PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Resurrection; Boldness or Fear?

4/12 Resurrection Sunday; Boldness or Fear? The Short Ending of Mark; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200412_resurrection-sunday.mp3

Today is Easter, or Resurrection Sunday. And I have to warn you; if you are hoping for a message that will be uplifting, comforting, a little shot in the arm pep talk to encourage you to hang in there and everything will be all right, then you’d better sign out right now.

My prayer for today is that this will wreck you, shake you, challenge you, stir you up and make you uncomfortable. Today I want to invite you in to a choose your own adventure story – you know, one of those interactive stories where you play a part, a story that has decision points that you have to make, and what you choose affects how the story line unfolds.

We are going to look at Mark’s gospel. We’ll start with chapter 8, where Peter acknowledges Jesus as ‘the Christ’,

Mark 8:30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.

Jesus tells his closest followers that he is headed to the cross, and Peter doesn’t like that direction.

Mark 8:32 …And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter misunderstood the whole mission of Jesus. He thought the story would end a different way. But Jesus is taking it in a very different direction than Peter is comfortable with. Then Jesus,

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Here’s the key. Here’s what it means to follow Jesus. You have to risk everything. The goal in the choose your own adventure is to stay alive as long as possible, to survive. Here Jesus tells us that that is not the goal here. Success in Jesus’ context means following Jesus whatever the cost, losing your life for his sake and the gospel’s.

The Textual Problem

I want to look at Mark’s account of the resurrection of Jesus today. What I’m about to say might make some of you nervous or uncomfortable. This might seem like I’m airing dirty laundry; but I think it’s best to be open and honest with the evidence. And really it is no secret, so it’s best to deal with it head on rather than try to brush over it or just look the other way and pretend its not there. If you have almost any current translation of the Bible, you probably have a note after Mark 16:8 that reads something like this:

ESV note: [Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20]

What do you do with that? I believe that the Bible is God breathed, God’s very words, without error in the original manuscripts. But we don’t have the original manuscripts. We have copies. The fact is we have more copies than any other ancient document, more copies than we can keep on top of cataloging. And we have very early copies, copies closer to the date of writing than any other ancient document, and we have copies that are scattered over wide geographic areas. Manuscripts, which by definition are hand written, have mistakes. But with the sheer volume of manuscript evidence that we have access to, any errors are self-correcting. We can examine the evidence and see what kinds of mistakes were made in some of the copies, and why they were made, and what the original reading was.

The ending of Mark is one of the biggest textual problems we have, because it affects 12 whole verses. Here’s an overview of the issue: over 90% of the manuscripts in existence today contain verses 9-20, so it is clearly the majority; many of the early church fathers knew of these verses, and most of the early translations contain these verses.

But our two earliest and best manuscripts, Codex Siniaticus (aleph 01) and Codex Vaticanus (B 03) (4th cent.) both end at verse 8. In addition to this, the oldest of the translations into Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Sahidic Coptic end at v.8. As for the early church fathers, neither Origen (d.339) nor Clement of Alexandria (d.215) seem to know of this passage. Both Eusebius (265-339) and Jerome (347-419), who had access to extensive libraries state that the accurate copies and the majority of copies that they had access to ended with what we know as verse 8. Jerome mentions that almost all the Greek codices are without the passage. So although the majority of manuscripts that we have today include these verses, that was not always the case. A number of the Greek manuscripts and the translations that do include verses 9-20 have markings or notes that express doubts concerning the authenticity of these verses.

And we don’t have only two options here, we have five. There is the short ending, which simply ends with verse 8, and there is the longer ending that includes verses 9-20. But there is one manuscript that adds several lines between verses 14 and 15, and there are other manuscripts that contain an alternate intermediate length ending, which is clearly late. Some manuscripts have this intermediate ending followed by the longer ending. We see evidence with this of the scribal tradition, when in doubt, preserve everything.

[If you want to know more about this, I talked about the transmission of the New Testament and specifically about the ending of Mark’s gospel in the second session of our Foundations study, which is available online.]

So what do we do with this? The longer ending is very early, and it is included in the majority of manuscripts that we now have. But many even of those who think it should be retained recognize that grammatically and linguistically it doesn’t fit with Mark’s style. It is evidently tacked on later, and not very smoothly. It seems to be a patchwork compiled from pieces of Matthew, Luke/Acts, John and some of Paul’s writings. So if this longer reading is included, we don’t have anything added to God’s word, and if this is left out, we aren’t missing anything that we don’t already have elsewhere in the Bible.

So what should we do? When in doubt, preserve everything, as many scribes did, but be honest and include it with a note that warns the reader that the earliest and best manuscripts end at verse 8 and don’t include this addition.

It seems that many were uncomfortable with Mark’s gospel ending at verse 8, and so a more fitting ending was pieced together to make it more like the other gospel narratives, and more comfortable.

But I believe Mark intended to make us uncomfortable. Let’s look at what Mark is doing in his gospel.

Response of Fear and Failure

Mark is widely recognized as Peter’s gospel, assembled by Mark as he ministered alongside Peter and listened to his preaching. Peter would have been looked on in the early church as a hero. But the portrait painted of Peter here is anything but glamorous. We already looked at Peter’s greatest moment in Mark 8, acknowledging Jesus as ‘the Christ’ followed immediately by Peter’s rebuke of Jesus, for which he was called ‘Satan’ who has his mind set on the things of man, not the things of God.

When Jesus calmed the sea with a word in Mark 4, his disciples:

Mark 4:41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

In Mark 6, when he came walking on the water in the storm,

Mark 6:49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

In Mark 9, when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain

Mark 9:5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Later in chapter 9, Jesus was teaching his disciples that he would be killed and after three days he would rise,

Mark 9:32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

In chapter 10, Jesus, resolutely marching toward his death,

Mark 10:32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,

Peter, after boldly arguing in the garden that even if all the rest of the disciples abandoned Jesus, he would follow him to death (14:27-31), could not even stay awake one hour (14:37, 40-41). And when Jesus was betrayed, ‘they all left him and fled’ (14:50). Then, having followed from a distance, when Peter was accused of being one of Jesus’ followers by a servant girl and then by the other bystanders (14:66-72)

Mark 14:71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Mark’s narrative paints the disciples as ignorant, arrogant, bumbling, misunderstanding; deeply flawed failures. They respond to supernatural events not with faith but with fear. Jesus’ greatest miracles evoke trembling and fear even in the crowds.

It seems that only the women (and John) were bold enough to watch the crucifixion even from a distance. (15:40), or to visit the tomb on Sunday morning.

Mark’s gospel is a chronicle of flawed followers, characterized by fear and failure.

Without Understanding

In Mark 4, when his disciples asked him privately about the parables,

Mark 4:11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Jesus was giving the secret of the kingdom to his disciples. He contrasts them with those outside, who would ‘see but not perceive’ ‘hear but not understand’ and would miss forgiveness.

Mark 4:13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

To them it had been given, and yet they were as outsiders, not understanding. When Jesus walked on water, they were terrified. After they took him into the boat and the wind ceased,

Mark 6:51 …they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

In Mark 7,

Mark 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? …

In Mark 8,

Mark 8:17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, …Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? …21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

When Jesus’ disciples ought to have understood, they didn’t. He entrusted to them the secret, and they still missed it.

Keep it Secret Until…

That brings us to another theme that emerges when we look at Mark’s gospel. From chapter 1, when Jesus cast out demons who knew who he was, he commanded them to be silent; he would not permit them to speak (1:25, 34, 3:11).

In 1:43, after Jesus touched a leper and healed him,

Mark 1:43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Do you see what is happening here? Jesus is going to desolate places, praying alone, leaving town when everyone is looking for him. He commands silence to those he heals, but the healed disobey and instead talk freely and spread the news.

When he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he did it privately,

Mark 5:43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this…

When he healed the deaf and mute man away from the crowd,

Mark 7:36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

When he healed the blind man outside the village,

Mark 8:26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

When Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Christ, what was his response?

Mark 8:30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

When Peter, James and John were coming down from seeing Jesus transfigured, conversing with Moses and Elijah,

Mark 9:9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

Keep it secret until… He charged them to tell no one until. Until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. And their response? What might ‘this rising from the dead’ mean? Again they don’t understand.

He Is Risen!

Jesus’ closest disciples see his greatest wonders and are filled with fear not faith. He reveals to them the secret of the kingdom and their hearts are hard and they are without understanding. Those Jesus heals are commanded to be silent, but they talk freely and spread the news about him everywhere. Even the demons are declaring who Jesus is. He reveals his identity to his closest followers and commands them to keep it quiet until… until he has risen from the dead.

With this background in mind, let’s look at how Mark ends his gospel. Joseph of Arimathea, a Pharisee, not one of the disciples, ‘took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus’ (15:43).

Mark 15:46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

The women go to the tomb to pay their last respects to the corpse of Jesus, doing what they didn’t have time to do earlier. But they didn’t think through how they would even get in. None of his male disciples were willing to come with them to move the stone.

Mark 16:4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

They see a robed young man, probably an angel, who tells them not to fear (as angels often do), who declares to them that the crucified and buried Jesus not in the tomb. He is risen. He is alive, just as he predicted he would be. Come see, then go tell. You will see him. He is alive! He is on the move!

Mark 16:8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Period. Full stop. The End. Now you see why people have been uncomfortable with that kind of ending? We scream out ‘No!’ You can’t leave it there! They’re supposed to go and tell! The restraining order has been lifted. He is risen! Now the disciples are free to tell everyone who Jesus really is!

A leper is commanded by Jesus not to say anything to anyone, and he goes out and ‘began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news’ so that everyone was coming to Jesus. And now these women who have heard the greatest news of history, that Jesus is risen, who are commanded to go and tell, they flee, afraid, they are seized with trembling, and they say nothing to anyone? Do the disciples ever find out? Does anyone go to Galilee to meet with their risen Lord? Does the message die with them? The disciples were clearly inclined to fear rather than faith, they were hard hearted and without understanding. But now do the women fail him too?

Mark’s style is to invite the reader into the story. It’s full of action. He ends abruptly with the witnesses to the resurrection not telling anyone, and the reader cries out ‘No! But you have to tell someone!’ and then the reader is forced to ask, who have I told?

The Beginning of the Gospel

Mark starts his gospel with these simple words:

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

And Mark leaves us asking, how does it end? What is my part in advancing the gospel. How will I advance the story? Will I be filled with fear and say nothing to anyone? Or have I been so transformed by Jesus that I cannot be silent, but talk freely and spread the news everywhere?

And we know the rest of the story. We know that these women may have been silent and afraid for a moment, but they did go and tell, even though they were not immediately believed. We know that Jesus keeps his promises, even in spite of the flaws and failure of his followers. His gospel, the good news that he died in the place of sinners and rose from the grave, has reached even to us! This unstoppable message can’t even be frustrated by our fears and failures. Jesus is risen! Has he changed your life? Will you go and tell?

***

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

April 26, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gospel Hope in a Broken World

03/15 Gospel Hope in a Broken World; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200315_hope.mp3

Our president announced this week a state of national emergency. The World Health Organization has officially designated the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic; as of yesterday there were 142,539 confirmed cases and 5,393 deaths worldwide [who.int]. There are currently around 2,000 confirmed cases in the US and 41 deaths, and those numbers are expected to rise. In response to identifying the first case of community spread in Utah, our governor announced the ‘dismissal’ of all students K-12, and colleges and universities are closing campuses and moving classes online. There is not a roll of toilet paper to be found in stores. Many people are afraid.

Suffering is Not New

How are we to think about all this? What do we as followers of Jesus do? Today I want to bring a message of hope to a hurting and broken world. But first we need to step back and look at where we are at and how we got here. Before we get to the good news, we should look at some bad news. Let’s give this some historical context. I found this list of 10 of the worst pandemics in history, and their death toll:

165 AD – Antonine Plague – Smallpox or measles? – 5 million

541-542 – Plague of Justinian – Bubonic plague – 25 million

1346-1353 – the black death – Bubonic plague – 75-200 million

1852-1860 – third Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 1 million

1889-1890 – ‘asian/russian’ flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

1910-1911 – sixth Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 800,000+

1918 – flu pandemic – influenza – 20-50 million

1956-1958 – Asian flu – influenza – 2 million

1968 – flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

2005-2012 (peak) – HIV/AIDS pandemic – 36 million

[https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/ ]

These are some staggering numbers. Why point this out? I am not at all trying to downplay this current pandemic. What I want us to see is the prevalence of death throughout human history. Remember this is just a top ten list; it obviously leaves a lot out. Suffering and disease and death is not new. We are not the first to face things like these. And we can learn a lot from history.

The Root of All Suffering

But to put this in an even broader context, I want to look at the global pandemic, the root cause that underlies all of these.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

The Bible has the answers to our deepest questions. Why? Why do terrible things like these happen throughout human history? Sin entered God’s good creation through one man. Death entered this world through Adam’s rebellion. Death spread to all people because all sinned. The wages of sin is death. The spread of contagious diseases that wipe out entire populations are not new. Fear and suffering and death are not new. God warned our first parents that enjoying relationship with him is life, but turning from him to follow other voices results in death. The death rate of COVID-19 is estimated at somewhere around 3.5%. The death rate of sinners throughout human history is 100%. Death is a fact we must face as humans living in a broken, fallen, hurting world. Let me give you a sobering word of encouragement; if the Corona virus doesn’t get you, something else will.

The Good News

We rebelled against a good and loving God. We brought the promised consequences down on our own head. But here’s the stunning thing. God himself came down. God entered into our disease ridden sick and dying world, not in a hazmat suit with a respirator, but in a susceptible, vulnerable human body. He actually took on flesh, he became one of us. In fact, he came so near to us that he contracted our disease. Galatians 3:13 says:

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—…

1 Peter 2:24 tells us:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, …

2 Corinthians 5:21 says:

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

Jesus himself told us:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This is staggeringly good news. The God who we rebelled against and offended has come down,

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.

God came down on a rescue mission, to lay himself down, to actually contract our disease, to die our death so we could live.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Just stop and breathe that in. Whoever – believes – has – eternal – life. Eternal life. It will last forever. It cannot be lost or taken away. All who trust only in Jesus will enjoy his presence forever. Let that truth sink in deep and shape your souls and overcome your fears.

Here’s how the apostle Paul responded to this truth.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. …23 …My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Genuine Belief

Do you believe this? Do you really believe this? Has this truth sank down deep to the gut level where it influences every decision you make? Is this what you know is the right answer if your pastor were to ask you, or is this a truth that fleshes itself out in the way you live your life day to day? You see, a crisis, a tragedy, a global pandemic shows us what we really believe.

Cyprian (d.258); Dionysius (d.264)

In the plague of Cyprian, 249-262, at the height of the outbreak 5,000 people a day were said to be dying in Rome. Cyprian’s (Bishop of Carthage) biographer wrote of the plague at Carthage:

Afterwards there broke out a dreadful plague, and excessive destruction of a hateful disease invaded every house in succession of the trembling populace, carrying off day by day with abrupt attack numberless people, every one from his own house. All were shuddering, fleeing, shunning the contagion, impiously exposing their own friends, as if with the exclusion of the person who was sure to die of the plague, one could exclude death itself also. There lay about the meanwhile, over the whole city, no longer bodies, but the carcasses of many, and, by the contemplation of a lot which in their turn would be theirs, demanded the pity of the passers-by for themselves. No one regarded anything besides his cruel gains. No one trembled at the remembrance of a similar event. No one did to another what he himself wished to experience. [/wiki/Plague_of_Cyprian; Pontius of Carthage, Life of Cyprian. Transl. Ernest Wallis, c. 1885. Online atChristian Classics Ethereal Library. ]

One eyewitness of the plague in Alexandria, Bishop Dionysius records:

At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/ ]

While the response of many to the plague was characterized by self-protection, self-preservation, avoiding the sick at all costs, the response of Christians was different. Dionysius recounts:

Most of our brother-Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/; https://erenow.net/common/the-history-of-the-church/8.php]

The conduct of believers so impacted the culture, that a century later, the emperor Julian wrote (AD362) to exhort the pagan priests to imitate the Christians in their charity:

For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort… [https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letters_of_Julian/Letter_22 ]

1527 – Luther

In August of 1527 the Bubonic plague struck Wittenberg and numerous people fled in fear of their lives. Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who was pregnant at the time, remained in their beloved city in order to treat the infected. Luther responded to a fellow pastor and friend in another city: [https://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/martin-luther-and-the-black-plague/ ]

Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together …so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”

Luther saw one purpose of an epidemic as

also to test our faith and love — our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor. “

He says we ought to:

serve our neighbor, risking our lives in this manner as St. John teaches, “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” [1 John 3:16].

He goes on to address our fears:

When anyone is overcome by horror and repugnance in the presence of a sick person he should take courage and strength in the firm assurance that it is the devil who stirs up such abhorrence, fear, and loathing in his heart. He …takes delight in making us deathly afraid, worried, and apprehensive so that we should regard dying as horrible and have no rest or peace all through our life. And so the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles.”

[https://blogs.lcms.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plague-blogLW.pdf ]

It is out of this period that Luther penned his famous hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

1854 – Spurgeon

In 1854 Cholera broke out in London in the Broad Street neighborhood, just across the river from the New Park Street Chapel where Charles Spurgeon was newly called to minister. He was busy preaching, serving his people, visiting the sick and dying. In 1866, amid another cholera outbreak, he gave this charge to Christians:

You cannot stop their dying; but, oh, that God might help you to stop their being damned! You cannot stop the breath from going out of their bodies; but, oh, that the gospel might stop their souls from going down to destruction! It can do it, and nothing else can take its place.

Just now, the cholera has come again. There can be little doubt, I suppose, about it being here already in some considerable force, and probably it may be worse. The Christian need not dread it, for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by death. Still, for the sake of others, he may well pray that God would avert his hand, and not let His anger burn. But, since it is here, I think it ought to be a motive for active exertion. If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad.

I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then. All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine.

And now, again, is the minister’s time; and now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that —

There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

Tell them that He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. Tell them that He is able to save even at the eleventh hour, and to say to the dying thief, “to-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

[https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-autobiography-of-c-h-spurgeon-volume-i#flipbook/380; Autobiography 1:371 ‘in sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, July 29, 1866’]

2019-2020 Wuhan China

On January 24, 2020 Pastor Paul Peng shared the gospel over the phone with a Zhang, a woman from Wuhan who while visiting her son in Chengdu, China, had become ill and was quarantined. Five days after putting her trust in Christ, she became the first coronavirus fatality in Sichuan province. Peng held a memorial service over a videoconferencing platform, preaching to about 100 of her friends and family that ‘calamity should lead people to pray not only for God to rescue them, but also for people to repent and turn to God’ [https://world.wng.org/2020/02/seeking_peace_in_sickness ]

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

I want to close today with the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism, a teaching tool for Christians in the form of questions and answers.

Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own (1Cor.6:19-20), but belong—body and soul, in life and in death (Rom.14:7-9)—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ (1Cor.3:23; Titus2:14).

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood (1Pet.1:18-19; 1Jn.1:7-9; 2:2), and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil (Jn.8:34-36; Heb.2:14-15; 1Jn.3:1-11). He also watches over me in such a way (Jn.6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2Thess.3:3; 1Pet.1:5) that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven (Matt.10:29-31; Lk.21:16-18); in fact, all things must work together for my salvation (Rom.8:28).

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life (Rom.8:15-16; 2Cor.1:21-22; 5:5; Eph.1:13-14) and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him (Rom.8:1-17).

***

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

March 16, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers

06/23_2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190623_2cor7_5-7.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7. At this point in the letter Paul picks up a thread of narrative that he left hanging back in chapter 2. If we look back to the beginning of this letter, he explained why he changed his plans and delayed his visit to them, instead sending Titus with a painful letter. He didn’t want to make another painful visit to them (2:1); which means that he had already made one painful visit. He also did not want them to be unaware of the affliction that he experienced in Asia; that he and his co-workers were so utterly burdened beyond their strength that he despaired of life (1:8). Then he said:

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

And he left us hanging for over 4 chapters, wondering what happened in Macedonia, if he met Titus there, how the emotional state of the apostle was.

2:14-7:4; Authentic Ministry

He left off his narrative to give us four chapters of theology, four chapters unpacking what authentic Christian ministry looks like, feels like, smells like. To summarize, authentic ministry is ministry following in the footsteps of Jesus; the Christian life is a life shaped by the cross. This church was looking for something eloquent, something powerful, something outwardly impressive. Instead Paul teaches that following Jesus looks weak and shameful, it looks like brokenness and suffering. It is characterized by humility. It looks like laying down your life in sacrificial service for others. Paul leaves us hanging for four chapters, wondering at the weakness and vulnerability of the apostle, wondering why he would abandon an opportunity for fruitful ministry, wondering about his troubled spirit, to drive home this point and reshape our expectations for authentic Christian ministry, ministry “which enters into the suffering of Christ for the sake of the church” (Guthrie, BECNT p.368).

Resolution with Depression

Listen to how the narrative reads if we jump from 2:13 to 7:5

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

We might expect the tense suspense to be resolved completely. But instead he points to his continued affliction. In chapter 2, his spirit found no rest; in chapter 7 his flesh finds no rest. No break, no pause, no relief. Both spirit and body under constant pressure. Both in Troas, and now in Macedonia, no rest.

He says ‘we were afflicted at every turn;’ literally ‘in all affliction.’ In the previous verse he said that we had ‘super-abounding joy in all our affliction.’ Now he describes some of that affliction; conflicts outside, fears inside. This is real. This is transparent. There was quarreling, conflict, strife. This word is not used to describe fighting with fist or sword; this word describes fighting with words, with looks and responses of the heart. We learn from the next chapter (8:2) that the churches of Macedonia, Phillippi and Thessalonica and Berea, were experiencing ‘extreme poverty; a severe test of affliction.’ Those were the external circumstances.

Paul’s Inner Anxiety

But inside, in his own heart, there were fears. Paul, the apostle, was afraid. In 1 Corinthians, when Paul said he had ‘decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,’ he says:

1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

We know from Acts 18:9 that ‘the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you.” Paul was so fearful that the Lord personally encouraged him.

We learn from his letters that Paul was afraid that his churches might be led away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2Cor.11:3). He feared visiting and finding them not as they ought to be (2Cor.12:20). He was afraid he might have labored over them in vain (Gal.4:11). He says in:

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul had anxiety. Paul was fearful. His spirit was troubled. In the next verse, he says he was downcast. That word can be translated humble (as in Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5), and it can refer to the lowly, the despised, those of low standing outwardly in contrast to the rich or exalted, and it can refer to those who are low or downcast inwardly. That is the focus here. We would probably say Paul is depressed.

Brothers and sisters, you who are weary, you who are downcast, you who feel low and depressed and trampled, take heart! A Spirit-filled apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who knows the word (who actually was used to write the word!) can be downcast, depressed, fearful, and not know what to do. He might walk away from and open door of opportunity for ministry because of his inner unrest. Take heart! Paul is being real and transparent with us for our encouragement and instruction. It is not unspiritual or abnormal to experience depression and deep discouragement in ministry. Ministry is hard. Serving others often hurts. Others, even brothers and sisters, often hurt us. Following Jesus, laying down our rights in service to others, is hard. Crucifying the flesh with its passions and pride is painful. Paul gives us hope from the midst of his own affliction and heartache and troubled soul.

But …God

But God. Isn’t this where all hope enters our desperate situations? But God! We

Ephesians 2:3 …were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Romans 5:7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—… 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But God. God can enter into a desperate situation, a hopeless situation, even a dead situation. God is the God who breathes life and hope and healing and reconciliation.

Paul actually stretches the but …God phrase in this verse out for emphasis. The original word order reads like this: “But the one who encourages the downcast encouraged us – the God – in the coming of Titus.”

The God of All Comfort

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:8 back in 6:2 urging his readers that ‘now the day of God’s grace and salvation,’ and now he alludes again to Isaiah 49:13, pointing to the restoration of all that is desolate.

Isaiah 49:13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

The Greek translation of Isaiah that Paul would have used has some of the exact words that Paul uses here; ‘God … the downcast …has comforted.’

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

Paul began this letter pointing us to

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

God is the God of all comfort. He is the one who comforts us in all our affliction. Remember, we learned the word comfort is not a soft word like a cozy bed spread, but a strong word com-fort; like ‘fortress’ or ‘fortitude’. It could be translated ‘to encourage’ or ‘to infuse with courage;’ ‘to embolden another in belief or course of action’ [BDAG, 766] In the Greek it is literally ‘to call alongside’; a beautiful picture of God who is strong, calling us weak and tattered ones to his side, where he imparts to us his strength, his courage, his fortitude.

Mediated Comfort

God is the God who comforts the downcast. That is who he is. He comforted us by the coming of Titus. Notice that God is the one who does the comforting. He is the God of all comfort, and he comforts us in all our affliction, but he uses means to bring about comfort. He uses people. In Paul’s life, he used Titus. He left Troas distraught and discouraged, because Titus didn’t meet him there as planned. He faced both inner and outer turmoil when he arrived in Macedonia, yet God comforted him through the coming of Titus. He was able to connect with a friend and trusted co-laborer. God comforts, but often he doesn’t comfort us directly; his comfort is mediated to us through people.

In your discouragement don’t overlook or underestimate God’s work through other people. Don’t disconnect from the body. Don’t insulate and isolate yourself from others. ‘God, why aren’t you answering my prayer?’ We could imagine God answering ‘I intended to encourage your heart as you gathered as a local church with my people, but you chose to stay home and wallow.’ Don’t neglect God’s means of comfort through the local church, through friendships with brothers and sisters whom you’ve entrusted with permission to speak into your life. Paul recognized God at work bringing encouragement to him through the coming of his beloved Titus.

Reciprocal Comfort; Reciprocal Joy

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

Notice also that this comfort came to Paul through the coming of his friend, but a key part of that comfort was reciprocal. Titus had received encouragement, and that was an encouragement to Paul. This is one way God works within his body of believers. I am in need of encouragement, and you are in need of encouragement, and when I see your heart encouraged, it encourages my heart.

This is how he began his letter, speaking of God who comforts us so we are able to comfort others with the comfort we received from him. We are comforted for your comfort.

Why is this true? I am depressed, but I spend time with you and you have been encouraged, and your encouragement begins to lift my spirits. Why? I believe it is rooted in the truth that we are one body in Christ. Paul says in:

1 Corinthians 12:25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

When you smash your thumb with a hammer, it is your thumb that is injured, but the thumb does not experience its pain in isolation from the body. Because we are really and truly connected, when you are hurting, I hurt; when you are honored, I rejoice. When you are comforted, encouraged, emboldened, I experience comfort and courage. We are connected to one another in Christ.

Paul said in:

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.

When you are not following Jesus, it causes me pain. You are intended to bring me joy. And Paul is confident that his joy spills over to them; that his joy will be their joy, and in 1:24 he said that he is a fellow-worker with them for their joy. Paul is pursuing their joy by pursuing his own joy by pursuing their repentance. You see how this works? The Corinthians are turning away from Christ, and that causes Paul sorrow. He is doing everything he can to turn them back to a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. When they turn back to following Jesus, this brings joy to his heart. And when he rejoices in them, they see his joy in them, and it brings them joy. So Paul can say in 7:4 “I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” and he can say in 7:7 “so that I rejoiced still more.” Even in the middle of an experience of affliction, even when circumstances are still against him, he can be filled with comfort and super-abounding in joy, and he can rejoice even more, because he is connected to the greater body of Christ.

***

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

June 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification – Promises & Commands

05/19_2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification; Commands and Promises; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190519_2cor7_1.mp3

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

What to Do With the Promises

We just finished up the end of 2 Corinthians 6. Paul has just affirmed that we are the temple of the living God, and has listed for us scriptural promises, promises from Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and 2 Samuel, promises that God will indwell in us, that he will walk among us, that he will be our God and take us to be his people. He gave us the promises that he will welcome us, that he will be a Father to us, that we will be his sons and daughters. Big promises. Staggering promises.

What do we do with these promises? We have the promises. God gave us the promises. Now what do we do with them? Do we just read them and sit back and say ‘wow, that’s really cool!’ Do we read the promises and file that information away and move on to the next thing? What do we do with the promises? What are we supposed to do with them?

Future Blessing or Present Help?

We tend to think of promises as a guarantee of something that will come to us later, that we just have to wait for. For example, if I tell my kids on Friday that I will buy them ice cream on Sunday afternoon, then they eagerly wait until Sunday afternoon rolls around. In fact, they would probably be thinking ‘I hope church gets over quickly, so we can go get ice cream.’ Is this how we are to think of the promises of God? Are the promises of God pointing to something that is coming to us in the future, that we just wait around for? Are they promises of something he will do for us in the future, regardless of what we do?

Or are they different than that? Are they more like this: ‘I have purchased swimming lessons for you. Go get your suit on and we will go to the pool together; don’t be afraid, I will be with you and help you as you learn to swim. I will always be right there to be sure you don’t drown. And when we are done, we will go get ice cream together.’ Are God’s promises promises of future blessing or of present help?

I believe the answer to that question is ‘yes!’ Yes, God’s promises are promises of future blessing. Listen to these promises from Jesus;

(Jn.6:37) “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (Jn.6:47) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Promises of future blessing, and promises of present help, because Jesus also says:

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

We need present help for that! We are told:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived….

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

Whoever believes has eternal life, whoever comes will not be cast out; and there is a holiness, a righteousness without which no one will enter, no one will see the Lord. We can’t take one without the other. God promises us his future blessing, and he promises us his present help to certainly get us there.

This is what he is saying in 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.

He began the good work in you. It is work. It is his work. He will bring it to completion.

Promises and Commands

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. …16 … For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul gives us a command, and the reason he gives for the command is our identity, who we are because of the promises of God. “For we are the temple of the living God.”

He listed these promises; promises of his indwelling, his presence, his covenant relationship, his welcome, his adoption of us as a father to his sons and daughters; all these promises are the basis for his command, ‘do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (6:14). And in the middle of these promises he also quoted a verse of command for God’s people from Isaiah 52; ‘therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing’.

Fighting With Promises

Paul tells us here exactly what he intends for us to do with the promises of God, how to put them into action. How to utilize them to great effect in our lives. We are to use the promises to battle against sin. To battle for holiness. God gave us the promises as weapons for the right hand and left, to kill sin and pursue holiness.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Therefore, having these, the promises, we can cleanse ourselves. What this implies is that without the promises, without the prior and continuing work of God we are utterly unable to cleanse ourselves. God provides the water for washing, he gives us the ability, he implants within us the will, the desire to be holy. He is at work before and in and under and through our work. What this means is that if you don’t know the promises, if you don’t have the promises, if you don’t know who you are in Christ, you won’t be successful in your battle with sin.

Beloved

Therefore, having these promises, beloved. ἀγαπητοί. Beloved. Just stop for a moment and hear that. You are loved. This is a term of affection. Paul writes to the Corinthians, and calls them beloved. He loves these people. He loves this church. But more than that, he addresses them as beloved because they are loved by God. You, today, are God’s beloved. That is your identity, who you are. You need to know who you are, whose you are. In order to fight right, you need to know who you are.

Let Us Cleanse Ourselves

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves. Paul puts himself in it together with his readers; Paul the apostle is on journey toward holiness together with us his readers. As he writes, he has not yet arrived, he must pursue holiness, he must cleanse himself. And he invites us his readers to join him in cleansing ourselves. When we hear this, we might think, wait, there’s a song I know that asks the question “what can wash away my sins” and it answers? “nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We might be wary of this language ‘let us cleanse ourselves.’ But that is exactly what it says, and it doesn’t contradict what the song says.

As David Powlison in his book on sanctification puts it, “We turn – from darkness to light, from false gods to the only true God, from death to life, from unbelief to faith. You ask for help because you need help. You repent. You believe, trust, seek, take refuge. You are honest. You remember, listen, obey, fear, hope, love, give thanks, weep, confess, praise, delight, walk. Notice all these active verbs; they speak of wholehearted, whole-person action… No one does any of this for you. You are not passive. You are not a puppet or a robot. You are 100 percent responsible, and yet you are 100 percent dependent on outside help. Any other way of putting it makes you either far too independent or far too passive.” [Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work? p.67]

We have God’s blood-bought promises, and so we cleanse ourselves. Because we are the temple of the living God, because God dwells in us, because he walks with us and takes us to be his own, because he has adopted us into his family as beloved sons and daughters, because of who we are, because of who he made us to be, we live different. We cleanse ourselves. We cleanse the temple. We fight. God’s presence ejects evil, and we have the Holy Spirit of the living God living inside, so we have the power to cleanse ourselves.

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

We work because God is working in us. He is working out our will, our wants, and he is working in our work. We work because he has ignited a passion in us to be holy, and he ignites that passion through his stunning promises.

Defilement of Flesh and Spirit

Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. There are things that defile us physically, and there are things that defile us spiritually. And we are to cleanse ourselves from both. We are to apply the blood of Jesus to our sin-soiled self.

‘Cleanse’ implies that we are defiled, already dirty. We need to be cleansed. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he said:

John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…”

We have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. And from our daily walk in this world, we daily get our feet dirty, and we daily need to wash our feet. We are clean, completely clean, and we need our feet washed. Daily temptation, daily struggle, daily interaction, daily defilement; daily cleansing. Let us point fingers and condemn each other when we see someone tripping up. No, that’s not what it says. Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves.

Bringing Holiness to Its Intended End

Bringing holiness to completion. Does this mean that we can attain perfection, become completely holy? Philippians 1:6 tells us that he will bring the work he began “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” So no, I don’t believe we can achieve perfection this side of glory. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1Jn.3:2).

What does it mean then to say that we are to bring holiness to completion? The word ‘completion’ has at its root the word ‘goal’; the point aimed at, to fulfill, finish or complete. We bring holiness to its intended goal when we become holy as he is holy. We are set apart or made holy; that is our position. We have been sanctified; we are saints. But we are saints who sin. We are in need of daily cleansing. We are being made holy day by day, we are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 brings both of these ideas together.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, … 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

He has perfected us for all time. That’s a promise. That cannot change. And we are being sanctified; we are in the ongoing process of being made holy. That process is sure, because he is in control. He began it and he will bring it to its intended end. And we actively participate in the process. We bring about the intended goal of our holiness when we cling to God’s promises and cleanse ourselves. When we take his blood and apply it to ourselves. Daily.

In the Fear of Him

Bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Christians still to fear God. This is and has always been the path of true wisdom;

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

We must deepen in our awesome respect and reverence for who God is. Jesus told us not to fear people. He said:

Luke 12:5 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!

Application

Take up God’s promises and do battle. I am a temple of the living God. I will not make room for that in my life. God is always with me; he lives in me. I will not drag him into that. I will not look at that. I will not think that. I will not feel that. I am his son, his daughter; he is my father. I will seek to bring joy to his heart. I will bring him my problems, crawl up into his lap. He is big enough to handle anything. I can trust him. Depend on him. He has made me a saint, he has called me holy. I will pursue holiness in the fear of him.

***

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

May 20, 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

The Spirit’s Fruit: Peace Like Jesus

06/11 The Spirit’s Fruit: Peace Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170611_peace-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking at the fruit of the Holy Spirit; the character that the Spirit brings about in the life of a believer in Jesus. Today we will look at peace. Before we get into that, I want to look at something Jesus said about fruitfulness. Jesus told a story in Mark 4 about a sower and seed falling on different kinds of soil. Some fell along the path and was devoured by birds, some fell on rocky ground and was scorched and withered, some fell among thorns and was choked, and some fell on good soil and produced fruit. The seed is the word. From some the enemy snatches the word away before it ever took root. Some sprang up quickly but withered away when persecution came, because it had no depth of root. Some were choked out by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things.

The good soil produces fruit. The are differing proportions of fruitfulness; some 30, some 60, some 100 fold. But the seed consistently produces good fruit when it is in good soil.

We cannot change the nature of a seed. We cannot control the sun or the rain. But there are things we can do to prepare our soil to receive the word. We can cultivate the soil. With God’s help we can work toward a heart condition that is ready to receive his word. We ask God to give us attentiveness to his word and guard us against the enemy. We can invite God to till our hearts to break up hardness. We can clear ground to provide room for roots to go deep. We can be on guard against those things that choke the word and root them out.

We can cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our lives, but we cannot produce fruit. Only God, by the work of his Spirit, through Jesus Christ, produces this fruit in our lives.

What Peace Is and Is Not

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. Love is willing, costly self-giving for the good of others. Joy is a weighty delight in God that is unaffected by outward circumstances. Peace. What is peace? Where do we find peace? How does peace grow in us? What does peace look like?

We talk about having peace and preserving peace making peace and being at peace. When we are not at war, we say we have peace. When we say we have made peace, we mean that we have healed a damaged relationship. We say we are at peace when we have resigned ourselves to accept a difficult circumstance. All of this is helpful as far as it goes.

It may be helpful to clear the ground from what peace is not. We might define peace negatively as the absence of war, but peace is more than that. Peace is more than the absence of something. Peace is positive. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. We might say that we have peace when everything is going well, going our way. But as we saw with joy, that is not the kind of peace that is the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit produces peace that is unaffected by outward circumstances. And to say that we are at peace with an adverse circumstance, meaning that I am resigned to accept the inevitable is inadequate. The fruit of the Spirit is whole. All aspects come together. Love and joy must accompany peace. To say I am merely resigned to the fact but am not joyful is not the peace that the Spirit brings. Jesus talks about a peace that is different than the world’s peace.

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

…27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The Foundation of Peace (Romans 5)

We find peace throughout the Bible. Most of the New Testament letters begin with a greeting something like ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Grace is always first, because real peace is created by God’s undeserved grace. We cannot experience true peace unless we first experience God’s unmerited grace. Romans 5 spells out the foundation of our peace.

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

No peace matters if we do not have peace with God. We can have peace in our world, we can make peace with our in-laws, we can be at peace with our cancer, but unless we have peace with God, we have no real, no lasting peace. What do we mean when we talk about peace with God? If you look down to Romans 5:10, we see that this peace is the reconciling of enemies. Romans 5 describes us as weak, ungodly, sinners, enemies. It speaks of being saved from the the wrath of God. We were at war with God. We rebelled against God. We were opposed to all that God is and stands for; we were ungodly. We deserved his wrath. But God is the best enemy we could ever have. When King David was given a choice between famine and invasion judgment of the Lord, he said “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (1Chr.21:13; 2Sam.24:14). God is the enemy who fights to win us not to defeat us. God is the only enemy who fights with the weapon of love. God fights his enemies by willingly giving of himself for their good. Here it is:

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Being justified – having been cleared of all charges because Jesus paid our penalty in full; having been justified by faith – in utter dependence believing, receiving the gift we have been offered; we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our enemy through love has conquered our resistance and made us his friends. Through Jesus we now have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We only stand in his presence in grace – an unearned gift.

This peace with God, reconciliation with God is the foundation of our joy in the midst of sufferings. That is what Romans 5:3-5 tell us, verses we looked at last week when we looked at joy. Joy and peace are inseparable. Joy and peace are grounded in justification; we have peace with God because we have been declared righteous as a gift by a holy God based solely on the finished work of Jesus.

The Practice of Peace (Philippians 4; 1 Peter 5)

As believers in Jesus we have this peace with God as an objective present reality. But we may not be enjoying this peace. How do we experience this peace and enjoy this peace? For this we can turn to Philippians 4. Philippians 4 also connects joy with peace.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

First, to enjoy this peace, our joy must be in the Lord. Fear and anxiety come when what we rejoice in is threatened. If our joy is in our possessions, we will have anxiety over losing them. If our joy is in our health, a new bump or lump will create fear. If our joy is in our family, any threat will cause us to lose our peace. If our joy is contingent on financial security, or job, or image, or relationship, we will be filled with anxiety.

Remember Jesus’ parable? The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things choke out his word and it becomes unfruitful. We lose our peace.

Anxiety can be a helpful warning light to identify the idols of our heart. What we are anxious about is what we treasure, what we take joy in. And if our joy is in the Lord, well, nothing can shake that!

Isaiah 26 says:

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 LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord is at hand. He is not far off. He is not distant and aloof. He promises never to leave us. So if our joy is first and primarily in the Lord, then there is no reason to be anxious about anything. Is that really possible? To not be anxious about anything? Is there something you are worrying about? Stop it! That doesn’t work. This text is practical. We have a tendency toward anxiety. This doesn’t just tell us to stop it; instead it tells us what to do with our anxiety. Take it to the Lord. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Don’t be anxious about anything; take everything to Jesus. Make your requests known to God. He already knows about them, but when you take them to him, it is a way for you to leave them with him. Allow him to carry them. ‘Lord, I’m not sure what is going to happen. I have this fear. I think things might turn out in a way that ruins me and steals my joy. I am afraid that I won’t have what I need. But you promise that you cause all things to work together for my good; even the things I consider bad. Thank you. Thank you that you supply all my needs according to your riches in glory. Thank you that all I really need is you. If I have you, that is enough, and you will never leave. You will never fail.’ Take your worries to God. Ask with thanksgiving. That is very different from asking with whining or complaining or bargaining. ‘Lord, I need, gimme, gimme, gimme!’ We can only be thankful in our asking when we are confident that God is for us and will do what we would ask for if we knew all the possible outcomes. We can be confident that God is for us and will do what is best because we believe the gospel.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

When we keep God first in our joy, and bring the things that threaten our joy to him in prayer with thanksgiving, then

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is more than peace with God. This is the peace of God. God’s own quiet confidence that all is well and everything will work out for his best will be ours! This is a peace that can exist in the most troubling circumstances. This is peace that is beyond understanding. This is a peace that protects heart and mind from debilitating anxiety and fear.

He goes on,

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

What is true? 2+2=4? Does that give you peace? What is honorable? What is just, pure, lovely, commendable? Who is excellent or worthy of praise? This is another way of saying ‘fix your eyes on Jesus.’ Think about Jesus! Jesus is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of all praise. These are attributes of God. Think about who God is, think about theology. If we are looking at Jesus, delighting in Jesus more than anything else, we will have peace.

What have you learned and received and heard and seen in Paul? What is it that Paul proclaims? The Gospel! Jesus Christ and him crucified! The good news that God is for us. Practice these things. Live the doctrine, live the teaching, live the gospel. Rehearse the gospel. Enjoy the gospel. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice in the Lord, give him your anxious thoughts with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will protect you; meditate on who he is and the God of peace will be with you. The peace of God will protect you and the God of peace will be with you!

Understand this will not be easy. This will be a fight. A battle. You must wage war for peace. You must fight for peace. The flesh will not willingly comply. You must fight to rejoice in the Lord. You must fight to turn your anxieties over to him with thanksgiving. You must battle and discipline yourself to look longer at Jesus than you look at your troubles. You must fight for peace.

Look over to 1 Peter 5. Peter gives us more practical help in pursuing peace. He says

1 Peter 5:5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Humility. Pursue peace with humility. God gives grace to the humble. In humility cast all your cares on him. We tend to be proud. I can handle this. I don’t need help with this. I can carry this. Pride says ‘I can carry my own burden.’ Humility says ‘I am weak. I need help. I am anxious. I am afraid.’ Guard yourself against pride. Throw down your pride. In humility cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. He cares for you! He cares for you!

The Peace of Jesus (Mark 4)

Jesus says

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

…27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

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, the Prince of Peace, gives us peace, even in the middle of tribulation, because our peace is not in our circumstances; our peace is in him.

Jesus told another story about seed and fruit in Mark 4.

Mark 4:26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This is an interesting parable, and it comes shortly after the parable of the sower and the different soils. This parable is about the farmer who sows his seed and then goes to sleep. He is not lazy. He sows, he gets up every day and does his work. When the time comes he reaps. But he doesn’t worry. There’s a lot about the science of farming he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand seed germination and pollination and photosynthesis. He just scatters seed and goes to sleep. He doesn’t spend night after anxious night fretting about what is happening with his seed. He trusts. He rests. There is a lot that is out of his control, out of his hands. He is responsible with what is in his hands. But with the rest, he is at peace. He goes to sleep.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Look down a little further in Mark 4.

Mark 4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. …

Jesus had been teaching multitudes, and spending time privately with his disciples. He was exhausted. They took him ‘just as he was.’ He fell asleep. There was a great storm. The waves were crashing over the boat, filling the boat. Jesus was asleep. Even in the middle of a great storm, he was at peace.

Mark 4:38 …And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Where is your faith? Jesus was sound asleep, fully confident, resting in his Father’s good control. What has captured your attention? The storm that rages around you, or the one who is in your boat with you?

Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago. He and his wife Anna had five children. In 1871 their 2 year old son died of pneumonia, and in the same year they lost much of their business in the great Chicago fire. In 1873 his wife and four daughters were aboard a ship crossing theAtlantic. Mr. Spafford was delayed with business and planned to join the family later. Four days into the journey, their ship collided with another ship and went down, and his four daughters were lost. His wife was found floating on a piece of wreckage and brought to Europe. From there she wired her husband ‘Saved alone, what shall I do?’ Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship, and about 4 days into the journey, near the place where the ship went down, he penned these words:

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

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

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Leviticus 9; Enjoying The Presence

07/17 Leviticus 9; Enjoying The Presence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160717_leviticus-9.mp3

Climax of the Torah

In chapter 9 of Leviticus we come to the climax of the narrative of the Torah, the five books of Moses. God has gotten glory over Pharaoh and rescued his people from out of slavery in Egypt. He has brought his people to Mount Sinai and revealed to them his glory. He invited Moses up into the glory cloud and delivered the terms of his covenant to his people. While Moses was in the glory cloud, Aaron made a bull calf out of gold and sacrificed to it, indulging the people in idolatrous covenant treason. Moses prayed, and God forgave, and God promised that his presence would go with them in spite of their rebellion and sinfulness. God gave instructions for a tabernacle, a portable worship center, a tent where he would dwell in the midst of his people. The tent was constructed according to his plans, and at the end of Exodus, his glory inhabited the tabernacle. Then, in Leviticus 1-7, he gave instructions on what sacrifices are to be offered in his tent. In Leviticus 8, the priests are set apart with a seven day ceremony, and dedicated to his service by sacrifice. Now the tabernacle is ready to begin its function in bringing forgiveness and allowing sinners be cleansed and enjoy the presence of God with them.

The Presence of the LORD

The presence of the Lord is the focus of this passage. In verse 4, the people are told to bring sacrifices,

Leviticus 9:4 … for today the LORD will appear to you.’”

In verse 6,

Leviticus 9:6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”

Then in verse 23, after offering the appropriate sacrifices,

Leviticus 9:23 … the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.

In Genesis, God made Adam and Eve to reflect his glory and enjoy his fellowship. But they rebelled against his good commands. “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen.3:8).

The presence of God with his people that was forfeited in Genesis is the goal of the Exodus, of the tabernacle, of the priests, of the sacrifices. Exodus 29 God describes:

Exodus 29:42 …the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Today we see the fulfillment of these promises. We see God making his presence known in the midst of his people.

The Bull Calf

Leviticus 9:1 On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, 2 and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. 3 And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, 4 and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.’” 5 And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD.

After 7 days of sacrifice setting apart Aaron and his sons, where they could not leave the Lord’s courtyard, now, on day 8 there is instruction for more sacrifice. Aaron is to take a bull calf for a sin offering. This particular word ‘calf’ appears in Leviticus only here in chapter 9. It appears 3 times in this chapter, referring to the victim of the sin offering Aaron and the people are to offer. This word appeared 6 times in Exodus 32, when Aaron fashioned a golden calf for the people to worship. It appears twice in Deuteronomy 9, referring back to the golden calf incident. This wording would be a vivid reminder of the kind of sin that Aaron and the people were guilty of. This would be an amazing reminder that God was not unaware of their sin, but that he had provided a sacrifice for their sin. A bull calf was not to be worshiped as an image of God; rather a bull calf was to be offered in worship to the invisible God.

Offering for the Priest

Aaron was to offer a bull calf for a sin offering for himself, and a ram for a burnt offering for himself. The people were to bring a male goat for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb for burnt offerings, an ox and a ram for peace offerings, and a grain offering mixed with oil.

Leviticus 9:6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” 7 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.” 8 So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. 9 And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. 10 But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp. 12 Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

This is the first offering that Aaron, the newly ordained High Priest offers. Up to this point, Moses was officiating the offerings. Now Moses continues to convey God’s instructions to the priest, but Aaron is now officiating. And the first offerings Aaron offers are for himself. Keep in mind, Aaron and his sons have just undergone 7 days of offerings in the courtyard of the LORD, where sacrifices have been continually offered to set he and his sons apart and to purify them. They have been anointed with oil. A bull for a sin offering, a ram for a burnt offering, and another ram for an ordination offering have been sacrificed. Blood had been applied to his ear, thumb, and toe to set him apart to hear God’s words, to do God’s will, to follow God’s way. And yet on the eighth day, the first thing Aaron must do is make an offering for his own sin. Even living seven days in God’s presence does not make one immune from sin. The eighth day is a new day, and another sin offering must be offered, because ‘all we like sheep have gone astray’. Another whole burnt offering must be offered, offering self completely to God.

Offering for the People

Now that Aaron has offered sacrifices for himself to cover his own sin, he is fit to offer the sacrifices of the people.

Leviticus 9:15 Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. 16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. 17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning. 18 Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 19 But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver— 20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded.

This is the first offering made by Aaron on behalf of the people. He is following the procedure laid out in chapters 1-7. But here we see the sequence of these offerings. First the sin offering, because our sin must be covered. Then the whole burnt offering, because the whole self must be offered to God on the altar. Then the grain offering, the work of our hands becomes acceptable to God. Finally, the peace offering, where our innermost affections are offered to God, and the worshiper can now enjoy intimate fellowship with God. Notice, the blood of the sin offering must be poured out before fellowship with God can be enjoyed.

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus reconciled us to God, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross’ (Col.1:20)

Blessing the People

Leviticus 9:22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.

After the appropriate sacrifice has been made, God’s blessing can be enjoyed. Numbers 6 tells us the content of this blessing.

Numbers 6:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

The Lord make you happy. The Lord preserve you. The Lord look toward you with undeserved grace. The Lord turn his face toward you in peace. The high priest would pronounce this blessing, but God is the one who blesses his people. “I will bless them.” Aaron declared the blessing, but God extended his grace and peace to his people.

Leviticus 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, …

Having made atonement for sins through the blood sacrifices, Moses and Aaron entered the holy place to enjoy the presence of God. When they came out… don’t miss that fact. They came out. They were not consumed by the presence of the Holy One. When Isaiah found himself in the presence of God, he cried out ‘Woe is me! For I am undone’ (Is.6:5 KJV). Moses and Aaron, both great sinners, came out from the presence of the LORD and blessed the people. They blessed because they had been blessed.

Psalm 16:11 …in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

They had been in the presence of the Most High God. Their hearts overflowed with joy in God, and so they poured out spontaneous blessing on the people. This was a momentous day!

The All-Consuming Glory Fire

Leviticus 9:23 …and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

As God had promised, the glory of the LORD appeared to the people. When God is obeyed and approached in the way that he requires, his presence can be enjoyed according to his promises. The tabernacle was constructed according to God’s instructions. The priests were ordained according to his instructions. The sacrifices were made according to his instructions. And his presence was enjoyed in fulfillment of his promise. God’s fiery glory cloud which engulfed the top of Mount Sinai, which came down to inhabit the tabernacle, now burst out of the inner sanctuary and incinerated all that was left on the altar. This was a visible demonstration that the sacrifices were acceptable. God affirmed that he had accepted their offering by consuming with holy fire that which remained on the altar.

The people responded with awe filled joyful worship. Remember, when God’s glory cloud first appeared on the top of Mount Sinai?

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

The presence of a holy God among sinful people brought terror and distance. But now the people, having approached God as he commanded through sacrifice, and seeing that the sacrifice offered was accepted, they respond with joy. They shouted. This word is almost always an expression of worshipful joy.

Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 71:23 My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.

Psalm 132:9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy. …16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.

Zechariah 2:10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD.

The people responded to the glory of God by shouting for joy and falling on their faces. This is an expression of humble worshipful awe and fear. To fall on your face is to get very low in the presence of a great King. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; cf. Prov.3:34). Notice the change in sequence. With sins un-atoned, there was fear and then distance. Now with sins covered, there is joy and then an expression of fearful awe. God is awesome and terrible, he is greatly to be feared. But we can shout for joy in his presence because our sins are taken away.

Jesus our Great High Priest

As we close, we need to look away from the shadow and toward the reality. Hebrews tells us that

Hebrews 10:1 …the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities… (cf. Heb. 8:5; Col.2:17)

Jesus is the substance that the shadows of the law point us toward. Jesus is the good things to come! Hebrews 7 says

Hebrews 7:18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. …22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Jesus is our Great High Priest, our better Priest. Aaron was a sinner. He had to offer sacrifices first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. Jesus had no sins of his own. The law made provision for the weakness of men. The law provided a way for sinful priests to be cleansed. Jesus was himself sinless, holy, innocent, unstained, but he offered himself up as a sacrifice for all sins once for all. We draw near to God through Jesus. Jesus saves us completely. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1Jn.1:7). In this we have confidence because God raised him from the dead (Rom.1:4; Acts17:31).

John 16:22 …I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

In Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and unshakable joy!

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

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Holy Holy God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God says in Leviticus 22:

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

And in Ezekiel 39:

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

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

What does Holy Mean?

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

I The Lord Am Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delighting in God’s Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 29 says:

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

Psalm 96 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

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

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

Listen to Isaiah 57:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Sovereign and Free

11/22 God Sovereign and Free [omnipotent] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151122_god-sovereign-free.mp3

Allow me to read a letter

By the president of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

G. Washington.”

[http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=3584]

Washington mentions the providence of Almighty God – God’s preserving and governing of all things – as a primary reason for our thanksgiving.

We are studying who God is, what he is like, what God says about himself, how we can honor and worship him as he really is.

God is God. What does it mean for God to be God? The most common Hebrew word for God is El, Eloah, Elohim, which at its root means to be strong. He is God Almighty. God is the supreme ruler over all, he is the sovereign authority of the universe.

Let’s look at some of the things the Bible tells us about God.

Power in Creation

Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. That is unfathomable power!

Have you ever made something? I worked for a time in the engineering department of a manufacturing firm. When we were developing a new product, there were countless hours of meetings discussing the concept and planning the product. There was much thought and effort put in to the best design. There were sketches and conceptual drawings, calculations, reviews, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, more discussions, schematics, blueprints, fabrication drawings, solid modeling, prototyping, testing, reviews, more meetings, adjustments, revisions to the drawings, more testing, more meetings, lots of head scratching… And then there was the parts sourcing. What kind of materials should we use? How long will they last? Where can we get them? How much do they cost? Will they arrive on time? Can we get enough? How will we make sure the parts are correct? Once we have all the parts, how long will it take to build? Who has the skill and training to assemble it correctly? How do we make sure it works? Will it actually do what we designed it to do?

Imagine this kind of power! He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm! Some of our higher executives thought they had this power. They would march into the engineering department and demand: “I spoke, why isn’t it done yet? I commanded, why isn’t it in my hands?” The answer was often “You haven’t given us the proper resources to complete what you requested. We need more time, more money, better technology, more manpower.”

But think of this. God didn’t have anything outside of himself to work with! God didn’t start with any raw materials. Into nothing he spoke and something was immediately there at his command!

Power in Fulfilling His Purposes

We are told in verse 11 ‘the counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations’. This is in contrast to the counsel and plans of nations and people. Have you ever made plans that came to nothing? You spend time and energy and resources and you are excited and it just doesn’t happen the way you had hoped. Maybe it doesn’t happen at all. Your plans come to nothing. How often are your plans frustrated? How often are you frustrated? How fun is it to be around you when you are frustrated? Something comes up, things get interrupted, you run out of time, something doesn’t work out, someone you were counting on forgets or lets you down. Imagine, God is never, ever frustrated! There is never a plan God makes that doesn’t work out exactly the way he had planned. We get frustrated because we didn’t plan well enough, or we made plans based on inadequate information, or we were unable to carry out our plans, or our plans were contingent on someone else who didn’t do what we were depending on them to do. God runs into none of these problems; he has all knowledge and all wisdom, he has unlimited resources within himself, his plans are dependent on no one outside himself. God is not limited by any of the things that we are limited by. God has never ever had his plans frustrated. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” Our response ought to be fear of the LORD and awe filled worship.

Psalm 148 says:

Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. 6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8 ​fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 ​Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

He commanded, he established, he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Romans 4 describes God as the one who:

Romans 4:17 …—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls into existence the things that do not exist. He creates something out of nothing.

Psalm 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 ​Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

God does all that he pleases. Whatever he wants to do, whatever he wills to do, whatever he desires, that he does. There is nothing that God wants to do, wishes he could do, but is thwarted or frustrated in his plans or desires. We worship a happy God, not a frustrated God. He does all that he pleases and he is pleased with all that he does. This is what it means to be God. He has the right to do all that he pleases, and what pleases him is always what is best.

God says in Isaiah 45

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. 8 “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. 9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’or ‘Your work has no handles’?

God does all that he pleases, and all that pleases him is right and good. God is the Creator of all things, and as Creator, he has the right over all his creation to do with it what pleases him. He can punish, and he can make alive, he is free to show his mercy or his justice. He is sovereign. He has authority to rule and govern his creation in the way that is right and best.

God Cannot…

We need to pause and clarify here. Is there anything that God cannot do? The Bible actually lists several things that God cannot do. Because God is truth, God cannot lie (Heb.6:18). Because God is good, he cannot be tempted by evil (Jas.1:13). Because God is all-wise, he cannot change his mind (Num.23:19; 1Sam.15:29). Because God is perfect, he cannot change (Mal.3:6). Because God is just, he cannot condone sin or let sin go unpunished (Ex.34:7; Prov.11:21). Because God is sovereign, he cannot fail to accomplish all his good purposes (Is.46:9-11). Because God is all glorious, he cannot share his glory with another (Is.48:11). Because God is God, he cannot deny himself (2Tim.2:13). God cannot act contrary to his own nature. God cannot be other than he is. None of these ‘cannots’ limit the power of God. To say God can act contrary to his own nature would be a weakness, not a strength.

Free

God can do more than he does. Creation has not exhausted his abilities. We could conceive of other things which God has the power to do, but that he has not done. Picture a bodybuilder with his wife who has given birth to their tiny baby. As he holds this fragile life in his muscular arms, he has enough power to crush this baby. The fact that he does not is not a limitation to his power. Although he can do it, he is not compelled to do all he is able to do. When we say that he can do it, we mean that he possesses sufficient strength and ability. Although he has the strength, he does not want to do it. We would even be right to say that he cannot do it, not because he lacks the strength, but rather because it is against his will and his desire. He wills to use his strength to protect the infant rather than to destroy it, and he cannot use his strength do do something that violates his own will and purposes.

Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 ​Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 ​He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. 8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; 9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; 10 ​who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, 11 ​Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, 12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

God is omnipotent, or all-powerful, but God is also free, free to use his power in the way he chooses. “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does.” He is not obligated or bound in the way he uses his power by anything outside of himself. The only way we can say God is not free is when he has freely bound himself by his own word and promises.

Power to Sustain

God’s power and authority is seen in his creation, but it does not end with creation.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus is sustaining all things. Every sub-atomic particle is directly governed by God. Not one molecule in the universe is out of its proper place. God’s power not only created all things that are, but also sustains and maintains those things.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. …

Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of his power. He is ensuring that every orbit of every planet around every sun or star and every orbit of every electron around its nucleus is precisely in the course he intends for it. God actively and sovereignly sustains his creation. Speaking of his creatures, Psalm 104 says:

Psalm 104:27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

God gives life, sustains life, and takes life away. Psalm 3 says:

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

Do you consider that when you wake up? Every morning that you wake up, thank the Most High God that he sustained you through the night. He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25). He is active, intimately involved in sustaining his creation. This should bring us freedom from anxiety. Jesus said:

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

God vigilantly watches over the most insignificant of his creatures. This should not only give us freedom from fear and worry, but also clothe us with boldness for daring and dangerous advances of the gospel.

Psalm 118:6 ​The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31).

Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Power to Redeem

God is able to bring something out of nothing, he is intimately active in sustaining, providentially preserving and protecting what he has created, and he is even able to conquer the hard hearts of his enemies and make them his own.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

God is demonstrating his power in the gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. …24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The same God who spoke light into existence can create life in hearts that are blind toward him.

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.

In Matthew 19, a young man approached Jesus asking what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed out to him that he loved his possessions more than he loved God.

Matthew 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person whose heart is set on the things of this world to embrace God as his greatest treasure. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him” (1Cor.2:14). The disciples recognized the impossibility for a person who is clinging tightly to this life to release his grip and reach out for God. Impossible, not so much because he cannot, but, like this rich young ruler, because he will not. Yet Jesus speaks hope for salvation, hope even for this rich man.

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. God can open blind eyes to the beauty of the gospel. This is what the new birth is all about. God says I will “remove the heart of stone from from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek.36:26-27). This is great hope for evangelism even in the most unlikely places, even among the hardest people, for ‘what is impossible with man is possible with God’.

We should stand in awestruck wonder at a God like this. Our hearts should resonate with thanksgiving to our Almighty Sovereign. We should stand in worshipful fear at a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. We should enjoy the happy presence of a God who is never frustrated, who does all that he pleases. We should fearlessly obey this God in whose hands we are, and boldly go to the unreached peoples, confident that our God is mighty to save!

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

November 22, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basics – Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120108_basics-worship.mp3

01/08 Basics – Worship

We are looking at the basics of what we believe. Last week I asked the question “if you were to choose just three words that would most accurately sum up what it means to be a Christian, what would they be and why?” I’m picturing these three words as categories or buckets whose contents sum up what Christianity is all about. This question does not necessarily have a right or wrong answer, but I pray that the contents of our buckets are roughly the same. The three words I chose are believe, love, and worship.

Last time we looked at what it means to believe – to believe the gospel, or the good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. To believe means to entrust ourselves to the faithfulness of another. We put ourselves in the hands of Jesus and depend on him to carry us safely to the other side. The bible frequently calls the followers of Jesus simply ‘believers’. Believing is the opposite of earning. Belief is the door through which we enter into a relationship with God.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Belief is also the lifeblood that sustains and energizes the Christian.

Galatians 2:20 …the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

So the first and most important part of being a follower of Jesus is believing. I must depend on the good news of Jesus’ sacrificial death for my sins as my substitute. Then, the Christian life is a life of believing, depending, trusting; walking by faith.

My second word is ‘worship’. Today I want to consider what it means to worship as a Christian. Not all worship is Christian worship. It has been said that we as humans are worshiping creatures. The question is not if we will worship, but what or whom we will worship. We were created to worship. All of life is worship. We worship without realizing we are doing it. Worship is choosing to spend our resources – like time, energy, money, attention, affection – on the things or people we categorize as valuable or ‘worthy’. This is why Jesus had so much to say about money – because it reveals what it is that we treasure. A simple evaluation of how we budget these various resources will prove very revealing of the true condition of our hearts. Some worship things like leisure or pleasure or learning or power. Some worship people, like parent or spouse or children or hero. As Christians, we believe that there is only One who is truly worthy. How we live our lives – how we choose to spend our time, into what we pour our energy, what we do with our money, to what we give our attention, what it is that we delight in – these things will reflect and reveal what we believe about who or what is worthy of worship.

Today I want to glance quickly at some of the biblical data that demonstrates that we were created to worship God. Then we will look at worship in four categories:

1. a gospel relationship with God – the prerequisite for worship;

2. fear of the Lord – the root of worship;

3. knowing God – the fuel for worship;

4. prayer, song and drink – expressions of worship.

Created to Worship

We were created to worship. Isaiah 43 speaks of:

Isaiah 43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” We were created to worship and bring glory to God. One day all people will fulfill their purpose and bring the worship to God that he deserves: Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. (cf. Ps.22:27,29; 66:4; 102:22 ; Is.66:23…)

When asked about the most important commandment of all:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ What you love is what you worship. In another context, Jesus said: Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

Our bodies are meant to worship God with.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Our gathering together as believers is for the purpose of worship.

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

God alone is to be worshiped. His wrath is revealed because:

Romans 1:21 …although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. … 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. … 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up …

We were created to honor God as God, to give thanks and glory to him, to worship and serve him, to acknowledge him. Failure to do this is falling short of doing what we were created to do, and incurs the just penalty of the wrath of God who must defend the honor of his great name.

A Gospel Relationship with God – the Prerequisite for Worship

And we all fall short of giving God the honor and glory that he deserves. We worship self as God and ignore the all-glorious Creator of all things. This is why a gospel relationship with God is the prerequisite for worship. We have brought shame and dishonor to God’s name and we cannot make that right. God had to take action himself to clear his character from the reproach that we his creatures caused. God sent his own Son to pay the infinite penalty we owe and to demonstrate his own righteousness (Rom.3:25-26). The cross was a display of just how infinitely evil our God-belittling God-dishonoring attitudes and actions are. The good news gospel message is that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin” – our sin of dishonoring and disregarding God – “and live to righteousness” – the right valuation and regard for the infinite value and worth of our great God (1Pet.2:24). “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is.64:6) in God’s sight because our good works are intended to make us look good. Worship is designed to bringing honor and glory to God; to make God look good. To worship, we must turn away from our own righteousness and pursue God’s righteousness, which comes only through faith in the finished work of God for us. A gospel relationship of being “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom.5:10) is a prerequisite for any kind of worship that is acceptable to God.

The Fear of the LORD – the Root of Worship

The author of Hebrews exhorts us to gratefulness that comes from receiving a gift; he says:

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Acceptable worship, coming out of a gospel relationship with God through the finished work of Jesus for us, is worship with reverence and awe. These terms, ‘reverence and awe’ and the reason given ‘for our God is a consuming fire’ point us to the fact that the fear of the Lord is the root of acceptable worship. If I understand the gospel – that I am saved from God’s wrath that I have earned by a costly gift that I did not deserve freely given to me – that should stimulate in me the proper awe and fear of God ‘the Consuming Fire’. We are told throughout the bible that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is also the beginning of all true worship.

In Revelation 14, the content of the eternal gospel proclaimed by the angel is:

Revelation 14:7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Fear God, give God glory, worship God. These three descriptions of our right response are also linked together in Revelation 15:

Revelation 15:4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Fear, glorify, worship God, because God is holy, because his acts are righteous. God passionately defends the honor of his great name. The question is rhetorical: who will not fear and glorify you? The answer: all nations will come and worship you. There is an attractive awesomeness about God that compels us to worship him when we see him for who he is in all his rugged power and blazing glory. This brings us to our next point; knowing God is the fuel for worship.

Knowing God – the Fuel for Worship

A child has no fear of falling because he is ignorant of the effects of gravity and the consequences of falling. That’s why parents hold their children’s hands tightly when visiting the Grand Canyon. As we grow in our understanding and experience of the power of gravity, we gain a healthy respect and fear of falling, and we hold on tightly. This is how it is with God. If we are ignorant of him, we have no fear of him, we don’t realize the danger, and we cannot worship him. Getting to know God is the fuel for worship. Is you passion for worship cooling off? Here is the diagnosis: you have turned your eyes away to look at other things. Here is the sure remedy: study God. We get to know God by listening to him tell us what he is like. He communicates to us through his word, the bible. Take up and read! Study! Meditate! Memorize! Scrutinize the text. Jesus said we must worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn.4:23). Pursue a deeper, more comprehensive, more intimate knowledge of God by listening carefully to what he has said. Spend your time and energy and money and attention pursuing God, and your affections will be stirred, and you will worship. To experience the exhilaration of standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, you have to get yourself there. That takes time and energy and money. You can read a book about it or look at pictures, but it’s not the same. That’s second-hand. If you want to enjoy the majestic precipice, you personally have to go. There are lots of good books that will point you in the right direction and give helpful advice. They are useful and I praise God for them, but they are not enough. You have to go. You cannot have a second-hand relationship with God. You have to get to know him yourself.

Let me say just one thing about corporate worship; worship as the church, the body of Christ. So easily we can slip into the mode of critics rather than participants. How was the worship today? Good? A little off? Disappointed? I wish they would… I like how they do it better… It is so easy to become a critic. Corporate worship is the sum of all the parts. Corporate worship is a gathering of believers who worship together. Worship is a verb. It is what we do. And it starts long before Sunday morning. If knowledge of God is the fuel for worship and corporate worship is the sum of all its parts, then in what way is my personal study of God, my understanding and awe and appreciation of God contributing to our corporate experience of worship? If I just couldn’t ‘get into worship’ today, then I need to go home and get on my knees and open my bible and let God open my eyes afresh to who he really is!

Prayer, Song and Drink – Expressions of Worship

This brings us to our final category, expressions of worship. We often think of and even refer to the singing that we do in church as ‘worship’, and it is. But worship is not limited to what we call ‘worship music’. The singing we do in church should be worship, and it can be a direct form of worship. The songs we choose to sing together are expressions of worship directed to God, or songs that declare awesome truths about God that we sing to each other and to ourselves to stimulate us to worship. This can be worship, but it can also be what Jesus condemned when he said:

Matthew 15:8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Is.29:13)

It matters that we choose doctrinally sound theologically rich gospel centered expressions of worship to sing together, but it also matters where our hearts are at when we sing them. In singing together we can choose to worship God, or we can offer lip service and allow our affections to drift to other things. When we see this, when we realize that worship goes beyond and behind the outward forms and is about what is in our heart, then we can see that worship extends to so many other areas of life. As we already saw, knowing God through bible study is fuel for worship. Hearing the bible preached can be an experience of worship, as we come to God expecting him to speak to us, giving him our time and attention with hearts eager to obey. As he unfolds to us new truths about himself, we find ourselves celebrating and glorifying him in our hearts. Prayer is another direct form of worship. When we talk to God, our conversation should be saturated with praise to him for who he is and what he has done for us. But even the asking part of prayer can be worship. When we come to him with our emptiness and our brokenness and our needs, we worship him as the all-satisfying one, the one who is able to fix us, the one who is able to do something about our situation, the one who hears, the one who cares deeply, the one who is wise and will do what is best for us. When we come to him with our questions and our frustrations, he is honored, because we come to him as the one who holds the answers. When we really get hold of this truth, we can begin to see that for the Christian all of life is worship.

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

Even menial ordinary everyday repetitive tasks can be turned by the believing heart into worship. Eating, or drinking, or whatever else you do can be done to bring glory and honor and praise to our great Creator and Redeemer and Friend. Every moment of every day can be spent doing what we were created to do as we saturate our hearts with the truths of our gospel relationship with God, as we deepen our fear of the Lord, as we permeate our minds with a bible saturated intimacy and knowledge of God, we can acknowledge and honor him with grateful awe-filled worshipful hearts in all things. Eating, drinking, all of live as worship!

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

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment