prestige and power and fame, and they were often trying to push their way to the top. James and John even came with their mom to Jesus to try to secure the top positions in the kingdom. When all the other disciples caught wind of this, they became indignant, not because they thought the desire to be first was wrong, but because they all wanted to be first. Luke 22 even records a dispute over who is the greatest at the conclusion of the last supper!

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus says that he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for others. If you are going to follow Jesus, then you need to put aside political maneuverings, serve others for their good, and learn to be a slave to all.

Jesus’ words that we looked at in Mark 8 about what it means to follow him come in response to Peter, who thought he had scored some points when he correctly identified Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God. But Jesus began to adjust their expectations of Messiah.

Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter thought he understood better than Jesus what it meant to be the Messiah, and he attempted to correct Jesus! This is not what being a disciple should look like. Jesus sets the agenda. Peter had his mind set on things of man, not on the things of God. Peter had to be rebuked and put in his place. He needed to learn to deny himself. But this was not an easy lesson to learn.

Mark 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Peter was self-confident. He was determined. He was unflinchingly settled. He knew what he knew, he knew what was right, and he was purposefully resolved that he would do what was right. He knew this time Jesus was wrong.

Mark 14:66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

When it came down to it, his allegiance to self was deeper than even he knew. His allegiance to self was deeper than his allegiance to his Master. Peter had to learn this the hard way. Peter had to be taught to believe, to trust, to deny self and depend on another. Peter’s self-confidence had to be dismantled and destroyed. He broke down and wept. This is such a beautiful scene. Peter had finally come to the end of his pride and self-sufficiency, broken, he realized that he could not rescue Jesus. He needed to be rescued. His self-confidence was so deep seated that Jesus had to be crucified to break its power in his life. Up until this point, when Jesus said he came to seek and to save the lost, I don’t think Peter ever saw himself as lost. He would never put himself in that category. He was the one who said ‘look Jesus, we left everything to follow you’ (Lk.18:28). Look what we did for you. Jesus says ‘I did not come to be served by you, Peter, not by your good deeds or valiant efforts. I came to serve you, to give my life for you, to die in your place, because you are so self-assured and self-centered that you can’t even see your own lostness’. Peter broke down and wept bitterly. We know Peter was truly broken, because of his interaction with the risen Jesus on the beach.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Peter had claimed that even if all the other disciples fell away, he would never fall away. Jesus asks him ‘do you love me more than these?’ Peter replies that he does love Jesus, but he doesn’t claim that his love is any more than any of the others. And the word Peter uses for ‘love’ is different than the one Jesus used. Jesus asked if Peter loved him with a self-sacrificing love; Peter responds that he loves with the love of a friend. The second time, Jesus again asks if he loves with a self-sacrificial love, but he leaves off the ‘more than these’. Peter again responds with the lower friendship love. The third time, Jesus takes the word Peter used and asks if he loves him with a friendship love. Peter, grieved at this, recognizing that Jesus knows his heart better than he himself does, appeals to the omniscience of Christ and again affirms his friendship love. Peter was undone. His self-confidence was broken. He is now broken to the point of being useful. So three times Jesus reinstates him with a task ‘feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep’.

Peter is now broken to the point of being useful. But he is not yet ready to be used. Luke records for us Christ’s instructions before he ascended to heaven:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And then in Acts:

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Is anything more difficult than waiting? Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead and is ascended into heaven. Jesus has opened their minds to understand the scriptures. You are witnesses. We have the best news ever! But don’t do anything yet. You’re not ready. Don’t post it on facebook. Wait. There’s about 10 days from the ascension to Pentecost. We know this was difficult for Peter, because in the mean time, right or wrong, he decided to pick a new apostle to replace Judas. He just couldn’t wait!

But he had learned not to trust himself, not to depend on himself. He learned to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Jesus. And when Pentecost had fully come, and the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached a crucified and resurrected Jesus, and his hearers were cut to the heart and 3,000 repented, received his word, and were baptized.

Application

So are you living like someone was raised from the dead? Have you learned what it means to follow Jesus? Have you taken up your cross, acknowledging that you deserve eternal death? Are you denying yourself, refusing to rely on self, depending completely on God to rescue you and to live his life through you? Are you living no longer for own sake, but for the sake of the gospel and the glory of Jesus? Is Jesus setting your agenda? Have you died to yourself? Have you been broken so that you can be useful? You must die to your self before you can be raised to newness of life.

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

April 14, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment