PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 3:4-6; Are You Weak Enough?

05/13_2 Corinthians 3:4-6; Are You Weak Enough? ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180513_2cor3_4-6.mp3

Confidence of Ministry Competence

Are you competent to minister to people? Are you confident of your competence? Do you possess confidence? Even boldness?

Specifically when you see spiritual needs around you; hurting broken people who don’t know Jesus. Self-righteous people who don’t think they need Jesus. Brothers or sisters struggling to follow Jesus, faltering or wandering away. Do you look at those spiritual needs around you with confident boldness that you are competent to minister to them?

In 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, Paul is talking about confidence in ministry competence.

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

Such is the confidence that we have. We have this kind of confidence. What kind of confidence does he have? ‘Such’ refers back to his last paragraphs.

It is this kind of confidence or boldness or persuasion:

2:14 confidence always to be led on display by God in Christ

confidence to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere

2:15 confidence to be the fragrance of Christ to God

2:16 confidence to be the aroma of death to the perishing;

confidence to be the aroma of life to those being saved

2:17 confidence to be people of sincerity /integrity

confidence as (sent) of God and in the presence of God

confidence to speak in Christ

3:3 confidence that through our ministry Christ has been written on your tender hearts with the Spirit of the living God

This is staggering confidence! Startling boldness! Would you be able to claim this sort of confidence?

Means and Scope of Confidence

Where does he get this kind of confidence?

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

The means of his confidence is ‘through Christ.’ Oh do not slide casually over words in the text of Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (2Tim3:16). Every word of God proves true (Prov30:5). Not the smallest stroke of a letter will pass away until all is fulfilled (Mat5:18). It is easy for us to just slip past words that God gave us for our building up. We can only have this confidence through Christ or not at all. It is through faith in Christ, by means of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross for my sins that I can have boldness and confident access through grace into the presence of God. It is only because of the finished work of Christ that I have any good message to give to sinners alienated from God. The only means of our confidence is through Christ.

The scope of his confidence is ‘toward God.’ As a kid, you talk big with your friends, but when the powerful or important or intimidating person is in the room, suddenly all that confidence gets deflated. Are there people around whom you have more confidence than others? In your circle of friends, around those you know love and accept you, you have a level of confidence. But around those you are intimidated by, that confidence evaporates. Paul says that his confidence is ‘toward God.’ That is an amazing statement. Who is possibly more intimidating than God, the God of the universe, the holy and just judge, against whom we have sinned, the one who spoke all things into existence by the word of his power. He is the one we ought to be most intimidated by, and we are constantly under his watchful eye. If we can be confident in his presence, no human power ought to intimidate us. And Paul says that it is toward God that he is confident. He is confident of his identity, and he is confident of where his identity comes from. Yes, Paul is a sinner, the chief of sinners, who fully deserves the just wrath of the all-holy God. But Paul knows peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul knows the forgiveness of sins through his blood. Paul knows the love of God poured out in his heart through the Holy Spirit whom he has given to us. Paul knows his identity. He is a pardoned sinner, washed clean, given new life, reconciled fully, loved extravagantly, accepted, adopted. Paul knows who he is, and he knows where his identity comes from. It is through Christ that he has been forgiven, cleansed, set free, reconciled, loved.

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

He has confidence of his sufficiency as a minister of the gospel to spread the knowledge of Jesus all the time in every place, to those who are being saved the aroma of life to life, to those who are perishing the aroma of death to death. He is confident of his competence before the all watchful eye of God the Father.

No Sufficiency From Ourselves

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.

Paul is confident of his identity before God, and he knows where his competence or sufficiency comes from. It is not from himself. It is not internal. It is from outside himself; it is a gift given to him.

In 2:16, after describing a ministry that brings eternal life to some and eternal death to others, Paul asks ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ Here he answers his own question. ‘We are sufficient, but our sufficiency does not come from us.’ We have confidence of our sufficiency in Christ before God, but our sufficiency does not come from ourselves.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim [lit. to reckon, suppose, conclude or think] anything as coming from us. This is humbling. Any ministry I do, I am not to draw the conclusion that any of that was from me. I can’t take credit for anything. That’s what the text says. Any competency, any sufficiency, I am not to think that anything, anything, ANYTHING came from me. I am not sufficient, I am not competent, I am not adequate in myself. Didn’t Jesus say ‘apart from me you can do nothing? (Jn.15:5)’ Zero, zilch, nada, nothing. I am not sufficient to think of anything as coming from me.

Full-Time Ministry

How many of you are in full-time ministry? Show me hands. How many of you claim to be followers of Jesus? If you are a follower of Jesus, you are in full-time ministry. We use that phrase to describe people who earn a living by their ministry. And that is legitimate. But I don’t care where you earn your living, if you follow Jesus, he has called you to full time ministry. In your family, with your friends, at your work, in your free time, you are a minister. But at my job, they don’t allow me to talk about Jesus. That’s fine. You are a testimony to the transforming power of the gospel by your quiet character and integrity, your faithfulness, your diligence, your self sacrificial service for the good of others. Let me ask again, how many of you are in full time ministry? Ministry means service. Service to others.

We tend to think of ministry in terms of preaching and outreach and church service. And that is important. Paul is talking here primarily about his own apostolic ministry. But I want you to see all of life as ministry. Paul’s apostolic ministry wasn’t only when he was preaching in front of a crowd. Paul at times worked a regular job. How are you serving your employer, your co-workers? How are you serving your spouse, your children? How are you ministering to every person you come in contact with? Paul says that ‘through us God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere.’ Not only in words that are heard. But in a fragrance that is smelled. Do people around you sense something different about you? Without you having to say anything?

Broken people were attracted to Jesus. Needy people were following him around all the time. It seemed he couldn’t get away from them. They sensed something about him that gave them hope. Are they attracted to you? We have a message that can raise the dead!

This verse absolutely blew my mind when I first read it. I still remember where I was and who I was with. Jesus said to his followers:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Greater works than Jesus? Jesus was healing the lame, opening blind eyes, cleansing lepers, even raising the dead. Greater works than these? How can that be? Notice, he doesn’t say a few select church leaders. He says ‘whoever believes in me.’ That means me. That means you! Through our ministry the Holy Spirit will open blind eyes to the beauty of the gospel, through our ministry he will cleanse people from their sin, through us he will raise dead sinners to eternal life and make them whole and complete in Christ. Greater works than these? Yes!

Are broken people attracted to you? You have a message that can set them free, give them life! Who is sufficient for these things?

Upside-down Confidence

You are, if you recognize that ‘you are not sufficient in yourself to claim anything as coming from you, but your sufficiency is from God.’

Are you weak enough to be confident? This is upside-down thinking. You have to go back to progress; you have to go down to rise up, you have to empty yourself to make room for God to fill you to overflowing. Does your adequacy come from an acute aware of your own incompetence? You have to recognize that your fitness, your competence, your sufficiency for ministry does not come from you. Do you think that anything comes from yourself? To the extent you conclude that you contribute, that you have something you can claim as your part, that you can boast about, to that extent you are unfit for ministry.

Paul said in chapter 1, talking about his afflictions,

2 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

God used affliction to wean Paul away from any self-dependence and force him to rely completely on the resurrecting God. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, speaking of his role as apostle,

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Do you hear that? Paul considered himself unworthy. But his identity came from God’s grace. And God’s grace transformed him into something he was not fit to be. God’s undeserved kindness is powerful and transformational. And he says, comparing himself with the other apostles ‘I worked harder than any of them.’ But he is quick to clarify. I worked harder than any of them, but none of that was me. It did not come from me. It did not originate with me. It was God’s grace at work in me.

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.

God made us sufficient. Do you feel insufficient? Do you feel inadequate? Do you feel unworthy? Good! You should. You are. I am. That is a prerequisite for fruitful ministry. Are you weak enough for God to use you?

So That God Gets the Glory

Remember Gideon? The Angel of the LORD addressed him ‘O mighty man of valor’ (Jdg.6:12) while he was beating out the wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. When he was told to pull down his father’s idols burn them and make a sacrifice to the LORD, he did it by night, ‘because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day’ (Jdg.6:27). But it says ‘the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon’ (6:34) and he rallied an army of 32,000 to fight against the Midianites and Amalekites and the people of the East who had assembled against them, who ‘lay along the valley like locust in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance (7:12).

Judges 7:2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

Do you hear what God says? Against an innumerable multitude, 32,000 are too many because you might be tempted to claim something as coming from yourselves. You might take credit. You might boast over God, saying ‘my own hand saved me’.

Judges 7:4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many.

10,000 is still too many. God was going to give the Midianites into their hand, and he refused to allow them to think that they contributed in any way. So God thinned the army down to 300 men. And the 300 men were armed with trumpets and empty jars and torches inside the jars. No sword, no spear, not even a sling is mentioned. Just musical instruments, and empty clay pots with a fire burning inside. And the LORD gave the host of Midian into their hand. They were told to make some noise and stand their ground. They could claim nothing as coming from themselves. Their sufficiency was totally from God.

Psalm 115 begins:

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, because not from us, not from us, we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, so no glory comes to us. Instead, to your name give glory. It is your steadfast covenant love, it is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 …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 are sufficient, because we freely acknowledge that we are insufficient in ourselves. Our sufficiency comes from God. He makes what we are not. He makes us sufficient. Sufficient for ministry. Sufficient to be ministers of the life giving ministry of the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant.

Are you weak enough for God to transform lives through your service, because you recognize that you are not sufficient to consider anything as coming from yourself? Are you weak enough for God to use you, are you weak enough to give God all the glory for what he does in you and through you?

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

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May 16, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:20; The Yes and Amen in Christ

11/26 2 Corinthians 1:20; The Yes and Amen in Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171126_2cor1_20.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

This is a rich and deep and beautiful passage, and it is a practical lifeline to hold on to every day, in the good times and in the bad. We are going to look at the promises of God, their certainty, their scope, their sphere, and their goal. And we get to see our essential role in the promises of God.

Free Promises

But the first thing we must see about the promises of God are that they are free. God’s promises are not promises made out of necessity or obligation. There is no bully in the playground holding his arm twisted behind his back demanding ‘I will let you go if you promise to give me the sweets from your lunch every day.’ No, God is under no necessity to make any promise to his creation. He is under no pressure, no obligation. God makes his promises freely; every promise he ever made was made freely and willingly. He wanted to make the promise. He chose to make the promises. He was free to not promise, but he willed to make promises. We are talking about promises of God. No one could force God’s hand to make a promise he did not wish to make.

Certain Promises

And in this we see the certainty of the promises. They are promises of God. They are not promises of man. We expect a man to keep his word, and if he fails to be true to his word, his character is called into question.

Psalm 15 speaks of a man who ‘speaks truth in his heart’

Psalm 15:4 who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

This is rare among people. Often people give their word to get themselves out of a bad situation, or because they think it will benefit them in the end. But when it comes down to it and it’s going to hurt me, to cause loss to me instead of gain, well, I really didn’t mean what I said.

Our culture has cheapened the weight of words. On my cell phone, or on my computer, I want to install software or an app that I need to perform a certain function, and it pops up with this little box that says ‘I accept the terms of this agreement’. By checking that box, you are giving your word. You are making a promise. Who even reads those? ‘Click here to read the terms of this agreement.’ 18 pages of fine legal print that is virtually unintelligible except to a lawyer, including stuff about reverse engineering software and doing illegal things and selling for profit and there is no warranty; if it destroys your device, you won’t complain, and something about privacy and the use of your personal information, and something about your firstborn child… But if you don’t click the box, you don’t get to use the app. So you don’t even read what you’re signing, you just click the box and go on your happy way. I’m not really promising anything; I don’t even know what I just agreed to. I’m just assuming the terms are reasonable. I just wanted a flashlight app for my phone! Our word means nothing!

God’s promises are not like this. When God gives his word, he knows exactly what he is getting himself into. He knows what he is signing up for, what it will cost him. He has read all the fine print.

When God makes a promise, God’s own character is on the line. He is truth. He is unchangeable. He is faithful. To doubt his promises is to question who he is.

Now I might give my word with all good intention, but unforeseen circumstances beyond my control prevent me from following through. I was on my way to meet you but a rock in the canyon fell and crushed the front end of my car and I had no cell service to even call. When God makes a promise, all his sovereign omnipotent power stands behind his word. To him there is nothing unforeseen, there is no circumstance beyond his control, there is nothing stronger than him that could possibly prevent him from carrying out what he purposed to do. God’s promises are his purposes made known.

Hebrews 6 says:

Hebrews 6:13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,… 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, …

God is unchangeable. His word is unchangeable. His promises are unshakable.

Often Jesus gently rebukes his followers for their little faith. There is an interesting event recorded for us in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where Jesus and his disciples are in the boat on the sea. There is a great storm, and the boat is filling with water, and Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat. His disciples wake him and ask him ‘do you not care that we are perishing?’ After Jesus silences the wind and the waves with a word, he turns to his disciples and asks ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ (Mt.8:26); ‘Have you still no faith?’ (Mk.4:40); ‘Where is your faith?’ (Lk.8:25). Why did he ask about their faith? Faith in the Bible is not some immaterial force that if we have enough of it, it will overcome circumstances, like the power of positive thinking. No, faith is dependence on, trust in God’s word and God’s character. The disciples were questioning God’s character when they asked Jesus ‘do you not care?’ But they were also disbelieving God’s word, God’s promise. As they were getting into the boat, Jesus said ‘let us go across, to the other side of the lake.’ He did not say ‘let us go out on the lake; let us go half way across and perish in a great storm.’ No, he said ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ We would take a comment like that to express intent or purpose; ‘let’s head in this direction; as long as nothing hinders us, that’s where we plan to go.’ We say this kind of thing all the time. ‘Let’s get in the van and go to Provo.’ I have a destination in mind, but we all know that if the car breaks down or the road is closed, we might not actually get there. But Jesus expects his followers to hear more than that in his word! Where is your faith? Jesus expected their faith to be in his person and in his word. His word is not a casual expression of intent that might be thwarted; his word is the very word of God! “ I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;

I have purposed, and I will do it” (Is.46:11). If Jesus says we are going across to the other side, then hell itself cannot stop us from getting there; no mere storm can stand in our way. We can depend on his word! Where is your faith? For faith to be of any use at all, it must be placed squarely on the word of God, because God will always make good on his word. God’s promises are absolutely certain, because they are God’s promises!

The Scope of the Promises

What is the scope of God’s promises?

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, … 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, …in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

As many as are the promises of God; whatever promise God made, in him is the yes! Has God made a promise? In Christ is the yes. This opens up the whole book to us! Genesis to Revelation we find God’s word, God’s promises, and in Christ is the yes!

There we find promises to every kind of person; to the broken, the despairing, the hopeless, the hurting; even to the sinful, the self-righteous, the hard hearted.

We find promises of every kind. There are promises of rescue, of hope, of security, of provision, of life and resurrection. There is the promise of a new heart. There are promises of righteousness, justification, reconciliation, sanctification, promises of glory. He promises to be with us, to never leave or forsake us. He promises to finish the work he began in us. There are promises of God’s blessing to the nations, that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church, that he will wipe away every tear, that sin and death are defeated and that sorrow will be no more.

When you read God’s word, listen for his voice, his promises. They are firm. They are meant to give us ‘strong encouragement to hold fast tot he hope set before us.’ They are meant to be a ‘sure and steadfast anchor of the soul’. We are meant to ‘flee for refuge’ there (Heb.6:18-19).

The Sphere of the Promises

But there is a specific place where all these promises are yes. Only those who are in that place enjoy the benefits of the promises; those outside are outside the promises. We need to understand where these promises are fulfilled.

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

The promises are ‘yes’ in him. In the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one proclaimed by Paul and the other apostles. The Yes to all God’s promises is in him. Jesus has become the Yes to all God’s promises. Jesus is the Yes!

This gives us a lens through which to read the entire Bible. The fulfillment of all God’s promises is Jesus. So when we read the Old Testament, we should be asking ‘What is the promise here?’ and ‘How is it fulfilled in Jesus?’

This way of understanding the Old Testament comes directly from Jesus. He said:

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The scriptures bear witness about Jesus. The aim of the entirety of the Bible is to lead us to Jesus. If we miss this, we misunderstand the Bible. It is really all about Jesus. Jesus said:

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 destroy, to dissolve, to throw down or set aside the scriptures. He came to fill them up. He came to fully supply, satisfy, or accomplish the law. It’s as if the law were a beautiful but empty vase. We misunderstood the purpose of the law, we broke the law, we tried to fill it with the filth of our own good works; we tried to stand on it as a step stool to reach up to God. Jesus came as the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley, to fill up the vase, to show us its intended purpose. The law is intended to point to Jesus, to bear witness about Jesus, to put Jesus on display, to show us how far we fall short, and how great Jesus is. Jesus completes it, fills it up, fully satisfies its intended purpose. With his disciples after his resurrection, Jesus:

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

…44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 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.

Jesus filled up the scriptures. O that he would open our minds to understand the gospel, the good news of forgiveness of sins through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in all of scripture!

Jesus is the seed of the woman who crushed the head of the serpent. Jesus is the last Adam who walks in perfect obedience and brings life. Jesus the offspring of Abraham through whom all the nations are blessed. Jesus is the righteousness that the law requires. Jesus is the tabernacle, where we meet with God. Jesus is the suffering servant who lays down his life in the place of others. Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is our prophet, priest and king. Jesus is the Word made flesh; Jesus is the one mediator between God and man; Jesus is the long awaited eternal king. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of God.

As many promises God has made, in Jesus is the Yes. To benefit from the promises of God, we must be in Jesus. This idea of being ‘in him or in Christ’ is something we see throughout the New Testament. We believe in Jesus; trust in him; rely on him; we abide in him. We are buried with him in baptism; we are raised with him through faith. His death is our death; his life is our life. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. We come to be in Christ through faith. We belong to him.

The Yes to all God’s promises is in Jesus. When we are in Jesus, depending on him, trusting in him, all God’s promises are Yes to us!

The Goal of the Promises

We have looked at the certainty of God’s promises (they are God’s promises), the scope of God’s promises (all the promises), the sphere of God’s promises (in Christ), and now we will look at the goal of God’s promises.

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

That is why, through him, the Amen, comes to God, for his glory, through us. It is in Jesus that the Yes to all God’s promises comes to us. It is through Jesus the Amen comes to God for his glory through us. Amen is a Hebrew word, often a response to a benediction or a doxology or a thanksgiving. It is a strong affirmation; let it be so. It is through Jesus, through our experience of the Yes of God to all God’s promises in Jesus that the Amen comes back to God for his glory. God is glorified when we experience the Yes of his promises in Jesus and we resonate together the Amen. God is glorified when his people together enjoy his promises and respond together with the Amen in worship. God’s promises are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. The goal of the promises is to resound to the glory of God. As we enjoy together in Jesus the yes to all God’s promises, we respond back to God with the Amen of worship that brings glory to him. This is astounding! That because we are in Christ, because in Christ we enjoy God’s promises, we now have the capacity to glorify God together!

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

November 28, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What We Are All About

09/24 What We Are All About; The Vision and Mission of ECB; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170924_what-we-are-all-about.mp3

Today is an exciting day for us as a church. Ephraim Church of the Bible is multiplying ministry for the glory of Jesus!

About 26 years ago [1991], Pastor Dick Fellars and Immanuel Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ sent Chip and Jamie Thompson and their family to Ephraim Utah. They began a Bible study in their home, which God blessed and grew. And May 5, 1995 Ephraim Church of the Bible began. Around 2003/2004 the college house was purchased and the college ministry began. As the college ministry grew, Chip stepped down from his role as pastor in order to pour his energy into the college ministry, and in 2005 the church called us to come and serve the local body here.

In 2006 we remodeled the sanctuary and moved the baptistery to the back to gain some additional seating. In 2011, as the church continued to grow we added on to our sanctuary to enable us to serve more people, and we purchased the adjacent property to the North, and by the end of 2012 the new Fellowship Hall was in use.

As a church on a mission field, it is essential to keep an outward focus. We have had the great privilege and pleasure of seeing some of the young men and women who served in the college ministry go off to get training in bible college with their eyes on the mission field. In 2012 God granted us the honor of partnering with Jason and Jen Byers as they went to Thailand, and Brody and Liz Olson as they went to Colorado City. So a church on the mission field is now sending missionaries out into the mission field!

Ephraim Church of the Bible has always had a desire to reach our surrounding communities with the gospel, and over the years, we have had home groups in Ephraim, Manti, Gunnison, and Fairview. We have prayed about what it might look like to see a healthy sister church planted both to the north and to the south of us, and we have explored various options.

In 2015 Carl began a home bible study in Gunnison/Centerfield, with about 6 people attending regularly. Last summer, he prayed that if God would give them a bigger house, they would do everything they could to fill it for his glory. They did some door to door advertisement, and the study began to grow. Pastor Ryan Shaddix of Calvary Chapel Sevier Valley in Richfield, who also has a heart to see a gospel centered Jesus honoring healthy church planted in that area, encouraged his people who live in that area to be a part of what God is doing. That bible study has now grown to 40 + people, and next Sunday morning church services will begin in the Wimmer home.

What We Are All About

What I want to do today is simply lay out what we are all about. Who are we as a church? What are we passionate about? I want to keep who we are, what we are about in front of us as we launch into a new season of expanding ministry for the glory of Christ.

So what are we all about? What are we to be about as a church? What are we to be passionately pursuing as a local body of believers? I’ve broken this down into three main things. The local church exists to equip and enable the saints to glorify God, to enjoy God, and to engage in gospel ministry.

Equipping and the Mess Hall

First, I want you to see that the role of the church, and specifically the leadership of the local church is primarily a behind the scenes training and equipping role. Ephesians 4 says that ‘[Jesus] gave …the pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body…” (Eph.4:11-12). Picture it this way. Think of the church as a military battalion stationed in a hostile country. The church is not a building; the church is made up of people. The goal is to engage culture, to set captives free, to effect change for good. Every person and every role is essential for the success of the mission. One necessary part of the base of operations is a mess hall and a medical wing. That is the church building. It can be a tent, a re-purposed store front, someone’s living room. It doesn’t matter. But the soldiers need to be fed; refueled. They need a place to be cared for, to be treated, to be healed. There needs to be a cook, and there needs to be medical staff. That’s the church leadership. It’s a behind the scenes thing, but it needs to happen. If the soldiers aren’t fed and cared for, they can’t do their job effectively. That’s the picture I want you to have of the church. The church is a place to refuel, to recharge, to be equipped to go back out into the battle and accomplish the mission. Church services are not the main thing. The battalion is not stationed in a hostile country to have a great mess hall. The church is often a mess. But the church is stationed in the world to engage the culture and set captives free.

We see this in Jesus’ statement;

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

The church is not stationary; gates are stationary. The church is on the move, on mission, taking ground from the enemy, battering down the gates of hell and setting captives free. When Jesus commissioned Peter, he told him

John 21:15 … “Feed my lambs.” 16 … “Tend my sheep.” 17 … “Feed my sheep.

The church is made up of sheep. Sheep need to be tended, to be fed, cared for, to be refueled for the work of ministry. The church gathers for that. The church then goes out to accomplish the mission.

Take a moment to picture this, to put these two metaphors together. The church is sheep that need to be tended, and the church is to wage war on hell. Sheep, one of the most helpless, defenseless, clueless, needy animals, an animal that is not the natural predator of anything, except maybe grass, and this is the picture; sheep storming the gates of hell. This is a reminder that it is not about us. It is not about our skill, our ability, our gifts. It is all about God who has made us competent to be ministers of the gospel (2Cor.3:6).

The Mission: To Glorify God

So what is the mission? We see the primary thing in this illustration of sheep. It is ‘to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us’ (2Cor.4:7). Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we are to do it all to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31). It is all ‘to the praise of his glorious grace; to the praise of his glory, to the praise of his glory’ (Eph.1:6, 12, 14). ‘You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body’ (1Cor.6:19-20).

We are created for this; we are meant to glorify God in everything. We are meant to spread the fame of his name. We are meant to exult in him, to praise him, to worship him, to celebrate him. Our purpose is to magnify him, to make much of him in all things.

The Mission: To Enjoy God Together

So how do we glorify God in all things? What does that practically look like? To glorify anything is to show how much better that thing is than any other thing. That is what commercials seek to do; this product, this service is superior to all other products and services; this one will deliver. This one will bring peace, tranquility, satisfaction, fulfillment. It will do what you need. How do commercials glorify their product? They may list the ways that this one is superior to others, but often they show someone enjoying the product. Some amazingly perfect person cracks open an ice cold Mountain Dew on a hot day and is refreshed, renewed, transformed. The atmosphere changes. Suddenly everyone likes them. Everything is better. They glorify the product by enjoying it.

Believe it or not, this is biblical. This is exactly what we as followers of Jesus are called to do. Only we have the one thing that truly satisfies. Psalm 16 says things like:

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Verse 4 contrasts this with the counterfeit product:

Psalm 16:4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply…

Then he turns back to the real thing:

Psalm 16:5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Only in God’s presence is there fullness of joy. Only at his right hand are there pleasures forevermore. I have no good apart from you.

In Psalm 34, David sets out to ‘bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.’ He sets out to boast in the Lord, to magnify the Lord, to exult his name. How does he go about this glorifying God at all times? Verse 4 says

Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 6 ​This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

How does the Psalmist bless, praise, boast in, magnify, exult the Lord? By seeking him and being rescued by him, by looking to him for help, by crying out to him to be saved from troubles, by being protected and delivered by him. And then he says:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

How do we glorify God in all things? We drink deeply of him, we run to him and cry out to him with all our brokenness and emptiness and longing and need and invite him to fill and heal and mend and rescue, to satisfy us with his own all sufficient goodness. We glorify him by enjoying him.

Notice there is a corporate aspect to this enjoying. He starts out this Psalm by saying ‘I will bless the Lord at all times,’ but by verse 3 he is saying ‘Oh, magnify the LORD with me,and let us exalt his name together!’ There is an enhancing of the enjoyment when we enjoy God together.

The Mission: To Spread Joy in God

This brings us to our last point. We have looked at the vertical dimension; the church exists to glorify God and to enjoy God. There is also a horizontal dimension; the church exists to spread this joy to others. The church equips the saints for the work of ministry. Ministry is service. We are equipped to serve others for their good, to call them into relationship with this all satisfying God.

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.

2 Corinthians 4 tells us that as God’s amazing grace extends to more people, more people give God thanks for his amazing grace, thanksgiving increases to the glory of God. We glorify God by increasing the number of people who enjoy God.

We must be passionate about the centrality of the gospel of grace and the message of the cross.

It is all grace. Jesus died for sinners; we are broken and helpless and can contribute nothing. Jesus took our place, paying in full the penalty our sins deserve. He makes us alive with resurrection power and clothes us in his perfect righteousness. We live in total dependence on him for everything. It is all of grace.

Both salvation (the rescue from the penalty and power of sin) and sanctification (growth in godly character) are by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone. Salvation is designed by God in this way to bring glory to him alone and not to us.

This good news of God’s amazing grace is so good that it must be spread. We cannot keep it to ourselves. It must spill over to those around us. We must not be content until every person has heard this good news.

We are passionate about actively pursuing unity with other believers and keeping the main thing the main thing. There are plenty of secondary issues that Christians hold opinions about, and often these opinions are given undue importance, and these secondary issues often detract and distract our attention from the main thing. It really is all about Jesus. We must determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor.2:2). The gospel message; the message of the cross is central. Jesus defines who we are. As we live gospel transformed lives, as we enjoy gospel shaped community, we are enabled to proclaim transforming gospel truth. We must keep the main thing the main thing as we glorify and enjoy God together, and seek to spread joy in him to all people.

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

September 26, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Glorify God

01/22 How to Glorify God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170122_how-to-glorify-god.mp3

Last week we looked at the primary purpose of the church and of each of us as followers of Jesus. We exist, according to Ephesians 1, to the praise of his glorious grace, to the praise of his glory, to the praise of his glory (Eph.1:6, 12, 14). As the Westminster Shorter Catechism begins “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (1647). Romans 15 tells us that we are ‘to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,’ so

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Angelic beings in Isaiah 6 declare

Isaiah 6:3 … “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Psalmist declares

Psalm 86:12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

In Psalm 106 as in Romans 1, sinners are condemned because:

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

Philippians tells us that one day

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Peter tells us to so use our gifts, in dependence on God,

1 Peter 4:11 …—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Cornithians tells us

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

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

Jesus tells us to

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

We exist for the glory of God. We are meant to glorify God. The glory of God is to be our chief aim, our primary purpose. If this is true then some questions must follow. What is the glory of God? And how do I glorify God?

The Glory of God and Spiritual Blindness

First, what is the glory of God? If my primary purpose is to glorify God, then I need to understand what I am aiming for. If we don’t have a grasp of a biblical definition of God’s glory, then we won’t have a clue how to live for the glory of God. We must perceive the glory of God in order to live for the glory of God. And this is spiritual work that requires supernatural help. We are told in 2 Corinthians 4 that

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.

So there is a spiritual blindness upon unbelievers to prevent them from seeing God’s glory in Christ. This blindness requires a sovereign act of God to overcome.

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.

Sovereign God, open our eyes that we may behold your glory in the face of Jesus!

The Glory of God; Light and Weight

I see in scripture, mainly two aspects to the glory of God; light and weight. This passage in 2 Corinthians speaks of the light of the good news of the glory of Christ; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. The book of Revelation tells us that

Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

God’s glory is compared to light, radiance, brightness, shining, brilliance, display. God’s glory is the shining forth of who he is, the brilliant display of his character and nature, the radiant brightness of his being. It is an outward appearance or making known of his invisible being and personality.

In the Old Testament, we see another aspect of God’s glory. The Hebrew word for glory is ‘kabod’, and it literally means heaviness or weightiness. Remember back to Leviticus 9, when the tabernacle was complete, the priests were set apart, the people were gathered, and Aaron the first high priest was to offer the first sacrifices to God in the holy tabernacle. At the end of chapter 9, Aaron had offered the sacrifices,

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

And then we read in chapter 10, that in the midst of this awesome moment, two of Aaron’s sons did something God had not commanded and offered strange fire before the Lord. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them.

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

God is to be taken seriously. God is not to be trifled with. God is sanctified, holy, set apart, in a class by himself, utterly unique and unparalleled. The weightiness of God’s character must be revered.

In the Exodus, Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh of Egypt declaring ‘thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go…’ (Ex.5:1),

Exodus 5:2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Back in Exodus 3, from the burning bush, God had told Moses,

Exodus 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.

After God wrecked Egypt, after the Pharaoh had commanded them to leave, but before they crossed the Red Sea, God gave Moses instruction and said:

Exodus 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” … (also 14:17,18)

‘Who is YHWH, that I shold obey his voice?’ ‘I will get glory over Pharaoh… all shall know that I am the LORD.” God will be taken seriously. God will be seen as significant. He will be feared and respected, seen as weighty. He will be glorified in all the earth.

Glory is light and weight; God’s glory is the brilliant display of the weightiness of his character.

How We Glorify God; Drink and Do

So if we are meant to glorify God, and glory is the brilliant display of the weightiness of his awesome being, how do we glorify God? How do we promote and advance the glory of God? How do we live lives that glorify him? We understand what we are to be about, both as individuals and as the church. How do we go about it?
I’m going to give you a simple, easy to remember way to glorify God in your life. Drink and Do. It’s that simple. Drink and Do. What do I mean by that?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” in his book Desiring God, John Piper points out that we glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Think of a pristine mountain spring, high in the alps, untouched, perfect. Its water is clear and cool. It bubbles up of its own and will never run dry. How do you glorify the spring? By taking your ten cent grocery store bottle of water you carried on the hike and pouring what is left of it into the spring, to contribute to it? Or do you glorify the spring by getting down on your knees beside the spring, putting your parched lips to the water and drinking deeply? Do you glorify the spring by laying down in the grass and listening to the melody of its babbling? To glorify the spring is to enjoy the spring. Allow the spring to satisfy your thirst. Be envigorated by the cool water. Regain strength to hike back down the mountain and tell others what a treasure you discovered. To glorify God is to enjoy God, to drink deeply of God, to allow him to satisfy your deepest longings, to receive strength from him for the journey, to tell others about the pleasure you receive from him.

Listen to the prophet Isaiah

Isaiah 12:1 You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. 2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORDGOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Glorify God in thanksgiving. Glorify God that because of Jesus, his anger is turned away. Glorify God by depending on him, trusting in him, allowing him to free you from all fear. Draw sustenance with joy from his limitless supply of salvation. Glorify God by calling on his name for help in times of trouble. Make his name known. Sing his praises. Shout! Sing! Publish abroad his all satisfying greatness.

Listen to the Psalms:

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

There is a warning here. If you are filled up with other things, you won’t enjoy the life giving water. When my kids aren’t hungry for the home-cooked meal on the table, we begin to diagnose the cause. When did you last eat? What did you eat? When they have been snacking all afternoon on chips and candy and soda, they are not going to be hungry for real food. We cram our lives full of activity and media and amusement and general busyness and stuff, and we wonder why we don’t have an appetite for spiritual things. We can stuff our souls so full of things that don’t fulfill us, that there is no room for the only one who can satisfy.

Listen to Jesus:

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Glorifying God means drinking deeply of God, going to him with your thirst, with your longings, finding enough, more than enough to satisfy in him. Glorifying God means to drink from him with joy.

Doing and Not Doing

I said glorifying God means drinking and doing. Let me clarify what I mean by ‘do’ and what I do not mean by ‘do’.

Allow me to switch analogies. The vacuum cleaner salesman comes to your door. He’s selling the latest model of Kirby, and he is out to convince you that it is the best vacuum ever made. If you were able to go to his house, you had better find two things. First, you’d better find a clean carpet, and second, you’d better find a Kirby in his closed. If you found a Hoover, you’d call him a hypocrite. That’s the first point. Don’t try to sell a product you haven’t tried or don’t believe in. Drink first.

But this is to clarify the second point, what I don’t mean by ‘do’. If the vacuum salesman comes to your door with his Kirby, and he shows you how great it is, but then he begins to tell you that he has actually made some modifications to his vacuum, that he has shortened the hose to increase the suction, that he has replaced the motor with a more powerful and longer lasting one, and that he took a grinder to the metal casing to make it lighter, you would not say he is glorifying the vacuum by his improvements and modifications. Instead he is pointing out the flaws in the design and trying to fix them.

Or back to the mountain spring. You do not glorify the spring by taking pilgrimages carrying gallons of tap water on your back to contribute to the spring. That is not what I mean by ‘do’. We cannot contribute anything to God except our need, and an opportunity for him to show himself strong.

What I do mean by ‘do’ is this. If you are not thirsty you will not enjoy the refreshing water. You must come thirsty, come needy, come desperate. The depth of your appreciation for the fountain will be directly proportionate to your awareness of your own need. Many of us need to do. Do something. Go on a hike. Get thirsty. Many of us need to do. Try to live a holy life. Try to love your neighbor as yourself. Try to put the needs of others ahead of your own. Try to convince others of their need for Christ. As you do, you will become acutely aware of your desperate need, your inability, and it will drive you back to the only source of life giving water, and you will drink more deeply.

Prayer, Bible, Sermons

Let me connect this to prayer. Prayer is an expression of need and dependence on God. If you are not aware of your need, you will not pray. Desperate people pray. Even those who say they do not believe in God will pray when they sense the sheer hopelessness of their situation. Many Christians seek to improve their prayer life. Instead, attempt to raise children that want to love and follow Jesus. Seek to be content with what you have. Pursue unity with someone you disagree with. Attempt to proclaim God’s word every week. Live with character and integrity. Give biblical counsel to someone who is struggling. Love your wife like Christ loved the church. Refrain from speaking poorly of others. Seek to be a blessing to a person in need. Be a good employee and don’t grumble or complain. Have your neighbor over for dinner. Walk on water. As you do, you will begin to perceive more acutely your desperate need for God. You can’t do it on your own. “Apart from me you can do nothing” Jesus said (Jn.15:5). Begin to do, and it will drive you to drink deeply of the limitless resources in God.

We can connect this to listening to sermons and bible reading. If there is a lecture offered on the relationship of diet to the growth of cancer cells you may be curious and listen. You may have a general sense of the importance of healthy eating, and you may not have anything better to do at that time. You may enjoy the delivery of the presenter, or be mildly annoyed by his accent, or think that his visual aids are not very well done. You may lose interest and begin to think about what’s for dinner and wonder if it will give you cancer, and wonder if this will make you late for it. Would it be rude to get up and leave before it is over? But if your child has been diagnosed with cancer, you will be listening in a whole new way. Your desperation will create in you an attentiveness that nothing else can. As we become aware of the devastating disease of our spiritual need, our spiritual helplessness and hopelessness, our ears will be eager to hear from God.

Expect Great Things; Attempt Great Things

William Carey, a missionary to India, known as the father of modern missions, preached a sermon in Nottingham England in 1792, encouraging involvement in foreign missions. His points were “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.” God is glorified when we expect him to do great things, because we see that he is great, and believe that he is able to do great things. God is glorified when we come to him as the all satisfying source and expect him to be more than enough to slake our own thirst and give us the strength to carry water down the mountain for others. God is glorified when we attempt great things for him, things that are beyond us, things that require him to show up in awesome and glorious ways so that it is evident to all that he alone deserves the praise for the great thing he has done.

Attempt great things for God. In the attempt, you will see acutely your need. Develop a spiritual appetite – by doing. Drink, and do, and drink some more.

Allow your need, your thirst, your lack to demonstrate and display the weightiness of God, the rock solid substantial-ness of God; let God be glorified as you drink deeply from him and attempt great things for him.

1 Peter 4:11 …—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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

January 23, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church and the Glory of God; Ephesians 1

01/15 The Church and the Glory of God [Ephesians 1]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170115_church-glory-of-god.mp3

We have been looking for the last two weeks at the purpose of the church. We have seen from the book of Ephesians that the church is meant to be rooted and built on the astounding truths of our identity in Christ as believers totally dependent on the mercy and undeserved grace of a good God. We are to know together, “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph.3:17-19).

We as the church are to live in a manner consistent with the gospel and with our new identity as saints in Christ Jesus. We are to put off the old ways that are inconsistent with that, and to put on the new attitudes, new ways of thinking, new ways of feeling and living that are consistent with who we are in Christ Jesus. (Eph.4:17-6:9)

We as the church are to be diligent to guard our unity in the gospel (Eph.4:1-6).

We as the church are to use what we have been given in love to build one another up (Eph.4:7-16).

We are to be equipped for works of service. For building one another up. For unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. For maturity. For the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We are to be equipped against immaturity, against false doctrine, against human cunning and deceitful schemes (Eph.4:12-13).

We as the church are to stand firm, with prayer, in the gospel realities that belong to us in Christ (Eph.6:10-20)

Our focus for the last two weeks has been on who we are as the church, and what we are to be about. Today, I would like to take several long steps back and look at the big picture of why.

What is to be our ultimate goal? What is the reason we do everything we do? Through what lens should we view everything?

We find the answer in Ephesians 1. The very first thing Paul says after greeting the Ephesians is ‘Blessed be God.’ He begins with a benediction or eulogy. Literally a good word; eu means good and logos means word; to speak a good word of God, to praise, to adore. God is to be blessed. God is to be spoken well of. God is to be blessed because he has blessed us with every blessing. God is to be spoken well of because he has spoken well of us when there was nothing at all good to say, because in Christ he has made us good. God is to be blessed. God is to be glorified. Blessed be God.

To the Praise of his Glorious Grace

We could ask the question of our ultimate goal from a different perspective. Why does God do what he does? What is his ultimate goal? If we can understand what motivates God to do what he does, we would do well in adopting the same motive.What is the reason God does everything he does?

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Why does God do what he does? We bless God in response to his blessing us. He chose us so that we would be holy and blameless before him. He predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will. What was the purpose of his will? To the praise of his glorious grace. God chose us, God adopted us, God blesses us, not because we did anything to deserve it, but to the praise of his glorious grace. His grace, the outpouring of unmerited blessing and favor is astounding and worthy of all praise. His grace, the freely given unearned riches of goodness in Christ Jesus is glorious. God does what he does according to the good pleasure of his will, to put his own marvelous character on display. God’s choice of you, his purpose to make you holy and blameless in his presence, his adoption of you as his own sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, is moving toward a bigger purpose. It is all ‘to the praise of his glorious grace!’ It is not about me. It is not about you. We are blessed beyond measure in the process, we receive inestimable benefits; but it is all about God! We are trophies of his grace, ultimately to put his gracious character on display. It is all ‘to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us; literally ‘with which he has graced us in the Beloved’.

Grace Lavished

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Jesus, God’s only Beloved Son, purchased us with his own blood, Jesus secured forgiveness for all our trespasses with his own precious blood. Our forgiveness, our redemption was “according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.” God is rich in grace.

His love has no limits,

His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. [Annie J. Flint, 1866-1932]

God’s grace is rich enough to forgive all our collective trespasses. God’s grace is made to superabound to us, the saints, the church, to put on display his great great grace. We live as forgiven, redeemed people to display his excessive grace.

To Unite All In Him

God makes to abound to us his grace,

Ephesians 1:8 …in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What is the mystery of his will? What is his wise purpose? What is his plan for the fullness of time? To unite all things in him. It is not about us! It is all about Jesus! God’s good pleasure that he purposed in Christ, the mystery of his will made known is to sum up all things; heavenly things, earthly things, all things; nothing is excluded; his purpose is to bring all things together in Christ the head. All things without exception are purposed to bring Jesus glory.

To the Praise of The Glory of the Son

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Our inheritance, our destiny is worked together by the one who works all things according to the purpose of his will. God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s counsel is that we be to the praise of his glory. We exist to the praise of his glory. We whose only hope is Christ, we the saints, we the church, exist to magnify his glory. This is a clear purpose statement. ‘So that we might be to the praise of his glory.’ God’s purpose for us is that we ultimately exist for the praise of his glory. Our purpose as a church must fall in line with God’s purpose for us; we exist for the praise of his glory.

To the Praise of The Glory of the Spirit

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We heard the truth, the good news proclamation of our salvation. We believed in Jesus. Hearing and believing we were sealed. God placed his mark on us, he marked us out as belonging to him. The seal is no ouward mark, but he sent his Holy Spirit to live inside us. God the Holy Spirit is our security deposit guaranteeing the full possession of our inheritance. This Holy Spirit deposit guaranteeing the full possession our graciously promised inheritance is to the praise of his glory. God is praised as God who makes fully good on all his staggering promises.

Triune Glory

Look back over this passage. Three times we have seen this phrase ‘to the praise of his glory.’ God the Father has blessed us and purposed us to be in his presence, to the praise of his glorious grace. Our purpose as those who hope in Christ is that we might be to the praise of the glory of Jesus. We who believed were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit as we wait to take possession of our inheritance, to the praise of the glory of the Holy Spirit. This is trinitarian praise to the glory of our triune God!

The Glory of God in Ephesians

Look down at verses 15-23. Paul gives thanks and prays for the saints, that ‘the Father of glory’ would give us wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, that we would know the hope to which we are called, the riches of his glorious inheritance in us, the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us. And then he points us to Christ, whom God exalted far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named. God gave Jesus as head over all things to the church, his body. We need spiritual strength to perceive the immeasurable greatness of God toward us who believe. The goal of it all is that Jesus be exalted over everything.

Look at chapter 2 verse 7. Paul lays out our utterly hopeless condition and God’s rich mercy, great love, and amazing grace,

Ephesians 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

God saved us in the way that he did, in order to eliminate any potential of boasting on our part, and in order to display for eternity the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us. God brought about our salvation in the way that he did, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, in order that all glory would go to God alone. We are indeed put on display as his workmanship!

He goes on in chapter 2 to describe the unity that God brought about through the gospel of the cross between Jews and Gentiles. We grow up in Christ Jesus, joined together as a holy temple to the Lord, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. God is glorified in his temple, as we the temple are knit together in unexpected unity.

In chapter 3, Paul speaks of his being a minister of the gospel as the gift of God’s grace, given to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light this mystery that Gentiles are members of the same body, partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel. The purpose of displaying the inexplicable unity of Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ is given in verse 10.

Ephesians 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

In the church, the many faceted wisdom of God is put on display for all the angelic hosts to see. In 3:14-19 he again prays to the Father that we would be strengthend by the Spirit to comprehend together the immeasurable love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, and he closes his prayer with a doxology;

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

To God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever. The glory of God is the church’s great aim.

In chapter 4, he encourages our unity, humility and love, and points us to the “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (v.6) and to Jesus, “the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (v.10). We as the church are to grow up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, grow up into Christ the head who joins us all together in love.

He concludes some practical exhortation in chapter 5 the will of the Lord, being filled with the Spirit,

Ephesians 5:19 …singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The will of God for the church is Spirit filled worship and thanksgiving. At the end of chapter 5, he talks about marriage, but his attention is still on Christ and the church. Christ’s goal in the salvation of the church is

Ephesians 5:27 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.

Jesus is looking to that great day when we the church will be presented as a pure virgin to Christ.

In chapter 6, we are to fight the good fight of faith in the strength of the Lord with the power he gives, and in all dependence of prayer, to demonstrate that the victory belongs to the Lord, so that the Lord alone gets the glory.

Romans 15; Glorify with One Voice

I’d like to look as we close at a very practical passage in Romans 15. Paul is dealing with our tendency to pass judgment on others in the body over secondary issues. He says:

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We are not to please ourselves. We are to bear with the failings of others. We are to seek to please others for their good, to build them up. We are to live in harmony with one another, in tune with Christ. Our ultimate purpose?

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

This is a gift of God. God grant us encurance and encouragement to live in such harmony with one another. Glorifying God together with one voice. Not in monotone unity all singing the same note, but in a beautiful multifaceted harmony, all in tune with our one Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s glory is primary. God’s glory is the ultimate purpose of the church. Why do we as the church do what we do? To the praise of his gloryious grace. Why do we not do what we don’t do? To the praise of his glory. The glory of God must define all that we do. What can we use to filter every decision? Will this bring glory to God in the church? God’s glory is the purpose of creation, of redemption, of everything. We as the church must seek to fulfill God’s purpose that we sing his praises and enjoy the supreme glory of our triune God in his presence for all eternity.

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

January 16, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation

11/20 Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161120_leviticus-19_19-37.mp3

Leviticus 19 is about holiness. This chapter commands “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” We are to be holy because God is holy. God is holy, but holiness is one of those words that is a bit elusive. Holiness a difficult concept to define. We need something tangible to understand what holiness means. This chapter gives us a very practical description of what holiness looks like. And holiness touches every area of life. The first 10 verses covers subjects like authority, time, idolatry, worship, and giving. The next 8 verses deal with respect for others, respect for personal property, respect for God’s name, respect for neighbor, for employee, for the disabled, respect for the legal system, respect for those who have personally wronged you.

The final sections deal with topics ranging from agricultural practices, to sexual harassment, the occult, prostitution, holy days, holy places, respect for the elderly, care for immigrants and foreigners, and fair commerce. Holiness is comprehensive. It deals with all of life.

Verses 1-10 fall into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD your God.” Verses 11-18 also divides into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD.” The final section, verses 19-37 is bracketed by the phrase at the beginning of verse 19 “You shall keep my statutes” which is repeated and expanded in verse 37 “And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them“. This sections uses the prases “I am the LORD your God” and “I am the LORD” 4 times each in an alternating ‘abba’ then ‘baab’ pattern.

We are to be holy because the LORD our God is holy. But what holiness looks like for us will differ in many ways from what holiness looks like for God. We are to be holy because God is holy. But our holiness will be the holiness of a creature, where God’s holiness is the holiness of the Creator. We cannot be holy in the ulitmate sense of the word, totally unique, distinct, separate, other; absolutely unique and unparalleled. God’s holiness means that there is no one like God. But we are to be separate, distinct, set apart from sin, from the world.

Leviticus 19 is addressed to the nation of Israel after they had been delivered from Egypt and before they entered the promised land. This chapter gives instructions for what holiness was to look like for them then. What holiness looks like for us will be different in some ways from what holiness looked like for ancient Israel, and in some ways it will be very much the same.

Holiness then as now was never a way to gain favor with God, but rather it is a response to God’s unilateral forgiveness toward sinners, who has made a way for us to enjoy relationship with him. ‘If you love me you will keep my commands’ Jesus said. And we only love because he first loved us. Holiness is a response to God’s grace and love.

Holy Mixture

Leviticus 19:19 “You shall keep my statutes.

You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind.

You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed,

nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

There is no reason given in the text for these commands. This echoes back to the creation where God made plants and animals to bear fruit and reproduce each after its kind [different Hebrew word “miyn”; here “kil’ayim”]. We may get a hint of why in a parallel passage in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 22:9 “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited [lit. become holy] , the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.

The word translated ‘forfeited’ [qadash] is literally ‘become holy,’ or set apart, dedicated to the LORD. Mixtures of different kinds were set apart to the LORD. We know from Exodus 30 that the specific blend of aromatic spices that made up the holy incense was not to be made for common use. We know from Exodus 28 that the holy garments to set apart the priesthood were to be made of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and and fine twined linen. We also learn from Ezekiel’s description in chapters 1 and 10 of the cherubim around God’s throne that they were composite beings, each with the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. So it is possible that these laws were meant to guard the holiness of God’s sanctuary.

Sexual Assault

Leviticus 19:20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the LORD, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.

This is an interesting case. In the very next chapter (Lev.20:10) the consequence for adultery is that both the man and woman are to e put to death. Deuteronomy 22 addresses adultery the same way, then goes on to the case of a man who has relations with a betrothed woman. If it is in the city, where she could have cried for help but didn’t, they are both killed. But if it was in the country only the male is killed because it is assumed that she cried for help but there was no one to rescue her. In the case of a man who has relations with a woman who is not betrothed, he is required to marry her, and to give her father the full bride price. In this chapter, at issue is a slave woman. She has no consequences, because she is not free, and may not have felt she could resist. He is held accountable to the LORD for his actions. He has sinned against the LORD, and must bring a guilt offering Sexual assault against someone who is vulnerable is a sin against the LORD, and the wages of sin is death. In this case, God mercifully accepts the sacrifice of a substitute.

Horticulture and Firstfruits

Leviticus 19:23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God.

Notice this is a law specific to entrance into the land of promise. Literally this says ‘you shall regard its fruit as uncircumcised. A common practice in orchards is to pinch off the buds of young trees for the first years to strengthen them so that they produce more later. The fruit of the fourth year is a specific type of firstfruits offering, a setting apart all the fruit for the Lord, a recognition that every good thing belongs to the Lord and comes from the Lord. It is given back as an offering of praise to the LORD

The Occult

Leviticus 19:26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it.

You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.

27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.

These laws specifically forbid occult practices. Eating blood, interpreting omens, telling fortunes, cutting the edges of the hair or self mutilation were connected to worship of false gods. We have a graphic illustration of this in 1 Kings 18 with the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

God’s people are not to engage in occult practices of any kind, self harm or self mutilation.

Prostitution, Holy Times, Holy Places

Leviticus 19:29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.

30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

Prostitution was often connected with false worship. Greed is a manifestation of false worship. It is demonic for a parent to offer a daughter as a prostitute for the sake of money. Even in desperate poverty, we are to look to the LORD to provide for our needs, and to walk in obedience. God reminds his people of proper worship; keep my Sabbaths. Reverence my sanctuary.

The Occult

Leviticus 19:31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.

We have an example of this in 1 Samuel 28, when Saul was afraid and ‘enquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him’ (v.6), so he turned to a medium to conjure up Samuel from the grave. Attempts to seek information about the future are inappropriate outside of biblical revelation. God is the one who holds the future, and it is his to reveal or conceal what will take place. It is ours to trust him. When we don’t know what will happen, we are to walk in faith filled obedience to what he has told us to do.

Honor the Aged

Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Verse 3 told us we are to fear mother and father. Here we are taught to honor and respect the elderly and fear God. In a culture that questions the value of the elderly and dismisses them as irrelevant we would do well to listen to this instruction. In a culture that considers disrespect as funny and cool, we need to regain a proper fear of the LORD, who tells us to rise before the gray head, and honor the face of the old man.

Love the Stranger

Leviticus 19:33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

This is the counterpart to verses 17 and 18; to the brother or neighbor who wrongs you, love him as yourself. Now we are told; do not wrong a foreigner, but treat him as a native, and love him as yourself. The motive? You know what it is like to be a foreigner and to be mistreated. Love, actively seeking the good of the other, even when it costs us, is to characterize our relationships, especially with those we would tend not to love. We are to love those who have wronged us. We are to love those that are different from us and potentially vulnerable in society. We are not to take advantage of them. Rather we are to treat them as we would want to be treated.

Fair Commerce

Leviticus 19:35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity.

36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

If you’re selling something, describe it accurately. Deal honestly. Do not seek to increase profits by deceit. Why? Because the LORD is God. He is our deliverer, our rescuer, we bear his name, so he can define how we are to conduct ourselves as his representatives.

Live Different

Leviticus 19:37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the LORD.”

God cares how we act. Holiness matters. We are his ambassadors. His representatives. In everything we do. In every area of life. All the time. We are to be men and women of character, of integrity, of love. We are to live in a way that is different than the world.

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

You know how the world works. But it shall not be so among you. Serve others, because Jesus came to serve you. Love others, because Jesus first loved you. Give your life for others, because Jesus gave his life for you.

Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Rather work so you can give. Honor your parents. Honor the elderly. Treat the poor the disabled and the vulnerable with digninty and resepect. Don’t take advantage of anyone. Love your enemies. Love them as you love yourself. Show hospitality to strangers. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Be holy in all your conduct.

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

You belong to God, so glorify God in your body. In everything you do.

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

Holiness touches all of life. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

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

November 22, 2016 Posted by | podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 15; Bodily Discharges

09/18 Leviticus 15; Bodily Discharges; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160918_leviticus-15.mp3

We are in Leviticus 15, a passage I’ve been looking forward to preaching on for some time now. If you’re new, we believe that all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable, so our normal practice here is to pick a book of the Bible and study our way through it, listening for what God has to say to us. Some of our regulars who know this read ahead in the text, and some of them saw what was coming and decided this would be a good week to be out of town. Others of you who read ahead are here out of a morbid sense of curiosity to see what in the world we are going to do with this chapter. The rest of you who don’t read ahead have no idea what you are in for today! Sometimes the worship team asks me what I am going to be preaching on, so they can pick a song that ties in with the main idea of the message. Leviticus 15 is about unclean bodily discharges from the male and female reproductive organs, so I am eager to hear what song they choose to close our service with today, if we make it that far.

~pray~

Before we read through the passage this morning, I want to put in front of you an outline of the chapter, that I believe will help us make sense of it. The Bible is a brilliant literary masterpiece, and there is structure in the text that we often miss if we do not take the time to look carefully. Just reading through the text we might get lost in the gross details and miss the beautiful symmetry of the passage.

Outline:

A. introduction (1-2)

B. abnormal male discharges (2-15)

C. normal male discharges (16-17)

D. male/female intimacy (18)

‘C. normal female discharges (19-24)

‘B. abnormal female discharges (25-30)

‘A. conclusion (31-33)

This chapter is what is called a chiastic or X shaped structure where two halves of the passage mirror one another to demonstrate the fundamental unity in a double sided event or phenomena. This chapter is about human sexuality and it moves from abnormal to normal and climaxes (!) in the intimacy between male and female. The very structure of this passage reminds us of Genesis 1, where

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…

Keep in mind, as we read this chapter, that God created man as male and female, each uniquely and purposefully designed for intimacy within the marriage relationship, and that everything God created was good, and this specifically was ‘very good.’ Also keep in mind that we rebelled against God’s good authority and brought sin and death and disease and brokenness into God’s good creation.

A. introduction:

Leviticus 15:1 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them,

B. abnormal male discharges:

When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean. 3 And this is the law of his uncleanness for a discharge: whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is blocked up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness. 4 Every bed on which the one with the discharge lies shall be unclean, and everything on which he sits shall be unclean. 5 And anyone who touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 6 And whoever sits on anything on which the one with the discharge has sat shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 7 And whoever touches the body of the one with the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 8 And if the one with the discharge spits on someone who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 9 And any saddle on which the one with the discharge rides shall be unclean. 10 And whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until the evening. And whoever carries such things shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 11 Anyone whom the one with the discharge touches without having rinsed his hands in water shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 12 And an earthenware vessel that the one with the discharge touches shall be broken, and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water. 13 “And when the one with a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes. And he shall bathe his body in fresh water and shall be clean. 14 And on the eighth day he shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and come before the LORD to the entrance of the tent of meeting and give them to the priest. 15 And the priest shall use them, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD for his discharge.

C. normal male discharges

16 “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. 17 And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening.

D. male/female intimacy:

18 If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening.

‘C. normal female discharges:

19 “When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20 And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 22 And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. 24 And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.

‘B. abnormal female discharges:

25 “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26 Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her menstrual impurity. 27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 28 But if she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. 29 And on the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting. 30 And the priest shall use one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for her unclean discharge.

‘A conclusion:

31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.” 32 This is the law for him who has a discharge and for him who has an emission of semen, becoming unclean thereby; 33 also for her who is unwell with her menstrual impurity, that is, for anyone, male or female, who has a discharge, and for the man who lies with a woman who is unclean.

God Involved in All of Life

Notice, first of all, this chapter begins with the now familiar words ‘The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying…’ This is God’s very word. This is the LORD God speaking to his people. This chapter is God breathed and profitable. And God is addressing some very personal, very private, very intimate, uncomfortable issues. This is important for us to grasp. God is involved in all of life. We want to compartmentalize. These are the things I talk about at church with my church friends. This is what I talk about when there are kids in the room. This is what I talk about with my spouse. This is what I talk about with the guys at work or at school. There are things I say in one setting that I would never dare to say in a different setting. We keep everything in its box. I punch the clock and put in my time at work, but I don’t bring my work home with me. I put in my time at church this week, but I don’t want to let God into the other areas of my life. There are public things and private things, and what I do in my private life is none of your business and none of God’s business either. This passage screams out ‘wrong!’ What you do in your private life matters greatly to God. God is intimately involved in every area of your life. Here is a familiar verse from Hebrews that is followed by one maybe less familiar that may make you a bit uncomfortable:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Not only are we held accountable for every action, whether public or secret, but we are accountable for the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God knows and God cares about every detail of our lives.

Also, there is no problem too personal that we should feel uncomfortable bringing to God. He knows about it already! He cares. He is eager to help.

Distinction Between Sin and Uncleanness

One thing we need to keep clear in our minds that will keep us from misunderstanding and misinterpreting a passage like this is that uncleanness does not equal sin. There are many things that are normal natural essential parts of life that make one unclean, but that does not mean that the activity is sinful. Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is a good gift given by God, celebrated in the Song of Solomon, commanded in 1 Corinthians 7.

1 Corinthians 7:3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. …5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

As an aside to our single people, if you are engaging in any kind of sexual intimacy, you are sinning against God and against the design of your own body. And to our married people, if you are withholding intimacy from your spouse outside of these very specific circumstances, you are sinning against God and against your spouse.

So if sex is a good gift from God, why did it make you unclean under the old covenant? Remember, clean and unclean are categories which established boundaries of action that kept a person from entering the presence of God in the tabernacle or temple. God was making it very clear that he was not to be worshiped by means of cult prostitution or fertility rites as was common in the religions of Israel’s neighbors. This was another way of drawing a distinction between God’s chosen people and the rest of the world. The danger that Israel constantly battled was the practices of her neighbors creeping in and corrupting the pure worship of God. From the golden calf to the sin with Moab under the direction of Balaam, to the kings of Israel setting up high places, there was a temptation to incorporate sexual practices into the worship of God. This was a way to prevent legitimate normal biological functions from defiling the holy presence of God.

Notice in this text that for the uncleanness caused by intimacy or by normal discharges, there were no sacrifices required, only washing and waiting. For abnormal discharges, a sacrifice was required, demonstrating that the issue was connected with death, decay and the curse, a result of the fall. [See revised outline]

Common Sense Wisdom from God

This passage contains some common sense practical wisdom that we take for granted, but it was way ahead of its time. Notice how frequently this chapter talks about washing in water? This basic hygiene would help prevent the spread of disease. Notice verse 11 stresses the importance of washing ones hands. In 1847 Ignaz Semmelweis made a connection between the high mortality rate in one maternity clinic and doctors who performed autopsies and then delivered babies. He demonstrated that simple hand washing could drastically reduce the mortality rate. His ideas were rejected. And this is some 3,000 years after Leviticus was written!

In this chapter uncleanness can come even through contact with an object that has been in contact with an unclean person. Saliva in verse 8 is seen as something that can convey uncleanness. While being helpful sanitary procedure, this may also help to explain some possible situations that would lead to ‘unintentional sin’ that required sacrifice in the earlier chapters of Leviticus. What if you didn’t know that the place you sat had been made unclean by someone who sat there before you?

Notice also a practical blessing of this passage. A woman during her monthly cycle is unclean for 7 days, which would mean that she was required to take a break and enjoy rest from the normal pressures and responsibilities of daily life.

Jesus Our Healer

But remember, we are not looking to Leviticus to find rules to obey. We are looking to find glimpses of Jesus, because the Bible is all about Jesus. This passage in Leviticus provides the background for an event recorded in Matthew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 8. We will look at Mark’s more detailed account.

Mark 5:24 …And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Some things that Leviticus helps us understand: This woman was not supposed to be in a crowd. Everyone she bumped into in the crowd became unclean until evening. Even Jesus, by her touch would become ceremonially unclean. Her issue was a private thing. No one else knew about it. She apparently did a good job keeping it hidden. But it still affected everyone she came in contact with. They became unclean, and that was dangerous. This explains her ‘fear and trembling’ when she was called out for what she did. Not only fear of how Jesus would respond, but how the whole crowd would respond to her blatant violation of the cleanliness code. This gives greater importance to Jesus’ words ‘go in peace.’

This incident is also a reminder that Leviticus doesn’t give cures for problems. Leviticus identifies the problem and describes the consequences for having the problem, but it doesn’t give any prescription for what to do to fix the problem. If you have the disease, here’s what that means for you in society, and if somehow you get healed here’s the sacrifices you need to offer to be re-connected with God and society. This woman was desperate. She had suffered this chronic condition for 12 years. She was flat broke, having spent all she had seeking some help, but instead she got worse. You see, when we look for help in the wrong places, it often makes things worse.

Jesus is the missing cure for all the diseases in Leviticus. Jesus is the one so powerful that even touching the edge of his clothing in a crowd has transforming power. Jesus,is not defiled by the touch of sinners, but rather reverses the effects of sin. Jesus is YHWH Rapha (Ex.15:26) the Lord our healer.

Jesus ultimately is the one who can bring us back to God.

Leviticus 15:31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”

The danger, graphically illustrated back in chapter 10 with Nadab and Abihu, was that entering God’s presence while in and unfit condition would result in death. God placed his tent in the middle of his people because he desires to be with his people, to be in fellowship with his people. But God is holy, and the presence of God for someone who is unclean is dangerous.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…

Jesus died so that without condoning our sin or compromising God’s perfect holiness, we can be welcomed into the very presence of God. Jesus came and took our sin, took our uncleanness, in order to bring us to God.

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

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glorious Blessed Perfection

03/06 Glorious Blessed Perfection; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160306_glorious-blessed-perfection.mp3

We have been studying our God, the character and nature of God, what he says to us about himself, how he reveals himself to us in his Word. Today we will look at the glorious blessed perfection of God. To say that God is perfect is to say that there is no imperfection, no inadequacy, no lack in his character. Another way to say this is that God is all that he ought to be. He fully comes up to the ideal. He falls short in no area.

Even in our understanding of this we tend to be man-centered. We hear this and automatically think of our conception of who God ought to be, and we are glad to hear that God fully meets our expectations of what we feel he ought to be. This is arrogance; this is idolatry, to elevate our opinions above God and demand that he submit to our ideas of what is best and right. No, to say that God is perfect is to say that God fully meets his own idea of what it means to be God. There is no standard outside of God that God must live up to. God is his own standard.

If I were to ask you that question; ‘Are you all that you ought to be?’ I wonder how you would answer. Some might say ‘I’ve never even thought about a question like that. I’ve never stopped to think about what I ought to be.’ Others may answer ‘Of course I’m not perfect, but I think I am doing well. I contribute to society, try not to hurt others, and live a happy life.’ Many of us would probably answer something like this: ‘No, there are so many areas where I fall short of my own standards, I know my flaws, I am acutely aware of my shortcomings. I wish I could change this or fix that area of my life. I am striving, growing, moving forward, but I am not all that I ought to be.’ If we all examine ourselves carefully, we can all identify areas of potential improvement. But think of this. God is all that he ought to be. There are no areas in which he could do better, no areas of potential improvement. He is perfect. He is perfectly satisfied with his own character. He never looks back on an interchange and says ‘I wish I had responded differently than I did.’

Some people read things God has done or said, and they wish he were different than he was. They arrogantly presume that they could improve on his character. But to wish he were different than he is is to wish he were less than he is. He is absolute perfection, and any change from what he is would be to introduce a flaw, an imperfection.

Perfect, Lacking Nothing

James tells us that trials produce character with the end that we ‘may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing’ (1:4). When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus pointed him to the commandments.

Matthew 19:20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The man was aware of a lack, something in which he did not measure up. Trials produce steadfast character and mature or complete or perfect us. To be perfect means to have no lack, no shortcoming, no flaw, to fully live up to what we were meant to be. This helps us understand what Jesus meant when he said:

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This does not mean that we must become gods as our heavenly Father is God. That would contradict the very nature of God, that there is and can be only one true God. But God is perfect, he has no lack. God is fully what he ought to be as God. We as humans are to be perfect, complete, mature, fully what we were made to be as humans, fully reflecting the image and glory of God, living wholeheartedly to love God and bring him glory.

Ezekiel 28, speaking of Lucifer’s fall, says:

Ezekiel 28:12 …Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; …On the day that you were created they were prepared. …14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.

This anointed cherub was perfect. His perfection was to perfectly be what he was created to be, to cry out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ to bring praise and glory and praise to Almighty God. He did not become perfect, he was created perfect, but he abandoned his perfection; we are told: ‘unrighteousness was found in you.’ Verse 2 said “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god”. Isaiah 14 tells us he said in his heart “I will ascend to heaven… I will set my throne on high… I will make myself like the Most High.”

To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is to be fully what we were created to be, just as God is perfectly what he ought to be as God. It is not, like Lucifer, to lift oneself up and strive to become equal with God in power and glory. That would be to deviate in the most loathsome way from what we ought to be.

Perfection of All His Attributes

God is perfect. He lacks nothing. He is all that he ought to be.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

God is perfect in every way. His way is perfect. His works are perfect. God is perfect in his being, in his essence. God is perfectly self-existent, he is not dependent on anything outside himself. God is unchanging; he cannot improve, and he will not decrease in his perfections. God had no beginning and will have no end; he is perfectly eternal. God is spirit, completely present everywhere. God is tri-une, three persons yet one God, perfect in relationship. God is perfect in power, perfect in freedom, perfect in wisdom and knowledge. God is perfectly set apart. He is perfect in goodness, perfect in mercy, perfect in grace, perfectly compassionate, perfect in steadfast covenant keeping love, perfectly just, perfectly faithful, perfectly true. God is perfect in all his character, all his attributes. And in the perfection of his attributes and being, he is not a composite or conglomerate of differing attributes; he is one. He is. He is who he is, he is God. He is not made up of parts, pasted together, some parts in tension with others. No, he is perfectly one.

Glory

The perfection of God is a glorious perfection. The Bible talks much about the glory of God. We were created for the glory of God (Is.43:7). We are to glorify God in our bodies (1Cor.6:20). We are to do everything we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31). We are to ‘live in harmony with one another’…

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

We are to ‘glorify God for his mercy’ (Rom.15:9). We believe, and we speak,

2 Corinthians 4:15 …so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Financial gifts are given ‘for the glory of the Lord himself’ (2Cor.8:19). The conversion of a persecutor led the leaders of the church ‘to glorify God because of me’ (Gal.1:24). In Ephesians 1, the eternal purposes of God for salvation are ‘to the praise of his glory’ (v.6, 12, 14). God is ‘the Father of Glory’ (Eph.1:17); He strengthens us to comprehend his love ‘according to the riches of his glory’ (Eph.3:16). Our ‘fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ is to the glory and praise of God’ (Phil.1:11). One day ‘at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth …to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil.2:10-11). The eternal punishment of 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 is to be ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.’ The blessed hope of the believer is ‘the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ’ (Titus2:13). When our faith is proved genuine by fire it ‘results in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. (1Pet.1:7). Our conduct and good deeds bring glory to God (1Pet.2:12). When we utilize our gifts to serve one another by the strength that God supplies, it is ‘in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen’ (1Pet.4:11). When we suffer for being a Christian, we are to ‘glorify God in that name’ (1Pet.4:16). God’s glory is primary throughout Scripture. That is why the Westminster shorter catechism begins with the statement on our main purpose, ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ The Bible is peppered with doxology; ascribing glory to God.

Romans 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

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

Jude 1:25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Revelation 5:12 … “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Revelation 7:12 … “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

What is Glory?

So what is the glory of God? What is glory? From the passage in Exodus 33-34 that we have been studying, when Moses requests to see the glory of God, and God’s glory passes by while Moses is covered in the cleft of the rock, God declares his name, his character to Moses.

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

The glory of God is the perfection of his being and attributes. Isaiah 42 says:

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

God’s glory is parallel with his praise. In Isaiah 66:19, God’s glory is parallel to his fame declared among the nations. God’s glory is the full perfection of who God is, his fame, his praise, his renown. In 1 Corinthians 15, the word glory is used to describe varying brightness of stars. The glory of God is said to give light in Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21. 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 compare the radiance of Moses’ face when he served under the law with the glory that comes with the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

And in 2 Corinthians 4 he says:

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.

The light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Glory is the radiant brilliance of who God is blazing forth in splendor. Notice, the knowledge of the glory of God comes in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus communicated to us most clearly the character and nature of God.

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. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Hebrews 1 tells us Jesus:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…

The radiance of the glory of God is the brilliant display of the manifold perfections of the nature and character of God.

Blessed Perfection

The glorious perfection of God is a blessed perfection. When God answers Daniel’s prayers, Daniel blesses God and says:

Daniel 2:20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.

And he goes on to extol the great power and worth of God. In Psalm 72, Solomon blesses God as he prays for the Messianic king.

Psalm 72:17 ​May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! 18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. 19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!

This Psalm is a prayer that the Messianic king reflect the character of God, and bring good to all who are under his rule. What does it mean to be blessed? For those who are under the Messiah’s rule, it means good will come to them. They will find justice, righteousness, prosperity, deliverance, protection, peace; they will flourish. It was promised to Abraham that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Good would come to them through him. Psalm 21 connects the blessings of the king with joy and gladness.

Psalm 21:2 You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. — Selah 3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head. …6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

In the beatitudes, Jesus contrasted the blessedness of the poor, the hungry, those who weep and are hated and persecuted with woe to those who are rich and full, who laugh and are well spoken of (Luke 6:20-26). Good things, great joy, will come to those who are blessed. But there will be terrible woe, pain and misery on those who experience their good only in this life. If for us to be blessed means to experience good and great joy, primarily and ultimately the joy of God’s presence, then what does it mean for God to be blessed? When we bless God, we ask that good and great joy come to him. But where does blessing come to God from? Does it originate in us? Of course, we can do what we were made for and give glory to God, and this brings him great pleasure. In Luke 15 Jesus tells us there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. But ultimately even this does not originate with us.

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Even in Romans 1, where the wrath of God is revealed against truth suppressors who exchange the glory of God for images, who exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, even there God is declared to be ‘blessed forever! Amen (Rom.1:25). God is blessed forever in spite of the rebellion of his creation. God is full of great joy. Where does this come from? If our blessedness is ultimately found in the joy of God’s presence, where do you think God’s greatest joy comes from? God’s joy is not ultimately dependent on his creation, whether rebel or repentant. God’s greatest joy is the unshakable joy of his own presence. To say that God’s perfection is a blessed perfection is to say that God is delighted with his own perfect character and nature. God’s glorious name is blessed forever, and this was true before he brought anything into existence. God’s ultimate happiness is not dependent on his creation, or on anything outside of himself.

In 1 Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to defend the sound doctrine that is:

1 Timothy 1:11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

The good news is good news of the glory of God. The radiant brilliance of God’s nature and character as seen in our Lord Jesus Christ is good news. Sound doctrine is according to the good news of the glory of the blessed God. It is good news that God is blessed, that good comes to God, that he is filled with great joy, primarily the joy of his own presence, the eternal satisfaction and delight within the persons of the one triune God. God is fully pleased with the perfections of his own glorious nature and this is very good news for us.

Proverbs 18:10 ​The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

We will close with the doxology from 1 Timothy 6 that praises God who is happy, delighted to be who he is, filled with joy at the glory of his own infinite perfections; the blessed and only sovereign.

1 Timothy 6:13 …of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, …15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

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

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Holy Holy God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God says in Leviticus 22:

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

And in Ezekiel 39:

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

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

What does Holy Mean?

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

I The Lord Am Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delighting in God’s Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 29 says:

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

Psalm 96 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

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

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

Listen to Isaiah 57:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God All Knowing and Wise

11/29 God All-Knowing and Wise [omniscience] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151129_god-all-knowing-wise.mp3

We are spending some time savoring together what God tells us about himself. He is the most perfect being, and to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment. We have the pleasure of enjoying a blood-bought relationship with this God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are pointed back to the character and nature of God as the foundation for our lives, for hope in troubled times, as an anchor for our souls. We are warned of the dangers and consequences of believing false things about God or imagining him to be other than he is. We want to know God, to see what he has said about himself, to worship him in truth.

The Good News of Omniscience

Last time we looked at the power of God, the freedom and authority of God. God is sovereign. God has the right and ability to rule over his creation however he sees fit, and that is good news because he is good and only does what is best.

Today we will look at the wisdom and knowledge of God. The Bible teaches us that God ‘is perfect in knowledge’ (Job37:16); that ‘he knows everything’ (1Jn.3:20); Peter told Jesus ‘Lord, you know everything’ (Jn.21:17); Solomon addresses God ‘you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind’ (1Ki.8:39); the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 ​Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This is terrifying to those who do not know the forgiveness that comes only through a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows my heart, and my heart is ‘deceitful and desperately sick’ (Jer.17:9-10). I must ‘give account for every careless word’ I speak (Mt.12:36). But to those who do know him, this is good news indeed! He knows everything about me, and he loves me anyway?! He will never find out something about me that he doesn’t already know, that would cause him to turn away from me? There is nothing I will do in the future that he doesn’t already know, that would change his heart toward me? Truly, as David said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity… (Romans 4:7-8)

God who Cannot Learn

We stand amazed at a God who is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God does not fully know. God cannot increase in knowledge, because he is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God must learn. God will never be surprised, or caught off guard by new information.

So often our decisions are just plain bad. Have you ever made a bad decision? We make the best decisions we can based on the information we have, but we never have all the information. And the information we do have, we do not always know how to best utilize it. Have you ever said after the fact, ‘well that would have been really helpful to know’?

When I was younger, my mom used to make homemade frosting, and put it in these little orange Tupperware containers in the fridge. I would often spread some on a graham cracker for an after school snack. One day I remember coming home from school, opening the fridge, grabbing the little orange container, scooping up a finger full of the ‘frosting’ and popping it in my mouth, only to learn too late that this little orange container did not contain frosting, it was lard! That would have been nice to know before I stuck some in my mouth!

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

Sometimes our decisions are based on bad information. Did you know that sometimes people will tell you only part of the story in hopes that you will make the decision they want you to make? We have learned this through the challenging process of raising kids. ‘Dad, my brother sat on me and tried to scratch my eyes out! Look what he did to me!’ Your sense of justice is roused and you let the gavel fall. Then, through the tears, you come to find out that there is another side to this story. The ‘victim’ had been ruthlessly taunting and provoking her brother to the point where out of sheer frustration he responded the way he did. There is guilt on both sides. Sometimes people are less than truthful. How do you know who is telling you the truth? How do you know if it is the whole truth? God is never left to wonder. God knows the truth. God sees the thoughts and intents of the heart. God is never duped into making a judgment based on false information. God is perfect in knowledge.

God and ‘Chance’

But even if we had access to all the information, even if we had all the facts, we still can’t know what will happen in the future. Companies spend lots of money on surveys and statistical studies and analyzing trends and data and probabilities, but in the end, they have to roll the dice and take a chance. God never takes a chance. God ‘declares the end from the beginning’ (Is.41:22-26; 46:9-10).

It is true that the Bible talks of God as ‘regretting’ or ‘repenting’ or ‘changing his mind’ (Gen.6:5-7); but should we understand this to mean that God didn’t know what would happen before it happened? Should we understand that God took a chance and was surprised and caught off guard by what happened, and through the experience learned some things, and needed to quickly come up with plan B? God is grieved by the sinful choices of his creatures; he responds differently to disobedience than he does to obedience, but he is not surprised. He does not regret in the sense that he wishes he had had access to better information on which to base his actions.

Proverbs 16:33 ​The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

In fact, there is no such thing as chance. God’s providence rules the world, he determines the outcome of every roll of the dice. ‘Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’ Jesus said (Mt.10:29). We can take comfort that the things we view as chance are in the omnipotent hand of an all wise God who loves us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, even death, even the uncertainties of the future, (Rom.8:35-39) God will work even these things together for our good.

God Aloof or Involved?

In Psalm 139, the Psalmist expresses amazement at the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

God knows all my actions, even insignificant ones. God knows all my thoughts. God knows my plans, my habits. God knows how I will respond to any given situation. God knows everything I will ever say before I ever say it.

But is God a passive spectator? An all-wise sideline observer? He never interferes, right?

5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 ​Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

This word ‘to hem in’ means to bind, confine, cramp, enclose, shut in, secure. This seems to indicate that God is not passively watching, but is actively involved. And the Psalmist responds that this knowledge is wonderful.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 ​If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

God is present to lead, guide, or govern; and to hold, grasp, seize, take possession of, or enclose.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 ​even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 ​My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 ​If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Every day of my life was written in God’s book before I existed! Every one of my days was formed as a potter forms the clay. There is no room here for the god of the deist, who set creation in motion, and then passively observes from a distance, aloof and uninvolved. God is intimately involved in our lives, leading, holding, hemming in, forming. And this is a good thing. God’s thoughts are incalculably great and precious, treasured, valuable.

The Psalmist concludes with a glad invitation to God’s interference in his life.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

God’s knowing is not a mere distant awareness of facts, but an involved nurturing protecting directing care.

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

God knows all things, even what might have been, had things been different than they are. In Jeremiah 38:14-23, God reveals to King Zedekiah what will happen if he surrenders to the King of Babylon, and warns of what will happen if he does not surrender. In 1 Samuel 23:10-13, God tells David what Saul will do, and how the people of the city he is hiding in will respond when Saul comes to seek him, so David and his men escape from the city.

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

Matthew 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus tells us what might have been if things had been different. If Jesus had done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, or in Sodom, they would have repented, and they would not have been destroyed. We are left to ask why? Why, if God knew that they would have repented, did he not send Jesus to them? God did not lack the power to act differently than he did. Jesus could have done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom. God could have acted differently to bring about different results; however for his own wise and good purposes, he always chooses to bring about the highest good. It is right and good and wise to punish evil, and although God did not do all he could do to bring about their salvation, he also did not leave them without a witness. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, and Zechariah prophesied against Tyre and Sidon. Peter says:

2 Peter 2:6 …by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter holds up ‘righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ (2Pet.2:7-8); Lot who was rescued from Sodom as an example that ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment’ (2Pet.4:9)

This is a sobering reminder that God is not obligated to save anyone. God is able to save, but he is wise and just to punish evildoers, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should thank God that he does not give us what we deserve.

Jesus in the next verses of Matthew 11 responds to this with praise to God:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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 rejoices (Lk.10:21) at his Father’s gracious will to hide these things from some and reveal them to others. In the same breath he invites all who recognize their need to come to him and find rest for their souls.

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks of the seeming foolishness of the message of the cross, which is in reality the power and wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The good news of the cross seems foolish to the perishing, but God uses this foolish message to confound the wise and save all who humbly believe. God in his wisdom saves in this way ‘so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’.

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

In Romans 11, Paul responds to the wisdom of God’s plan with a shout of praise, his wisdom to show mercy to both Jew and Gentile, even when this means that many Jews will reject Jesus for a time in order to open a door of salvation to the Gentiles, so that God may show mercy to all.

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! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

God is deep and rich in wisdom and knowledge. He does not need advice. His ways and judgments are inscrutable and unsearchable. Everything he does wisely moves toward the one overarching purpose of bringing him glory. From him and through him and to him are all things.

Ephesians 1 talks about God’s wise purpose to bring praise to his glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God works all things according to the purpose of his will, in all wisdom and insight, to the praise of his glory. Our salvation is according to his wise purpose, according to his wise counsel, to bring praise to his glory. Paul goes on to pray that we might have eyes enlightened to know the riches of our hope, our inheritance, his power toward us who believe; that we might know him.

In chapter 3 of Ephesians, Paul spells out for us what is the mystery of his will, that Jews and Gentiles together are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (3:6). The many faceted wisdom of God is made know to everyone through the church according to God’s eternal purpose (3:10-11). Paul uses this as motive to not be discouraged in the face of suffering, and he prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the immeasurable love of Christ to us (3:13-19). He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

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

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment