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Daniel 2:46-49; The Marks of True Conversion

07/11_Daniel 02:46-49; The Marks of True Conversion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210711_dan02_46-49.mp3

Daniel 2 shows the bankruptcy of the wise men of Babylon. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans and demanded they not only give him the interpretation to his dream, but also tell him the dream that he dreamed. They responded…

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

But when the executioner came to inform Daniel of his impending doom, Daniel approached the king requesting time to seek an interpretation, and he called on his three friends “to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” (2:18).

God answered their prayers and revealed the mystery to Daniel, who responded with worship, a song of praise to the God who “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (2:21). So Daniel was brought before the king.

Daniel 2:26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel was careful to deflect attention from himself to God. The king asked ‘are you able?’ and Daniel responded ‘no, nobody can; there is nothing in me, but there is a God in heaven.’ He stood in humility before the king and gave all glory to God.

He told the king that God had made known to the king what will be in the latter days. Starting with king Nebuchadnezzar, there would be four kingdoms of Gentile dominion, kingdoms descending in value, but increasing in strength, but the final form of the final kingdom would be a divided kingdom, a marriage of the strength of iron with the fragility of potter’s clay. And a stone of supernatural origin would impact the kingdoms of this world and obliterate them so no trace is left.

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

Nebuchadnezzar was thinking of what would be after this, how long his kingdom would last, what would come next, and God gave him a comprehensive vision extending to the end of all human kingdoms and the establishment of the messianic kingdom that will endure forever.

Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years, and after he died, the Babylonian empire declined, changing hands through assassinations, only lasting another 23 years, when it fell to the Medo-Persians. The Medo-Persian empire fell to the Greeks in 331 BC, and the Greeks were conquered by the Romans in 146 BC.

It almost seems that Nebuchadnezzar stopped listening after Daniel said ‘you are the head of gold’. ‘Oh yes I am! The head, the top, the pinnacle, the greatest of all. Gold, most precious, most valuable, most glorious. I’m really pretty great, aren’t I? Wait, is Daniel still talking? Blah blah blah…’

Today we are going to look at king Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the obviously supernatural revelation of his dream and the interpretation, both given to Daniel and his three friends who prayed.

Response; Worship?

Daniel 2:46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him.

This is immediately troubling. We could think of Peter at the Gentile Cornelius’ house,

Acts 10:25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

Or we could think of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14, when the people of Lystra thought they were Zeus and Hermes and tried to make sacrifices to them,

Acts 14:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

We are quick to ask the question ‘why did Daniel not object to these acts of worship by Nebuchadnezzar?’

But we are not told how Daniel responded. The silence of the narrative could be interpreted to mean that Daniel did not raise any objection, or it could be that Daniel did object, but this was left out because it didn’t contribute to the main point of the narrative. If Daniel did not object, it could have been because he understood that what Nebuchadnezzar was doing was intended to honor the God that Daniel represented. What is already abundantly clear from the passage is that Daniel was humble and eager to deflect any glory from himself to God.

Acknowledging God

And if we read on, we see that Nebuchadnezzar is acknowledging Daniel’s God, not worshiping Daniel.

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

Through the buildup of the utter failure of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon; through their declaration that ‘There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand’ and that ‘no one can show it to the king except the gods’; through Daniel’s own admission that ‘No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked’, Nebuchadnezzar becomes aware that ‘there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.’ And the head of gold falls prostrate, on his face before the kingdom crushing stone.

Your God is God of gods

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Daniel’s God. He has witnessed the evidence, the failure of his own gods, and the faithfulness of Daniel’s God. He acknowledges ‘Truly your God is God of gods.’ My gods Bel, Nebo, Aku have failed to do anything. Daniel, your God is supreme over my gods. Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t yet own Daniel’s God as his own God, but he has been confronted with the evidence, and is forced to bow his knees to a God who is supreme over any other god that he has known.

This is an important step. To realize that there is a God in heaven, a God above and outside of the gods that he had known, that he was brought up to honor. To acknowledge that there is a difference, a distinction. Daniel’s God is not merely the same god under a different name. No, Daniel’s God is above and superior to and sovereign over the gods of Babylon. Daniel’s God is powerful.

We said earlier that this exile, this captivity was no accident, no tragedy out of the control of the all sovereign God. Daniel and his three friends were sent by God on mission to the nations, to infiltrate the highest offices of the most powerful nation, to be a blessing, to seek the good of the nations, to point them to the one true God. And here we see this happening. The head of gold on his face before the Rock of Ages!

Lord of Kings

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Daniel’s God as God of gods, and also as Lord of kings. Back in verse 37-38, Daniel addressed the king as:

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Assyria, Egypt, Israel. The kings of other kingdoms had become subject to him. He exercised authority as king over the kings of other nations. But Daniel plainly confronted him with the fact that this was a given authority. God had entrusted this authority to him. And here the king of kings bows to the Lord of kings. Even the highest of human authorities, even the king of kings is subject to the Lord of kings. There is a God in heaven who is sovereign over all who hold any authority on this earth. And the kings of the nations would do well to bow to the Lord of kings.

Revealer of Mysteries

Daniel’s God is sovereign over every other so-called god, he is Master over every other position of authority, and he is a revealer of secrets.

This is what got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention. God gave supernatural evidence of his reality. God revealed a secret that no man could know, that not even the false gods could see into and reveal to their followers. Supernatural evidence of God’s reality got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention, and he responded in a dramatic display of worship, falling on his face, offering incense, and as we see in the next verses, giving financially, promoting Daniel and his friends to positions of high honor.

Marks of True Conversion?

But here’s the question; is this true conversion? Is worship of the one true God evidence of genuine conversion? Is acknowledging the fact that God is sovereign over other gods and over every authority the mark of a transformed heart? Is giving generously and honoring believers evidence of true faith? Is responding to supernatural signs in outwardly dramatic ways a sure sign of a believing heart?

I would argue no. In the next chapter, Nebuchadnezzar erects an image and demands that all his officials of every nationality fall down and worship this image. No true believer in the one true God would demand worship of any image. We know that chapter 3 follows chapter 2 chronologically, not only by its placement in the book, but by the fact that in chapter 3, the king had previously appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ‘over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (3:12; cf 2:49).

We must exercise caution in drawing conclusions about someone’s heart. Just because we see someone listen to the word of God, confess belief in the existence of God, perceive the supernatural presence of God, sing praises, even raise hands in worship to the one true God and give generously to God, we must not jump to the conclusion that they have become genuine followers of God. Many people go to church, sing songs of worship, experience genuine emotions of awe and worship, and are unconverted. Many people are impressed by God’s works, by the miraculous and the supernatural, and respond in some way with an expression of worship, but it falls short of true conversion.

Nebuchadnezzar responded in some of these ways, but his heart wasn’t changed. In a rage he throws genuine believers into a furnace of fire because they refused to bow down to his image or serve his gods. He may have bowed his knees to the one true God in response to supernatural evidence, but he had not yet turned away from serving his own gods. He was willing to add another Deity to his pantheon of gods, but he was not yet willing to repent, to turn from his gods, to renounce them as false and turn exclusively to the one true God.

He was willing to be inclusive, to include and even participate in worship of the God of Daniel, he even acknowledged that this God was superior to his gods, but he did not turn from his gods to serve the true God alone. He was willing to embrace everything without discrimination, and that is not a good thing.

Exclusivity of Jesus

Jesus made exclusive claims. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn.14:6).

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is not one piece to the puzzle, making a necessary contribution to our salvation but requiring other pieces, other contributions; he is all-sufficient. Jesus is not one path among many that lead to God; he grants exclusive access to those who turn from all other hopes and trust him alone.

Repent and Believe

Mark 1:14 …Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

To repent is to turn, to have a change of mind; to turn from what you were trusting in, whether it be other gods or your own good works, righteous deeds; filthy rags. Let go of every other hope, turn and cling alone to Christ.

Luke 24:46 …“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.

Repent. Turn from what you had trusted in. Recognize by your wandering heart you have sinned against God and need to be forgiven. Jesus suffered and died to pay your price. Will you turn to him?

Paul taught:

Acts 17:29 …we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Do you want to be truly changed, truly converted? Acknowledge you are a rebel against a good God, that your good deeds are an offense to him; that there is nothing, nothing you can do, nothing outside of Jesus that can change you. Turn to him, cry out to him for mercy, ask him to give you a new heart.

***

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

July 17, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 1:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God

05/02_Daniel 01:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210502_dan01_1-4.mp3

Faithful God

Daniel is a book about God. The Lord is the one true God. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, sovereign over the nations. He alone is God over all

And God is faithful to his promises. We can have hope, we can take confidence because God will always make good on his word. He will do what he says he will do, every time. You can bank on it. That is faith. Paul defines faith by the example of Abraham in Romans 4.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Promised Blessings and Curses

Back in Deuteronomy 28, before God brought his people into the promised land, God gave his people his word, promises.

Deuteronomy 28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.

God promised to bless his people if they would walk with him in fellowship, in obedience. But he also promised consequences for disobedience and betrayal.

Deuteronomy 28:14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.

God was very specific with his promises;

Deuteronomy 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. 33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually,

Their consequences would even affect the next generation.

Deuteronomy 28:36 “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. 37 And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away.

God promised to bless his people if they walked in obedient relationship with him. But he warned that he would give them into the hands of idolaters if they chose to go after false gods.

Hezekiah and Assyria

Around 701 BC, we see a specific instance of this playing out, recorded by Isaiah. Sennacherib, king of Assyria had taken all the fortified cities of Judah. On defeating Lachish, he sent word to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem that they were next. He warned him not to trust in an alliance with Egypt, and not to trust in the Lord their God, because the Lord had sent him to destroy the land (Is.36:6,10).

Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

In dependence on the Lord alone, he asked God to defend the honor if his great name so that he would get glory among the nations.

God’s answer came.

Isaiah 37:33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 36 And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord alone, and God alone wrought a great defeat of the Assyrian army.

Hezekiah and Babylon

But only two chapters and about 4 years later (705 BC), in Isaiah 39,

Isaiah 39:1 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.

Assyria was the world power, but Babylon was seeking independence. No doubt word had come to them about the Assyrian defeat at Jerusalem. Babylon sent a present, seeking an alliance. Hezekiah, who responded to the threatening Assyrian letter with prayer and dependence on God, responded to the flattering Babylonian letters differently.

Isaiah 39:2 And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

Hezekiah missed an opportunity to give glory to God for the defeat of the Assyrians. Instead he flexed his own muscles, showing off his wealth and military might, showing them what they had to gain by a political alliance with Israel.

Isaiah 39:3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

The prophet Isaiah was sent to confront the king over his failure to trust in the Lord, instead seeking the strength of a political alliance with pagan Babylon.

Isaiah 39:5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

God Keeps His Promises

100 years later, in 605 BC,

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

God is faithful to all his promises. He is faithful to discipline his people when they are disobedient to him. The carrying off treasures and captives in 605 BC is a direct fulfillment of the word of the Lord to Hezekiah through Isaiah.

This may seem strange comfort, that the Babylonian captivity was a fulfillment of the promises of God. But when all is chaos and seems out of control, it is anchoring to remember that God is sovereign, he is still in control, he has not forgotten, he is active, he is keeping his promises.

Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Daniel and his friends could lose hope and give up faith, responding with bitterness and resentment; asking ‘why me?’ But instead they chose to see God’s hand in difficult circumstances, ultimately for their good and his glory. This is not random chance and accident conspiring against us; this is ‘the Lord giving Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Whose God is Stronger?

Notice what is happening here; Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon takes the vessels of the house of God and puts them in the house of his god, in the treasury of his god. This was more than merely taking objects of inherent value, gold and silver. Kings would war in the name of their gods, and they would credit victory to their gods. A triumph in battle meant the gods of the victor proved stronger. They would honor their gods by taking the gods (idols) of their enemies and putting them in the temple of their gods.

This happened back in 1 Samuel 5, when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in the house of Dagon their god. If you remember, that didn’t end well for Dagon or for the Philistines.

That is what is happening here; Jerusalem surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, so he plundered the holy temple. It must have been strange for him to enter a temple and find no images, no statues, but rather a throne with no one seated on it. In the eyes of the world, Marduk had triumphed over YHWH. But Daniel interprets this differently. He understands that this was exactly what was promised. This was the all-mighty YHWH fulfilling his own decree.

The Philistines learned (and Israel should have understood) that Dagon was no match for YHWH. Sennacherib was shown (and Hezekiah should have paid attention) that the angel of YHWH is mightier than 185 thousand Assyrians and Nisroch his god. Daniel understood that YHWH is more than capable to defend himself. His temple could not be plundered unless YHWH had given it over to be plundered. And this produced great hope and confidence. God still sits enthroned unrivaled, not in the temple of Jerusalem, but in heaven above. He is God over all. God is sovereign and does whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

The Tale of Two Cities

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Daniel uses the ancient name ‘Shinar’. This connects us back to Genesis 10; Noah’s son Ham fathered Cush, and

Genesis 10:8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Nimrod was a murderous warrior who established cities opposed to God. We read in Genesis 11,

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Babel in the land of Shinar was established in direct opposition to God and his commands. It was the proud attempt of arrogant man united against God to steal glory from God and make a name for himself. ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; Mt.23:12).

Victory Through Defeat

Like Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:21-40), Daniel sets up his story as a competition between the Lord and the gods of Nebuchadnezzar, between the proud city Babylon in the land of Shinar, and the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah, where God chose to make a name for himself.

But surprisingly, Daniel is the story of God’s victory through defeat; he wins by losing, he gains by giving away his treasures and his people into the hands of his enemies. He infiltrates the highest ranks of government by sending captives, boys of 14 or 15, to be trained in the language and literature of this pagan nation. His foolishness proved wiser than their wisest of men. The simple faith of these helpless young men in their omnipotent God changed the direction of empires and the hearts of kings and nations.

Hebrews recounts their faith;

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of …the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

God demonstrates his supremacy over the nations by the unlikely means of defeat and exile. But this is God’s way, who shows himself victorious by sending his best, his only Son into exile here on earth, not to be served but to serve, to learn our language, to confound the wisdom of the wise by his simple faith in his Father, to suffer for sins not his own, to go through the fire and come out alive as a testimony that whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (Rom.9:33).

God is faithful to all his promises, promises to bless those who walk with him in obedience, promises to curse those who turn from him. And we all have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:6). He became a curse for us, so that in Christ Jesus all the blessings he deserves might come to us through faith in him (Gal.3:13-14).

***

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

May 3, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 13:1-10; Test Yourselves! Is Jesus In You?

03/21_2 Corinthians 13:1-10; Test Yourselves! Is Jesus In You?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210321_2cor13_1-10.mp3

Sin is Serious

Paul is speaking very directly to the Corinthians as he closes this letter and prepares to visit them, addressing the issues he sees in the church, pleading with them to change. He says:

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul is coming soon to visit them, and he is afraid that neither he nor they are going to like it. He said to them all the way back in 1 Corinthians as he addressed their sins:

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

Paul doesn’t want to come with a rod of discipline. He is urging them to repent of their sins and return to the simplicity of their relationship with Jesus.

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

Paul is now coming to visit for the third time. Paul first came to Corinth around AD 50-51, and proclaimed the good news about Jesus Christ and him crucified, and a church was birthed. He spent a year and a half with them preaching and teaching and building them up. After leaving he wrote them a letter that was misunderstood (1Cor.5:9), then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians. Around AD 54 he paid them a second visit, which proved to be painful, and then wrote them a letter through his tears (2Cor.2:1-4). It is about a year later as he writes this letter from Macedonia, in preparation for his upcoming visit.

This will be his third visit, and he uses the language of Deuteronomy (19:15) to show them how serious this really is. It is as if he were calling the third witness necessary to convict them. He forewarned them before and he is forewarning again now those who sinned before. Paul believes there are some there who, in spite of his repeated confrontation of their sin, persist unrepentant. He warns not only them, but all the rest. If they persist in sin, he will not spare all of them. There were not-so-innocent bystanders who were putting up with sin in the church without putting out those who refused to turn from their sin after being lovingly confronted. The sin was not OK, and the church body tolerating and accepting the sin was not OK. In 1 Corinthians 5 he had reminded them of the principles laid down by Jesus on church discipline (Matt.18). If they fail to deal with their own issues, Paul will deal with all of them when he comes.

Seeking A Sign

2 Corinthians 13:3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

This church was not listening to Paul; they were looking for Paul to prove himself to them. They had been entertaining super-apostles preaching a false gospel of power and prosperity. They wanted a sign. Jesus said “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Mt.12:39;16:4); the sign of the crucifixion. Paul betrothed them to one husband, Christ; but they were being led astray from their single-hearted devotion by satanic deception. They are now putting Paul to the test.

These verses are rich, and I want to come back to them next week and savor them more slowly, but for now lets step back and get the sweep of Paul’s argument. They want proof from Paul. It is clear from his parody of foolish boasting in chapters 11 and 12 that they wanted victory stories, supernatural signs and wonders and visions to authenticate his ministry. He has told them that they need to evaluate him on the objective standards of his life and his teaching; he wants ‘no one’ to ‘think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me’ (2Cor.12:6). They want proof that Christ is speaking in him. They want to put him to the test.

Test Yourselves

He responds:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

You seek proof of my ministry; it is you that you should be proving. Yourselves is emphatic; yourselves examine; yourselves prove. And what they must prove is much more serious. They demand proof of Paul’s ministry; Paul demands proof of their salvation.

In chapter 5, he reminded them of the good news, that for our sake God the Father made the sinless Jesus to become sin for our sake, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And he implored the Corinthians ‘be reconciled to God’ (5:20-21). In chapter 6, he appeals to them not to receive God’s grace in a vain, worthless, empty manner. He says ‘Look! Now is the day of salvation!’ (6:1-2).

He wants them to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith, if they are really believing, depending on the real gospel. They have been listening to false apostles preaching another jesus and a different gospel. They need to turn their ever-critical eye back toward themselves.

Jesus In You

Do you not know this? Do you not understand this gospel truth about yourselves? That Jesus Christ is in you? Paul had told them back in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 6:16 …we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, …

We are the temple of the living God; God dwells in you. You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you. Here he says ‘do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you?’ Believer, do you not know that you are the temple of the living God; you are indwelt by the triune God; Father, Spirit and Son have taken up residence in you?

Jesus said:

John 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. …23 …“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you? This is the Jesus who humbled himself, God who took on flesh and became one of us, so that he could become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. This is the Jesus, who embodies himself today with you; ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal.2:20). ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.2:5). Do you not know that the crucified and risen Lord is in you?

Unless indeed you fail the test. Paul is not being examined; they are. Is there evidence that the one who laid down his life for others is now alive and at work among them? Is his sacrificial service for others being embodied in them?

Have We Failed?

2 Corinthians 13:6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.

It seems surprising that Paul turns from an admonition to put themselves to the test to them discovering that he has not failed the test. They were seeking proof in him, in something supernatural in him. He held up a mirror and said ‘examine yourselves’. If God the Son is living in you, transforming you to be more like him, isn’t that enough supernatural evidence for you? And if you pass that test, ‘You yourselves are our letter of recommendation’ (2Cor.3:2). ‘You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord’ (1Cor.9:2). You want proof of my ministry? Look at yourselves. Have you been transformed by the gospel I proclaimed to you? Is Jesus Christ living in you? If you pass the test, I hope you can see that means that we have passed the test.

Paul’s Prayer

But Paul’s primary desire is not to be vindicated or to prove that he has passed the test. They want to make this about him, but he won’t let them. He prays for them.

2 Corinthians 13:7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

What is Paul praying for here? It may help us understand if we turn it around to see what Paul does not pray for. ‘I’ve loved you, I’ve served you, I’ve put my life on the line for you. But you won’t listen to me; you just keep on persisting in sin. And not only that, but you question my integrity! You have the audacity to demand that I prove myself to you. Well, guess what? You’ll get what you want and more. I’m praying that God strike you down hard, and I hope you keep on persisting in your sins, so that he shows you no mercy, and when I get to town I can see you crushed under his almighty arm.’

That might be the way we would feel if we were in his situation, but that’s not Paul’s heart. Paul prays that they not do wrong, that they do what is right. And not for appearance sake; not because when they do what is right, he looks good. If you are walking in the truth, I am not against you, I am for you. What we pray for is your restoration. I want you to do what is right even if that makes us look weak and you strong, even if we seem to have failed.

Paul has threatened that he will not spare them if they don’t repent. If they do repent of their sins, then he can do nothing against them. He will not come in power ready to punish them. Instead he will come again in the meekness and gentleness of Christ. To their requirement of an outward display of power he will again seem to fail. But he is glad if he is seen to be weak so that they can be strong. He is willing to be disapproved if that means that they pass the test, that they are in the faith, that they are in the truth, that Jesus Christ is in them. He has betrothed them to one husband, and he is willing to decrease if only they are restored to their single-hearted devotion to their Lord Jesus.

Weighty Letters

Paul began this section in chapter 10 by begging:

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

Paul was accused of being bold from a distance and humble in person. He begged that he would not have to show bold confidence against his detractors when he came again in person.

Remember, some were saying “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2Cor.10:10). Paul says ‘you’re right!’

He concludes this section by giving his purpose for writing what he wrote:

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

He writes boldly in his letters so that he does not have to be bold and severe in person. It is actually his desire to be seen as weak, gentle and meek, among them. His letter kills, so that when he is present, he can minister life to them (2Cor.3:6). He urges them to do the painful work of tearing down; testing and examining themselves to see if they are in the faith, so he can use his authority when he is present with them to edify them. He has been speaking in the presence of God, in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved (12:19).

***

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

March 23, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Baptize

08/16 Baptizing Them (Mt.28:19; Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200816_baptize.mp3

We have been looking at the Great Commission found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Looking at obeying Jesus, at what it means to be a disciple, a follower 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 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.”

After the service today we are going to have some baptisms, and this morning I want to look at why we baptize, who we baptize, and what baptism means.

The Command to Baptize

It is this command of Jesus to his followers that compels us to baptize. We baptize followers of Jesus in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command here is simple: ‘make disciples of all nations’. That is the command. If disciples are to be made from every nation or every ethnic group, then ‘going’ will be necessary. A disciple is a student, a learner, or a follower. There are two primary things Jesus commands that we do with his disciples. We are to baptize them and teach them. Baptism is the initiatory rite that indicates to everyone that they are beginning the life of a disciple, following a new Master. Teaching them all that Jesus taught is the continuation of the process of disciple making.

Baptizing Into

Jesus is clear as to what his disciples are to be baptized into. In that day it was common for someone who was not Jewish by descent but wanted to worship the God of Israel to be baptized into Judaism as an indication that they had left their old gods behind and had turned to YHWH. John, who was know as ‘the baptist’ or the one who baptized, came with a radical message. He preached a baptism of repentance – calling Jews to turn from their formal outward religion and prepare their hearts for the radical transformation that the Messiah would bring.

Jesus here tells his followers to baptize disciples ‘in (or into) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Jesus does not tell us to baptize into an -ism or a church or a group, but into a name; into a person, into a relationship. One’s name stands for one’s character, nature or reputation. The word ‘Name’ is singular, as Israel was so clearly taught that ‘the Lord our God is one Lord’.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

There is one name, one character or nature, one God. And yet Jesus tells us that we are to baptize into the name of three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is one of many reasons why orthodox Christianity since the time of Jesus has held faithfully to the doctrine of the triune God: One God eternally existing in three distinct persons. We baptize into the one Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The duration of this command is also stated by Jesus in this verse. How long are we to make disciples, baptizing and teaching? And where does the authority lie? Jesus said ‘all authority has been given to me’. I have no authority – Jesus has all the authority, and Jesus said ‘I am with you always’. The person who does the baptizing is nothing. Jesus retains his own authority. Jesus said ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. So as long as this age lasts, we will go on making disciples, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded us, with the confidence that he promised to be with us.

Who Can Be Baptized?

What is the prerequisite for baptism? Baptism is to be done in the disciple making process, so it is for those who have become disciples or followers of Jesus.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter said that repentance was what must precede baptism. To repent literally means to turn. I was going in this direction trusting in my good works and thinking I was fine with God, but then I felt the weight of my sin and recognized my good works are filthy rags in God’s sight. Jesus apprehended me and I had to turn around and leave my good works behind and cling to Jesus alone and what he accomplished for me on the cross to forgive my sins. A few verses later, Luke tells us that:

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

When Peter proclaimed the good news that ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (v.21) and that the crucified Jesus is the Lord that we must call out to for salvation (v.36), those who received this word turned and became followers of Jesus and were baptized.

When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas ‘what must I do to be saved?’, they told him:

Acts 16:30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Belief in Jesus as Lord brought salvation to each individual in this household. In response to their faith, their trust in Jesus, they were baptized.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Those who believe in the Lord, those who call out to Jesus for salvation, who repent or turn from whatever they were trusting in to Jesus, those who become disciples or followers of Jesus are baptized as a public declaration of their new faith.

What Is Baptism?

We’ve looked at Jesus’ command to baptize disciples, and we’ve looked at repentance and faith (turning from whatever you were holding on to and depending on Jesus alone) as the biblical prerequisite for baptism, but just what is baptism and what does it mean? A definition of the word itself will be helpful. The word is actually an untranslated carry-over from the Greek language that the New Testament was written in. Rather than translate the word with an English word that has the same meaning, the Greek characters were simply replaced with English characters and [βαπτίζω] became ‘baptize’, a new word in our language. When we study how the word [βαπτίζω] was used in New Testament times, we find that it means ‘to dunk, dip, plunge, immerse or submerge’ in water. It might help us understand what the Bible is saying if we translate the word ‘baptize’ with the word ‘immerse’ or ‘plunge’.

Baptism is an Illustration of Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized [immersed] into Christ Jesus were baptized [immersed] into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism [immersion] into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Water immersion or baptism is a picture of what spiritually happened to us when we trusted Christ. We have been immersed into Christ Jesus, and specifically plunged into his death. Going down into the water pictures our death and burial with Christ. It is an effective picture, because if the one doing the baptizing is not strong enough or not kind enough to bring the person being baptized back up out of the water, the picture will become a reality. Jesus referred to his coming crucifixion as a baptism in Mark 10:38-38 and Luke 12:50. Coming up out of the water illustrates our resurrection and new life as believers. Paul is arguing in Romans 6 that we cannot continue to live in sin because we have died to our old sinful way of life, and we are now alive to God in Christ Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, we will live differently, not because we are under a new set of rules, but because we have a new resurrection life in us that has different desires. Paul goes on in the next verses to describe our baptism with Christ as being united with Christ:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

We are united with Christ in his death; being plunged into Christ connects us with him. We are plunged into his crucifixion. The old me is dead and buried. We are now set free from sin; I am no longer under its power. I have died to that which once held me captive. We are united with Christ in his resurrection; Because I am connected with him, I become enveloped in his resurrection power.

Baptism is Similar to Circumcision as the Sign of the Covenant

In Colossians 2, baptism is compared to circumcision, the sign of the old covenant. Circumcision was the cutting off of physical flesh; in Christ, our fleshly nature is put off.

Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

This resurrection power comes to me ‘through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Jesus from the dead.’

Paul goes on to describe our desperate condition and what God did:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Baptism, like salvation is passive; it is something done to you, not something you do. God made us alive. God dealt with our sins at the cross. God united us with Christ. God saved us. Salvation is God’s work. We don’t save ourselves. We trust in another to save us. In baptism, we show up, we participate, but it is something done to us, not something we do. We are at the mercy of another.

Baptism Follows Justification by Faith

In Galatians 3, Paul explains that all the promises of God come not to law keepers, but to those who believe in Jesus. We are justified (we receive the verdict of ‘not guilty’) by faith; by trusting in, depending on the righteousness of another.

Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized [immersed] into Christ have put on Christ.

Justification – being declared ‘not guilty’ – comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But justification changes us. As we are immersed into Christ, we become so saturated with Christ, that we wear Jesus around and drip him all over everyone we come in contact with.

Baptism Unites with the Body Of Christ

Paul goes on:

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our immersion into Christ destroys all ethnic and social and economic barriers. Because we are united with Christ, we are now united in a spiritual connection with our brothers and sisters.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized [immersed] into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Baptism Pictures Washing Away Guilt

Peter compares the ark that brought Noah and his family safely through the waters of God’s judgment with baptism.

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus. When we cry out to God in faith, our conscience is washed clean by the blood of Jesus and we are free from guilt because ‘Christ suffered once for sins the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1Pet.3:18).

Baptism in Water or Baptism with the Spirit?

This raises the question ‘what is the difference between baptism in water and the cleansing of the conscience by faith in Jesus?’ John the baptist said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

So there is a distinction between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. John did the water baptism, Jesus would do the Holy Spirit baptism. John immersed people in water to symbolize their repentance. Jesus would submerge and saturate people with God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus, when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, told them:

Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The disciples experienced this, and when Peter preached his first sermon, he said:

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is given in response to repentance and faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Water baptism is a picture of this spiritual reality.

Summary:

Jesus commanded us to baptize believers because baptism is a symbol rich in spiritual significance.

  • It illustrates our baptism by Jesus with the Holy Spirit when we believe in him.
  • It pictures our connection with Jesus in his death and resurrection, demonstrating that we are dead to sin and have new resurrection life so that we can live pleasing to God.
  • It demonstrates our connection with all other believers.
  • Baptism is done in response to repentance, turning from our way to God’s way, and faith or trust or belief in Jesus as Lord and King, and his finished work on the cross – where he took the punishment in full for my sin.
  • In baptism, we are identified with the name of the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – as being owned by him.
  • By being baptized, we are declaring to all that we are now disciples, followers of Jesus, submitted, committed and devoted to him.

Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 …I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

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.”

***

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

August 22, 2020 Posted by | church, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

08/02 Endure To The End (Matt.10, 13, 24; Jude); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200802_endure.mp3

Jesus calls us to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught, and who pass on everything Jesus taught. What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple?

Did you know Jesus gave us some precious and very great promises? Let’s look at one in John 16

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus promises us peace in him through his word. We love that. He declares that he has overcome the world. Amen! He also promises us that in the world we will have tribulation. Ooof! We don’t like that promise. But following Jesus is a package deal, not a smorgasbord. We don’t get to pick and choose among the teachings of our Lord. We have to take everything, obey everything he said, cling to his every word. And this is a hard word. ‘In the world you will have tribulation.’

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

Matthew 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

How’s that for a promise? You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. And here’s the command. Endure! The one who endures to the end will be saved.

This is serious. Your salvation is at stake. You are going to experience persecution. But endure. Remain steadfast. It is the one who endures the world’s hatred, tribulation, to the end, who will be saved. He said this to his 12 apostles when he sent them out. So we can say that this was specific to them, and we don’t need to worry about it, right? The problem with that is that what he says is much bigger than just the twelve on that specific mission he sent them on.

He said in verse 16 that he was sending them out ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves’. He said they would stand before courts, synagogues, governors, kings, even the Gentiles. None of that happened on this original mission. He says in verse 23 that these instructions apply until his return. So that is much bigger than the 12. He says in verse 24 ‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.’ This applies to every disciple, every follower of Jesus. He continues in verse 28:

Matthew 10:28 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. 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.

Don’t be afraid of the one who can only kill your body. Fear God who can send you to hell for eternity. Don’t be afraid of people, because God knows you intimately, and you are more valuable to God than many sparrows. They may kill you, but you will not fall to the ground apart from your Father and his good purposes for you.

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.

Stand firm. Endure to the end. Don’t deny Jesus. Acknowledge him before people. It is those who endure to the end who will be saved.

Matthew 10:38 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.

If self-preservation in this life is your god, you are not really a follower of Jesus.

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

In Matthew 24, Jesus reiterates some of these words he gave to his 12, this time in the context of his disciple’s question ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ If there is any doubt in Matthew 10, Jesus makes it clear here in Matthew 24 that he is speaking to us. He warns us to be on guard; ‘see to it that no one leads you astray.’

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

You will undergo tribulation, you will be hated, you will be put to death. Many will fall away or be led astray, but the one who endures to the end will be saved. ‘Saved’ in this context clearly means saved in the eternal salvation sense, because we are not promised rescue or deliverance from persecution or death.

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

Jesus helps us think through what it means to endure in Matthew 13, where he described four different responses to the gospel. The word of God is scattered widely. Some hear without understanding.

Matthew 13:18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path.

Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

They hear the word and do not understand it; the devil takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The gospel as it were falls on deaf ears.

The second hearers immediately receive the word with joy. We often get too excited about those in this category.

Matthew 13:20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.

There is an immediate response with joy. They endure for a while. But when faced with trouble or persecution, they fall away. They do not endure to the end, and they are not saved. There was an initial response to the gospel, a flash in the pan; but there was no root, and when it gets hard they walk away from Jesus. Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

They believe for a while, but under testing they fall away.

Tested Genuineness of Faith

Peter learned first hand about this. Peter learned the hard way. When Jesus predicted that “You will all fall away because of me this night.” (Mt.26:31)

Matthew 26:33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” …35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

That sounds great. He received the word with joy. And he was vocal about his determination to follow Jesus to the end, whatever the cost. But Peter learned the value of pressure. Pressure taught Peter that his faith was not what he thought it was (or more precisely his faith was not in who it ought to be in). And he came to thank God for trials. Listen to what he writes after Jesus’ resurrection, after Jesus restored him to faith and usefulness. And listen for the contrast from his earlier self-confident proclamation ‘I will never fall away! …I will never deny you!’ In 1 Peter 1:3 he writes:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter came to see tribulation as a blessing. Faith that has not been tested may or may not be genuine. It is better to find out now that your faith is false than to find out after it is too late; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. Persecution turned Peter’s eyes away from himself and his self-confidence to a humble dependence on God and his work.

Paul and James concur that ‘we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance’ (Rom.5:3-5). ‘Count it all joy …when you meet trials …for …the testing of your faith produces steadfastness’ (Jam.1:2-4).

2 More Responses to the Gospel; choked out or endures to the end

Back in Matthew 13 Jesus lists two more responses to the gospel in addition to hearing without understanding and an immediate receiving with joy that is proved to be false through testing.

Matthew 13:22 The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing.

This is similar to the rocky ground, but the source of the testing is different. Genuineness of faith can be tested in different ways. It can be revealed through trials or through ease, through pressure or through pleasure. In the rocky ground faith was proved false by persecution. Here in the thorny ground faith is proved false by competing affections. The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the desires for other things choke out the word. We see this in the history of Israel. Moses warned:

Deuteronomy 8:11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,

When Israel had times of pride, excess, and prosperous ease, she forgot the Lord. The cares and riches and pleasures of this life compete with and kill any short lived affections for Jesus.

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

Matthew 13:23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”

This last person hears the word and understands. And the fruit varies, but he bears fruit. Luke records:

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience [ὑπομονή].

Not only do they hear the word, they hold it fast. They endure to the end and are saved. They bear fruit with steadfastness or patience endurance.

The Steadfastness of Christ

Jesus calls us to persevere in faith, to endure affliction and persecution as well as pleasure and prosperous ease, to not fall away or to be led astray. Jesus commands us to hold fast the word in an honest and good heart, to bear fruit with steadfastness, to endure to the end.

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

The Lord is Faithful

We have the command of Christ to endure to the end, and we have the example of the steadfastness of Christ who endured the cross. But how? You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can. After all, I’m not Jesus.’ How can we endure to the end? That verse in 2 Thessalonians gives us a clue; it instructs us to direct our hearts not only to the steadfastness of Christ, but first to the love of God. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks for prayer, and then he says:

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

He doesn’t say ‘we have confidence in you’; that would be misplaced confidence. He says ‘the Lord is faithful. He will establish you. We have confidence in the Lord about you.’ Paul’s confidence for their endurance and faithfulness is in the Lord’s faithfulness.

Kept to Keep Yourselves

As we wrap up today, I want to look at the little letter by Jude, just one chapter, the second to last book in the Bible. Jude tells us in verse 21 to ‘keep yourselves in the love of God.’ How do we do that? Jude tells us, and he also frames this command with some truth we need to see. At the opening of his letter, he addresses:

Jude 1:1 …To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

He addresses us as the called, and he says that we are beloved in God the Father, and we are kept for Jesus Christ. Called, loved by God, and kept. Beloved and kept are both passive; describing something being done to us by another. God is the one loving and keeping us.

He starts by addressing us as the called, loved and kept. And then in verse 20-21 he commands us to keep ourselves.

Jude 1:20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. That is imperative. It is a command, something we are to do. Aren’t we beloved in God and kept by him? Isn’t that enough? He even starts verse 20 by reminding us that we are beloved. How do we keep ourselves in God’s love? Can we? Jude surrounds this command with three participles that tell us how; building, praying, and waiting. As the beloved of God, we keep ourselves in the love of God by building, praying and waiting. We are to build ourselves up in the most holy faith. Take positive action to dig deep, with a firm foundation of God’s word, Jesus Christ himself the cornerstone, and anchor your faith on him. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Discipline yourself to pray the Spirit inspired words of Scripture back to him. And eagerly anticipate the full realization of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Keep yourself in the love of the triune God; building up, praying, waiting in the Son, Spirit, and Father. This is how we keep ourselves in the love of God.

So which is it? Are we kept, or do we keep ourselves? Yes! God keeps us and he uses means. God keeps us by our building up, praying and waiting.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 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.

Endure to the end. Don’t be choked out by pleasure or burned up by pressure. Keep yourselves by building yourselves up in the faith, praying and anticipating. Beloved, keep yourselves in the love of the God who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy!

***

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

August 3, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Walk By Faith

07/26 Walk By Faith (Matthew 17; Luke 17; Mark 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200726_faith.mp3

Today I want to look at what Jesus taught about faith. Up front I want to distinguish between what we will call ‘saving faith’ and faith for other supernatural things short of salvation. We dealt specifically with the saving kind of faith or believing in Jesus at the beginning of our series on Obeying Jesus; because it is the most important thing Jesus commanded of us. Saving faith is the kind of faith we see in John 3:16

John 3:14 …the Son of Man [must] 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. …18 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.

God gave his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins at the cross, so that whoever has faith, whoever believes in him, whoever trusts in him, depends on him only and completely, will not perish but will have eternal life. That is what I mean by saving faith through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is primary. That is essential. If you’re not trusting only and completely in Jesus’ finished work for you on the cross, nothing else I will say matters at all. I must understand that I am a sinner and as such I deserve God’s wrath. But God’s wrath toward me was poured out on his only Son Jesus on the cross, so that by faith, by trusting in him, I am brought in to a relationship with God, forgiven, accepted, loved. We will come back around to this at the end and see how this all connects, but that is not the focus of what I want to look at today.

Jesus disciples said ‘increase our faith!’ Jesus reprimanded his followers on several occasions ‘O you of little faith.’ He made their success in doing what he called them to do contingent on faith in contrast to doubting. We will call this ‘walking by faith’ as we follow Jesus, in contrast to ‘living by faith’ or having new life given to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

One of the reasons I want to look at this today is there is a good deal of misunderstanding around some of the passages we will look at, even some dangerous teaching. By looking at those in their context we will be able to gain a clearer understanding of what they mean, and ultimately of what it means to walk with Jesus by faith.

O Faithless Generation; (Mt.17:14-20; Mk.9:18-29)

In Matthew 17, Jesus is coming down from the mount of transfiguration with three of his closest disciples.

Matthew 17:14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

Jesus rebukes the whole generation for being faithless and warped. This would include everyone; the religious leaders, the crowds, the father, even his own disciples. They are rebuked for their lack of faith. Mark’s account includes a conversation between Jesus and the father of the boy.

Mark 9:21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

This father had already asserted that Jesus’ disciples ‘could not heal him’. Now he asks Jesus if he is able to do anything for them. He frames his request to Jesus with doubt. ‘If you can.’ If you are able to do anything to help us, have compassion on us.

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus confronts this father’s lack of faith head on. He quotes back to him his own words ‘if you can’. Do you know who you are talking to? I can’t think of any time where it would be appropriate to use these words in prayer. God, if you are able… God is able. Omnipotent. That is what it means to be God. Nothing is impossible with God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:3)

What does the word ‘faith’ or ‘believe’ actually mean? The root of this word group [πείθω] means ‘to be persuaded or convinced’. To believe is to be so persuaded of something that you trust in it, you depend on it, you put your weight on it.

Faith in a Tree

Faith can be misplaced or well placed. I once put my trust in a tree. I was hiking up the steep slope of a mountain, and I reached out to steady myself on a tree, and I ended up maybe a hundred yards below the tree, unconscious, bleeding, with a fractured skull. The tree was strong enough, but I didn’t realize it was wet and slippery. It was my grip that failed. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. It doesn’t matter how strongly you believe something. If you believe the wrong thing, it will let you down, and it may let you down hard.

This father of the demon possessed boy began to see that he was looking more at his own hopeless circumstances than he was at who it was who was standing in front of him, ready and willing to help. He begins to recognize his own need. and prays a good prayer to Jesus. His first request was prefaced by ‘if you can do anything to come to our aid’. Now he prays ‘Come to the aid of my unbelief’. Never underestimate the power of God. Jesus is able to take unbelief and change it into faith.

Little-Faith [ὀλιγόπιστος]

Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 21 —

The disciples want to know where they went wrong. And as with the boy’s father, Jesus points to their little faith. They failed to cast out the demon because of their little faith. Jesus uses a compound word ‘little-faith’; and the ‘little’ can be lacking in extent, in degree, in duration or in value. It could mean that they didn’t have strong enough or big enough faith; they didn’t believe hard enough, or that they didn’t believe long enough, or it could mean that their faith lacked value; it was lacking because it was misplaced. Jesus makes it clear that it is not the quantity or size of the faith that matters; he says if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, which is a very tiny seed, you can move mountains; nothing will be impossible for you. So he must mean little faith in the sense of lacking in value; or misplaced faith.

Failed Faith or Prayer?

It is interesting to compare Matthew’s account with Mark’s. In Mark’s account, when the disciples ask Jesus privately why they were not able to cast out the demon, Jesus answers “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” This is surprising, because in none of the three accounts, Matthew, Mark or Luke, does Jesus pray. But he had just come down from being with his Father on the mountain. In Matthew, Jesus gives the reason as their little faith, or faith of little value; misplaced faith; In Mark Jesus gives the reason as a lack of prayer. The one with faith in God, who really trusts in God, who is depending on God, expresses that dependence through prayer, asking God to do what only he can do.

Moving Mountains, Uprooting Trees

The disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5

Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Jesus’ answer to his disciples is the same. It is not the quantity of your faith that is the problem. Mustard seed faith is enough. Faith like a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains and uproot trees.

Have you ever tried that? Tried to move mountains with your faith? I have. I grew up in Minnesota, so I’d never really seen mountains. I think it was around second grade when we took a family road trip out through Glacier National Park in Montana. That’s where we found out I needed glasses because I couldn’t even see the mountains until we got pretty close. I had heard these verses growing up. And with the faith of a seven year old looking out of the back seat window of our station wagon at the majestic mountains of Montana, I wanted to see if the Bible was really true. I believed as hard as I could. And all Montana thanks God that nothing happened. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God were obligated to uproot mountains at the whim of every seven year old around the planet! Remember, faith is not some superpower like the force. Faith, like prayer, is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

Promises of Prayer with Faith

In Matthew 21, Jesus connects faith with prayer.

Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Jesus made some audacious promises to his followers about prayer.

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. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

‘Whatever you ask I will do’ is qualified by ‘whoever believes in me’ and ‘whatever you ask in my name,’that the Father may be glorified.’ We as believers, are to ask in the name of Jesus, which means that we ask for what Jesus would ask for, pursuing the glory of the Father. As John puts it,

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Prayer is unstoppable when it is aligned with the will of God. Faith accomplishes the impossible when it is placed in what God has revealed in his written word to be his will.

Faith: Fully Convinced God is Able to Do What He Promised

I think the clearest definition of faith in the Bible is Romans 4:20-21. Talking about Abraham’s faith.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Faith ultimately brings glory to God as it realizes God’s impossible promises. We ask in prayer with faith when we take God at his word, believing he will do what he has said, and asking him to do it.

Unbelief and Jesus’ Inability

There is a passage in Mark 6 that is often misunderstood and misapplied. It is when Jesus came to his hometown in Nazareth, and all were astonished because of his wisdom and mighty works, but they began to question where he got these things because they were familiar with him and his family.

Mark 6:4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

I have heard people say that the unbelief of the people tied Jesus’ hands, so that he was unable to do the works he wanted to do, and then they draw the conclusion that our unbelief holds back the power of God to do supernatural things in our lives now, and conversely it is our faith that unlocks or activates the power of God in our lives.

This is dangerous for multiple reasons. It is dangerous because it undermines the sovereignty of God and make his power contingent on us and our faith. God is absolutely sovereign; he does whatever he pleases. After Nebuchadnezzar was warned, then humbled by God because of his pride, when ‘his reason returned’ to him, he acknowledged that

Daniel 4:35 … he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Saying that our unbelief limits the power of God, and that Jesus cannot overcome our unbelief is dangerous because it undermines the New Covenant promises of God. God promises to remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezek.36:26). In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul tells us that God can and does overcome Satanic blindness.

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

Implying that our unbelief limits Jesus’ power misreads the passage. It does say that Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except…” and then it goes on to list the few miracles of healing that he did do there. And it says in verse 6 that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” But it stops short of making unbelief the cause of the ‘could not’. If we look at Matthew’s account, he tells us not that he could not, but that “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” So the reason Jesus did not do many mighty works in Nazareth was because of unbelief. Putting Matthew and Mark together, we can say that Jesus could not do many mighty works there for an undefined reason, that he marveled at their unbelief, and that he did not do many might works there because of their unbelief. But we also have Luke’s account in Luke 4. Luke tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood to read. He read from the prophet Isaiah:

Luke 4:18 “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.”

This is where they began to question “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Luke actually tells us what their unbelief consisted of, and how their unbelief prevented Jesus from doing many might works in their town. They were disbelieving Jesus’ claim to be himself the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament. They disbelieved his identity as Messiah because they were familiar with him and his family. Jesus confronts their unbelief and desire to see signs, and then he points to the Old Testament examples where Israel was in unbelief, and God turned instead to bless Gentiles.

Luke 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee…

He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief in him as Messiah. He could not do many mighty works there because they drove him out of their town and attempted to execute him. Their rejection of Jesus as their promised rescuer, their rejection of him as the one bringing good news of salvation, their driving him out of their town cut them off from the other blessings he brought.

Could Jesus have overcome their unbelief in him as Messiah? Yes, but he came to die.

Could Jesus overcome their unbelief? He did, at least with some. James and Judas (or Jude), two of his half-brothers who had rejected him during his lifetime, after his resurrection came to believe in him, and went on to write letters now included in the New Testament.

Live by faith/ walk by faith

Let’s pull this together. Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. Saving faith is depending on Jesus alone as the fulfillment of God’s promises, trusting Jesus alone for our reconciliation with God. God ‘gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ You have his word on that. God can overcome your unbelief. Cry out to him ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’ and he will give you a new heart to believe in him. And having been made alive by faith, we also walk day by day with Jesus through faith, believing he is able do do what he has promised. Paul tells the Galatians:

Galatians 3:1 …It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

He tells the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,

We begin the Christian life by faith, and we walk day by day by hearing the word with faith.

***

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

July 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

03/29 Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200329_kept-in-peace.mp3

As I was contemplating God’s peace in the middle of uncertain times, a familiar verse came to mind. It goes like this:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a great verse of encouragement and hope to cling to. Just last week, someone gave me a little laminated scrap of paper with this verse written on it.
Kept in Peace

You keep him in ‘peace peace’, perfect peace. Last week we looked at the peace of Christ; Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (Jn,14:27). This is ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding;’ peace that ‘will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.4:7). This is the peace that you are to have ‘rule in your hearts …and be thankful’ (Col.3:15). God is our keeper; the keeper of peace; you will keep him in perfect peace.

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.’ In Colossians 3, we saw that this peace is for those who have believed in Jesus, who have been completely forgiven, who have been raised with Christ, who are experiencing new life in Jesus. And we believers are commanded to ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is’ (Col.3:1); we are to. ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Col.3:2). We are to steady the attention of our minds on Jesus, to set our affections on him; our hearts and thoughts are to be captured by him. So many things compete for our affections and our attention, but we are to fix our attention on him.

When we set mind and heart on Jesus, our minds are steadied,stayed on you’. This is passive; God’s word and God’s character have a steadying effect on our minds. God himself maintains and steadies us.

Because He Trusts in You

Because he trusts in you. Here is the means of being kept, being steadied. We are to trust, trust in God alone. Not trust in him and… But trust in him. Period. We are kept in peace because we trust in God. Not because of our act of trust, but because of the object in which our trust is placed. Because God is dependable. Because God is unchanging. Because God is our rock, because God is our security.

Not our health; that may fail. Not our savings; that may evaporate. Not our families; that can be stripped away. Not our jobs; there is no lasting security there. If our hope is in those things, if we are counting on, depending on, trusting in those things, they will fail us. They can all be gone in a moment.

This is what Jesus taught us;

Matthew 19:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where is your hope? Where is your heart? What are you holding on to? Where is your security?

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord God is the only absolute in an uncertain and shifting world. The LordGod; in the Hebrew ‘Yah YHWH’ is an everlasting rock. The Rock of Ages. YHWH, the one who is, the self existent, the absolute, the independent I AM.

Context of Global Judgment

This is a powerful pointer to where we get real peace. This was a verse I was familiar with, and I wanted to chew on this verse and see it in its context, so I looked it up. The verse is in Isaiah 26, tucked away in chapters 24-27, which are sometimes referred to as Isaiah’s little apocalypse.

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

This song is sung by God’s people, because, verse 5 says;

Isaiah 26:5 For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”

I was a bit surprised by the context. God’s people sing their confidence in God’s salvation as a result of God’s humbling the proud and lifted up of the world.

Isaiah warns of the downfall of Jerusalem because of their disobedience, pride and idolatry. God raised up the enemies of Israel to punish his people. But even in the midst of his discipline, there is hope. God disciplines his people for their good, and will ultimately crush their enemies.

Isaiah 24-27 put this in an end-times global perspective. These chapters give us a climactic vision of God ruling the nations in judgment and salvation. God will lay low everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of him. The lofty city is a picture of self-confidence, independence, and pride.

Look back at chapter 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. …3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

Notice it is the Lord himself who does this. Why?

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. …10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.

Why does the Lord execute judgment on the whole earth? Because of sin. Because of our rejection of God’s commands. Because we refuse to listen to him, to follow his ways. Because of our guilt. The wages of our sin is death.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. 20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

Isaiah 24 ends with the Lord punishing both angels and human rulers because of their guilt and, ‘the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders’ (Is.24:23).

Response of Worship

Listen to the response of God’s people to his just and terrible punishment of the wicked”

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

God’s people respond to his justice with worship. They sing his praise because God’s judgment on those who persist in evil and pride and refuse to turn to him is right and good. God is patient, slow to anger, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9). But God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Num.14:18). God’s justice is wonderful, worthy of praise. God’s people praise him for his justice, but it doesn’t stop there.

Isaiah 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…

Even God’s enemies will give him glory because of his absolute justice.

Philippians 2:10 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.

Every knee will bow and give glory to God. Some knees will never bow, except under the mighty hand of God’s justice.

Isaiah 26:9 …For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

God’s people recognize the sanctifying effect of God’s wrath, and even pray for it. There is a good end to God’s justice. Some may repent and turn to the Lord before it is too late.

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

Isaiah 26:8 In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Are you willing to wait in the path of God’s judgments? If that is where God will meet you, is he of more value to you than your own comfort and convenience? This is the true heart of a follower of Jesus. You, Lord are the desire of our soul. My soul years for you. My spirit earnestly seeks you. I want above all for your name to be honored, your will to be done. Above my need for daily bread and personal safety is my desire for you Lord to get the honor and worship that is your due. Does your heart resonate with this yearning? O Lord, make it so!

Resurrection Confidence

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

Peace, Jesus’ own peace, perfect peace to the one who is stabilized by the immovable anchor of the unchanging character of God. Trust. Trust in the Lord forever. He is worthy of your trust. He will never leave you; he will not fail you. No matter what happens, you are safe.

Does this imply that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and that if bad things do happen, it is an indication of your lack of faith? No, no no! God’s perfect peace is not exemption from the storms, but peace in the middle of the storms. God’s peace is not seen in circumstances. God’s peace is deeper than that. Times of trial wean us away from temporary pleasures to that which is lasting and true.

Jesus says something that at first sounds contradictory in John 11.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In one breath he says that believers will die and live again, and in the next breath he says that believers will never die. Are we exempt from death, or aren’t we? It is clear from history that believers in Jesus still experience death, many in unthinkable ways. But does this contradict what Jesus says in the very next breath that believers will never die? Clearly he is talking about death and life in different ways. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he will experience death physically, yet his body will physically be raised again. And everyone who experiences inward life (or new birth) and believes in Jesus will never experience spiritual death or separation from God. For the believer, to be ‘away from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2Cor.5:8). Eternal life, Jesus taught, is knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn.17:3). He taught a similar thing in Mark 8.

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

He clarifies that he is talking about two different kinds of life when he says something similar in John 12.

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Seeking to preserve physical life in this world at the cost of a relationship with God is folly; but risking this physical life for the hope of eternal life with God is true wisdom.

The peace of Jesus is not exemption from trials or suffering (Jesus actually promised we would experience those); rather the peace of Jesus preserves us through the trials. We will experience physical death, and yet we shall truly live. We see that our ultimate hope is rooted in the resurrection right in the context of this verse in Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.

For the one who trusts in the Lord, we have a sure and steadfast hope beyond the grave. Death is not the end. Christians believe in the resurrection. This life is not all there is, to be held on to at all costs. No, if our hope is in Jesus even death can’t interrupt that! ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job13:15)

Listen to our hope in the imagery painted in Isaiah 25:

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him. The God who swallows up death forever, who will wipe away our every tear. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Trust in the YHWH forever, for Yah YHWH is an everlasting rock! Trust him for he is trustworthy. Let your mind be stayed on him. Let him keep you.

***

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

April 4, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:11-16; Gospel Confidence and Gospel Boasting

07/21_2 Corinthians 7:11-16; Gospel Confidence and Gospel Boasting ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190721_2cor7_11-16.mp3

The Results of Grief According to God

2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

Paul rejoices at the report of the Corinthian’s grief, not because they were grieved, but because their grief was according to God, it produced a repentance that leads to salvation. Paul was not eager to crush them; he ‘worked with them for their joy’ (1:24).

Their grief according to God produced the appropriate results. Paul draws their attention in verse 11 to what it worked in them; see what urgency or earnestness, also what defense or clearing of yourselves, also what indignation or repulsion over your sins, also what fear recognizing God’s just judgment on wrongdoers, also what desire or earnest longing for reconciliation and to do what is right, also what zeal or fervency as opposed to a lack of care or concern, also what punishment or vindication, a commitment to what is right and just.

At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” We are not certain what the matter was that he was referring to, but they knew. He refers back in chapter 2 to an issue that had caused pain. He said:

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

We don’t know exactly what the issue was, nor are we intended to. He leaves it ambiguous, so that what he says can be applied to many specific situations. Possibly it was the immoral man addressed in 1 Corinthians 5; possibly someone who was defiant in the church, who had undermined and opposed Paul’s authority, someone who gained a following. Whatever the sin issue, they had responded with appropriate earnestness, clearing, indignation, fear, desire, fervency, vindication. They had demonstrated their purity.

Why Paul Wrote; To Show Them Their Own Earnestness

He said in 2:3

2 Corinthians 2:3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

His purpose for writing was to communicate his abundant love for them.

He said in 2:9

2 Corinthians 2:9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

Now here in 7:12 he says

2 Corinthians 7:12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

He wrote what he did not (primarily) for the sake of the wrongdoer, nor (primarily) for the sake of the one who was wronged. Rather, he says, it was in order to show to you your eagerness for us before God.

Do you see what he is doing here? He wrote a stern letter through his tears, and sent it with Titus, not primarily to correct the wrongdoer, nor primarily to clear the one wronged (which, if the offender was the one who attacked his character, the one wronged was Paul himself). Rather, his purpose was as he said in chapter 2 ‘to test or prove you’. Here he elaborates that it was to demonstrate to you your eagerness for us.

What does this mean? What does it matter? Why would his primary aim be to reveal to them their eagerness for the apostle Paul? Isn’t that a bit self-promoting? Paul has written in 2 Corinthians defending his apostolic ministry and teaching them what authentic ministry looks like because authentic Christian ministry is shaped by the gospel and it is shaped like the gospel. Authentic ministry is self-sacrificial service for the ultimate good of others. In pursuing their eagerness for him, he is pursuing their eagerness for the genuine gospel, and ultimately their eagerness to follow Jesus. His desire is that they see their eagerness for their apostle who proclaimed to them the gospel message and lived out the gospel before them.

How does this work? Paul visits them, attempts to correct them, and it doesn’t go well. He leaves, writes them a tearful letter, sends it with Titus, and prays that their eagerness for him will be revealed to them in the presence of God. Titus comes, delivers the letter. They experience grief according to God that leads them to repentance, and it reveals to them their love for the gospel, and for the one who brought them the gospel.

They see this in the presence of God. Paul by his openness has commended himself to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (4:2). Later in chapter 12 he says that ‘in the sight of God he speaks in Christ for your upbuilding’. They come to the realization of their love for Paul and the gospel in the presence of God. This is God at work in them.

Reciprocal Refreshment and Joy

2 Corinthians 7:13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

When Paul arrived in Troas, he said (2:13) “my spirit was not at rest.” When he entered Macedonia in search of Titus, he says (7:5) “our bodies had no rest.” Now he says that he is comforted and rejoiced because Titus’ spirit had been refreshed by you. Here again we see this reciprocal comfort, this reciprocal refreshment, this reciprocal joy in the body of Christ. We need each other. We are meant to encourage each other. Paul began the letter saying that he was a fellow-worker with the Corinthians for their joy (1:24), that the Corinthians were meant to bring him joy, and

2 Corinthians 2:3 …I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

Paul’s joy at over the Corinthians would be their joy. Even his severe letter that grieved them was meant ultimately for their joy. When they repented with a grief brought about by God, this brought Titus refreshment of spirit, and that brought Paul comfort and joy. There will be difficult times being part of the church. But even the difficult things are meant to encourage and bring joy. Have you brought joy and refreshment to anyone this past week?

Gospel Boasting and Gospel Confidence

2 Corinthians 7:14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

This is stunning, staggering, startling. Paul had been boasting about the Corinthians to Titus. This is startling on multiple levels. For one, Paul had told the Galatians

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

He said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men.

But here Paul seems to be violating his own instruction and boasting about this church. This is even more startling when you look at what we know about the church in Corinth. From 1 Corinthians we learn that they were divided with quarreling, jealousy and strife (1Cor.1:10-11; 3:3). They were embracing sexual immorality of a kind that was not even tolerated among the pagans (5:1). They were bringing lawsuits against each other (6:1). They were confused on marriage and morality (7). They were participating in idol feasts (8-10). They were disordered in their gatherings, and when they came together to eat the Lord’s supper, the rich would get drunk and the poor would go hungry (11:21). He said that it would be better if they did not meet at all (11:17). They were abusing spiritual gifts to promote themselves and impress others (12-14). They were even beginning to doubt the resurrection (15)! They didn’t respond well to his letter, or to his visit, so he had to write a severe letter and send it with someone else. And even though they responded well to that letter, there were still serious problems that he addresses in 2 Corinthians; they misunderstood Christian leadership, they were in danger of being deceived like Eve in the garden, being led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

This church was and still is a mess at the time of his writing. And in the middle of the mess, when he sent Titus with the severe letter, he boasted to Titus about them. What could this boasting possibly consist of? Surely it was misplaced!

Boasting in God or Boasting in Men?

We get a glimpse of what Paul means when he said he boasted in them if we look back to the thanksgiving at the beginning of 1 Corinthians. Before addressing all the problems that were going on in the church, he started by saying:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Where we might see nothing at all to be thankful for, he thanks God continually for them. What does he see? He sees the grace of God given freely to them. It is clear they don’t deserve it; it is sheer grace! He thanks God that the testimony of Christ was confirmed among them; that they believed the gospel! This foolish message of the cross was demonstrated to be the power of God for salvation in them when they believed. They now are waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. And notice, it is this Jesus who will sustain you to the end guiltless. He reiterates; God is faithful. God called you into the fellowship of his Son. God did it. God is doing it. God will finish it. Notice where Paul’s confidence lies? Not in them; they were flakes. His confidence was squarely on God and the power of the gospel. His confidence was not in the faithfulness of the Corinthians; it was in the faithfulness of God to make good on his promises. This reminds me of Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God began the good work. God will finish what he started. I am sure of this. Are you sure of that? When you look around the room this morning, do you see a bunch of messes? That’s accurate; but do you see the gospel at work transforming those messes into something beautiful? Are you sure of this? Are you confident in God’s power at work in the gospel? When I look at you, do I see God’s grace? Man! You don’t deserve it! That’s grace, it’s all grace! And we need God’s grace! God’s grace was given to us in Christ Jesus, and Jesus will sustain us to the end guiltless, and God who called us into the fellowship of his Son, he is faithful!

This is gospel confidence and gospel boasting, and it is perfectly compatible with boasting only in the cross. It fits perfectly with what Paul says later in 2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

He went out on a limb and boasted to Titus about the Corinthians, not because he thought the Corinthians were basically pretty good people and they wouldn’t let him down, but because he knew that although they were worse at heart than he dared imagine, God’s transforming power through the gospel is more potent and will surely not fail to bring about his promises. His boasting in the Corinthians was boasting because they had believed the gospel. That good gospel seed with time will bust up their concrete hearts and produce good fruit. They were believing, trusting, depending on another. And that another is more than capable to bring about what he promised. Paul was confident that they hadn’t believed in vain; that they were being saved day by day by the gospel.

Imagine the conversation between Paul and Titus. “Titus, I know this church is a mess, and I don’t know how they are going to respond to you. They didn’t respond well to my letters or my visit. But when I went the first time and proclaimed the good news, they genuinely believed it. God opened their blind eyes to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God’s power began to change them. And he promises to finish what he started. I am praying that God would use this strong letter and your unique gifts and personality to bring about the godly grief and repentance that we both know would glorify God. I want you to go, confident that God has shown them grace, and although they will never deserve it, God is able to sustain them to the end, guiltless, because they are believing in Jesus. God called them and God is faithful. He will surely do it!”

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 7:14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

Everything we said to you was true. We proclaimed the true gospel to you, the good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Our boasting has in the same way proved true, because our boasting was rooted in the gospel. The gospel works! It is true and it works! God works through it! It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. We shouldn’t be surprised when we see the gospel working, transforming hopeless desperate lives. That is what God does. The more desperate and dark the situation, the greater the platform on which to display his glory. We can bank on it. We can boast in it.

Is there a situation today that you need to have gospel confidence in? Is there a person or situation that looks hopeless that you need to look at through the gospel lens and thank God for his grace to those who don’t deserve it? To thank him for his sustaining power? To thank him for calling us into the fellowship of his Son, to thank him for being always faithful, mighty to save? To thank him that he is a God who breathes life into dead things, who sets prisoners free, who brings hope to the hopeless, and overcomes darkness with his marvelous light?

***

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

July 21, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Receiving Grace in Vain

03/03_2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Receiving Grace in Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190303_2cor6_1-2.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul communicates the good news of reconciliation and implores us to be reconciled to God.

Paul makes his plea to be reconciled to God urgent in chapter 6, quoting a passage from Isaiah, saying ‘look, now is the favorable time; look, now is the day of salvation.’ and he again appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain.

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Working Together With Him

Paul says that he is ‘working together’; ‘with him’ is implied by the context; as he said in 1 Corinthians 3:9;

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul is working together with God. He is God’s apostle (1:1); he proclaimed Jesus among them (1:19); he doesn’t lord it over their faith but works with them for their joy (1:24); he spreads the fragrance of knowledge of Christ everywhere – among both those who are being saved and those who are perishing (2:15-16); he has been commissioned by God (2:17); he has been made competent to be a minister of the new covenant (3:4-6); he has this ministry by the mercy of God (4:1); he proclaims Christ as Lord and himself as their servant for Jesus’ sake (4:5); knowing the fear of the Lord he persuades others (5:11); he has been entrusted with the ministry and message of reconciliation (5:18-19); he is an ambassador for Christ (5:20). These are some of the varied ways Paul is working together with God.

As the apostle, as Christ’s ambassador speaking on behalf of Christ, as a minister entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation, he implores them ‘be reconciled to God’; and here he exhorts them ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain.’

The Gospel of Reconciliation

In the heart of this letter, Paul has laid out the gospel, the good news of reconciliation; that Christ expressed his love for sinners by laying down his life as a substitute; he took my name, he died my death, and was raised to new life; and in him I am part of the new creation; made new in Christ. God through Christ reconciled us to himself; in Christ God no longer counts my sin as against me; he counted my sins against Jesus, and he credits me with the perfect righteousness of Christ.

It is in this context he makes his appeal to his readers, or actually God’s appeal through him:

2 Corinthians 5:20 …God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

And he reiterates in this verse:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

How To Receive the Grace of God in Vain

What does he mean by imploring the church to be reconciled to God? And what is the danger he warns us of, ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’?

If we look only at the immediate context, Paul is laying out the gospel of God reconciling us to himself through the finished work of Christ. It seems by putting these two appeals together that ‘receiving the grace of God in vain’ would be equivalent to not being reconciled to God, or failing to take advantage of the reconciliation that God has secured for us through Christ. Those who are reconciled are those who died with Christ (5:14), who no longer live for themselves but for him (5:15), those against whom God no longer counts their sin (5:19), those who are made new in Christ (5:20), who have become the righteousness of God in him (5:21). We experience the grace of God when we are reconciled to God through simple dependence on his Son.

If we look just a bit earlier in chapter 5, he mentions the necessity of every man to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for what he has done in the body, good or evil, and that this fear of the Lord is a motivator for him to persuade others.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. …

The motivation to persuade people is the reality of Christ’s judgment, before whose eyes everything false will be exposed and only that which is genuine will stand. According to Jesus himself, some who claim to follow Jesus will be shown to be false on that day (Mt.7:23).

If we look at the wider context, in chapters two and four he mentions that his ministry addresses two distinct groups; those who are being saved, and those who are perishing. Implicit in this is a warning; it seems his appeal would be to make sure you are part of the first group and not the second. Make sure that the gospel is to you a fragrance from life to life, not from death to death (2:15-16; 4:3; cf. 1Cor.1:18; 2Thes.2:10).

After warning in chapter 11(:4) of those who proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel, he urges in chapter 13

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

He does not assume that because someone is part of a visible church, that they have truly been reconciled to God, that they have received the grace of God in a fruitful, effective way. He challenges believers to examine themselves, to be sure they are not receiving God’s grace in vain.

What Genuine Faith Looks Like

This fits with what he said about the gospel in his first letter.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

He acknowledges the possibility of believing in such a way that the gospel profits nothing; that it is empty or worthless to you. This passage in 1 Corinthians is helpful, because it spells out what a genuine faith looks like in contrast to believing in vain. Genuine faith, according to 1 Corinthians 15 is that when the good news is preached, it is received. But it doesn’t end there. It is not something that sounds good, and you say ‘I like that, I receive that’ and then you move on. This is a word of caution to those who at one point prayed a prayer or walked the aisle or raised their hand or did whatever they were asked to do in response to the gospel, but there has been no transformation. As he said in 3:18 “ beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed.” In 1 Corinthians 15 he goes on to describe what genuine faith looks like. Not only do you receive the truth of the gospel, you stand in it. You plant your feet on it. You remain in it. You are established in it. It is not some passing thing, some emotional experience that you had that you move on from. He says you are being saved by it. It is at work in you, saving you, transforming you. You are being delivered, being rescued by the gospel, day by day. And you hold fast to the word he preached. You hold on and don’t let go, you seize it, you cling to it, you don’t move on from it to other things. Receiving the word, standing in it, being saved by it, holding fast to it, this is what belief that is not in vain looks like.

This fits with what James says in his letter. He warns of a kind of faith that cannot save (2:14); he warns that there is a kind of belief in God that the demons have (2:19) and it does them no good; it is in vain, it does not save. They believe that God exists, they likely even understand the gospel, but they have not received it, they are not standing in it, they are not being transformed by it, they are not clinging to it.

Those Who Walk Away

No doubt we all can think of people we have known who said they believed, who claimed to trust in Jesus, who even seemed at first to be ‘on fire for Jesus’ who didn’t last, who over time turned away.

Jesus taught us to expect this, not to be surprised by it. He taught in the parable of the soils that

Mark 4:5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.

Jesus said

Mark 4:16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

They initially received the grace of God with joy, but it did not take root, it was in vain. He also spoke of:

Mark 4:7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

He said

Mark 4:18 …They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Jesus alerts us to the possibility that some hear and immediately respond to the word, even with joy, but they fail to endure; it proves unfruitful because of a lack of root, it withers because of tribulation and persecution, or it is choked by the cares of the world, desires for other things. It proves to be empty, in vain.

This is a warning to be on guard against the things that choke the word; to cling tenaciously to the word; to receive it not superficially, but to ask God to drive it down deep in our souls, to be regularly under the teaching of the word, so that it takes firm root and bears much fruit.

John in 1 John 2 tells us

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Not remaining, not clinging to the simplicity of the gospel, is one evidence of a faith that is in vain, of receiving the grace of God in an empty manner. Paul is concerned with the Corinthians that they are entertaining a different gospel, and he is urging them to ‘be reconciled to God’, and ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’.

The Day of Grace and Salvation

He urges them that this is not something that can wait.

2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

He quotes Isaiah 49:8 to press them to respond immediately. Paul has already taken up the themes of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 at the end of chapter 5. Now he makes a direct quotation from chapter 49. This section of Isaiah is where YHWH is speaking to his Servant, who in verse 4 says

Isaiah 49:4 But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.”

The Servant of the Lord sees the unbelief of the people he was sent to; he is concerned that his labor is in vain. the The Lord responds:

Isaiah 49:6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

This is looking forward not only to the future hope of the restoration of Israel, but that this Servant of the Lord will bring salvation to the nations, to the end of the earth, to all the world! The work of the Servant of the Lord will by no means be in vain. God is reconciling the world to himself through him!

The Lord continues:

Isaiah 49:7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” 8 Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, 9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; 10 they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.

The Lord says that he will give his Servant as a covenant to the people. This Servant of the Lord is the promised salvation, who makes a new covenant in his blood, who through his rejection brings salvation to the nations. Exactly how the suffering Servant brings salvation is spelled out in Isaiah 53, where he who knew no sin is made sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

This is God’s answer to the need of his people. In a time of favor God answers. In the day of salvation he helps. Jesus, the suffering Servant, has shown the favor of the Lord, the salvation of the Lord.

This is the passage Paul quotes to highlight the urgency of the time. Through Isaiah, God was pointing ahead, promising a future deliverance for his people. Now, looking back to the cross, the day of salvation has arrived. The time of God’s favor is now. The promised suffering Servant has suffered for the sins of his people. The day of his promised salvation has arrived. It is here!

Do you feel the urgency of this? For thousands of years, God’s people anticipated the coming of the promised rescuer. He has arrived. Jesus has come. He has opened the way for sinners to be reconciled to God. But this day will not last forever. A day is coming when the time of God’s favor will end.

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

You have heard the word, the message of reconciliation, the good news that Jesus paid the price for all who would believe in him. And Jesus himself warns those who have seen his grace in greater clarity:

Matthew 11:24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Be careful not to receive the grace of God in vain!

Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Look! Now is the favorable time; Look! Now is the day of salvation. God [is] making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!

***

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

March 4, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Our Pleasure -His Pleasure

11/11_2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Our Pleasure – His Pleasure; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181111_2cor5_9-10.mp3

Paul is staring death in the face. Or rather he is looking through death fixing his eyes on the unseen. He is looking at the ultimate result of his suffering and sees that his present sufferings are preparing for him an exceedingly exceeding eternal weight of glory. He looks at death and says his first choice is to be alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus and be overclothed in his glorified resurrection body. His second choice is to depart and be with Christ even if that means being temporarily unclothed, without a body. And his last choice, he is willing if needed to continue on in the body in fruitful labor for others.

Paul’s desire, his groaning, his longing, is to be at home with the Lord, to be in the presence of Jesus. God has made him for this, and has given his Spirit as a guarantee. But part of being in the presence of Jesus for Paul brings up the issue of judgment.

2 Corinthians 5:6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Is this a category you think in? When you think of heaven, do you think of judgment? Most of the jokes I’ve heard picture Peter at the pearly gates, and if you answer the questions right, you get in. (It is wise to evaluate where you pick up your theology. If it comes mostly from jokes or cartoons, that’s probably not a reliable source.) Paul here tells us that we must all appear before the Lord to give account of what we have done in the body. Is this your expectation? Paul is leaning forward, longing to be in the presence of the Lord, and he knows that that means to appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Is your primary desire to be with the Lord? And are you eagerly awaiting the judgment? Paul is.

How? How can the prospect of judgment be a desirable thing and not a fearful thing? Or can it be both? Today I want to explore what the bible says about this coming judgment, how it can be both an eager expectation and a fearful thing, and how we should live in light of this coming judgment.

The Gospel: No Condemnation

I want to start by looking at the gospel, because the gospel keeps everything in perspective. The good news of Jesus is that we are unworthy, lost in sin, enemies of God, hopeless. We cannot earn God’s favor no matter what we do. We deserve God’s wrath. Jesus, God the Son, came down to us to live as one of us. He came to take our sin, our our guilt, our condemnation, into himself and pay the price in full on the cross. Jesus said:

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 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.

Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans lays out the good news message, that none are righteous, all have sinned and have earned God’s wrath (ch.1-3). But we are made righteous by grace as a gift through the wrath-satisfying sacrifice of Jesus (ch.3). This gift of forgiveness and righteousness comes not to those who work for it but who simply receive it, by faith; believing, trusting, depending (ch.4). We now have peace with God and strong hope for the future (ch.5). Even the continuing struggle with sin we experience will not win in the end (ch.6-7). In chapter 8 he reaches the climax: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation!

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that …[nothing, nothing, nothing!] 39 …will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are in Christ through faith, depending on him alone. The Scripture clearly teaches that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone. All who are in Christ through faith have no need to fear condemnation on judgment day.

Judging our Works and the Fear of the Lord

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

There is scholarly debate over who this passage applies to. Does ‘we all’ include all humanity or only believers? In the context Paul is talking about ‘we’ believers, we who have been given the Spirit as a guarantee, ‘we’ who have confidence in the face of death because we will be with the Lord. So whether he broadens the ‘we all’ here to include all humanity, or keeps his focus only on believers, there is no dispute that believers are not excluded. ‘We all’ either is believers or includes believers. We all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Each one will receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul says in Romans 14, clearly talking to believers:

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Each of us believers will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of himself to God. Each of us will receive what is due for what we have done in the body, good or bad.

Jesus said:

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

People will give account for every careless word they speak.” Let that sink in. You will give account for every careless word you speak.

I’ll conceal the names to protect the guilty, but recently one of my children accidentally recorded themselves on my phone telling a friend that they had lied to their parents. I know some of you may be shocked to discover that my kids aren’t perfect. Let me shatter more of your imaginary world; neither are their parents.

I think Numbers 32:23 was one of my parent’s favorite verses:

Numbers 32:23 …be sure your sin will find you out.

We had some fun with that recording. I am tempted to play it back for you right now, but that would expose the guilty party. But imagine if someone was recording your entire life, every careless word you speak. (Some of you do that to yourselves already on Facebook!) But imagine every careless word recorded, and someone could play it back to you, so that ‘by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.’ That is a terrifying prospect. Remember, for the believer, there is now no condemnation because Jesus paid for it with his blood.

Jesus said:

Luke 12:2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Jesus is telling us to fear God, the judge of all the earth. Paul in the next verse (2Cor.5:11), concluding his thought on the judgment seat of Christ says “therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord.” In verse 1 he said ‘we know we have an eternal home in the heavens.’ In verse 6 ‘we know that to be at home in this body is to be away from the Lord.’ In verse 11 he says that we know the fear of the Lord, and it motivates us to action. ‘For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.’ It is necessary, mandatory that we appear, that we are exposed, made manifest, laid bare. This awareness of the coming judgment is meant to put the fear of God into us.

Jesus told a story in Matthew 25 describing the kingdom of God.

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

In Luke’s version of this story the master answers:

Luke 19:22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! …

Continuing in Matthew,

Matthew 25:26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Jesus in this story holds out both the hope of reward and eternal joy, and the warning of eternal judgment. Many people struggle with passages of warning in the Bible because they sound like they contradict justification by faith alone. When we run into warnings in scripture, we shouldn’t try to explain them away. They are there to warn us. We should heed the warning. The scripture is clear that our works do not contribute to our salvation; that justification is a gift received by faith alone. But the scripture is also clear that the faith which justifies is never alone.

1 John 4:20 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.

Works are never the grounds for justification. But works naturally flow out of the life of one who is forgiven by grace alone. Even in the story of the talents, it begins with the gift of the master, entrusting his own property to each one. I believe the warnings are there because there are some who claim to believe, but who will be revealed to be false on the final day. The possibility of hearing “I never knew you, depart from me” (Mt.7:23) is meant to put the fear of God in us. Jesus, and Peter and John and Paul and James and the author of Hebrews are warning us to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2Cor.13:5), and they urge us to make adjustments now, before it is too late.

In Matthew 12, where Jesus says that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” he says that “a tree is known by its fruit,” (v.33) and it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v.34). Bearing fruit does not change the nature of the tree; it demonstrates the nature of the tree. Actions and words do not change the heart, they demonstrate what is in the heart. If the fruit is bad, we should take a careful look at the root and ask God by his grace to change our hearts.

When Our Pleasure is His Pleasure

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul is energized by the prospect of the judgment seat of Christ and being forever in the presence of the Lord, so that whether at home or away, he makes it his aim to please him. What he is most eager for, what he pursues with all his heart, what is of highest value for him is to please the Lord. This is truly amazing – did you know that we CAN please him? Now, in these fragile earthy bodies, we can bring pleasure to God! We know that ‘all our righteous deeds (when by them we seek to earn favor with God) are filthy rags’ (Is.64:6). ‘Anything that is not of faith is sin’ (Rom.14:23). But there are good works that flow out of faith that are pleasing to the Lord.

Colossians 1:9 …we …pray …that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will… 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

We can be fully pleasing to him. We can bear fruit that corresponds to the Spirit who lives inside us!

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do we do this?

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ….

When our good works are a response of faith to the grace we have been freely given, they bring glory to the Father. When we serve in faith, in dependence on God who gives the strength, then God gets the glory.

1 Corinthians 15:10 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.

Because we have been freely forgiven, promised eternity with him, sealed with his Holy Spirit, our hearts naturally overflow with a desire to please him. We want to please him, not in order to get something from him, but because we have been freely given so much.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

November 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment