PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus: Love Others

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

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

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

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

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

The Great and First Commandment

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

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.

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

The Second is Like It

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

Matthew 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

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

All The Law and the Prophets

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in Galatians 5,

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

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

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

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

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

Who Is My Neighbor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Your Enemies

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

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

Jesus says,

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

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

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

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

Impossible Love

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

Matthew 5 has:

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

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

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

Corrie ten Boom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 5 says:

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

***

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

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

Palm Sunday; Sin and Repentance

4/05 Palm Sunday; The Sinfulness of Sin; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200405_sin.mp3

Palm Sunday vs. Good Friday

This is Palm Sunday, 5 days before Good Friday, one week before Resurrection Sunday. This is the day we celebrate Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey, hailed as king by the crowds who spread their cloaks and branches cut from the trees in the road before him, shouting out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”(Mt.21:8-9).

But a few short days later, when the Roman governor offered to release to them the ‘King of the Jews’, the crowds shouted out “Crucify him!” When Pilate asked them “Why? What evil has he done?” …they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” (Mk.15:9-14).

What happened that the crowds who received Jesus with joy only a few days earlier were now shouting out demanding his execution? And how can we avoid the same tragic mistake?

Crowd Dynamics

One thing we see going on here is a crowd dynamic. When a crowd gathers, people join in and they don’t always know why. It says in Matthew 21,

Matthew 21:10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

There was a buzz in the air. Something significant was happening. And nobody fully understood what. They sense the excitement and ask, who is this? The prophet Jesus. That is true, Jesus spoke on behalf of God, he spoke God’s words; he was a prophet, but he was so much more. They didn’t fully understand who he really was. They didn’t understand that he was God come in the flesh to save us.

We see this same kind of crowd dynamic in Acts 19, where Demetrius, a silversmith, perceived his business was being hurt by Paul’s preaching against idolatry and gathered a group and stirred up a crowd. It says ‘the city was filled with confusion’ (19:29) and when they gathered in the theater, it says ‘the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together’ (19:32). This is often the case; enthusiasm without understanding.

There is a danger in the enthusiasm of the crowds, because enthusiastic responses to Jesus are often short lived. John records at the beginning of his gospel that in the large crowds in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast ‘many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people’ (Jn.2:23-24). Jesus was wary of the enthusiastic response of people. Jesus taught multitudes, but he also said hard things that challenged them to think, and even caused many to be offended and leave.

The excitement that caused the crowds to cry out ‘Hosanna’ can quickly turn to ‘Crucify him!’

Save… From What?

What the crowds said was true, but they failed to grasp the full meaning of what they said. Jesus was indeed the much anticipated promised Messiah, King of the Jews. They shouted out “Hosanna!” which means “Save Now!” and Jesus was indeed the one who had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Lk.19:10). But when the crowds cried Hosanna, what were they asking to be saved from?

Even Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood his mission. In Mark 10, on the way to Jerusalem, immediately after Jesus told his disciples clearly and graphically how he would be executed, James and John come with this request: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They want seats of prominence in his kingdom. They weren’t listening.

They thought he was about to save them from Roman oppression, and rule as their Jewish king. Luke 19:11 says ‘they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.’ Their hopes were temporary, earthly, physical. Save us from this oppression. Save us from the danger we can see. Save us from the enemy that is right there in front of us.

Saving the Lost

But Jesus was marching in battle toward a different enemy. Jesus was about to conquer a different foe. And this enemy is within. Jesus described his rescue this way:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

He said this in the context of a man who was lost in his greed, his pursuit of worldly possessions and pleasures. A tax collector, a Jew who had sold out to the Romans and was getting rich by extorting his own people. The people grumbled “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Lk.19:7). Zacchaeus wasn’t being oppressed by the Romans; he had sided with the Romans in oppressing his own people. What happened? This greedy man’s heart was changed by and encounter with Jesus. He became generous that day. Salvation came to his house. He was rescued, not from the Romans, but from himself.

On another occasion, eating with another tax collector,

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He came to call sinners to repentance. He described himself as a doctor. A good doctor doesn’t go around giving out medicine to healthy people. His rescue is not for righteous people, people who think they are righteous, who think they are OK.

Jesus came for sinners. He came for the lost. Hosanna; save now. So many have a superficial understanding of what they needed saving from. Many people call out to Jesus in times of crisis asking for his help. They are asking for rescue from a difficult situation. Heal my sick relative, help me get a better job, get me out of financial trouble, fix my relationship mess. Fix my circumstances.

Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

You see, Jesus is more concerned about fixing you than he is about fixing your circumstances. He may be using your difficult circumstances to get your attention, to show you that the real problem is you.

What Do You Mean I’m Lost?

You might be saying, what do you mean, I’m the real problem? You don’t know what I’m dealing with. People who know they are lost don’t take offense at someone offering directions, but in Jesus’ day, and today, people resent being told they are lost. If your defenses are rising up against what I am saying, it indicates that you have an even more serious problem. Not only are you lost, you don’t even know you are lost. Most people think they are OK. But are you OK with God? Are you OK according to his standards?

The Greatest Command

When the religious leaders asked Jesus:

Mark 12:28 … “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus said the greatest command is to love the one true God. Our greatest sin is distorting and misrepresenting God. We want to be able to define God, to say what he can and cannot do, what he can and cannot be like, what he can and cannot require of us. In our arrogance, we have the audacity to set the parameters for what God can require or do or even be like.

Jesus tells us that we must love the God who is, not the god we imagine to be. And we are to love him with heart and soul and mind and strength. All our energy, all our thoughts, all our affections, our very existence is to be characterized by love for God. God is to have first place in every waking thought, he is to be desired above every other good, all our actions pursuing his pleasure.

And love neighbor as yourself; putting his needs at least equal to if not above your own.

So friend, how are you? The Rev. Edward Payson in the early 1800’s wrote:

Every moment of our waking existence in which we do not love God with all our hearts, we sin; for this constant and perfect love to God His Law requires. Every moment in which we do not love our neighbor as ourselves, we sin; for this also we are commanded to do. Every moment in which we do not exercise repentance, we sin; or repentance is one of the first duties required of us. Every moment in which we do not exercise faith in Christ, we sin; for the constant exercise of faith the gospel everywhere requires. When we do not set our affections on things above, we sin; for on these we are required to place them. When we are not constantly influenced by the fear of God, we sin; for we are commanded to be in the fear of the Lord all day long. When we do not rejoice in God, we sin; for the precept is, “rejoice in the Lord alway” (Phi 4:4). When the contents of God’s Word [do] not properly affect us, we sin; for this [lack] of feeling indicates hardness of heart – one of the worst of sins. When we do not forgive and love our enemies, we sin; for this Christ requires of us. [Rev. Edward Payson 1783-1827]

Be Appalled, O Heavens!

Listen to God’s opinion of his people.

Jeremiah 2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

We have God belittling God neglecting, God forsaking thoughts. This is something to be appalled at, to be shocked over. This is evil. God is the all satisfying source of all good. And we forsake him and turn away to empty worthless things that cannot satisfy.

We ought to look at our own hearts and be appalled and horrified at our tendency to seek satisfaction in things other than the true source of all good.

Listen to what John says:

1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

Are you in the habit of ignoring God? John says ‘you are of the devil.’ The work of the devil is to undermine God, to defame God, to question his word, his goodness, his love, to cause us to turn away from God.

Paul says in Romans 7 that the purpose of the law, and my rebellion against it, is

Romans 7:13 …in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

As you look at your own heart, do you see your sin as sin, a rebellion against a good and loving God, is it to you sinful beyond measure?

Repentance

Jesus said:

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

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to save sick sinners. What does it mean to repent?

Jesus proclaimed the good news of God,

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus charged his disciples:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Paul was sent with his gospel both to Jews and Gentiles,

Acts 26:20 …that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind or heart. To repent is to have a change of heart and mind about your sin, to come to see it as God sees it. It is to be appalled, to see it as sinful beyond measure. To turn away from sin as abhorrent and turn to God in faith. Confession means to say the same thing. To confess your sin is to say the same thing about your sin as God says about it. Confession is the opposite of excusing. Our tendency is to make excuses, to make allowances for our sin.

Repent of dead works

But what are we to turn from, to have a change of mind and heart about? This may be a surprise, but Hebrews 6 lays the foundation.

Hebrews 6:1 …a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Repent of your dead works. When our works are dead works, they don’t please God, rather they defile us. Isaiah tells us that our righteousness and our deeds do not profit, they are offensive in God’s sight. (57:12; 64:6) When we do good things to impress God or earn his favor, we offend him. We must change our mind and see our human effort to please God as God sees it, as an offense against his grace.

Repentance is a Gift

What if we don’t feel this way about our sins? Naturally, I am pleased with myself and my good works. Naturally I am appalled at your sins, but I tend to make allowance for my sins. In fact, I take great pleasure in some of my sins. How do I change how I think and feel about my sins?

True repentance is a gift. In Acts 11, Peter described the gift of the Spirit poured out on the Gentiles, and

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (cf. 5:32; 2 Tim.2:25)

God is glorified because it is God’s gift. If you don’t feel the way God feels about your sin, ask God to give you his gift of repentance. God loves to give good gifts to all who ask. Ask God to allow you to see your sin as he sees it. Ask God to give you the faith to trust Jesus completely.

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

***

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

April 5, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God

07/07_2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190707_2cor7_8-10.mp3

Good Grief!

Charlie Brown walks by the doghouse where Snoopy is doing something ridiculous. “Good grief!” he exclaims. Good grief. That’s what we are talking about today.

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. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul wrote the Corinthians a severe letter. He was anxious about how it would be received, so anxious that he passed up an open door for gospel ministry in Troas. But in Macedonia, Titus came and announced good news to Paul. Titus announced the Corinthians’ longing, their mourning, their ardor on Paul’s behalf. This brought Paul still more joy. Why does intense desire, moaning or lamentation, and jealous indignation elicit joy? This is an unusual combination. Titus announces that the Corinthians were grieved by his letter, and now Paul rejoices? Why? Paul rejoices over the Corinthian’s grief? Is it right to rejoice over the sorrows of others? Paul in Romans tells us to

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Paul had told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

But here Paul rejoices over their grief. Isn’t this cruel? Paul explains. Because even if I grieved you in my letter, I do not regret it. Even if I did regret it. Because I see that that letter if even for an hour grieved you. Now I rejoice. Not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved to repentance.

Grief According to God

His joy was not over their grief only, but over the outcome of their grief. Their grief was godly grief, literally grief according to God.

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There are different kinds of grief. It matters what kind of grief you experience. What is grief according to God? And what is the grief of the world? The text says that grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss. Worldly grief in contrast works death. But both are called grief. What is the difference? How do we know which is which? This is important, because one works itself out in death, and one results in salvation. It matters that we experience the right kind of grief.

Achan and Rahab

Some illustrations might help, and the Bible is full of them! First, Rahab and Achan. Achan was an Israelite during Joshua’s conquest of Jericho. They were commanded to devote everything in the city to the Lord, to destruction.

Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

After Israel’s defeat at Ai, and Joshua is asking ‘Why?’,

Joshua 7:10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’” 16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Achan knew what he had done. He watched this whole process of selection unfold, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, household by household, man by man, which certainly took some time. Not until he was singled out and confronted as guilty did he own up to what he had done. He took of the spoils that were devoted to God, in effect stealing from God. He acted as if God didn’t exist, as if he would get away with it. He idolized the treasurers of the idolaters more than he treasured the true God of Israel. He was sorry that he got caught. His was a worldly sorrow, and it brought death.

But a few chapters earlier, when the two spies entered Jericho, they were hid and protected by the pagan prostitute Rahab,

Joshua 2:8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

This pagan prostitute turned, she repented; she hid the spies from her own people who were searching for them, she took a risk; she extended hospitality to enemies, she transferred her allegiance to the God of the Israelites, who she acknowledged as ‘God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.’ She experienced grief; her heart had melted within her, but she cast herself on God’s mercy, and her turning, her repentance was according to God, without regret, and resulted in the salvation of herself and her family.

Joshua 2:14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

Rahab turned from trusting in false Gods to the one true God, and she acted consistently with what she said she believed. Achan, although in name an Israelite who should have worshiped the one true God, acted as an idolater and lived as if God didn’t exist.

Saul and David

Here is another example. Saul and David. Saul was anointed king by Samuel. Saul was commanded in 1 Samuel 15 to strike the Amalekites, and devote everything to destruction.

1 Samuel 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. 10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night. 12 And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

There’s already some troubling things in this story. The despised and worthless things they devoted to the Lord, but the best things they refused to destroy. And Saul set up a monument for himself! (That’s just weird.) And when he sees Samuel he gives him a spiritual sounding greeting and says that he has obeyed the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 15:14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”

You see what Saul is doing here? When confronted with his sin, he shifts the blame. He says ‘they, the people’ did this. And he makes excuses. He says it was for a good motive. He says that their disobedience was supposed to be an act of worship, a sacrifice to God.

1 Samuel 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.” 17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

Saul persists in making excuses and attempting to clear himself. He won’t admit guilt. He insists that he knows better than God, that disobedience can be an act of worship.

1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the LORD.”

You see what happens here? When faced with the consequences of his sin, his rejection, then he admits guilt. But he still deflects, saying it was out of fear of the people. He asks for pardon, and he wants to save face publicly.

1 Samuel 15:26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” 30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.”

Saul is remorseful faced with the consequences of his sin, but he is eager for public honor more than for pleasing God. His grief stems from the consequences of his sin, not out of a genuine remorse for displeasing God. He is content with an outward show in place of inward reality.

Consider on the other hand, David. King David has experienced abundant blessing from the Lord. But he indulged the flesh, and now he has committed adultery and murdered to cover it up. The prophet Nathan confronts David;

2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

Note that his sin is no less serious than Saul. He despised the word of the Lord. He did what is evil in his sight. Adultery. Murder. This seems too easy. “I have sinned against the Lord.” How can that be true repentance? Its beauty lies in its straightforward simplicity. He doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t deflect blame. He owns it. He doesn’t complain about the consequences of his sin. He doesn’t say much, as if an eloquent confession holds some merit. He acknowledges his sin against the Lord, and he is forgiven. This is the gospel! He doesn’t say much here, but we get a glimpse into his heart when he writes Psalm 51

Psalm 51

[To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.]

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 ​Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 ​Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 ​Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 ​Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 ​Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 ​For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; 19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

David is convicted of his sin. He agrees with God about his sin. He acknowledges that his sin is against God, and he throws himself on God’s mercy. He pursues a heart change that only comes from God. His repentance is focused on God. It is not concerned with what others think. It is not proud, seeking to save face. It is not self-focused, seeking to escape punishment or discomfort. He owns what he deserves. He recognizes that he has dragged God’s glorious name through the mud. And he boldly asks for the joy of his salvation to be restored. He doesn’t wallow in guilt and regret. He asks for inner transformation.

Grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss.

Treasure with me the gospel. Treasure today the simple beauty of 1 John 1:8-9

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

***

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

July 7, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills, The Spirit Makes Alive

05/20_2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills; The Spirit Makes Alive ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180520_2cor3_6.mp3

What we want to be about, what we must be about as followers of Jesus, is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. We have seen in 2 Corinthians 3 that the sufficiency, the competence for this kind of ministry comes through Christ and toward or in the presence of God. We must recognize we are not competent in ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. Anything. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ But then Paul says we are competent, because of God,

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

This raises some questions. What does it mean to be a minister? What is the new covenant? How do we minister not by the letter, but by the Spirit? What is the role of the letter and the role of the Spirit?

Ministers

As we saw last time, a minister is simply a servant. One who serves others for their good. If we are all called to be ministers of a new covenant, we need to know what this means.

Covenant

Paul introduces this concept of a new covenant here. He says that he has been made sufficient to be a minister of a new covenant. What is the new covenant? We began to look at this when we were exploring the contrast between letters on tablets of stone with letters written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of fleshly hearts.

A covenant is a binding contract, an agreement between two parties. God made a covenant with his people at Mount Sinai, after he freed them out of slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

Deuteronomy says:

Deuteronomy 4:13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.

God gave Israel his covenant, his commands, his requirements. This was a binding agreement written on stone. He says in Leviticus:

Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

If a person does them, by them he shall live. Obedience equals life. Jesus affirmed this. When he was asked by a lawyer ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus responds ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it? The lawyer summarized the law by the two great commands; love God and love neighbor as yourself. Jesus said:

Luke 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Do this and you will live. The lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked ‘and who is my neighbor?’ He wanted to check off a box to show that he was good enough. Jesus gave him the parable of the good Samaritan. Everyone you come in contact with is your neighbor. Keep the law and you will live. Obedience to the law equals life.

The Letter Kills

The flip side of that, of course, is disobedience equals death. And that’s what we see if we look back to the giving of the law. Exodus 19-31 record the giving of the law to Moses. It is interesting to look back and see the difference before and after the giving of the law.

-In Exodus 14:6-14, at the Red Sea, before Sinai, Israel cried out to the Lord and complained that they would die in the wilderness; God parted the sea and rescued them. In Numbers 11:1-3, immediately after leaving Sinai, the people complained about misfortunes and the fire of the Lord burned among them. In Numbers 16:41-50 the people grumbled against their leaders, and 14,700 died in plague. In Numbers 21:4-9 the people become impatient and discontent; and the LORD sent fiery serpents to kill many.

-In Exodus 15:22-27, before the law, the people grumbled because the water was bitter; and the bitter water was made sweet. In Exodus 17:1-7 people grumbled and quarreled because they had no water; God instructed Moses to strike the rock and water came out from the rock for the people. But in Numbers 20:2-13, after the law was given, when there was no water and people quarreled, God instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, he disobeyed and struck the rock. Water came out, but because of their disobedience, Moses and Aaron would die in the wilderness and not enter the land.

-In Exodus 16:1-18, before the law, the people grumbled because of hunger; God provides manna and quail for them to eat. But in Numbers 11, after the law came, the people grumble about no meat, and God sent quail until it came out their nostrils, and he sent a very great plague to destroy them.

– In Exodus 16:19-30, before the law, the people are instructed to rest and not go out looking for manna on the Sabbath, but they disobey. Nothing happens. But in Numbers 15:32-36, a person caught gathering sticks on the sabbath is stoned to death for breaking the law.

– In Exodus 17:8-14, before Sinai, God defeats Amalek before Israel. In Numbers 14:39-45, after Sinai, Israel is defeated before the Amalekites and Canaanites.

Some of the very same things that had no consequences before the law, after the law brought death. The history of Israel after the giving of the law is a chronicle of disobedience and death. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the letter kills. This is very literally true.

Romans and the Law/Letter

Paul gives us more systematic teaching on the role and purpose of the law in the book of Romans. It will serve us well to look there to fill out our understanding of what he means when he says that ‘the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.’

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

The Jews prided themselves on having the law. But as we have seen, unless the law is obeyed, it brings death.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law was given to shut every mouth and hold all people accountable to God. The law shows us our sin; it does not make us righteous. This is made even more clear in chapter 4.

Romans 4:15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

The law brings wrath. We see this graphically displayed in the history of Israel after Sinai. Romans 5 tells us

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass…

The law did not create righteousness; it actually did the opposite; it served to increase trespass. Romans 7 tells us how.

Romans 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

The law actually stirred up our sinful passions. Paul gives a personal example:

Romans 7:7 … if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

He is describing what he said in 3:20 that ‘through the law comes the knowledge of sin.’ The commandment that promised life; the law says ‘do this and you shall live’ proved in his own experience to deliver death.

If the law produces death, does this mean that the law is bad? Paul answers:

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 … It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

The law is holy, righteous, good, even spiritual. But the law puts on display the sinfulness of sin. The law’s good purpose is to show us our sin, to stop our mouths, to hold us accountable to God, and to put us to death. I said that is the law’s good purpose. How is that good? Good is not determined by what is good for me. It’s not all about me! Good is what is good absolutely. It is good and right for God to display his justice and to punish sin. But this is good for me. It is good for the law to show me my sin, because only sinners who confess their sin can be forgiven. It is good for the law to put me to death, because only those who are dead can be raised to newness of life. Only those who are shown their desperate need will cry out to God for rescue. Jesus said

Mark 2:17 …“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The law plays a vital role in showing us God’s justice and our need. This is what makes the good news so very very good! The law brings us to the end of ourselves, and that is very good. The letter kills but the Spirit makes alive.

A New Covenant

This is where the new covenant promises come in. As we looked a few weeks ago, God promises in Jeremiah and Ezekiel to make a new covenant with his people, a covenant different from the covenant he made with the fathers, not like the covenant that they broke.

Jeremiah 31:33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This is the contrast Paul draws in 2 Corinthians; They old covenant was written on tablets of stone, and the result was disobedience and death. The new covenant of which he is a minster, is a heart agreement. No longer is it an external standard, which we may even agree is good, but our competing desires and inclination to disobedience thwart our best efforts to keep it. Now in the new covenant God writes his instruction on our hearts. It is part of us. It is internalized. It is who we are. It now defines us.

forgiveness

A critical component of this new covenant that God works in us is that he says ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more. This is powerful. This is so powerful for obedience. If we feel like a failure, if we feel like we have already disappointed him, we feel defeated. The guilt and shame are disabling. It’s like an overwhelming record of debt that stands against us. When you’re in debt and really see no way out, it’s easy to just give up and spend even more, run the credit card again, dig the hole deeper, We feel crippled to ever be good enough, to ever measure up. But in the context of forgiveness; this is so beautiful, so powerful, let this sink in an saturate your soul and transform everything; God says he remembers your sin no more. If you are in Christ, you always, always have a clean slate. You are always accepted. You are always good enough. You can’t sin fast enough to make the record stick. Do you see how powerful this is? Try to fight when you are all tied up and ensnared and weighed down. You can hardly even move. But God cuts the cords and sets you free and keeps you free so that you can fight.

This is so powerful, and I pray it shapes the way we relate to each other, to our spouse, to our children. Shame and guilt can be a motivating factor, but it is disabling. Forgiveness is so much more powerful.

they shall all know me

Notice another key aspect of this new covenant in Jeremiah 31. it says ‘they shall all know me.’ Paul is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. The new covenant is built on relationship. Intimacy. This is not second-hand knowledge. I know God and I have to tell you, God says what you’re doing is wrong. Someone stands between. You’re not hearing it first hand. It’s not direct. Someone is in between. That’s exactly the way it was at Sinai with the law. The people said ‘don’t let God speak to us directly. Moses, you go listen to God and then come tell us what he said.’ When I send one of my kids to pass along instruction to one of their siblings (and this happens a lot in our house) it doesn’t carry much weight. They say ‘hey, you need to do this’ and it’s easy to ignore. They might even say ‘hey, dad said you should do this’ and that carries a little more weight, but it’s still easy to ignore. Sometimes something gets lost in the delivery. The messenger got sidetracked and never delivered my message. Something got lost in the communication and something different than what I asked gets done. Is it the messenger who failed or the one who was supposed to receive the message who didn’t listen? It’s easy to shift blame. But when I show up personally, that’s completely different. It’s no longer someone passing along second hand information about what I said. Now it’s me, in relationship, really present, it’s direct. That’s what the new covenant does. It brings each of us into direct relationship with God. It’s no longer someone else telling you what you ought to be doing. It’s no longer mediated. It’s God himself communicating directly.

And it’s within the context of loving relationship. It can try to tell someone else’s kids what to do, but if the relationship isn’t there, if the accountability and love and respect in relationship hasn’t been established, it isn’t very effective. They run to mom or dad and say ‘that weird guy just told me what to do.’ In the new covenant, God brings us into relationship with himself. They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

a new heart and God’s Spirit

Another piece of this transforming power of the new covenant we see in Ezekiel.

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

God gives us a heart transplant. Our hard rebellious heart needs to be removed, and replaced by a soft, tender heart, a heart capable of love, a heart receptive to the Lord. But he doesn’t stop there. In the New covenant he puts his Holy Spirit in us. This is the aspect that Paul highlights in 2 Corinthians. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. O hear this! Let the truth of this sink in! The Holy Spirit of the living God; God the Holy Spirit, comes in, takes up residence in us. He lives in us and makes us alive. He transforms us from the inside. He will never leave!

Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are released from the law to serve in the new way of the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This is the message we are called to minister! This is the good news of the gospel! Through the cross there is forgiveness, no matter what you have done. You can know God yourself, you can enjoy relationship. God the Spirit comes to live inside and make you alive, truly alive, eternally alive! So walk in the Spirit and spread the knowledge of Jesus everywhere!

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

May 23, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted By Satan

03/11_2Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted by Satan ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180311_2cor2_10-11.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. Paul is talking about why he did not come as planned, why he wrote them a letter instead. He defends his clear conscience, how he is working with them in everything to pursue their joy. He wrote a letter that caused them sorrow, but even in that he is pursing their joy, and it was an expression of his abundant love for them. The context here is an issue of church discipline. Back in 1 Corinthians 5, he addressed a situation of immorality in the church that rather than dealing with the church was priding itself in. He demanded that the guilty party who refused to receive correction be expelled from the church.

Last time we looked at church discipline for your joy; we looked at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline, the process of, the heart behind and the goal of church discipline. Jesus and Paul both teach that church discipline is for joy; for the joy of the one disciplined, for the joy of the church, for the joy of God. He is pursuing our greatest good; so that we will find joy not in the counterfeit pleasures of sin, but in the genuine and eternal enjoyment of God himself.

In this passage we will see that we have an enemy, an enemy to our joy.

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

This passage tells us some really important things. It tells us that we have an enemy. It tells us that he has an agenda. And it tells us how to defeat him.

We Have an Enemy

Jesus warned of an enemy. He told Peter “behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Lk.22:31). Jesus warned his disciples to watch and “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk.22.40, cf. Mt.26:41). Later, Peter wrote

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Peter understood he had an adversary. And this adversary is bent on our destruction. He demanded to have Peter, to thresh him out. Peter knew from first hand experience that he had an enemy, the power of his enemy, the ferocity and intent of his enemy. The name Satan is a Hebrew word that means adversary; and devil means accuser or slanderer. Revelation 12:10 celebrates the day when “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Satan, the chief prosecuting attorney, stands day and night accusing us before the throne of God. He seeks our eternal destruction. Jesus thought it was important for Peter to know that he had an enemy, and who his enemy was.

We understand from places like Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, that Satan was an angel, a personal created being of the highest order, who became proud and rebelled against God, seeking to become equal to God. From places like Revelation 12 we understand that he led a third of God’s angels astray in his rebellion, who are commonly referred to as demons.

It is important to keep in mind that while God is the triune uncreated creator of everything, all powerful and unrestrained by time or place, Satan is a single created being, who is limited by both time and space, and who is limited in knowledge. Charles Simeon, who served Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 49 years until his death in 1836, put it this way; “It must not be forgotten, that, though we speak of Satan as one, he has millions of other spirits at his command, all cooperating with him with an activity inconceivable, and an energy incessant. …Hence, though Satan is limited both as to space and knowledge, he is, by his agents, in every part of the globe, receiving information from them, and exercising rule by means of them: and hence his devices, founded on such a combination of wisdom, and carried into effect by such an union of power, become so manifold as to exceed what on any other supposition would have been within the power of any finite creature to devise and execute.” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

We have an enemy; an enemy so powerful that even “the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, …did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9).

Satan’s Designs

And this enemy is bent on our destruction. Paul’s goal in naming our adversary in this passage is ‘so that we would not be outwitted by Satan’ This word translated ‘outwitted‘ is a verb derived from the noun ‘covetousness‘ or ‘greed.’ This word shows up 4 other times in the New Testament, three in 2 Corinthians (2Cor.7:2; 12:17,18), each translated ‘take advantage of,’ in the sense of financial defrauding or ripping someone off. This word also shows up in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 in the context of sexual immorality; that we are not to sin against or take advantage of a brother. We are not to use one another as objects to satisfy our cravings. This is what Satan seeks to do; to defraud us, to rip us off, to take advantage of us, to use us at our expense for his own pleasure.

Jesus warned in John 10, in the context of vulnerable sheep and the danger of false shepherds and wolves and thieves, himself being the good shepherd,

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus came for our joy, to give us life, abundant life. He came to give us life at the cost of his own. The enemy comes to rip us off, to defraud us, to take advantage of us, to use us and then throw us away.

The word in 1 Peter 5:8 translated ‘devour,’ “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 2:7 “or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This is a graphic word; literally it means to drink down, to gulp down, to be swallowed up by. We see a vivid illustration of this in Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ authority.

Numbers 16:31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”

This is what our enemy is out to do. He is out to swallow us up. And Paul warns that if the congregation doesn’t turn and forgive and comfort the repentant sinner, he might be swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

Satan is crafty. Later in this book (11:14) we learn that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” He tricks us into thinking we are doing what is best. The church was reluctant to take action on this matter of sin in the church. No doubt they were celebrating God’s amazing grace, which has the power to overcome even the darkest sin. They had been tricked into thinking that by tolerating sin they were highlighting God’s grace. Now finally, they had zealously obeyed. They were displaying God’s justice. And they were looking for Paul’s confirmation or affirmation of their disciplinary action. Rather Paul says ‘confirm’ or ‘reaffirm’ your love for him.

Simeon again says: “whole Churches are often grievously distracted by this powerful adversary. Where Christ is sowing wheat, he will be active in sowing tares. …If we neglect to purge out the old leaven, the whole lump will soon be leavened: and if with too indiscriminate a hand we attempt to pluck up the tares, we may root up also much of the wheat along with it. We are in danger on every side… ” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

How Not to Be Defrauded by Satan

We have an enemy. He is real, he is personal, he is powerful. And he is out to swallow us up, to steal our joy, to destroy us. What do we do? How can we guard against being ripped off and taken advantage of by our accuser and adversary? Look at Paul’s instruction here.

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

How are we not outsmarted by Satan? There are two extremes to avoid. The first, which he addresses in 1 Corinthians 5, is to not take sin seriously. He confronts them over their boast of being accepting and non-judgmental; their tolerance of sin; their failure to call sin sin and confront it. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Are we willing to confess, to say what God says about our sin? Are we willing to take it seriously? Sin will send you to hell; sin is why Jesus had to die; sin is what Jesus came to rescue us out of. To say to Jesus, ‘no, we actually like it here’ is to reject his salvation.

The second extreme is what he deals with here in 2 Corinthians. Do we uproot the wheat with the tares? We may come down hard on sin, but is it with the Shepherd’s heart of restoration? Do we know how to forgive? To reaffirm our love?

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul says to hand the unrepentant sinner over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Satan there is instrument of judgment to bring about his ultimate salvation on the day of the Lord.

Here in 2 Corinthians, unforgiveness allows Satan to rip off the body of Christ. The one who is being corrected is in danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow if he is not welcomed back in.

I have to ask here, what does this tell us about the body of Christ? Is this an understanding we have? Would it be devastating for you if you were disconnected from the body of believers? Are you overwhelmed by excessive sorrow if you are unable to gather with the saints for a few Sundays? Is your connection with your brothers and sisters your lifeline? This whole passage seems a bit foreign and obscure to us because of how so many view the church. It’s just a casual take it or leave it acquaintance. ‘I was up a little late last night; I had a busy week; I needed a down day; I just wasn’t feeling it.’

If you were told that because of your persistence in sin and refusal to listen to loving correction that you couldn’t come to church, would you be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow? Or would you say ‘good riddance, I don’t want to be around you judgmental types anyway’ and after a few scathing posts on social media you go find a church that is more ‘accepting’?

Why are we not desperate for fellowship, hungry to hear God’s word, longing to worship together with the saints, eager to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters? What are we missing?

There is danger of being defrauded by Satan. There is danger for the one being corrected. The danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

There is danger for the Apostle and each individual in the church. If anyone refuses to forgive, if anyone harbors bitterness, that bitterness will eat you alive, and Satan wins.

There is danger for the entire church body. Satan seeks to divide and conquer. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. If we make the sinner out to be the enemy, we lose.

And there is danger for our community, that they would miss hearing the message of the gospel. That comes up in the next verses, and I plan to look at that next week.

Forgiveness and Grace

What is Paul’s remedy? How do we avoid being taken advantage of by Satan? Forgive. This is fascinating. There are two main word groups for forgiveness in the New Testament. The most common word group is ἀφίημι (v.) or ἄφεσις (n.). This word group has a range of meanings from ‘release, allow, permit, let’ (35x) to ‘leave’ (58x), even ‘divorce, forsake, abandon’ (5x), and ‘forgive’ (62x). From this range of meanings, we see it carries the meaning of forgiveness in the sense of releasing from a debt or obligation. It is a more passive term; let it go. That is not the term used here.

The word for forgiveness here in 2 Corinthians 2 is the word χαρίζομαι (v.) from the noun χάρις which is the common New Testament word for grace. This word is used 11 times for ‘give, grant, freely give’ and a dozen times for ‘forgive’. It is a much more active, positive term; extend grace, positive favor. One commentator says: “forgiveness must give, not merely take away. God has extended grace toward us, so forgiveness must be a fundamental aspect of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ, the extension of grace to one another” [Guthrie, BECNT, p.134].

Back in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said he had already passed judgment as if he were present. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he had already forgiven; that he had already extended grace.

How do we escape being ripped off by Satan? Forgive. Extend God’s grace, undeserved grace toward others, even toward those who have wronged you.

Do we have the heart of the Father toward his prodigal son? Are we watching, eagerly looking for, expectantly and prayerfully awaiting his return? Do we run out to meet him and embrace him with forgiveness, with God’s grace? Are we quick to clothe him, restore him, kill the fatted calf and celebrate? When that which is lost is found it is a time for rejoicing!

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

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

2 Corinthians 2:5-9; Church Discipline for Your Joy

03/04_2 Corinthians 2:5-9; Church Discipline for Your Joy ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180304_2cor2_5-9.mp3

I had a few people ask me what I would be preaching on this Sunday, and when I told them that the title of the sermon was going to be ‘church discipline for your joy,’ you can imagine some of the responses I got. But this is God’s word, and this is where we’re at in God’s word. We take God’s word seriously. We take Jesus seriously. We take his church seriously. We take sin seriously. And we take joy seriously.

We’re in 2 Corinthians 2:5-9. We’ve seen at the end of chapter 1 (v.24) that Paul is working together with the Corinthians for their joy. We saw that both joy and sorrow are shared experiences in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffersall suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

There is community joy, community sorrow. What we do as members of the body affects everyone in the body. It has been a strained relationship between Paul and this church. He wrote them a letter which they misunderstood; he received news of some serious problems in the church, and he received some questions that he responded to with a letter delivered by a co-worker. The church it seems did not heed his letter, so he made an emergency visit to try to sort things out. That didn’t go well, so he wrote another painful letter, and sent another co-worker. He is anxious as he writes again to hear how that correspondence was received, and is on his way for another visit.

He didn’t visit them as planned, because he wanted to spare them. He wanted to give them time to repent.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul was pursuing their joy, at his own emotional expense. His desire, his heart was to see this church thriving, enjoying Jesus, happy in God. He wrote to communicate his abundant love for them. Paul mentions his own affliction, his own anguish of heart and his many tears in verse 4. But in verse 5 he moves them to think about the damage it was causing to the church.

Church Discipline for your Joy

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

It seems that Paul’s painful letter must have demanded the confrontation of someone in the church, and it was to test their obedience to him. Up to this point, they had not listened or responded well to his letters. Whatever the offense was, Paul says it was not only toward him, but toward the whole church.

1 Corinthians 5

We don’t know what the offense was. There is much scholarly speculation over who the offending party was and what he had done. But the text doesn’t tell us. Through most of church history it has been assumed that this was the man addressed in 1 Corinthians 5 who was in an incestuous relationship with his mother-in-law. In that passage Paul called for his expulsion from the church. That identification of the offender has been challenged, although it is still a defensible explanation [see Kruse, p.41-45; P. Hughes, p.59-65; Garland, p121]. Whether the offender was this man from 1 Corinthians 5 or some unknown offender, it is useful to look at that passage, because there are some clear connections with the subject matter that will help us understand what is going on here.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Paul says ‘Let him who has done this be removed from among you.’

Cleanse out the old leaven’ do ‘not …associate with sexually immoral people;’ do ‘not even eat with such a one.’ ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’ Paul is calling for the assembled church to exclude the immoral believer. What would warrant such a drastic response? This is the passage that tells us that Paul had written a previous letter which they had misunderstood. They thought he meant not to associate with any sinners, including unbelievers. He clarifies in 1 Corinthians that he meant not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother. When we put this together with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18, we understand that this is not the initial knee jerk reaction when we find out someone is struggling with sin; this is the final last resort stage of a process of confrontation that is meant for the good of the one rebuked. Even in this passage Paul tells them to ‘deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’ It is for this man’s ultimate good. It is ‘so that his spirit may be saved.’ This is along the lines of Jesus’ teaching in:

Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Jesus says that it is better. Better to tear out your eye. It is to your eternal advantage. Better to tear out your eye than to be thrown into the hell of fire. Both Jesus and Paul teach that sin is serious, and it has eternal consequences. Both are pursuing our good, our eternal joy.

Discipline an Expression of Love

You see, discipline is actually an expression of love.

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

We see this theme many places in the Bible. We see it repeatedly in the Psalms, Proverbs, in Hebrews 12. Jesus even says to a church in:

Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Discipline is an expression of love.

Church Discipline According to Jesus

It will be helpful to look at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline in Matthew 18. His go-to teaching on church discipline is found in verses 15-17, but in order to do justice to his teaching, we can’t only look at these verses. To really get the heart of what he’s saying, we need to listen to the context of Matthew 18.

Jesus’ teaching on church discipline is in the context of a discussion among his disciples about who is the greatest. Jesus tells them they need to turn back and humble themselves and become like little children. And then he talks about receiving children.

Matthew 18:5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

This sounds harsh, but Jesus is passionate about the little ones who believe in him, not just children in age, but those who are young in the faith, young believers. He goes on:

Matthew 18:8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

He starts with a strong warning against being the one to bring temptation, and then he gives instruction on the seriousness of sin, and encourages us to deal severely with the sin in ourselves. Habitual sin in our own hearts must be dealt with severely. Then he tells a story about the Father’s shepherd heart for those who go astray.

Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 11 — 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

It is in this context, a context of not stumbling young believers, of dealing severely with your own sin, of the Father’s heart, the Father’s protection, the Father’s pursuit of his stray sheep, that Jesus says:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

The Father’s heart is to pursue his lost sheep, and he has joy when they are brought back. This is the frame for a brother sinning against you. Go, tell him his fault, in a spirit of humility, not despising, as if somehow you are better than them, with the Father’s heart of loving pursuit, for their good. Go privately first. Don’t gossip. Go straight to the source. Care for his reputation. Treat him as you would want to be treated. Only if he refuses to listen do you bring others, others with wisdom, with love, others who have a heart for his good, a heart to seek the lost. Only if he refuses to listen to them does it become a full church issue. And still, the heart must be in humility seeking restoration, seeking his good. The purpose for bringing it before the whole church is not to shame, not to dispose of him and be done with the situation, but to bring the positive pressure of the full community of believers to lovingly urge and exhort and plead toward healing and restoration. Only after this stage is resisted, is the step taken to remove that one from fellowship. And even there, we are to treat outsiders not with condemnation and judgment, but with love and the truth of the gospel, seeking to win them to Christ.

Confrontation Presupposes Forgiveness

Peter is listening, processing what Jesus is teaching, and he has a question.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Notice, Peter does not say ‘if my brother listens, how often should I forgive him?’ No, he says ‘how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him?’ The response of the person is nowhere in view. This is unilateral forgiveness. The process of confronting someone for their good presupposes forgiveness. If you sin against me and I am bitter, holding a grudge, I am not seeking your good, I am seeking to be vindicated, I am seeking payment. You hurt me and you owe me. But if I have already forgiven you in my heart, if I have released you from your debt, then I can come to you for your good, for your joy.

He actually asks how often his brother will sin against him. What is the outer limit? I must always respond to those who sin against me with forgiveness. But to what extent? Jesus answers that this is going to happen a lot. And notice that this is a brother, not someone outside. Don’t be surprised when your brothers and sisters sin against you over and over and over again. You are to forgive. Cultivate a forgiving heart, so that you can work together with your brothers and sisters for their joy.

Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Then Jesus tells a parable about a servant whose master forgave him an incomprehensible debt, who then went out and began to strangle a fellow servant who owed him pocket change; warning those who refuse to forgive others that they have failed to understand, failed to truly receive the forgiveness that is extended to them in Jesus. One who has received God’s merciful and undeserved forgiveness will be overflowing with amazed gratitude and be eager to extend mercy and forgive as he has been forgiven.

Forgive, Comfort, Confirm Love

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

Whatever the offense, it seems it had escalated into a personal offense against Paul, undermining his authority and character, and the church did not stand with Paul. Paul says the offense caused grief to the whole body. Whoever this offender was, it seems the church finally took the matter seriously and expelled him. The church finally was obedient to the instructions of their apostle to deal with the sin. And now Paul warns them not to take it too far. It seems the failure of the Corinthians in church discipline (and the same danger is there for us as well) is knowing when to start and knowing when to stop. The goal is always restoration, and when there is confession of sin (which simply means to agree with God that sin is sin), where there is sorrow over sin, where there is repentance (which means a turning to go a different direction), it is enough. The goal, as Jesus stated it, is that he listens. And then you have gained or won your brother.

Paul tells them they ought to now to forgive. They ought to comfort. They ought to confirm their love for him. They had never stopped loving the offender. But their love had to take the form of discipline. Now that he had responded, they were to reaffirm, to express their love.

Our relationships with one another are to display God’s character, God’s grace. He is for us. He is working with us for our joy. He was willing to bear in himself the cost of our rebellious treason, and forgive. We must work with each other for our joy, willing to confront when necessary, willing to absorb the cost, eager to forgive as we have been freely and graciously forgiven.

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

March 6, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Gentleness Like Jesus

07/30 The Spirit’s Fruit; Gentleness Like Jesus Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170730_gentleness-like-jesus.mp3

Fruitfulness and the Knowledge of God

In Colossians 1, Paul prays for the believers.

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 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. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He prays that the fruit of the Spirit would be produced in them. He prays that they would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work.” When we bear fruit, we are pleasing to God. It’s not just that we do good works; it’s that we bear fruit in every good work. It’s not enough that we do good; it matters how we do the good we do, what our attitudes, what our motivations are. He prays for attitude and motivation, because he knows that we can’t bear fruit, we can’t be fully pleasing to him in our heart attitudes without supernatural help. Remember, this is the fruit that God the Holy Spirit produces in us. We are incapable of producing this fruit.

Notice in his prayer that he sandwiches bearing fruit between the knowledge of God. He starts by asking that we “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” and he follows the request for fruitbearing by asking that we would be “increasing in the knowledge of God.” I don’t believe this is coincidental. He asks this way because fruitfulness is directly connected to the knowledge of God. The Spirit produces the character of Jesus in us as we get to know him. He produces the attributes of God in us as we begin to know his will, his desires, as we begin to know him, who he is. Bearing fruit is directly linked to increasing in the knowledge of God. As we know God, as we look to God, as we see and experience and taste what God is like, we begin to imitate him, to be like him, to live lives shaped by him.

He goes on to ask for divine power to enable us to produce the Spirit’s fruit. He prays that we would “be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” God’s power is necessary if we are to have joy and peace and patience and all the fruit. All this is saturated in thanksgiving, because all of it is a gift from God.

The fruit grows out of our identity in Christ. It grows out of his finished work. “The Father… has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” He has done it. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” He has done it! “In [Jesus] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We have it. It is not something we are hoping for, something we are attempting to attain; it is ours! We have been qualified to share the inheritance; we have been delivered from the domain of darkness. We have been transferred into the kingdom of Jesus. We have redemption. We have the forgiveness of sins. It is all ours. It is our identity in Christ. As we increase in the knowledge of God, with thanksgiving, the fruit that is fully pleasing to the Lord will be produced in us by his supernatural power.

What Meekness Is

Today we look at the 8th in the description of the fruit of the Spirit, possibly the most misunderstood of all. It is gentleness, or in the older translations meekness. The Greek word is [πραΰτης]. What does this word mean? The fruit of the Spirit, remember, is the character of God produced in his people; it is Christlikeness. So whatever this word means, it is something that is true of God, and it will become increasingly true in the lives of the followers of Jesus.

Here’s a passage from the Psalms speaking about the Messianic King:that helps us see that meekness or gentleness might not be exactly what we assumed it to be.

Psalm 45:3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! 5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

The mighty Messianic King rides out victoriously with sword and bow for the cause of truth and righteousness and meekness. Truth is victorious over falsehood and deceit. Righteousness triumphs over injustice and all evil. But meekness seems out of place in this list. Meekness in the Old Testament often refers to the poor, ‘the defenseless, those without rights, the oppressed, those who are cheated, exploited and cursed.’ (DNTT vol.2, p.257, humility). Truth and righteousness we recognize as virtues, but being without rights, oppressed and exploited is not something we would think of as a noble cause to be defended. We would think that people in that situation need to be delivered from that state.

Gentleness or meekness is connected with humility, being low, even pushed down and afflicted. It can carry the idea of consideration or courtesy. It came to designate ‘those who in deep need and difficulty humbly seek help from Yahweh alone’ (DNTT vol.2, p.257, humility)

In defense of Moses’ leadership, we are told:

Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.

This is Moses, who repeatedly confronted the Pharaoh of Egypt, demanding the release of his slaves, Moses who led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea and through the wilderness; Moses who spoke with God on Mount Sinai, Moses who interceded with God to spare the rebellious people, who even offered himself in place of them, Moses is called the meekest man on the face of the earth. What does it mean that he was meek?

Moses was acutely aware of his limitations. He was not up to the task God assigned to him. He argued with God over his inability and lack of giftedness for the monumental task. He said, ‘Oh my Lord, please send someone else’ (Ex.4:13). Yet God said ‘I will be with you.’ Moses recognized his inability, his deep need and his utter dependence on God alone. Out of his humility and meekness, he was able to shepherd God’s people.

Meekness Necessary in All Relationships

In the New Testament, we are told that this humble gentleness or meekness is necessary in all our relationships, both within and outside the church.

In 1 Corinthians 4:21, Paul desires to come to this wayward church ‘with love in a spirit of gentleness’ but he is concerned he may need to come with a rod of discipline. In Galatians 6:1, we are to restore those who are trapped in sin with a spirit of gentleness, and the humble awareness that we too could be ensnared. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 tells us

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Gentleness or meekness is contrasted to being quarrelsome. All correction of opponents is to be done with kindness, patient endurance, teaching, and gentle humble meekness. The heart and goal of this correction is that God would give repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Proud or harsh correction is not likely to lead to repentance. Peter tells us that we are always be in readiness to give reason for our hope, but this must be done with meekness and fear.

1 Peter 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect [φόβος ],

Here in Galatians 5, meekness or gentleness is listed as fruit of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4 tells us to live the Christian life

Ephesians 4:2 with all humility [ταπεινοφροσύνη] and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

It takes all humility, meekness and patience to put up with one another and pursue gospel unity.

Colossians 3 tells us to

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility [ταπεινοφροσύνη], meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

In our relationships with one another, especially in our relationships with those who have wronged us, with those we may have a complaint against, we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Anger, wrath, malice, slander, lies are to have no place in the church. We are to bear with one another and to forgive one another in love. This humble meekness, aware that I too am a sinner forgiven by the riches of God’s undeserved grace enables me to forgive as I have been forgiven.

Titus encourages us:

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle [ἐπιεικής appropriate, mild], and to show perfect courtesy [πραΰτης] toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Obedience, submission to authority, eagerness to do good accompanies gentleness and meekness (here translated courtesy). Gentleness and meekness is the polar opposite of quarreling and speaking evil of others. Notice the motive for this humble meekness; we ourselves were once a mess. We can treat others who are haters, envious, spiteful, addicts, straying, disobedient, foolish, because we were there. In humble gentleness we remember we were once all that.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We can be humbly gentle toward sinners, even those who sin against us, because God treated us with goodness and loving kindness when we were sinners against him. We can extend gentleness that others don’t deserve, because we have been rescued by God’s grace and mercy.

James helps us see how this works.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

When there is conflict, we need to learn to be good listeners. We need to listen well before we speak. Not hasty to jump to conclusions. Not quick to pick sides and get angry. With a humble meekness we are to receive God’s word. We receive the word, not thinking we are better than others, but aware of our deep need for the gospel just as much as the next sinner. We receive the word that was planted in us as God’s tool that has the power to change us. I can’t be better by trying. God’s word has the power to change me and heal my sin sick soul.

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

We begin to understand why Jesus said that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth (Mt.5:5). When we understand meekness, humble gentleness, this is the kind of person we want to rule. It is the one who has a genuine humility, who doesn’t think of himself as better, who recognizes his own deep need and looks to God alone for help, this is the one we want to lead us.

Meekness in Jesus

This is the amazing thing about Jesus. Jesus, the promised Messiah king not only comes to deliver those who find themselves in deep need, those who are oppressed and exploited, those who are defenseless and without rights, but he also identifies with them, comes along side them, becomes one of them.

Matthew 21:5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey,on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Zech.9:9)

Jesus our King comes in meek humility. He comes, not as a conquering king delivering from oppression, but as one oppressed and afflicted, a man of sorrows, despised and rejected, acquainted with grief (Is.53:7, 3). The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. He invites us: take up your cross and follow me. He says

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly [ταπεινός] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus comes to us and meets us in our need. He experiences what we experience. He enters in to our suffering. He is meek and humble.

Philippians 2 says:

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, who for all eternity existed in the very form of God, humbled himself, emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, one oppressed, one despised, rejected. Being God, he surrendered his rights as God. He stooped down to become one of us, to identify with us, to rescue us. Jesus is gentle, meek. He surrendered his rights. If Jesus did this for us, we can lay aside our selfish ambition, our conceit, our pursuit of significance. In humility, with meekness and gentleness, we can count others as more important than ourselves.

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

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience Like Jesus

06/25 The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170625_patience-like-jesus.mp3

We are studying the fruit of the Spirit. Notice, fruit is singular. These nine characteristics describe one whole fruit. This is not a buffet line – a little bit of this, a lot of that, I’ll pass on that. No, for the fruit to be present, all of these characteristics must be there and growing. And remember, this is the Spirit’s fruit, and it is in contrast to the works of the flesh. You cannot produce this fruit on your own. God the Holy Spirit must come inside and make this happen in you. It is evidence that he is there. There are counterfeits. Things that we might call love and joy and peace and patience, in our lives or the life of an unbeliever, but they are not Spirit produced. What we are talking about is what the Old Testament pointed forward to in the promise of the New Covenant.

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

So take heart! Notice who is doing the work. God says ‘I will.’ I will cleanse you. Because of the blood of Jesus, because of his crucifixion in your place, I will cleanse you. I will set you free from all your idols. Idols like enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy (Gal.5:20-21). I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove your hard stony heart. I will put my Holy Spirit within you. I will cause you to walk in my statutes. I will cause you to be careful to obey my rules. This is fruit. This is New Covenant fruit. This is God the Father, founded on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, through his Holy Spirit working transformation in us for his glory. I will sprinkle, I will cleanse, I will give, I will put, I will remove, I will put I will cause.

We need this confidence. We need this encouragement, because today we are looking at patience. Love, joy, peace, patience. 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 is God’s own quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is under his control, and all is well. What is patience?

Patience and Anger

There are some things that go under the name of patience which are not the real fruit of patience. I tend to have a patient temperament. In high school I had friends try to make me angry just to see if it was possible. Where my friends failed, somehow my children have succeeded! That is not what we are talking about. You can act patience and put up with a lot because you just don’t care that much. Patience is not being passive, indifferent, or tolerant of wrongs (Powilson, p.78). It is not merely a stoic resolution to not be ruffled by circumstances.

The Greek New Testament word for patience here is: μακροθυμία macro as opposed to micro. Micro when you are near, step in close, zoom in like a microscope. Macro is when you step back, far far back, and take in the big picture. It can mean distant or long. Μακροθυμία; θυμός is where we get thermal; heat. It means fury, wrath, indignation.

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

In Galatians 5:20 the works of the flesh include (θυμοί) fits of anger.

The idea of this word μακροθυμία is that it takes a long time to get angry; anger is distant, far off. It takes a long time to get hot. We say someone is hot tempered and has a short fuse. This is the opposite; a long fuse. Slow to anger. The Old English word is longsuffering. Love suffers long.

Notice this passage does not say that the fruit of the Spirit is ‘never angered’ but ‘slow to anger’. There is a place for anger. Anger is a good God given emotion. Anger is the passionate response to what is evil that does something to bring about good. Anger often goes bad in us, but that does not mean that anger itself is bad.

Patience with Circumstances and Patience with People

There is another Greek New Testament word that is also on occasion translated ‘patience’. It is ὑπομονή. We see both in Colossians 1:11.

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance [ὑπομονήν] and patience [μακροθυμίαν] with joy,

Notice God’s power is supplied to bring about both endurance and patience with joy. The description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 begins with μακροθυμία and ends with ὑπομονή

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient [μακροθυμεῖ] and kind; … 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures [ὑπομένει] all things.

ὑπομονή patience leans in the direction of patience under adverse circumstances, patience with outward pressures. Μακροθυμία patience is more patience with adverse people. What do you do when someone wrongs you? How do you respond to irritating people? People who impose on you, inconvenience you, offend you?

Ephesians 4; Unity, Humility, and Putting Up with Crap

We see some of this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Notice how patience is here, but it is not alone? It is connected with humility, gentleness, love. It is rooted in an eagerness. There is an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit. There is a diligent labor toward unity. Not superficial unity, but real, genuine unity, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Patience is a tool toward this kind of unity. Not being easily angered by my brother or sister but bearing with one another is a powerful tool toward unity. This striving toward unity with patience grows out of humility. This verse uses two words that can both be translated humility; modesty and meekness. Patience comes when I don’t think that I’m better, more important, more worthy than someone else. Patience comes with a proper view of who I am. I become impatient, even hot tempered when I feel that my schedule is more important than yours. My need for that parking spot is greater than yours. ‘I was here first!’ My comfort, my agenda ranks higher than yours. ‘Why are you getting in my way? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you understand what I have to accomplish? You are hindering me. Me!’

Jesus initiates an upside down kingdom. He says it is the one who puts others first, who cares for the least of these who is truly great (Mt.25).

Matthew 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This humility of considering the needs of others as more important than our own is what allows us to patiently bear with one another in love. There is stuff we will have to put up with. There are misunderstandings. There are unintentional insensitivities. There are also legitimate wrongs. But because we are actively pursuing spiritual unity, because we are walking in genuine humility, we can genuinely love the other person by patiently putting up with the crap they throw our way.

Colossians 3; Patience and Forgiveness

We see this same thing in Colossians 3:12.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Again, we see patience does not stand alone. Patience is coupled with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness. Patience puts up with the junk people knowingly or unknowingly throw at us. It is intentionally moving toward love and harmony and peace and unity in the body. Patience moves in this direction by bearing with and forgiving. Not everything has to be confronted. Some things we can choose to let go. Was it really that big of a deal? Can I just let it go? Can I assume the best, assume it was unintentional, assume you meant well, give you the benefit of the doubt and just let it go? Have I ever wronged or offended someone unintentionally? Can I in humility bear with them?

But maybe my complaint is genuine (or at least I have convinced myself that it is genuine). Then for the sake of unity, for the sake of harmony, for the sake of the peace of my own heart, in thanksgiving, because Christ Jesus has forgiven all my legitimate wrongs, I must forgive. Here we see patience and putting up with one another linked to forgiveness. The word in this verse for forgiving is χαρίζομαι from the root χάρις -grace. It means to grant as an undeserved favor, to gratuitously pardon or rescue. What you did was wrong. I have a legitimate complaint against you. I have a valid reason to be angry. You don’t deserve to receive my patience. But because Jesus has freely and undeservedly extended his gracious forgiveness to me, I must freely, graciously forgive you.

God’s Immense Patience

Do you see where we get this kind of patience? It comes from the same place all the other facets of the fruit of the Spirit come from. It comes from God. It is produced by the Spirit in us. It comes through looking. Looking in faith to God. Looking to who God is, to God’s character, as we long for God’s character to be reproduced in us. It comes through looking to Jesus. Our patience, our slowness to anger grows out of a relationship with God who is slow to anger.

Back in Exodus, shortly after God had rescued his people out of their slavery in Egypt, and he had called Moses up to the mountain to receive his laws, and the people grew impatient and made for themselves idols to worship. God was rightly angry, but Moses prayed, and God relented from the disaster he had spoken of bringing on the people (Ex.32). Because of this, Moses is emboldened to ask to see the glory of God.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Our God is a God who is immensely slow to anger. He has a long fuse. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is eager to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. Yet he is also just. He will right every wrong, and punish every sin. This understanding of the nature of God should cause us to be cautious in condemning God for seemingly excessive acts of violence. We read things like ‘The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ (Gen.19:24).

Numbers 16:31 …the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

Or in the conquest, at the command of the LORD, ‘we … devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors’ (Deut 2:34, 7:2). Our inclination is to say ‘that’s too harsh’. But we must remember the patience of God. As Peter says,

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

God is longsuffering toward all, eager for all to turn and find repentance. We are to

2 Peter 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

Paul says in Romans 2:

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is slow to anger, immensely slow to anger, but his anger will come at the proper time. He is absolutely just. God’s anger is not quick and reactionary, it is not intended for his own convenience. God’s anger is cautious and constructive, slowly bringing about his own good purposes. God’s judgment is inescapable. But he is rich in kindness and forbearance. He is rich in longsuffering.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

So where does this kind of patience come from? The kind that is legitimately wronged and does not demand payment? The kind that does not say ‘you have wronged me, and I will make sure you wish you hadn’t. I’m going to hold you in my debt (which is bitterness) and make sure you feel the weight of what you did to me. The kind that freely, graciously, undeservedly reaches out and rescues my offender from what they deserve, at great personal cost? This kind of slow to anger patience only comes from looking to Jesus.

The Anger of Jesus

Let’s look at an instance of the anger of Jesus. In Mark 3,

Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, …

This is a set-up. The religious leaders are against him. Jesus is doing good, and exposing the religious people in their predatory and self-serving ways. He describes them in another passage

Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others….

Jesus knows this is a setup. He knows they are out to kill him. So he asks them a diagnostic question; is it lawful to do good or to do harm? To save a life or to kill? They are seeking his harm, they are seeking occasion against him. He holds up a mirror to reveal their own hearts. But they were silent. They were resolute in their determined opposition to him. They refused to look at their own hearts, their own need. Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart. Jesus was angry, but his anger was mixed with sorrow. He understood what they would do. He understood their need. He loved his enemies. He was grieved that they didn’t care about this person with a withered hand; they were willing to use him as bait. He was grieved that they couldn’t see their own shriveled hearts, and that one who with the power to make them new on the inside was standing among them.

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus was angry and grieved, but he acted in love. And he sealed his own fate. His enemies went out and held counsel against him, how to destroy him. Jesus’ anger was not moved by what would benefit himself. It moved out to do real good for those in need. It saw the real problem and moved decisively to fix it.

Jesus’ lovingly patient anger led him to the cross. Jesus was angry and grieved at their hardness of heart. And he took my hard heart on himself, he took my selfish pride, my callous indifference to the needs of others, my blindness to who he was, ‘He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree’ (1Pet.2:24).

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And 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.

The cross of Jesus the display of the patient anger of God against all that is wrong and hurtful and broken in his world. The cross fully displayed his perfect love of justice and righteousness; his incomprehensible love toward those who wronged him, by acting in anger for their eternal joy.

I can be slow to anger with those who have wronged me, because Jesus endured the full heat of the fury of Almighty God against all my sin. ‘It was the will of the LORD to crush him’ (Is.53:10). I can bear with the wrongs of others against me, I can act in love, because he bore all my wrongs, because when I was his enemy, he laid down his life in love for me.

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

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:40-46; Repentance and Restoration

05/07 Leviticus 26:40-46; Repentance and Restoration ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170507_leviticus-26_40-46.mp3

We are looking at the covenant document of ancient Israel, the covenant between God and his people. This document is the necessary background for understanding the history of Israel in the Old Testament, and for understanding the message of the prophets, who called Israel to turn from their false gods back to the one true God.

Leviticus 26 verses 1-2 are a reminder of the central demand of the covenant, that by entering into this covenant, Israel is promising to have no other gods but the one LORD. Verses 3-13 list the blessings that accompany this relationship; verses 14-39 list the curses that will fall on the nation when they reject the LORD and fail to honor their agreement. This last section, verses 40-46, holds out an amazingly gracious promise that God will respond to genuine broken-hearted turning of his people back to himself.

The blessings were conditional;

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you

And he lists a series of four blessings, blessings of abundant produce and protection and progeny and most importantly the presence of God with his people.

The curses were a series of five disciplines escalating in intensity; the first stage in verse 14:

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you:

The second stage in verse 18:

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins,

The third stage of discipline in verse 21

Leviticus 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins.

The fourth stage, aimed at turning the people back to God, verse 23:

Leviticus 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.

The final stage, verse 27:

Leviticus 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.

The discipline is severe, indicating that the consequences of continuing in rebellion and refusing to heed the discipline are even more painful. Here at the end of this series of discipline, God holds out the promise of hope; if his rebellious people will …

Leviticus 26:40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember…

Notice this is taking full responsibility. This is not making excuses for sin. This is not blaming it on a failed upbringing or painful circumstances that have shaped responses. There is no blame for genetic predisposition. They confess.

Defining Confession

What does it mean to confess? It means to own up to your sin. It means to admit that you are guilty of a punishable deed or offense. Psalm 32 spells this out. David understands the consequences of refusing to confess, and the amazing relief of confession and forgiveness. He begins by rejoicing in the benefits of forgiveness.

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Then he shows us the opposite of confession.

Psalm 32:3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. — Selah

This is deceit. It is refusing to admit what is true, and it is a painful experience. Then in verse 5 he confesses.

Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. — Selah

Confession is refusing to hide or lie about or cover iniquity. It is acknowledging sin to God. It is not trying to fix it or be better or change. It is simply owning up to the facts. We see this same contrast between concealing and confessing in Proverbs.

Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Notice what it is they are to confess.

Leviticus 26:40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me,

They are admitting their iniquity in their treachery against God. Their failure to listen to God, their disregard for God is considered treasonous. It is a sin against God himself. By not listening to God, by not following him, they are walking contrary to him. They are against him. Jesus said:

Matthew 12:30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

This divides the world in two. There are those who walk contrary to God, and there are those who confess. God says of those who conceal rather than confess, whose pattern of life is contrary to God,

Leviticus 26:41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies…

The Lord reminds his people of the consequence of opposing God. He will walk contrary to you. Exile, captivity, bondage. A life opposed by the creator of all things. Yet his warnings are meant to turn our hearts toward him.

Leviticus 26: …—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember…

If their uncircumcised heart is humbled. Back in verse 19, God threatens to ‘break the pride of your power.’ Humility is the appropriate response to a God whom we have ignored. James says:

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. … 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

God opposes the proud. But he gives grace to the humble. Note well, the proud get what they deserve. They refuse to confess, they refuse to humble themselves, and God sets himself against them. But the humble do not get what they deserve. They get better than they deserve. He gives grace to the humble.

Uncircumcised Hearts

God refers to his people as having uncircumcised hearts. In Genesis 17, God gave Abraham circumcision as a sign of his covenant with him. Uncircumcision becomes a picture of thick skinned callousness to the Lord. Jeremiah calls for repentance:

Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”

The Lord laments:

Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.

It is as if there is a flap of skin blocking their ears so they cannot hear. It is a heart-attitude that is the problem. The problem is with what they take pleasure in; what they desire. Stephen in Acts 7 said:

Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

In Deuteronomy, Moses charged the people before he turned over the leadership to Joshua:

Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul; this is for your good. The Lord has set his heart in love on you above all peoples. Be no longer stubborn. Fear him, serve him, hold fast to him.

Leviticus 26:41…—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,

What does it mean to ‘make amends’? This word means ‘to be pleased’ and is used frequently in Leviticus of a sacrifice being accepted by the Lord. The King James translates this phrase ‘if they accept the punishment of their iniquity.’ We cannot fix the damage we have done by our hard hearts. But in humility we can accept our guilt before the Lord.

I Will Remember

God says if my people will confess, will accept their guilt, will humble themselves,

Leviticus 26:42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

God promises to remember. When the Bible says that God remembered, it does not imply that God is forgetful. To remember an agreement is to honor the terms of that agreement. God’s people made a covenant with him at Mount Sinai under Moses; this was a conditional covenant, conditioned on their obedience to all the things written in the law, a covenant that they broke. God here is promising that if they will own their guilt and humble themselves, that he will honor the terms of a prior covenant that he made, a covenant that was conditioned only on one thing; circumcision. If they will circumcise their hearts, he will honor all his promises.

Paul tells Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

There are consequences for sin; but God cannot deny himself. We may be faithless, but he will make good on the promises he has made.

Sabbath for The Land

Leviticus 26:43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.

The land will be abandoned. They forsook the land God gave them by their disobedience. The land will enjoy rest. Earlier in this chapter,

as a consequence for their sin, God promised to make the roads desolate (v.22); their sanctuaries desolate (v.31); and the land desolate (v.32, 34, 35). Here the land will enjoy its rest while it is desolate without them. They spurned his rules and their soul abhorred his statutes. This not an issue of merely outward actions. This is a heart issue.

Future for Israel

Leviticus 26:44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”

They spurned his rules and abhorred his statutes, but the Lord will not spurn or abhor them to utterly destroy them. His discipline will accomplish its purpose. He will not make an end of them and break his covenant. Why? They had broken his covenant. The reason God will not break his covenant with them is ‘I am the LORD their God.’ He will not go back on his word, because he is who he is. He will not change. Even if they abhor and spurn the Lord, the Lord will not spurn or abhor them. Even if they abandon the land, the Lord will not abandon or forsake them.

In Romans chapters 9-11, Paul wrestles with the question of Israel and God’s promises. He has ‘great sorrow and unceasing anguish’ in his heart (9:2-3) for his ‘brothers, …kinsmen according to the flesh’. He is confident that ‘a remnant of them will be saved’ (9:27). His ‘hearts desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved’ (10:1). He asks in chapter 11 if God has rejected his people, and his answer is ‘by no means!’ (11:1-2). He recognizes that the majority of Israel is now hardened toward the Lord, but he asks ‘did they stumble in order that they might fall?’ (11:11) and his answer again is ‘by no means!’ He sees that through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, but he looks forward to ‘their full inclusion’ (11:12), ‘their acceptance’ (11:15). He is confident that ‘even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again’ (11:23). He looks forward to the day when ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11:26). He longs for the day that ‘by the mercy shown to your they also may now receive mercy’ (11:31). God said:

Leviticus 26:44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.” 46 These are the statutes and rules and laws that the LORD made between himself and the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai.

What a treasure that our God is a covenant keeping God. That even:

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

God will be true to his own character.

Isaiah 54:7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

In Romans 10, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30, a passage where Moses reminds the people of the blessing and the curse, and after they are scattered, if they will ‘return to the LORD your God, …and obey his voice… , with all your heart and with all your soul,

Deuteronomy 30:3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. 5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

In Leviticus 26, God said

Leviticus 26:41…—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,

The only way that an uncircumcised heart is humbled is if God humbles it. In Deuteronomy 30 God promises ‘the LORD your God will circumcise your heart …so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul’ The only way that we can love God like this is if God does this work in our hearts to change our desires. This is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Praise God ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes’ (Rom.10:4)

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

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

May 8, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience

04/30 Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170430_leviticus-26_14-39.mp3

Leviticus is a covenant document between God and his people. Leviticus 26 gives the terms of the covenant agreement. Verses 1-2 are a reminder of the central demand of the covenant, that by entering into this covenant, Israel is promising to have no other gods but the one LORD. They are to trust him by honoring his time and his place. God’s instructions are to be kept and his presence is to be feared. Verses 3-13 list the blessings that accompany obedience; blessings of produce and peace and progeny and most importantly the gift of God’s presence with his people.

But the blessings of the covenant are conditional:

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you …

Verses 14-39 are the consequences of a refusal to follow the terms of the agreement.

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you:

Notice in both cases, it is God himself who is active in fulfilling the terms of the covenant. If you do what I command, I will give you… If you will not listen to me and do… then I will do this to you. God takes his covenant seriously, and will personally bring about either blessings or the curses.

Notice the blatant disobedience that is warned against in these verses; “if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant” A refusal to listen to God’s instructions, a refusal to do what he commands, is followed by an emotional reaction against God’s truth; ‘if your spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules’. This revulsion at God’s commands results in a refusal to obey, and a violation of the covenant contract.

This chapter is essential for understanding the rest of the Bible. This passage provides essential context for the rest of the Bible. It gives the covenant context for the history of God’s judgment on Israel. What happened under Joshua, and then in Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ and ‘the LORD gave them into the hand of’ their enemies, and ‘they cried out to the LORD and he sent’ a deliverer; what happened under the kings who disobeyed and under those who tried to turn the people back to the LORD, what was spoken by the prophets who were sent to confront idolatry and turn the hearts of the people back to the LORD, what happened in the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests and captivities, what was said in the prayers of the captives like Daniel and Nehemiah, even what we today enjoy as New Covenant believers, all find their root in the terms of this covenant agreement between God and his people.

This section of consequences for covenant treason is structured in 5 cycles of escalating discipline. Each section begins with ‘if you will not listen; then I will…’

14-17 general curses – illness, famine, defeat

18-20 Drought and bad harvest

21-22 Wild animals

23-26 War, leading to plague and famine

27-39 War, leading to cannibalism, devastation and deportation

First Stage

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.

God promises to visit the covenant breaker with panic, disease and fever, with stolen productivity, with defeat and oppression, with paranoid fear. God says ‘I will visit you …I will set my face against you.’ God is not absent in the sense that he has merely withdrawn his hand of protection and is allowing bad things to happen; no, he promises to be actively engaged in bringing about these consequences. Hell is not the absence of God; God is everywhere present. Hell will be the presence of God in righteous anger and punishment against those who have rejected him.

Second Stage

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

God here promises to escalate the punishment for continued disobedience. Notice, ‘If in spite of this you will not listen to me.’ There is a hope held out here. At any stage in this discipline, if his people will turn to him and listen to him, the discipline does not have to go any further.

Discipline

This is discipline; discipline is meant to teach, to train, to correct. Discipline is meant to confront, to protect, to restore, to bless. God is saying ‘I want to bless you, but I cannot bless your disobedience, so I promise to do whatever is necessary to bring you around and create in you a heart attitude that I can bless.’ Remember, God loved Israel. God chose Israel. Not because of anything in her, but rather because he loved her (Deut.7:6-8; 9:6). Proverbs reminds us:

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Discipline is rooted in love. Moses tells the generation about to enter the land that God:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled you …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. …5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

Psalm 94 tells us:

Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law,

Blessed, happy, is the one you discipline; because discipline is for our greatest good. Hebrews 12 lays this all out.

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline is not pleasant, but it is for our good. The things in this chapter are horrific, but that is intended to teach us that there is something worse. A slap on the child’s wrist is painful, but it is nothing compared to the pain of the emergency room visit that it is intended to prevent. The things in this chapter; disease and death and cannibalism and captivity are nothing compared to what they are meant to keep you from; an eternity separated from a good God who loves you.

Greater Accountability

Notice, the discipline of this chapter is promised to God’s covenant people, not to the nations. God has a special relationship with his own people, and these are the consequences for treating carelessly that relationship. Those who have experienced grace; those who have seen the truth and rejected it are judged much more severely than those who have not; Peter warns:

2 Peter 2:21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Because those who have been offered grace will be held more accountable, God relentlessly pursues us with his discipline in order to bring us back.

Pride

In this second section, to those who have refused to respond to the first stage of discipline, God promises to ‘discipline you again sevenfold for your sins’. This is an escalation of discipline toward those who refuse to listen. God says ‘I will break the pride of your power’. He will prevent the land from producing. So often our hardness toward God is a result of pride. The prayerless person is a proud person. I will not cry out to God for help, because I can handle this without him! God did not create us to be independent, but dependent. We are not to stand on our own; we are to rely on him, to depend on him, to lean into him, to trust him. We are not self-sufficient; he alone is self-sufficient. We are to lean on his all-sufficiency. Repeatedly we hear the warning, when things go well for you, do not thing it is because of your own greatness, but because God has blessed you. Do not become proud, but recognize that every good thing is a gift from God.

O Lord, whatever it takes, break our foolish pride!

Third Stage

Leviticus 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

The third stage is an escalating progression in disipline. If you will listen, I will use the least severe means of discipline available. If you choose to harden your heart, I will be required to use more severe forms of discipline. ‘Then,’ after the first two stages, ‘if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me.’ I will let loose the wild beasts against you’ bereave you of your children. This is opposite of the blessing in verse 6 ‘I will remove harmful beasts from your land’.

‘Wild beasts which shall bereave you of your children’ seems severe, but remember, this is the third stage of rebellion, having refused to listen to the first two rounds of discipline.

Fourth Stage

Leviticus 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

Here the goal of all this is clearly stated; ‘if by this discipline you are not turned to me.’ Hear God’s heart in all of this. His heart is toward you, not against you. He knows that there is no good apart from himself. So he intends to turn your heart back to him, whatever it takes.

This is a response to active disobedience. ‘If you walk contrary to me, the I also will walk contrary to you. I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.’ ‘I will …execute vengeance for the covenant’. This is a breach of a covenant that they agreed to. Going after false gods is both foolish and treasonous. God must defend the honor of his glorious name. He will execute vengeance for the covenant. Sword, pestilence, famine. Ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven. It seems polygamy is a curse, not a blessing. You shall eat and not be satisfied. True satisfaction comes only through walking with God, enjoying the good of his presence. Seeking satisfaction anywhere else will leave us eating without ever experiencing satisfaction.

Fifth Stage

Leviticus 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

‘If in spite of this,’ having hardened your hearts through the first four stages of discipline ‘you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.’ This is escalating discipline due to the callousness of the people’s hearts. It takes severe consequences to rip the callouses off and expose their hard hearts to the gravity of their situation. Cannibalism. When Syrian king Ben-Hadad beseiged Samaria and caused a great famine,

2 Kings 6:26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” … 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body—

This is a heart-wrenching story, and the king tore his clothes. Tearing clothes is a sign of repentance and mourning. But even this horrific event did not turn the kings heart back to the LORD. Instead he sent messengers to kill the LORD’s prophet Elisha, who had been calling Israel to repentance.

God says ‘I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.’ The way to desecrate a place of worship was to scatter it with bones. This is an ironic promise that God will desecrate the false worship of his people with the corpses of those who trusted in these false gods. And he says ‘my soul will abhor you’. We often hear it said that ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner.’ But here God himself says to the one who persistently violates the terms of the covenant and refuses to repent after extended discipline ‘my soul will abhor you’.

All this sounds horrific, but remember, the punishment fits the crime. The level of horror we have at these punishments, should alert us to the gravity of disregarding the word of the LORD, and turning away from God, spurning his patience and discipline that is meant to bring us to repentance.

Sabbath Rest and Hope

Leviticus 26:34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

God promised that the land would enjoy its Sabbaths while his people are in captivity. God’s people ought to have enjoyed the Sabbath rest God provided for them. Instead the land would enjoy that rest without them. We read in 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

…20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

But even in this there is hope. There is an end in sight. The prophet Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 54:7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Law and Gospel

God’s heart is to turn the hearts of his people back to himself. In the Old Testament this was rare. Except for a small remnant, the people persisted in their disobedience, hardened their hearts, and refused to respond to his loving discipline. Although there were amazing blessings promised, the law brought a curse. We read in Galatians 3:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

The law is based on performance, perfect performance, and because no one can ever keep the law perfectly, we are all under the curse. Everything written in this chapter addressed to covenant breakers belongs to us, because we are covenant breakers. None of the promises belong to us, because we have failed to walk in obedience. But once we feel the weight of this, there is amazingly good news here for us!

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

On the cross, Jesus experienced the curses of Leviticus 26 for us. God executed vengeance for the broken covenant on Jesus; The Father turned in abhorrence from the one who had been made sin for us. Why? So that all the promised blessings might come to us who believe in Jesus!

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

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment