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2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory

10/14_2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181014_2cor4_17.mp3

The Secret of Not Losing Heart

Last time we looked at the secret of not losing heart. I asked, ‘What if I told you that I could show you the secret to endure any hardship, no matter what comes against you, to never fail, never give up, never lose heart? Not only to survive but to thrive under any adversity?’ Paul gives us his secret at the end of 2 Corinthians 4. He says in 4:16

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

We began by looking at how this being made new on the inside happens. It happens day by day, as he said in 3:18; as we are “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

To not lose heart requires an inner day by day renewal. We had to stop there, but there’s so much more to see here. He gives us the foundation, the reason, the ground of our day by day renewal. And he gives us the process, the means of being renewed.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Disparity Between Outer and Inner

In this chapter, Paul is contrasting the outward appearance with his inward reality. Outwardly, he is plain, ordinary, a fragile clay pot. But inside he carries the inestimable treasure of the good news of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Outwardly he is carrying in his body the dying of Jesus, but this is so that the resurrection life of Jesus can be displayed in his body. Outwardly he is being destroyed, but inwardly he is being renewed day by day.

From all outward appearances, Paul is being unmade, taken apart; he is wasting away. His life appears to be one characterized by defeat, discouragement, even despair. We are ‘afflicted …perplexed …persecuted …struck down’. It seems a waste, meaningless.

In verse 12 he gives one positive outcome of his sufferings that he can look at so that he does not lose heart. He said ‘so, death is at work in us, but life in you.’ So the suffering he experiences is the means God is using to bring good, blessing, eternal life, to his hearers. That’s good. That makes the suffering worth it.

But here in verses 16-18 he says more. Not only is his suffering a benefit to his hearers, it is also a blessing to himself. Did you hear that? My suffering is painful to me, but a blessing to you, so I can push through. But now he says my suffering, my persecution, my affliction is a blessing to me. It is not only bringing good to you; it is also bringing good to me. He says, on the inside, where it really counts, the suffering he endures is actually causing him to be made new day by day. How can this be?

I was reading one of the recent ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ magazines, and came across this story about a couple who had left a closed country and found Jesus. They returned to to their homeland with their two young boys to share the gospel, even though they were fully aware of the dangers. The wife said “It’s an interesting thing trusting God with your family. For us it was just so clear. The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” They shared Christ with their extended family, and then they began to plant churches. One of the questions he would ask before baptizing a new believer was always “Are you willing to give up your life for Jesus?”

After 7 years, the secret police burst in and ransacked their apartment, arrested them and drove them bound and blindfolded to the city’s interrogation unit. They were separately imprisoned, and repeatedly interrogated. The wife speaks of her two weeks in prison, thinking constantly about her children; “I knew it was a privilege to be there with the Lord, so that was sweet, but I also wanted to go be with them.” Her husband was released about a month later. She reflected on the experience and said “He was allowing us, His children, to suffer because He wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much – the judges, the interrogators, the guards – that He allowed us to go through a really, really hard time to carry His presence into their presence so they could come in touch with him.” [VOM Oct.2018]

How was she able to have this kind of reaction to that kind of suffering? Part of her answer points back to Paul’s earlier answer: “He was allowing us …to suffer because he wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much.” But there is something more, something deeper. “The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” and then, when it did happen, “it was a privilege to be there with the Lord.” It was joy! It was a privilege!

Perspective Matters!

Look at the foundation of this day by day renewal in the face of daily troubles. Look at verse 17. It starts with ‘for’; because. This gives the reason, the foundation of this inner day by day renewal.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Perspective matters! Look at how Paul views his affliction where he was so utterly burdened that he despaired of life itself. Look at the perspective he has on his affliction, his perplexity, his persecution, his being struck down and thoroughly ruined. He contrasts it with the purposes and the promises of God.

Do you do that? Do you take what you are facing today, and hold it up to the promises of God and the purposes of God for you, and compare it? Put it in the scales? See what it really weighs? Paul says that when he weighs it out, his afflictions are light, and they are momentary. Now before you blow Paul off as if he just doesn’t understand what you are going through, you could look over to 2 Corinthians 11 where he lists his imprisonments, his countless beatings, often near death, his 5 times receiving 39 lashes (that’s 195 lashes, but who’s counting?), his 3 times beaten with rods, his being stoned and left for dead, his shipwrecks, his betrayal by false brothers, his hunger, thirst, exposure, sleeplessness, his daily pressure and anxiety for all the churches. All this he piles in the balance and it weighs out ‘light’ and ‘momentary’.

Back in chapter 1, he said he was ‘so utterly burdened beyond strength’ because of the affliction they experienced in Asia. He felt the weight then, and it was more than he could carry. What gave him his perspective on suffering? What could possibly make this magnitude of suffering seem light and momentary? What is on the other side of the scales?

Momentary vs. Eternal

The thing that outlasts and outweighs our suffering is ‘an eternal weight of glory’. ‘Eternal’ answers ‘momentary.’ The length of our afflictions are momentary in comparison to eternity. If we endure 80 years of constant pain and suffering, persecution and affliction, and we hold that up next to the timeline of eternity; is so infinitesimally small it becomes insignificant.

As the song goes: ‘when we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.’ Compared to our eternal joy, the present afflictions are less than momentary. Can you take your present sufferings and measure them by eternity in the presence of God and say they are momentary? Perspective makes all the difference.

Light vs. Weight of Glory

Eternal answers momentary, and ‘weight of glory’ answers ‘light.’ The heaviness of our afflictions are light in comparison to the weight of glory. This is the same word he used in 1:8 when he says we were ‘so utterly burdened [or weighed down] beyond our strength.’ Now he compares this weight beyond our strength to the weight of glory. The weight of affliction is far beyond what we can bear, but there is something in the scales that far outweighs the heaviness of our present sorrows. It is glory.

The word ‘glory’ itself if we look back to the Hebrew of the Old Testament literally means weighty, massive, substantial. The eternal weight of God’s weightiness, the massiveness of his glory so far surpasses that the weight of our afflictions seem as inconsequential dust in the scales.

Exceedingly Exceeding

As Paul says in Romans 8,

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

It’s not just that the glory outweighs the burden and outlasts the sufferings; it is beyond all comparison; literally ‘according to hyperbole into hyperbole’. Words fail to capture the glory. It is surpassingly surpassing; exceedingly exceeding. So far beyond being beyond all ability to explain. The glory is so far beyond any ability to adequately explain that Paul piles hyperbole upon hyperbole to attempt to communicate that there is just no comparison between our present afflictions and the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Whose Glory?

Glory is the radiance, the outward display of God’s inner character and nature. The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of God’s invisible presence. It is his splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, majesty or dignity. God in Isaiah 42 and 48 says that he gives his glory to no other, and yet Jesus in his humanity prayed:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus’ own glory was veiled, hidden behind his plain, ordinary humanity. And yet here in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 6 we apprehend ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’; the light of the gospel is ‘the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. Hebrews 1:3 calls Jesus ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.’ We most clearly see God’s character and nature revealed in Jesus. Although this glory belongs to God alone, we were created to reflect, to image forth his glory. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2Cor.3:18).

Afflictions Work Glory

But look carefully at what he says.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

The present affliction is not just contrasted with the glory to come, it is causing it. It is preparing it for us; it is working it, accomplishing it for us. He looks both at the promises and the purposes of God. God intends our sufferings for our good, to increase the glory we will experience. God’s promise is that the eternal will far outspan the temporal, that the glory will far outweigh the trials. But the purpose of God is that the pressure produces in us the surpassingly surpassing eternal weight of glory. It is important to know not only God’s promises to us that give us strength to persevere through the suffering, but that God has a purpose in the sufferings. The afflictions are not meaningless, they are purposeful, they are accomplishing something, bringing something to completion.

We see this same truth (and the same word) displayed in Romans 5:3

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

And we see it in James 1:3

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Affliction produces steadfastness; the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Affliction produces in us an exceedingly exceeding weight of glory. So we rejoice, we count it all joy; we do not fail, give up, lose heart.

I think Spurgeon explains this as well as anyone (and with this we’ll have to end for now). He says:

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.”

There is …no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, February 12]

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

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October 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eternal God; Psalm 90

09/20 Eternal God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150920_eternal-god.mp3

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

-Shakespeare, Sonnet 60

Time marches steadily forward. Time devours. We are creatures at the mercy of the ravages of time. Our lives are temporary. Fleeting. Momentary. Finite. We can think back in history to a time before we existed, before we were born. We had a starting point. And we will just as certainly have an ending point. We will pass away. We will return to dust. And given enough time, we will most likely be forgotten. We seek for permanence, something that will endure, a name that will last, something that will be established. But even the things we seek to leave behind soon fade away.

God is not like us. God is not subject to our limitations. God is infinite. He is not subject to the things we are subject to. God is not subject to the effects of time. God is without beginning and without end. He Is. He is eternal.

Prayer: The Infinite and the Finite (Valley of Vision)

Thou great I Am,

Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being

with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,

A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds, and the revolutions of empires, feels no variableness, but is glorious in immortality.

May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives; that, while all creatures are broken reeds, empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass, he is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.

Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ.

Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen, and is only an opportunity for usefulness;

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the gospel, show neighbourly love to all.

Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on thyself, mortification, crucifixion, prayer.

Everlasting God

In Genesis 21, after the birth of Isaac, after Hagar and Ishmael were sent away, after he settled a dispute over rights to a well of water, we are told:

Genesis 21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.

YHWH El Owlam; The LORD the Everlasting God. He is perpetual. Think back before the first event you can conceive of; God was there. Think forward into the future as far as your mind can imagine; God is there. Extend a timeline infinitely in both directions and God encompasses it all. But a timeline does not extend infinitely. Time is not infinite. Time and matter and motion were brought into existence by God. Before time existed, God is.

At the end of Moses’ life, as he blesses Israel, he says:

Deuteronomy 33:26 There is none like God,… 27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

There is none like God, the eternal God is your dwelling place, the everlasting God is your support.

Moses’ prayer is recorded in Psalm 90.

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

Life is short. Life is fleeting. It is here and then it is gone. Days fly away. The number of our years is limited. We are dust. In contrast to man, God is timeless. God is a safe harbor across all generations. God is God from everlasting to everlasting. All the way back before the birth of the mountains, before God formed land, before he spoke the globe into existence, from everlasting, you are God. And on beyond the distant future, you are God. From eternity past to eternity future, you are.

Eternity and Time

God is not limited by time, by dates, by sequences of events. For us it is often challenging to fit the necessary events into the allotted time. Time quickly slips away. We run out of time. Some things get done, and others have to wait. But from our experience we learn that time is relative. If there is something on the calendar that we are looking forward to, eagerly anticipating, it seems that time slows to a painful crawl. The anticipated event may never come. God is not constrained by the clock or the calendar. He never runs out of time. He never has things he wishes he could do that he simply doesn’t have time to get done. His perception of time is different than ours. Verse 4 says:

Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

God’s perception of a thousand years is compared to our perception of yesterday, of a short period of time, of a dream, of grass that lasts a day. What seems to us an unimaginably long period of time, to the eternal God is like a few hours in the night.

Peter encourages believers in the face of scoffers who mock the promise of the soon coming of our Lord:

2 Peter 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

He takes the truth of Psalm 90, that a thousand years is as yesterday, and mirrors it with the parallel truth that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years; where we feel limited in what can be accomplished in 24 hours, to God it is as if he had a thousand years.

God is able to operate within time, but he is not constrained by time. He is not limited by time in the ways that we are limited by time. He existed before time, he created time, and he encompasses time.

Inhabiting Eternity

Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus Mighty God and Everlasting Father, or Father of Eternity. We will come back to this later.

Isaiah 40 calls God everlasting.

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Elohim Owlam YHWH. YHWH is eternal. He does not get fatigued by doing work in time, he brought the earth out of nothing, but he doesn’t have to gasp to catch his breath.

Isaiah 57 calls God the one who inhabits eternity.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Where God dwells is outside of time. He inhabits eternity. He is holy, set apart, totally other than us. He dwells in eternity, but he also enters time and dwells with those who humbly turn to him.

Eternal Dominion

In Daniel 4, after the pride of king Nebuchadnezzar is humbled, he praises God.

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

The God of Daniel, the Most High God, higher than any of the gods of the Babylonians, is a God who lives forever. He has eternal life in himself. His rule is an everlasting rule, and his kingdom endures throughout time.

Jeremiah calls YHWH the true God, the living God, the everlasting King.

Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

For his dominion, his rule, his kingship to be everlasting, he must be an eternal being.

In the New Testament letter of Jude, he says in his closing doxology:

Jude :25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

If God is to have glory, majesty, dominion and authority eternally, he must exist eternally. Jude defines this with the three categories of eternity past, ‘before all time’; the present ‘now’; and eternity future, ‘forever’.

Immortal

Timothy in his opening doxology calls God the King of the ages or the King of eternity.

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

He calls God immortal, not subject to death or decay, and he attributes honor and glory to him eternally. In his closing doxology in chapter 6 he says

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

He attributes to him immortality and eternal rule.

In Romans 1:23, the immortality of God is contrasted with mortal man and animals, who are subject to death and decay.

In Romans 16:26, Paul refers to God as ‘the eternal God’.

Revelation 4 describes the worship around the throne of God.

Revelation 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne,…

God is described as the one who was and is and is to come, the one who lives forever and ever. Past, present and future, the eternally living one.

Jesus the Eternal Word

John begins his gospel by describing Jesus as the eternally existent Word.

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.

Jesus eternally existed with his Father from before the beginning. John begins his first letter, 1 John, this way:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

He describes Jesus, whom the apostles heard and saw and touched as “that which was from the beginning”; he eternally existed. The life was made manifest, his eternal life who existed eternally with the Father. He was revealed to them in time. He says in chapter 5:

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

Jesus, the Son of God, who is the true God and eternal life, came to give us understanding. Jesus who is eternal life came so that we may know him. Jesus said in John 17:

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

Jesus innately possesses eternal life with his Father. Jesus offers eternal life to all who believe in him as a gift. This does not mean that we can become eternal beings; it would be impossible for us who had a beginning to become without beginning. We are invited to participate in God’s eternal life by knowing him, by entering into relationship with him, by enjoying him forever.

Eternal Joy

Psalm 106 points us to this aspect of eternal joy. Psalm 106:48 praises the blessedness of the eternal God.

Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

God not only exists from eternity past to eternity future, but he is blessed or happy from everlasting to everlasting. He is delighted to be who he is.

If we look back to Psalm 90, where we started, we see this aspect of joy. Psalm 90 begins with a recognition of the eternal nature of God. He is our dwelling place throughout generations and he is God from eternity past to eternity future. Psalm 90 ends with a prayer. The prayer of Psalm 90 is that the Lord bring satisfaction and the joy of his presence to our days. That he would exchange the days and years of evil and affliction with days of gladness in God. That he would establish and make permanent and lasting the work or our hands.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

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

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment