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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 1:8-21; The Grace of God in Affliction

05/23_Daniel 01:8-21; The Grace of God in Affliction; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210523_dan01_8-21.mp3

Last time we looked at Daniel’s resolve. He, along with maybe 50 other Hebrew youth of the nobility had been taken captive, deported to Babylon, enrolled in a re-programming regimen to erase their identity and make Babylonians of them. The name of their God was replaced with the names of the Babylonian deities. They were to be indoctrinated with the culture, the belief system, the world view of Babylon, this great city opposed to God.

Daniel and his friends answered to their new names, submitted to learning the Chaldean material, but Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food. He would not break the law of God, he would not risk betraying his allegiance to God alone, who is the provider of every good thing. He recognized the danger of appetite, the danger of compromise in seemingly trivial matters like food and drink.

This was risky. To refuse the king’s food would show great ingratitude toward the kindness and generosity of the king. These boys were royalty, and they were being treated royally. The king was extending and expending great hospitality to these young men. To say that the kings food would defile him would be quite offensive. We find out in chapter 2 that Nebuchadnezzar was the kind of king who liked to tear people limb from limb and make their houses a dung heap. So Daniel was taking a great risk with this request.

Daniel’s Tactful Request

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

This was risky, but notice also Daniel’s tact. He has resolved in his heart not to defile himself, and he could have made demands out of national pride and arrogance; ‘we Jews won’t lower ourselves to eat your unclean Gentile food; what you pagans eat is loathsome and foul. I would rather die than defile myself.’ Rather he uses tact; he graciously asks for permission. He makes a humble request.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

We are commanded to use gracious speech. We are called to use respect, gentleness, appropriate tact.

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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

God’s Grace in Adversity

Daniel 1:8 …Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,

This is the second of three acts of God in this chapter. In verse 2, God gave the king of Judah and the temple vessels into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Here in verse 9, God gave Daniel grace and compassion in the sight of the one who was entrusted with their care.

Grace. Undeserved favor and kindness. The chief of the eunuchs didn’t owe them anything. He didn’t have to be nice to them. He was under no obligation to entertain any requests from them. But God gave them grace – favor, and compassion – tender love in his sight. This grace came from God. We read in John 1

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is full of grace, and he gives gives grace to his people to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God is the giver of grace, Daniel sought to honor God. Daniel asked, and God gave him grace to help in his time of adversity, when everything seemed against him. Do you look for glimmers of God’s grace in your affliction? Or do your circumstances loom so large that they obstruct your view even of the good God who loves you and shows himself even in the midst of adversity? God gave grace.

Grace to Persevere

Don’t you almost wish that Daniel’s request would have been denied, so that we could learn how Daniel’s resolve would have held up in the face of rejection? Read on! That is exactly what happens.

Daniel 1:9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”

This doesn’t seem to follow. God gave grace and compassion, and the official refused his request. How is this evidence of God’s grace at work? He basically says, ‘I’m sorry, I like you and all (and I don’t know why) – I want to be gracious and compassionate, but I’m scared for my life. I cannot grant your request without endangering my own head with the king.’ So God’s gift of favor with this official doesn’t really seem to get Daniel any help.

Daniel easily could have walked away with a relieved conscience, saying ‘well, I tried. I asked. I got shut down. What more could I do?’

In 1 Corinthians 10, in the context of strong cultural pressure to compromise and eat food sacrificed idols, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful. But God’s grace does not mean giving us what we want. It may not even be giving us what we think we need. We might imagine the escape we think he ought to provide, but his way may be a different way. The way of escape, as in 1 Corinthians, might be that he gives you the grace to be able to endure the temptation. He gives the strength to stand firm, come what may.

Persistence in the Face of Rejection

What does Daniel do in the face of a seemingly closed door? What would you do?

Daniel 1:9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.

Daniel doesn’t argue with the chief of the eunuchs. He doesn’t become obstinate and say ‘let the king take your head, I don’t care! I won’t eat the food!’ He is sensitive to the fears of this man. He genuinely cares for his captors. But he doesn’t give up either.

The chief of the eunuchs didn’t grant his request, but he didn’t say ‘no’ either. He expressed his concern. This was favor. Daniel didn’t deserve an explanation. He wasn’t obligated to give any more than a flat ‘no’. But he gave a reason. So Daniel went down the chain of command to a lower official, and proposes a test. He shows sensitivity to the concern, so he keeps the trial short enough to lower their risk, to give time to change course if things don’t go well.

Grace on Display

Daniel 1:14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

This is God’s grace on display! The steward listened. He was willing to carry out their proposed test. For this steward, lower in the ranks, this may have been a win-win. He got to ‘dispose of’ the king’s food and wine, while he gave up his own vegetable and water diet.

Some have sold books and made a big deal about Daniel’s diet plan. I haven’t read those books, so I can’t comment, but if the focus is the praise of a vegetarian diet, they completely miss the point. This has nothing to do with the health benefits of vegetables and grains; if anything it is the opposite. The the outcome was surprising. The text doesn’t say they were leaner and more physically fit. It says they were ‘better in appearance and fatter in flesh.’ That is the same word that is used in Pharaoh’s dream, where the ugly thin cows ate up the attractive plump cows, and the thin and blighted ears of grain ate up the plump and good ears (Gen.41). Today we might opt for the gaunt thin cows over the plump cows; how fickle is fashion!

When the prodigal’s father commanded a celebration, he didn’t order vegetables; the fattened calf was to be killed (Lk.15:16,23; cf. Prov.15:17). The wayward son had had enough of husks and pods. The point is you don’t get fatter eating vegetables and water. This is God’s grace. This is not natural, this is supernatural. It’s quite possible the steward who ‘took away’ their food and wine was getting fatter too.

God’s Gift of Learning

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

Here is the third of the acts of God in this chapter. God gave them the gift of learning, skill in literature and wisdom. These are gifts that Solomon asked for and was given by God (2Chr.1:10-12). The wisdom and learning necessary to rule well are gifts of God. This sets up the rest of the book. Remember, the book of Daniel is not about Daniel and his three friends. The book is about God, who gives good and gracious gifts, God who is greater than all rulers and kings and nations.

Daniel and his three friends display wisdom because God made them wise. They show resolve in the face of adversity, because God was at work in them, taking care of them even in exile, hundreds of miles from home.

Understand, this was not limited to Bible knowledge and theology. I doubt Nebuchadnezzar quizzed them on their monotheistic theology or Bible history or how many Torah verses they had memorized. This was the language and literature of the Chaldeans. God gave them the ability to excel in their pagan education beyond their peers.

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.

They had a God-centered world view, and keeping God at the center gave them categories to catalog the information they were exposed to. They knew what to do with what they were taught. And when tested, they proved exponentially better not only compared to their classmates, but compared to their teachers.

Again, this sets us up for the rest of the book. This is not about the wisdom of ‘God is judge’, ‘Yahweh is gracious,’ ‘who is what God is?’ and ‘Yahweh will help’ against the Chaldean magicians and enchanters. This is about God supreme over all the false gods of Babylon. The false world systems are proved incompetent in the presence of the one true God working through his people. Babylon may have conquered Jerusalem, but only because God gave Jerusalem into their hand.

Outlasting an Empire

Daniel 1:21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

What is this about? The chapter begins and ends with a historical note. It begins with the third year of Jehoiachim king of Judah, when Jerusalem and the temple treasures were given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar in 605BC. It ends with the first year of King Cyrus, 539BC, who issued the decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, and the treasures that had been kept in the house of Nebuchadnezzar’s god he sent back to Jerusalem.

Daniel was taken captive. But this humble servant outlived his conqueror. He outlived the sons of his conqueror. He outlasted an empire. He saw the rise and the fall of Babylonian empire to the Medo-Persians. Daniel literally lived through the exile to see the treasures that were taken from the temple returned, and the temple begin to be rebuilt.

Questions were raised at the beginning of the chapter, ‘Is Israel’s God really sovereign, is he faithful, is he good? Has he abandoned his people?’

2 Chronicles 36:22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’”

Ezra 1:7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

Daniel 1:21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

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

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rest, Recharge, Worship

07/12 Rest and Worship (Exodus 20:8-11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200712_rest.mp3

I spent last week at Grace Haven Bible Camp with 50 of your teens, and teens from several other churches, and I want to let you in on some of what we talked about. Lincoln, the youth leader from Alpine, and I went through the Ten Commandments together. When Lincoln first suggested the topic to me, I was hesitant. I texted him back ‘we are not under law…’ But the more I thought and studied, the more excited I got about the topic, and today I want to include you, because, Lord willing, some of what we talked about at camp will spill over into your homes. And I believe this fits well with what we have been studying the last few weeks about families and raising children. Today I want to look with you at the purpose of the law, and the fourth commandment specifically.

Jesus and the Law

Here are some things Jesus said about the Old Testament law.

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

Jesus did not come to abolish the law. When Jesus addressed God’s law, he lifted it up. He never tossed it aside. He raised the standard, he never lowered it. In fact he continues:

Matthew 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t want to be one who relaxes one of the least of these commandments, or one who teaches others to do the same. In Jesus’ teaching on the law, he always drove it deeper, to a heart level, dealing with inward desire, not merely external conformity. Not just the outward act of murder, but what about the hatred in your heart? Not just the outward act of adultery, but what about the lust in your heart? Jesus lifts up the law to show us the spiritual intent, to show us (using Paul’s language from Romans 7) ‘the law is holy and righteous and good’ (Rom.7:12).

Use the Law Lawfully

Paul writes:

1 Timothy 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

Paul, writing to a young pastor in the New Testament, says that the law is good. But he clarifies, you must use the law lawfully, which implies that there is an unlawful use of the law, a misuse of the law that we must guard against.

Paul is warning against false teachers who teach the law but they don’t know what they are talking about. We must understand the purpose of the law in order to not misuse the law. He clarifies in the following verses:

1 Timothy 1:9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

The law was given for sinners, not righteous people. People that drive slow don’t need the speed limit sign. The guy driving the farm equipment down the highway going 12 is not concerned when he sees the state trooper hiding behind the 65 mile an hour sign. The sign is posted for those who like to drive too fast. It holds up the standard and holds them accountable.

To misuse the law is to rely on it to establish your righteousness before God. Our inclination is to use the law as a checklist. 8 out of 10 ain’t bad, right? 80%, that’s a passing grade! When we use it as a checklist to attempt to show how good we are we misuse the law. We use it unlawfully.

The first use of the law is to show us the perfect standard, a mirror to show us how far we fall short, and to drive us to Christ who is merciful and eager to extend grace to lawbreakers who run to him for rescue.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

If you keep God’s law perfectly, except for just one thing, you are a lawbreaker and you are guilty. You are a sinner, and the wages of sin is death. Paul sums it up in Galatians:

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.”

If you rely on the law as a checklist by which you seek to impress God, then you have to abide by all of it perfectly. No one ever has, so that makes us all lawbreakers and places us under the just punishment for lawbreakers. The law was never intended to make anyone righteous. By nature it cannot make anyone righteous any more than a speed limit sign can make your car stay within the posted limit. It simply points out where you are in violation of the standard.

That is the first use of the law, to make clear God’s perfect standard, to hold up a mirror to show us our sin, and thus drive us as guilty sinners to Christ to seek a gift we don’t deserve.

The Third Use

But there is another use of the law. The reformers referred to this as the third use of the law. The first use is to stop every mouth and hold the whole world accountable to God (Rom.3:19). The second use is the civil use; that God’s law is an objective standard by which we can discern right and wrong, and it is a good foundation on which to build any society. The third use is the primary use for followers of Jesus. Paul talked about it in 2 Timothy 3.

2 Timothy 3:15 …you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

That’s the first use; to drive us to Christ, trusting him alone for salvation. Then he goes on.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

That’s the third use of the law. God’s law has a training and equipping function for the one who has been saved by grace from the consequences of the law. We are no longer under law, as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ; now that we are justified by grace, now that we have Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us as a gift, now we can be trained by the law for righteousness, equipping us for every good work.

The First and Second Table

The Ten can be divided into the first and second table, summarized by Jesus as loving God and loving neighbor (Mt.22:36-40), the vertical and the horizontal. Loving God looks like worshiping God alone and having no other gods, worshiping God rightly by making no images to worship or serve, honoring God’s name by not using it worthlessly, remembering God’s day with worship and rest. The fifth command is a hinge that connects the two tables. We honor God’s authority by submitting to God given authority – honor father and mother. We love our neighbor by not taking a life wrongfully, by not taking someone’s wife, by not taking someone’s possessions, by not bearing false witness, by not desiring that which belongs to another.

With this third use of the law in mind, training in righteousness, to learn what love for God and love for neighbor looks like, let’s look together at the fourth commandment.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. What does this mean for the follower of Jesus? How can this commandment train us in godliness?

Sabbath Shadow

First, it is important to keep the gospel clear. We cannot impress God by any religious observance. Galatians is clear that ‘no one is justified before God by observing the law’ (3:11), and observing days as a way to be justified by God is deserting Christ and turning to a different gospel, going back into slavery (1:6; 4:10-11).

Romans 14 is clear that esteeming one day above another or esteeming all days alike is a matter of conscience for the believer, and ‘each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.’ We are not to pass judgment on a brother, and we are not to despise a brother (Rom.14:1-19).

Colossians 2 makes it clear that ‘the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands’ has been canceled, nailed to the cross (2:14).

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

The Sabbath is a shadow pointing us to Christ. The substance belongs to Christ.

The Fourth Commandment

So what do we do with the fourth commandment? The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, what we call Saturday, technically from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. But Christians distinctively gather on the first day of the week, or the Lord’s Day. This seems to have been the practice of the church from earliest times. Some are legalistic about what you can and can’t do on the Lord’s day. Many treat it no differently than any other day, a common work day; a day to catch up on projects, or as merely another day off, part of the weekend that belongs to us for recreation and pursuit of our own pleasure. Some say Jesus did away with the Sabbath and now every day is holy, but holy means set apart for God, and very few people actually live like that.

Burden or Blessing?

Let’s attempt to listen as if we were in the sandals of a Hebrew slave who had just come out of Egypt. My people have been in bondage for 400 years. Forced labor for a cruel taskmaster. No relief. They ruthlessly made us to work as slaves and made our lives bitter with hard service (Ex.1:13-14). God heard our cry for rescue from slavery and he came to our rescue. He crushed our oppressors and brought us out by mighty demonstrations of his sovereign power. He fed us and cared for us in the wilderness, and then he gives us his law.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’ means ‘stop’ or ‘cessation’. Memorialize the stop-work day. God set us free from Egyptian bondage and says ‘I’m your new boss now, and I demand that you take a mandatory day off every week’. Imagine their response: ‘Do we have to? We like working 24/7, 365 days a year. Rest? What kind of a master are you, demanding that we rest?!! We want to neglect our families, abuse our bodies, ignore our God, we just want to work work work!

Why is it that God offers us a blessing, he invites us to a holiday, and we bring our excuses and look for a way out? God frees us from slavery and offers us rest, and we find reasons to justify our desire to keep right on in our everyday busyness. Wouldn’t you think that we as Christians would come to God and say “I know that we are not under law but under grace, and I know that in Christ Jesus we are set free from the demands of the law, and that we cannot possibly earn your favor by any kind of law-keeping, that the Sabbath was a shadow that points us to rest in Christ, but would it be okay if in that freedom, we still took a day off to enjoy rest from our labors and focus our hearts toward you in worship? Can we use our blood-bought freedom that way?”

Rooted in Creation and Redemption

This idea of stopping to enjoy, as the fourth commandment tells us, is rooted all the way back to creation:

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

God rested. He didn’t need to. He wasn’t tired. He stopped to enjoy what he had made. By his own example, he built that in to our seven day weekly rhythm.

And this idea of stopping to enjoy is also rooted in redemption. In Deuteronomy, when Moses retells God’s law to the next generation before they enter the promised land, he says it this way:

Deuteronomy 5:12 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Rest, remember God’s awesome power in the six day creation. Remember his awesome power demonstrated in your salvation. As God graciously has extended to you rest and enjoyment, you in turn extend it to those God has entrusted to your care. The Lord invites us to delight in the day because we delight in him. Set aside time to enjoy your blood-bought relationship with him. (Is.58:13-14).

Jesus said:

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

Jesus invites us to rest. Jesus completed the work his Father sent him to do, and from the cross he cried out ‘Tetelestai’; ‘It is finished!’ Do you long for rest? Do you need a break? Are you weary? Jesus calls us to come. Come to me and rest. You will find rest for your souls.

Honor God With His Time

So often I hear (or I say) I just don’t have enough time. I have a list of all these good things I want to do, but I just don’t have enough time. I want to read my Bible more, I want to pray more, I want to get well grounded in theology, I want to reach out and serve. But I just can’t seem to fit it all in. Let me pitch to you a radical crazy idea. Not to put you under law, but to invite you in to rest.

What if you set aside one day out of seven to meditate on, to memorize God’s word, to dig deep, to study theology, to read a Christian classic? What if you set aside a whole day to seek the Lord in prayer and feed your own soul?

What if you set aside one day out of seven to train up your children, to get together with other believers, to practice hospitality, to share a meal, to listen to one another and encourage one another, to disciple and to be discipled, to pray with one another and worship together? Not just an hour or two, but a whole day?

What if you took one day a week to serve others, to extend Christian love to the needy, to the least, to bind up the broken hearted, to pursue justice for the oppressed, to set captives free? What would it look like if you built those Christian disciplines into your weekly rhythm?

Something radical happened at the resurrection. Believers began to gather together on the first day of the week instead of the last (Acts 20:7; 1Cor.16:2). They called it ‘the Lord’s day’ (Rev.1:10). The day is not yours, it belongs to the Lord. Not the Lord’s hour; the Lord’s day. We in America are so crazy blessed and spoiled by our historic Judaeo-Christian heritage; many of us get two days off; Saturday and Sunday. Remember, every breath you breathe is a gift. God owns all time. He asks you to give him back some of it for your good and for his glory. Ask him how he would have you spend it. It is holy, set apart, and it is meant to be a blessing to you and to those around you.

***

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

July 15, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pentecost: You Need the Holy Spirit

05/31 [Pentecost: Sunday] Obey Jesus; You Need the Holy Spirit; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200531_holy-spirit.mp3

We have been looking at discipleship, being disciples or learners or followers, disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded.

Impossible Obedience

One of the things we have seen throughout this study is that what Jesus commands is impossible. It is humanly impossible to obey Jesus. We simply can’t. We can’t believe in him, we can’t see that all the Scriptures point us to him, we can’t abide in him, we can’t give him our primary allegiance, treasure him above all else, put the needs of others above our own. We can’t. We can’t do this consistently, with a whole heart. We need help. Actually, we need more than help, we need a new heart. We need God himself to come live inside us and obey the commands of Jesus through us.

Pentecost [Shavuot] (Lev.23:15; Deut.16.9)

40 days after his resurrection, after appearing repeatedly to his disciples and teaching them, Jesus ascended to the right hand of his Father. At the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus

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

Jesus will send the promise of his Father, and he commands them to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high. In Acts, Luke resumes the story where he left off.

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

You will be baptized with, immersed with the Holy Spirit. Wait for the promise of the Father.

At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, Luke 3 records John’s response to questions of whether he might be the Christ.

Luke 3:16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

In Acts 2,

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost, or the feast of Weeks [Hebrew: Shavuot] comes 7 weeks (or 50 days) after Passover, and commemorates the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, where Israel entered into a covenant and became a nation under God.

New Covenant Glory

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The law was given 7 weeks after the Exodus where God freed his people from Egypt, but the people immediately and persistently failed to obey his commands.

50 days after Jesus accomplished his Exodus, freeing us by the Passover sacrifice of himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn, 1:29; 1Cor.5:7), leading us out of our slavery to sin, he gave us his Holy Spirit, to live inside.

Paul draws this contrast in 2 Corinthians 3.

2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

He draws a contrast between the letter that kills and the Spirit who gives life, the ministry of death and the much more glorious ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of condemnation and the ministry of righteousness, the veiled temporary and fading with the unveiled permanent glory of Christ, the hardened minds and the transforming work of the Spirit.

Pentecost changes everything! The God whose Spirit brooded over the face of the deep at creation,

2 Corinthians 4:6 …who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

By his Spirit and his Word he brought life and light out of darkness and chaos.

Heart Waters Flowing

This is what Jesus was talking about in John 7.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Rivers of life giving water pouring out of the hearts of believers. The Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.

Do you have life giving rivers flowing out of your heart? What is flowing out of your heart? ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Lk.6:45).

Out of the hearts of his believers will flow rivers of living water. ‘This he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given.’ Wait for the promise of the Father, stay until you are clothed with power from on high. ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh’ (Acts2:17; Joel 2:28-29).

When the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, and the crowds, gathered for the pilgrim festival, rushed together, amazed, perplexed, some mocking, Peter (who had self confidently asserted that he was willing to die with Jesus, and then denied even knowing him three times) now addresses the crowd:

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Peter preached Jesus, the cross and the resurrection. He pointed out their sin and guilt.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

This is the fulfillment of the promised Spirit, whom those who believe in Jesus would receive.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart,

That is the work of the Spirit of God! When the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn.16:8)

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Repent. Turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That promise is for you! For everyone the Lord our God calls to himself. Notice carefully, the Holy Spirit is given by God, a gift received, he is poured out on all who believe.

You Must Be Born of the Spirit

We looked at the gift of the Spirit in John 7, whom those who believed in Jesus were to receive. If we look back in John 3, Jesus referred to this as being born of the Spirit.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus’ teaching comes from the New Covenant promise in Ezekiel 36,

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.

You must be born of the Spirit. In order to obey Jesus, you must be born again. Jesus goes on to describe how this takes place:

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

Whoever looks to the Son lifted up, crucified, as his only hope, whoever believes has eternal life. God gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him is born of the Spirit.

Ask

Jesus promised in Luke 11

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Asking, seeking, knocking are other ways of describing believing. The Father will give the Holy Spirit to everyone who asks. The Spirit will be poured out on every believer.

Every Believer Has the Spirit

Paul rebukes the Galatians for turning away from their simple belief in Jesus.

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

Paul assumes that upon hearing the preaching of the cross, the Galatians trusted Jesus, they believed in him, they had faith, and they received the Spirit. They didn’t do anything to earn this free gift. They received the Spirit by hearing with faith. There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus who does not have the Spirit of God living in them.

Paul commands the wayward Corinthian church to flee sexual immorality.

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

He doesn’t question if the foolish Galatians or the sinful Corinthians have the Spirit. He bases his argument with one for living by faith, with the other for God glorifying holy living on the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In Romans, it is abundantly clear that everyone who belongs to Christ has the Spirit living in them.

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

You, right now, if you are a believer in Jesus, have the Spirit of the living God dwelling in you! Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God!

We Need Help to Love, Obey

In John 14 Jesus connects loving and obeying him with the Helper, Counselor or Comforter, the coming Holy Spirit.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus has just told his disciples to ask him for anything in his name and he will do it, and he had promised that they would do the works that he does, and greater works than these because he goes to the Father. To do greater works than Jesus we need help, supernatural, divine enablement, and this is exactly what he promises; Jesus will ask his Father to send the Holy Spirit to live in us. Loving Jesus, keeping his commands requires divine power from the Holy Spirit living inside. Jesus ordered them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. And then,

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

You must be born again. To love him, to obey him, to be his witnesses, you need the Holy Spirit. Wait for the promise of the Father, stay until you are clothed with power from on high. Believe in Jesus and out of your heart will flow rivers of living water, and you will ask Jesus according to his will and through you by the Spirit in you he will do greater works than even he did when he was here physically.

***

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

May 31, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift

12/01_2 Corinthians 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191201_2cor9_15.mp3

What are you frustrated with? Are there some things you’d like to change? What needs to be different? What needs to be fixed? What circumstances would you change if you could? Would you like to issue a complaint?

Complain

Deanna asked me if I could run to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things she had forgotten for thanksgiving. I had barely returned home, when she came up with something else we needed. Back to Wal-Mart, the lines were long, and I was in a hurry, so I decided to try one of the scan-and-go self check out lines. I never use self-check out. I’d much rather have a real human to talk to. Somebody who knows what they are doing. But I was in a hurry, so I thought I’d give it a try. There was a guy with only two items in a line, so I figured that would be pretty quick. But since he was buying a case of beer, someone had to come over and check his ID before he could complete his purchase. When I got up to the check out, there was an error message on the display. So the supervisor had to come over and clear that. The check-out wasn’t cooperating, so it took her a few tries to clear the error, and then I got to scan my first item. Of course you have to find where they hide the UPC label, but that went OK. Then I went to scan the second item, and it didn’t read it. So I tried again, and then it showed up twice. Supervisor to the rescue. She cleared the duplicate item for me. I was buying 8 of the last item, so while she was there, I asked if there was an easier way than to scan all 8 individually. She tried to scan one and enter a multiple of 7 more, but it didn’t work. She tried again, still no luck. So I just scanned the remaining 7 and I was on my way. But only after the machine tried to reject my card 3 times. Supervisor? Finally it worked. I was almost out the door, when I glanced at the receipt, only to find that I had been charged for that last item once, then 7 times, then 7 times again, then seven more times individually. So I went back to the supervisor, waited until she was done helping the next unsuspecting victim who was trying to use that self-check station, and showed her my receipt. She sent me off to the customer service desk, where they looked over my receipt and refunded my money. As I waited there, I commented to the workers that I never use the self check and won’t use it again. She responded ‘they’re going to make you. They’ve already reduced the number of cashiers working a regular check-out line, and they are going to continue until self-check out is your only option.’ I asked who I could call or write to to complain.

So often life doesn’t go our way. We can always find something to complain about. I think the lady with two shopping carts overflowing with thanksgiving fixings in the regular check-out line with a real human cashier made it out of the store ahead of me.

It is easy to find fault. Do you read the product reviews when you shop online? I’m looking at a product that has 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I start scrolling through the customer reviews, and I start reading this didn’t work and I didn’t get what was pictured, and it worked great for a month until it was just out of warranty and then it stopped working and it’s junk and don’t waste your money and buyer beware and this company doesn’t stand behind their product and you get what you pay for. Complain, complain, complain. We live in a culture of complaining.

Re-Frame

Now, I could look at my trip(s) to Wal-Mart through a different lens. I could count my blessings. When I got there, they had all 8 of what I needed right there on the shelf, in stock, plus some things I didn’t really need that I decided I wanted. The supervisor was friendly and was right there to help me when I needed help. Multiple times. Instead of just talking to one cashier, I got to talk to the supervisor, multiple times, plus the two workers at the customer service desk. And because I was delayed a few minutes, I was able to avoid all the traffic congestion when I picked up my daughter from middle school.

In fact I drove to the store. In a car. With enough gas to get there and get home again. The car didn’t break down. Of course, I could have walked. I am able, and I live close enough. I have a body that is capable of walking to the store. I had enough money to make the purchase(s). I have an amazing wife that happens to be an amazing cook and she (with the help of my amazing daughters) prepared some exceptionally tasty dishes for our thanksgiving meal.

I could look at my circumstances and inconveniences and complain, or I could look at my circumstances in a positive light and count my blessings. But there is nothing overtly Christian about just being positive rather than negative. And some of us have real legitimate things to complain about. Many people are positive, not just believers, some nauseatingly so. I think that it is better to be positive than to be negative and complaining, but we as followers of Jesus are called to something more, something higher than simply having a positive outlook.

Grace and Thanksgiving

Paul gives us something outside ourselves, beyond our circumstances to be thankful for. Paul writes two chapters encouraging us to generosity, to single-hearted openness, love for God and neighbor, and he concludes by saying:

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift. This is the 10th time he uses the word ‘grace’ in these two chapters, an undeserved, freely given gift. In 8:1 he pointed them to God’s grace given in the churches of Macedonia. In 8:4 they responded by begging for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. In 8:6 Titus is urged to complete this act of grace among the Corinthians. 8:7 exhorts them that as they excel in so many of God’s gifts, they abound in this grace also. 8:9 centers us on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in giving himself for us. 8:16 uses the word grace like it is here in 9:15 in the sense of thanksgiving; grace or gratitude back to God for what he has freely given. 8:19 describes the collection for the saints as a grace. 9:8 points us back to God as the source of all grace that enables us to overflow in good works. In 9:14 the Jerusalem saints will give thanks for the exceeding grace of God shown to the Corinthians. Grace to God for his inexpressible gift!

This word grace is the root of the word for thanksgiving in 9:11-12.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

We see the combination of these words back at 4:15

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

God’s gracious giving produces thanksgiving. As we experience God’s undeserved grace in our own lives, we extend grace to others, and God is glorified. Grace overflows into gratitude. Chapter 8 began with the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia. Chapter 9 concludes with God being glorified and receiving thanks because of his surpassing grace given to the Corinthians.

God the Ultimate Giver

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

The one who gives the gift deserves the thanks. In a section exhorting believers toward generosity to those in need, God gets the thanks because God is the ultimate giver. Although Christians are giving to other Christians, it is God who gets the thanks, because God is the source of all things. He is the one who supplies and multiplies seed for the sower and bread for food (9:10). He is the one who is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all, always, having all sufficiency, you may abound in all good work (9:8). Your abundance is God given, and it is meant for supplying the lack in others (8:14).

When on Christmas morning Ebenezer Scrooge shouted from his window and hired a boy to run and buy the prize turkey, and have it delivered to Bob Cratchit’s, it would not have been right for Bob to thank only the one who delivered the enormous bird. He was only the delivery boy. It would be right for him to try to find out who sent the most generous gift. It would be even more right for Bob Cratchit to thank the Lord for changing the heart of Scrooge. God is the ultimate giver. God loves a cheerful giver, because God is a cheerful giver. All thanksgiving belongs to God.

Gift Inexpressible

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Inexpressible gift. This word to our knowledge is found nowhere else in Greek literature until Paul, and only found here. It is a compound that Paul probably made up to express his thought here. Unspeakable, inexpressible, indescribable; it is unable to be thoroughly told. God’s gift is beyond our capacity to comprehend, much less describe. Paul in Ephesians 3 prays for the believers to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being, that they would have strength to comprehend the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. We need supernatural help to comprehend the love of God for us.

Here is irony. The gift of God is inexpressible, and Paul writes to tell us about it. Language fails, so he makes up new words to attempt to communicate the inexpressible. The fact that God’s gift is unable to be fully told does not stop Paul and the other biblical authors from preaching and declaring and writing to communicate God’s gift. In fact, the truth that God’s gift is inexpressible mandates that we talk about it and keep talking about it, keep pursuing creative new ways to communicate the truth and wonder of the gospel.

Paul expressed the inexpressible back in 8:9

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Inexpressible grace! Inexpressible gift! That our Lord Jesus Christ, being eternally rich in relationship with his Father throughout all eternity, who being equal with his Father, existing in the very form of God (Phil.2:6). He didn’t cling to his equality with his Father, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. ‘He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2:8). Being rich, for your sake he became poor.

The gift that can’t be fully expressed, must be expressed. That which is beyond words must be put into words. The Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and set up his tent among us (Jn.1:1, 14). This is too wonderful for words, yet we must use words to communicate it.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Eternal God became man for my sake, for my good; that you by his poverty might become rich. He humbled himself to make me eternally blessed. He came to rescue me from sin and death and hell forever. He came to rescue me from myself. He came to give me the gift I don’t deserve. Forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation. He came to take what was broken and make it whole. He came to restore, to make all things new. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came for me, for my sake. He came for sinners.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

We are called to wonder. God intends for us to stop and look, to put our hand over our mouth and be amazed. To be in awe. To be stunned and staggered by the sheer magnitude of God’s goodness and grace. Be still and know that I am God (Ps.46:10).

We are to be like the demon possessed man who was still, seated at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, eager to be with Jesus. Jesus told him:

Mark 5:19 …“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

We are meant to experience the indescribable grace of God to us, to marvel. And then to express the inexpressible to others so that they can marvel with us.

***

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

December 3, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, advent, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire

09/22_2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190922_2cor8_16-17.mp3

Grace

This passage is about giving, and it is about grace; ultimately it is about the grace of God freely given. The word ‘grace’ appears 10 times in these two chapters, and it centers around the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:9 [lit trans] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that on account of you became poor, being rich; in order that you by that poverty might become rich

Grace is God’s freely given kindness. Verse 9 reminds us of the fountain of all grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became sin for us, who gave himself up for us.

8:1 talks about grace as the enabling grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, that overflowed in their simplicity of heart toward God and joyful eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. There in verse 4, grace is the extending of grace received from God out horizontally to others. It is a freely given gift of God to be able to give to others. Verses 6 and 7 exhort the Corinthians also to participate in this grace; the gift of freely extending what they had received out to others in need. Verse 19 also points to this grace, the gift of giving. Then in 9:8 and 9:14, he uses ‘grace’ again to point to the enabling grace of God which gives freely to us so that we can overflow in freely giving to others.

Here in 8:16, as in 9:15, he uses the word ‘grace’ in the sense of thanksgiving, grace received from God now reflected back toward God in the form of thanksgiving, recognition of his grace freely given. Grace to God; gratitude to God.

Grace comes down from God to us in the person of our Lord Jesus to make us rich in him. Grace comes down from God to enable and ignite us to freely extend the grace we have received to others, and we become a conduit through which his grace flows through us out horizontally to others. And finally, grace is reflected back up to God in the form of gratitude for all that he has given.

God’s Gift

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

Here we see Paul giving thanks for God’s gift given to Titus. This is the fourth time the word ‘give’ shows up in this chapter on giving. In verse 1 the grace of God was given; in verse 5 in response the Macedonians gave themselves to the Lord. In verse 10 Paul gives his advice on what would benefit them, and here in 16 God ‘puts’ or literally gives the same earnestness for you in the heart of Titus.

Earnestness is another word we have seen several times in this letter. In 7:11-12, Paul is encouraged that the Corinthians responded to his tearful letter with a renewed earnestness for him. In 8:7-8 he praises their excelling in earnestness and uses the earnestness of others to prove their own genuineness.

This word means an eagerness, willingness, diligence, or earnest commitment in discharge of an obligation [BDAG, 939]. Titus had a willing eagerness in his heart for the good of the Corinthians, and we are told that God put it there. God gave him his earnestness for them. Just as the source of the Macedonians’ abundance of joy in the midst of their deep poverty was God’s grace given, which then overflowed in a richness of single-heartedness, and an insistence on the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. Now God is the Author of the eager willingness in the heart of Titus on behalf of the Corinthians.

For Their Good

It was on behalf of the Corinthians. It was for their good. They needed him. They needed his help. This was not a vacation. ‘Titus do you want to travel? Oh yeah, I love to travel, see new sites, explore new places, meet new people, all the sights and sounds and tastes and smells.’ No, travel meant hardship and danger. As Paul describes later in this letter:

2 Corinthians 11:26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

That’s what Titus was signing up for. And he was going to a church that was difficult. To people who were difficult. He had just returned from carrying a severe letter to this volatile church, and now Paul was asking him to retrace his steps with another letter asking them to give generously. This was no easy task. This was no pleasure cruise. This was self-sacrificial service for their good, for their benefit. But part of the difficulty was to convince them that it really was for their benefit, because they didn’t know what was good for them.

Desires

God gave Titus an earnestness for them. We have seen in this section the importance of right desires. Paul seeks to demonstrate the genuineness of their love. He commends their desiring even above the doing of this act of grace. He wants the doing to match their desires. He is glad that they wanted the right things, and now wants them to do what they wanted to do. He highlights not only the depth of sacrifice on the part of the Macedonians, but especially their joy and single-hearted simplicity, their giving of themselves to the Lord. Paul said back in chapter 1

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

We work with you for your joy. What brings you joy matters. Desires matter. What we are eager for matters. What we want matters. And here we learn that God gives earnestness. He is to be thanked, because he is the giver. He gave it in the heart of Titus.

Encouragement

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put earnestness in the heart of Titus. But we also see that Paul encouraged Titus toward this, and Titus received his encouragement. Just in verse 6 he said:

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.

Paul urged or encouraged Titus. It was not a command, but it was an encouragement. Paul urged him to go, to bring to completion what he had started. ‘He accepted our appeal.’ Paul and Titus were close. And Paul urged Titus. This would be significant pressure. He was not obligated. He was not coerced. But he was encouraged. There was human encouragement.

Paul said back at the end of 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

With Apollos there was strong urging from the apostle, but it was not his will to come. He felt the urging, and he was free to choose not to go. Titus was similarly urged and encouraged, and he also had the freedom to choose to go or not to go. Paul encouraged him, but he left it up to him. Titus accepted the encouragement to go. He responded to the external human encouragement.

Freedom

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus, and Paul encouraged Titus, and yet Titus had his own earnestness and is going of his own accord. He was free to do what he wanted to do. He was eager of his own accord. He chose. He was willing. He was free.

God’s Grace Creates Freedom

God put it in the heart of Titus. Paul encouraged Titus, and Titus accepted our encouragement. Titus was himself very earnest; he is going of his own free will. These verses put all these different factors together. Paul encouraged it. Titus freely chose to do it. But God put it in his heart to desire it.

These different factors do not appear as cross-purposes in tension in these verses, fighting to see which one will win out. Rather they are seen in unison, in tandem, working together to bring about the desired end. Very naturally and practically, God used Titus’ prior experience in Corinth to help shape his desires.

Back in chapter 7, when Paul was finally reunited with Titus, he spoke of the comfort he received from Titus, and the comfort Titus received from the Corinthians, and the exceeding joy he had over the right desires of the Corinthians. Titus’ spirit was refreshed and he rejoiced.

2 Corinthians 7:15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.

God used the experience he had in Corinth to shape his affections and his desire to return. God also used the encouragement of the apostle in the heart of Titus to solidify his resolve to go. But God put the earnestness in his heart.

We saw the same thing with the Macedonians. It was willingly, freely, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. But that was evidence of the grace of God given. God gave his grace; he put it in their hearts. God’s grace was the underlying motive for their joyful eagerness. God’s grace was the underlying motive for Titus’ willing earnestness.

We could say that God’s grace created the freedom. God’s grace created the freedom to give joyfully beyond their means out of deep poverty. God’s grace created the freedom to want to go back to a difficult circumstance to serve difficult people and encourage them to give generously.

I was a guy who grew up in Minnesota and chased the love of my life out to Washington State, and I loved it there. I had no desire to live anywhere else. I didn’t even want to visit Utah. Some friends of ours moved from Washington to Utah, and we thought they were crazy. Later, I had a co-worker who invited me to come with him to mountain bike in Utah, and I had no desire. I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t want to go. It just wasn’t in me. Almost like my wife can’t want to hold a snake. It’s not in her. She has no freedom to want to hold a snake. We had no freedom to want to move to Utah, until God by his grace put it in our hearts. God created in us that freedom. Then we were free to stay and continue to live and serve in Washington, and we were free to move to Utah to live and serve here. And we wanted to come. There were external factors; there were people and circumstances that God used to encourage us toward Utah, but God put it in our hearts. And we were eager to come.

The Grace of God [Philippians 2]

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

This is God’s grace that he puts in our hearts. This is rooted in God’s grace as expressed in verse 9

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Jesus freely stooped to serve others sacrificially for their good, and he invites us into fellowship with him in extending his grace to others. We see almost the exact same sequence in Philippians 2 that we see here.

Philippians 2:3 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. …

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything— …see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this …to prove …that your love also is genuine.

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

Do, because God is working in you. He is creating both the willing, the desire, and the working, the energy to do it.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus. God gave grace to the Macedonians. God created the desire.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God entered into our poverty in Jesus, he took our nature, he died our death and gives us his life. He invites us to join him in extending his grace to others. To enter in, to share in the sufferings of others, to show people Jesus.

Response

This eagerness; this freedom to want to sacrificially serve is a gift, it is grace. Ask God freely to put this desire in your heart. Receive his gift so that you can be freed to give.

Thank God who gives this desire. Give God the credit and thank him when you see this earnestness in others. Thank God when he begins to create this desire in you.

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

September 22, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance – Wounded to Heal

07/14_2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance; Wounded to Heal ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190714_2cor7_9-11.mp3

Review: Grief According To God

We are in 2 Corinthians 7. Paul has met Titus in Macedonia and been encouraged by him, especially by the report he received about their response to his severe letter. Their grief caused Paul to rejoice.

2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

We looked last week at some examples of grief according to God that led to repentance, Rahab and David, in contrast to examples of worldly grief that ended in death, Achan and Saul.

Today I want to look more carefully at repentance, what biblical repentance is, what the outcome of repentance is, and how grief according to God can lead to repentance.

Preaching Repentance

First, what repentance is. Jesus came

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

The good news of God, the time is fulfilled, the kingdom has appeared, repent and believe the good news. Jesus said in Luke 15:

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

After he rose from the dead, Jesus commissioned his followers

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Repentance is to be proclaimed in the name of Jesus to all people. Repentance is what sinners do that brings joy to God. Repentance is connected with the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is connected with believing the good news.

Defining Repentance [μετάνοια]

Repentance comes from the Greek word μετάνοια, a compound word made up of μετά (after, a prefix that indicates movement or change) and νοιέω (to think, to consider, the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes); it means to think differently in retrospect, to have a change of heart and mind. This is a deep inward change.

This word ‘repent’ is sometimes found with a different word [ἐπιστρέφω], a synonym that literally means to turn around. When Peter preached in Acts 3, he said:

Acts 3:18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, [μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε] that your sins may be blotted out,

Forgiveness of sins is contingent on this change of mind and change of direction. In Acts 26, Paul described his life and mission:

Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. [ἀπήγγελλον μετανοεῖν καὶ ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἄξια τῆς μετανοίας ἔργα πράσσοντας]

Conversion is another English word that has been used to try to capture this idea of turning, this new thinking, new direction. Conversion or repentance is a change of mind, a deep inward change, a turning away from what you were trusting in, hoping in, holding on to, a turning toward God, to treasure him, to trust him, to cling to him.

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

This inward transformation produces fruit. People who truly turn, truly change, begin to live consistent with their new direction. John the Baptist called people to be genuine, to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt.3:8).

The Duty of Repentance

Jesus commanded that we have this deep inward change of heart and mind, and believe or depend on the gospel. He instructed his followers to proclaim to the nations that they experience this inward change and their sins would be forgiven in Jesus’ name, because he suffered in their place. He said there would be consequences, condemnation for those who refuse to repent.

Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

This turning, this genuine inward change of heart and mind is required for the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.

God’s Kindness and Patience Lead to Repentance

And we see that God is kind, he is eager for us to repent, to experience that inward change, to receive forgiveness for our sins.

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.

Romans 2:4 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?

God does not immediately pour out the consequences of our sins on us. He is patient, he forbears, all in order to lead us to repentance.

Our Turning and God’s Creative Act

Paul used this other word ‘turning’ in 2 Corinthians 3:16 to describe the turning of Jewish people to Jesus as the overcoming of their hardness of mind and the removing of the veil on their hearts that prevents them from seeing the light of the good news of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord [ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς κύριον], the veil is removed.

How does repentance come about? He says their minds are hard and their hearts are veiled, but if one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Only through Christ is it taken away. How does this turning happen? He says in chapter 4 of those whose minds are hardened, whose hearts are veiled, those who are perishing,

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He says it is Satan who blinds minds, but through the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord,

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Satan blinds minds and hardens hearts, but God creates light and removes veils. God works through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people to create life and speak light into hard hearts, and blind minds see! We see the glory of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ and seeing, we are being transformed! When a blind mind is given light, it begins to see things differently; there is an inward change of mind and heart. What was once distasteful or unimpressive now becomes beautiful. Blind minds are enabled to perceive the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Gift of Repentance

The apostles in their preaching celebrated God’s gift of repentance. Peter, answering the Pharisees in Acts 5 said of the crucified and resurrected Jesus,

Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel [τοῦ δοῦναι μετάνοιαν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ] and forgiveness of sins.

God the Father exalted Jesus to give repentance to Israel. A few chapters later, in Acts 11, Peter is reporting to the Jerusalem church the conversion, the turning of the Gentiles in Caesarea. He recounts to them that the Holy Spirit fell on them as he began to speak. He says:

Acts 11:17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 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 [ὁ θεὸς τὴν μετάνοιαν εἰς ζωὴν ἔδωκεν].”

God gives the repentance that leads to life. Repentance is a gift from God. (cf.2Tim.2:25).

Wounding to Heal

How does God give this gift? We have already seen in these passages that God gives repentance through preaching, through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people. He leads us to repentance through his kindness and forbearance. If we return to 2 Corinthians 7, we see that God uses grief to bring about repentance.

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.

Godly grief, or grief according to God; not ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ or ‘I’m sorry that there will be consequences’ but ‘I am grieved that I displeased God, that I dishonored his name.’ This grief, this true sorrow over sin brings about repentance that leads to salvation.

We can see this pattern in other places in Scripture. Last time we looked at David’s repentance after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan with his sin. We looked at his prayer of confession in Psalm 51. He says in verse 8

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

David says that God broke his bones. God crushed him. God caused him to sorrow over his sin, and that genuine grief led him to repentance, and the outcome is a restoration of his joy.

God said in Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

God claims to be the one both to kill and to make alive, to wound and to heal. The context here is the disobedience and idolatry of his people, and his use of other nations to discipline them and to make them jealous. The sequence is intentional. Before God makes alive, he kills. Before God heals, he wounds. He causes grief – grief according to God – to bring about repentance, a deep inward turning, a changing of heart and desire. He breaks our bones in order to restore to us the joy of our salvation.

The prophet Hosea says

Hosea 5:13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 15 I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

God here likens himself to a lion that tears and carries off. They go to Assyria for healing, but in vain. God says, I tear them like a lion, and then I wait for them to acknowledge their guilt and seek my face. God causes distress and grief to bring his people ultimately to himself, for their ultimate good. Hosea continues:

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 ​Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

God has torn us that he may heal us. He has struck us down so that he can bind us up. Do you feel torn, struck down, broken by the Lord? Is he trying to get your attention? He is pursuing you, eager for you to turn, to return to him, to seek his face, to earnestly seek him; not his gifts, not a change in circumstances, but him. He has torn, yes, but he has torn in order to heal; he has struck down in order to bind us up. He intends to raise us up to life, eternal life in his presence. He cares enough that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get your attention, to cause you grief to bring you to repentance, to a change of mind, a change of allegiance, to bring you to depend completely on him, to seek not his gifts, but him, to earnestly seek his face. He says:

Hosea 6:5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.

God uses his people to speak his words to grieve us into repenting, he slays us with the words of his mouth to lead us to salvation.

God used Paul’s severe letter, the gospel forcefully applied to their situation, to grieve them, to crush them, to bring them to a change of heart and mind. Paul rebuked them, he caused them grief, but for a good purpose.

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.

Paul said the hard things, even for a time regretting what he said, so that he could say ‘you suffered no loss through us.’

Does God want to use you to speak some hard things into someone’s life, not to unload and make yourself feel better, but to love and serve him, to preach the gospel to him; that your sin displeases God and drags his good name through the mud, the good news that God loves you and sent his only Son to die for that sin, so that you can turn to him and experience forgiveness and transformation and life the way it was meant to be. Allow him to change you deep inside, your mind, your heart, your desires, so that you are eager to live consistent with those new desires.

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

July 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ambassadors of Reconciliation

02/17_2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ambassadors of Reconciliation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190217_2cor5_18-20.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Intro:

Last time we began to look at 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, this magnificent passage on reconciliation.

What I want to do today is to look back at what we learned last time about reconciliation, and then we will look at the ministry of reconciliation, and what it means for us to be ambassadors for Christ, and some of the implications of that reconciliation.

Recap:

Last time we saw that reconciliation is a personal word; that we were created to enjoy relationship with our personal Creator God.

But a need for reconciliation indicates that the relationship has been broken. Where there ought to be peace and unity, there is enmity and hostility. We are described as enemies; this could refer to our attitudes toward God, that we harbor feelings of resentment and ill will toward him, although he has done nothing to deserve such hostility. But the central focus of the biblical concept of reconciliation is not our subjective feelings of hostility toward God, however real they seem to be to us, though completely unfounded. Rather the focus of reconciliation is on overcoming God’s objective and justly founded hostility toward us. We rebelled. We sinned. And God is rightly angry with us. It is his just anger that must be justly overcome in order to reconcile the relationship.

And this shows us our utter inability to effect reconciliation. We can’t fix our sin problem. We can’t undo or make up for the offense. If God is justly angry, then for reconciliation to take place, my sin must be paid for. This is why we saw that reconciliation is founded on the great truths of justification and imputation; that God justifies sinners through faith in Jesus Christ, and that he imputes or credits our sin to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness to our account.

We saw that reconciliation is God’s work; that God is active in reconciliation. ‘All this is from God’ God is the one who sent Jesus to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ, paying my price in full. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who causes regeneration or the new birth. God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation.

Our Role in Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is absolutely amazing! Not only has God reconciled us to himself, but he has given us the ministry of reconciliation! He entrusts to us the message of reconciliation! He calls us ambassadors! He makes his appeal through us to the world! I want us to be amazed together at this truth, to feel the weight of this responsibility, and with the power and passion of the indwelling Spirit to step up to the task.

The ‘us’ and the ‘we’ in this passage refers first to Paul and the other apostles, and the ‘you’ refers directly to the church in Corinth, the recipients of this letter. God reconciled Paul and the other apostles to himself and entrusted to them the ministry, the message, and the role of ambassador. And Paul calls those in Corinth to be reconciled. But by extension, now that God has reconciled us, you and me, we too are called to this ministry, entrusted with this message, invested with this authority. We, the reconciled, implore others to be reconciled to God.

The Gift of the Ministry of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

First of all, we need to note that this ministry is a gift that God himself gives. Ministry, service to others is a gift, a God given good gift. It is gracious, undeserved. We don’t qualify or merit this great privilege. We are not worthy. It is God’s gracious gift to those he has reconciled to himself. We get to serve others. I get week by week to proclaim the good news of reconciliation. I have the inestimable privilege of calling people to be reconciled to God. Ministry is a gift, and ministry is service. I serve you for your good. You have the great privilege of loving and serving others for their eternal good. This is simply astounding! If you look back to verse 17, the goal of gospel ministry is bringing about the new creation. Everywhere someone comes to Christ, new creation! There is an instance of God’s new creation! This gift, this responsibility to serve others by proclaiming reconciliation is bringing about new creation here and now!

Entrusted with the Message of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

God goes global with the gospel. No longer limited to one tribe or race or ethnicity, God is at work reconciling the world to himself, and he is entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Reconciliation is a ministry, a service to others; and reconciliation primarily consists in a message, a word a declaration. It is the simple message of the gospel.

Romans 10 tells us that:

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

We proclaim a message, the gospel message; the good news that God is reconciling sinners to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. What amazing news we have to declare. The King you disobeyed, the King you rebelled against, the King whose wrath you deserve – the King no longer counts your trespasses against you; he loves you and has accomplished everything necessary to reconcile you to himself. Call on him! Entrust yourself to him! Believe the good news of reconciliation!

God has placed this message in us. We have been entrusted with the good word of reconciliation. He has placed this message in us by working his reconciliation out in us; through Christ God has reconciled us to himself. We must have experienced the message personally before we are equipped to relay the message to others. And as those who know first hand what it is to be reconciled to God, who have experienced his reconciling love, who enjoy daily the benefits of reconciliation, we are equipped to call others to be reconciled.

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

We have been graciously given the ministry of reconciliation. We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

We are Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We carry the authority of an ambassador. We act as ambassadors; the word translated ‘we are ambassadors’ is actually a verb; it is what we do; we serve as ambassadors; we represent in place of Christ. In Luke 14, Jesus describes an outnumbered king who ‘sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace’ (Lk.14:32). This embassy or ‘delegation’ is a noun form of this word. The ambassador carries the king’s authority and speaks on behalf of the king. In 2 Kings 18, while Sennacherib king of Assyria was laying siege to Lachish he sent some of his key military leaders with a great army ahead to king Hezekiah in Jerusalem demanding surrender and laying out his terms for peace.

This is the role of ambassador, to speak on behalf of the king, demanding surrender and declaring terms of peace. Give up. Give up your efforts to make yourself acceptable to God. Accept his terms; that he has already reconciled you to himself in Christ. He is not counting your trespasses against you.

Begging on Behalf of Christ

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The language of this verse is startling. Ambassadors speak with the authority of the king, they set terms, make demands. But the language here is to implore, entreat, exhort, call near; even to beg. A weak, powerless, outnumbered king might send an ambassador begging for peace. But we don’t expect the omnipotent King of the universe, at whose disposal are the countless armies of heaven, to appeal, to implore, to beg. But this is the language, and this is the posture.

In Jesus’ parable in Mark 12 a man planted a vineyard and leased it out to tenants. He sent his servant to get his share of the fruit.

Mark 12:3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ (cf. Luke 20:9-16)

The only Son was sent as a representative. And he was killed. Now the Lord is sending us. We are to come in the same posture. If we represent Christ, we must expect not to be served but to serve, to be willing to lay down our lives for others. If we are following Jesus, we must take up the cross.

The only other place in the New Testament this word ‘ambassador’ shows up is in Ephesians 6; Paul says:

Ephesians 6:19 and [pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

An ambassador in chains. In need of prayer for boldness.

Be Reconciled to God

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The content of our message, the summary of our plea is ‘be reconciled to God’. What does it mean to be reconciled?

This is the first time in this passage that the passive form of the verb is used. It does not say reconcile yourself to God; it says ‘be reconciled to God’, meaning that someone else is doing the reconciling. This is consistent with everything we have seen so far. ‘All this is from God.’ In verse 18 ‘reconciled’ is active; God through Christ reconciled us to himself. In verse 19 ‘reconciling’ is active; in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. Only here in verse 20 is the passive ‘be reconciled’ used, and it is a command directed toward us. Do not attempt to put away your own hostility toward God. Do not attempt to appease God’s hostility toward you. Do not attempt to reconcile yourself to God – that would be active; rather ‘be reconciled to God’. Receive his accomplished reconciliation. Surrender to his terms and take him up on his offer of peace. God has made peace through the blood of his cross (Col.1:20). Will your receive his terms of peace?

Reconciling the Church

There is an important question this text raises. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, and he says

2 Corinthians 5:20 …We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

‘Be reconciled to God’ is addressed to the church! This would make sense if he were relaying what he preaches to unbelievers; this is what I say to them ‘be reconciled to God.’ But that is not what he is doing. He addresses the church and says ‘we implore you’

Why preach reconciliation to Christians in the church? Why implore believers to be reconciled to God? Aren’t they already reconciled to God? But this is exactly what Paul does. He says you, you whom God in Christ has already reconciled to himself, you be reconciled to God. Why does he talk like this?

I can think of two reasons why he might do this. First, there are some who attach themselves to church who are not believers. I believe this is what Jesus was getting at in some of his parables; (Mt.13) weeds growing up among the wheat; the mustard seed that grows abnormally large so that even the birds, messengers of Satan, roost in its branches.

Paul will say in chapter 13 to the members of the church in Corinth:

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

It would be wrong to assume that because someone attends church regularly, they are a genuine believer. Jesus himself warns:

Matthew 7:22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

There are doubtless many who are connected with the church in some way who are not at peace with God, who are not reconciled; whom the Lord does not know. You today need to hear the gospel and trust. Receive his reconciliation.

The second reason that even genuine believers need to hear the plea ‘be reconciled to God’ is that although we may be reconciled to God, we often don’t act like it. We fail to live consistent with who we are in Christ. God has done all the work of reconciliation; ours is only to receive it by faith and walk in it. It is this walking in it that we struggle with. What does it look like to live consistent with reconciliation? John tells us in 1 John 4 that you can’t say that you love God and hate your brother. That’s not consistent. If you think back to Jesus’ parable of the vineyard rented out to tenants, you can’t claim that you are at peace with the lord of the vineyard while you are rejecting his messengers. That is what was happening in Corinth. Divisive party spirit; I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas, I follow Christ. They claimed have a right relationship with Jesus, but they were rejecting his appointed ambassador. That’s not consistent. You can’t claim to have accepted God’s terms of peace while you are rejecting the very one who brought you those terms of peace. God has done all the reconciling work. We must receive his terms of peace. Be reconciled to God. Bring everything into submission to him. Surrender fully to his terms of peace. God has reconciled you to himself through Christ; now act like it!

***

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

February 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church and the Body of Christ; Ephesians 5

01/06 The Church the Body of Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190106_church-body-of-christ.mp3

Last week Daniel spoke about craftsmanship; how God is the master craftsman, the potter, who picks us up out of the muck and mud, who molds us and shapes us into the very thing he intends us to be, something useful, something beautiful. And he intends for us to enter in to his creativity. He has gifted us, he has invited us in to join him in his creativity, as he fashions beauty out of dust.

I like to take the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to look at who we are, what we are to be all about, to refocus.

Incarnation and Salvation

Daniel set this up for us when he talked about craftsmanship. God had to take the initiative. Clay can’t form itself. Like the demon possessed man who Jesus set free, it is grace. It is all of grace. Undeserved kindness. We were dead. Enslaved. Christ has set us free. He scooped us up out of the muck, and forms us into something beautiful, something useful. That’s why he came. He came to seek and to save what is lost. He came to redeem. To buy us out of the slavery we willfully sold ourselves into. He came to pay our price.

God humbled himself and became human so as a human he could enter in to our mess, to pick us up and pay our price, to take our place. That is what the incarnation is about; God the Son was born of a virgin as a human baby, so that as a man he could legitimately take our place, suffering our punishment, perfectly submitting to and obeying his Father in everything, thus fulfilling all righteousness.

Incarnation and One Flesh

But there is another part of the incarnation that I want us to see today. And my prayer is that this would cause us to wonder and worship, to stand in awe of him, to rekindle our passion for him, to be useful to him. That it would ignite our amazement of and our love for the church.

Look with me at Ephesians 5. This is the classic marriage passage that you’ve probably heard in wedding ceremonies, but I want you to listen carefully to what it says:

Ephesians 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

This passage teaches a husband how he should love and serve his wife, and how a wife should respect her husband. But Paul has something bigger in mind. He teaches us that this fundamental human relationship is an illustration of a greater reality, the relationship between Christ and the church. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother’; Jesus left his Father’s side, from the cross he discharged his responsibility for his human mother to his beloved disciple, and he now holds fast to his bride the church. Jesus took on human flesh at the incarnation, and has now become one flesh with the church.

Allow me to read Ephesians 5:23-32 focusing only on what it tells us about Christ and his church.

Ephesians 5:23 …Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 …the church submits to Christ, … 25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 …[Christ] love[s the church] as [his] own bod[y]. … 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

The church is pictured as the bride, sanctified, adorned, loved, sacrificed for.

The first part of this is Christ’s sacrifice. He gave himself up for her. Jesus died for the church to sanctify, cleanse, make holy and blameless. He took our sins. He is our savior.

The second part of this, that we must not miss, is why. Why did Christ give himself up for the church? Why did he pay for our sins with his own blood? So that he might present the church to himself in splendor. Jesus intends to take us to be his own, to hold fast to us, to be united with us as a husband with his bride.

This passage tells us that Christ has become one flesh with the church. Christ is the head of his church. The church is called his body, his own flesh. We are members of his body. This is simply stunning. It is staggering to think that the eternal God, unbounded by time or space, entered into his creation, became part of his creation as a baby. Tiny fingers and toes. Eyes full of wonder. Fragile. Dependent. He took on flesh. He became human. Jesus has entered his creation physically, and now he says we are his body, his hands, his feet, his fingers and toes. He is our head. We have become one flesh with him. We have been united to him. We are his body.

This boggles the imagination! We are connected to Christ as intimately as our body is connected to our head! We are now ‘bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh’ (Gen.2:23). When my stomach grumbles, my head says ‘it’s time to eat’ and my feet bring me over to the kitchen and my hands put together something to eat. If I smash my thumb with a hammer, my head feels the pain, and my whole body gets involved. We are connected to Christ. We are one flesh with him. We thrive under his authority. We are nourished and cherished, because we are part of him, connected to him.

At the incarnation Jesus took on flesh, so he could become one flesh with us, his church, his body.

The Body in Ephesians

Back in Ephesians chapter 1 (v.22-23), the Father put all things under the authority of Jesus, and “gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

We, his body, the church, are the fullness of him who fills all. I take this to mean that he fills all in all by means of his body the church, the fullness of him. “The church, filled by Christ, fills all creation as representatives of Christ” (ESV Study Bible notes).

Ephesians 2 (v.13-22) points out the horizontal unity brought about by the vertical unity we have with Christ our head. Because we all, Jew and Gentile have been united to Christ, we have also been knit together with one another in one body. In Christ we “have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” He has “reconcile[d] us both to God in one body through the cross.” “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” “In him” we “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Chapter 3 tells us:

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

We all, however different we may be, are members of the same body, the body of Christ, an organic unity, a living organism.

Ephesians 4 (v.4) tells us “There is one body and one Spirit”. Just as the head directs what the body does, so Jesus directs us. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, and our spirit animates our body, so the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer connects us all as one body and animates us to do what our Head desires that we do.

When Each Part is Working Properly

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. …11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

This body of Christ, the church, is united as one and gifted for building up the body. Every believer is to be equipped for ministry, for service in love to others. Whatever grace you have been given is not just for you; it is for building up the body, for equipping the saints for the work of service.

Ephesians 4:15 …speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Do you see this body metaphor literally fleshed out? A body is made up of many parts. The human body is fantastically equipped with joints and ligaments that hold everything together in a functional useful way. Do this: open your hand and then make a fist. One of my favorite things about our babies was when their tiny hands would grasp my finger. Did you know that the human hand is made up of about 29 bones and 29 major joints, about 123 ligaments, 34 muscles that move the fingers and thumb, 48 nerves, and at least 30 arteries? That’s just the hand. Notice it says ‘when each part is working properly’? Have you ever had just one part not working properly?

A few years back Deanna injured her finger. Just one joint was damaged. Now 28 out of 29 seems like it would not really be a big deal. That’s 96.5% of her joints working just fine. If we count all 293 parts (and that’s probably a low number), that boosts the percentage of functional parts to 99.7%. You should be just fine with less than 0.4% not working, right? Her signature no longer looked like her signature. She couldn’t make a fist. She would drop things. It was incredibly painful. Just one part. Ask her if it made a difference!

You might be tempted to say, ‘I’m just one part. Not even a very important part. I won’t even be missed.’

Ephesians 4:15 …we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Every part needs to be there, and every part needs to be functioning as it was designed. You matter. The head notices when a part is not functioning properly.

I’ve had a few conversations recently where people have asked ‘how are you, and how is the church doing?’ It’s been a hard year. Just over a year ago, October 2017 we sent out a number of people who were very involved serving our body here to plant a church in Gunnison. And that left a tangible hole in our body. Our church family gave birth to another church, and birth is a joyful experience, but birth is also a traumatic experience. And it takes time to recover. I think we are recovering well, and we can rejoice in what God has done and is doing in us and through us. The birth has created opportunities for those who had been less involved to step up and become more involved. What we long for is that “the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Here’s a few questions for each of us to think about.

-How has God in the riches of his grace gifted me?

-How am I using those gifts to their maximum capacity for the glory of Christ?

-How am I intentionally engaging in building up the body in love?

I’ve put these questions in your notes, and left room for you to respond. Take a minute right now to write something down.

‘I’m not gifted’ is not a valid answer for a believer. ‘I don’t know’ is weak, unless it is followed by ‘here are the ways I will pursue finding out this week.’

The body of Christ is a unity, a community, a place to belong, to be a part of something bigger than yourself. And I believe that when functioning properly, the church is much greater than the sum of all its parts. We “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph.2:22).

The goal we are to be striving together toward is given in verses 11-13 of Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Pursue unity of the faith; pursue knowledge of the Son of God; pursue Christlike maturity. Build up the body.

As we close, listen carefully the exhortation in Romans 12.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

***

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

January 7, 2019 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment