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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 2:24-30; The Humility of the Messenger

06/13_Daniel 02:24-30 The Humility of the Messenger; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210613_dan02_24-30.mp3

Daniel and his friends are on death row, because king Nebuchadnezzar demanded of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans that they give him not only the interpretation of his dream, but he would test their authenticity by demanding they tell him the dream that he dreamed. Their response? “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand …no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (v.10-11).

Dependence

But Daniel knows the God who is Immanuel, God with us.

Daniel 2:16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel received what the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. Daniel was granted time to give the interpretation to the king. But Daniel didn’t depend on his own abilities and gifting. He sought mercy from the God of heaven. And he didn’t go it alone. He asked his friends to join him in prayer.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

Grace and Gratitude

But Daniel doesn’t rush off to Arioch with the good news. He sought mercy, because he knew what he deserved. As a sinner before God he deserved hell. God doesn’t owe us anything but justice, and we don’t want that. We want mercy and we want grace. We don’t want what we deserve; instead we want what we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Daniel understood God’s mercy, so he pursued mercy with his friends in prayer. And because he really had a grasp on grace and mercy, because he really understood what he deserved, he responds to grace with gratitude. Those that think themselves entitled to good things in this life are more prone to take for granted God’s blessings and fail to give him thanks. But Daniel had a firm grasp on grace, and so his heart overflowed with gratitude.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel worships. Daniel received a gift he didn’t deserve, and he doesn’t fail to give God thanks and praise. He worships God for his character, and he gives him thanks for specifically answering his prayer.

Confidence and Compassion

Daniel 2:24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

Daniel showed great confidence. But he also showed great compassion. He was confident in his God, in God’s answer to his prayer. He was bold to go before the angry and very furious king rather than run away from him, because he knew God had given him what the king required. But he was also compassionate. Remember what he prayed for? ‘Seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon’ (v.18). Now he asks; rather he commands the executioner not to destroy any of the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel could have played his cards differently here. He could have anticipated that his access to the one true God through prayer would arouse jealousy in the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans, and that jealousy could get he and his friends in trouble; maybe thrown in a lion’s den or into a fiery furnace. Daniel could have seized this opportunity to secure his unrivaled position. God had proved the wisdom of the wise men of Babylon bankrupt, and Daniel could have used this situation to secure the destruction of all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans. He could have encouraged Arioch and the king to follow through with the threat; tear them all limb from limb and bury their houses in excrement. The God of the Hebrews is the one true God and all others are false deceivers.

But instead, Daniel shows compassion. He understands the character of God, that he is ‘slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). He is ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9).

Daniel reflects the character of God here. The wise men of Babylon don’t deserve to be spared, but Daniel seeks to protect them, to extend mercy to them, to give them time to repent and turn to the one true God. He seeks to protect those who under Old Testament law deserve death.

Deuteronomy 18:10 There shall not be found among you …anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD….

Daniel understands that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom.3:23); that he is really no better, that he too deserves the wrath of God. And this gives him compassion toward other sinners.

The Triumph of True Wisdom

Daniel actually commands the captain of the king’s guard to disobey the orders of the king. Nebuchadnezzar had given the order ‘and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed’ (v.12). Here in verse 24, Daniel commands Arioch ‘Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon.’ Daniel is the one with true wisdom, who is really in charge, even overriding the edict of the king.

We see the king whose spirit was troubled, who can’t sleep, who is angry and very furious, making unreasonable demands and reacting in irrational extremes. We see all the wise men of Babylon at a loss, confessing their own incompetence. We see Arioch flip-flopping, going to carry out the king’s command, but then taking orders from a captive of Israel in direct disobedience to the king.

And we see Daniel on death row, yet calm, cool and collected, answering with prudence and discretion, seeking and gaining audience with the king. Then in humble dependence, seeking God in prayer together with other believers, responding to God’s gracious answer first with worship and praise, then confident and bold, overriding the rash command of the king, requesting audience with the king to meet his demands with wisdom that can only come from the God of heaven.

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

Arioch’s Power Grab

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”

This was a risk for Arioch; if Daniel failed, he would be putting his own neck on the line. He was himself persuaded by the confidence and compassion of Daniel.

Notice how Arioch seeks to promote himself. In haste he goes before the king and claims credit; ‘I have found a man…’ Really it was Daniel who had questioned the urgency, interrupted the executions, and offered to interpret. But such is the nature of humanity, that we seek credit when no credit is due.

The King’s Demand Re-stated

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”

The king wants to be sure that Daniel is not just going to feed him a standard textbook interpretation from some dream manual. He wants to know if Daniel can meet his demand that all his wise men claimed ‘no man on earth could meet …only the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.’ ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?’

Impossibility Affirmed

Daniel’s answer is shocking, and I imagine Arioch went deathly pale as he heard Daniel begin by answering ‘No.’ His jaw must have hung open as he saw the king’s rage begin to return.

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,

Daniel affirms that what the wise men said was true.

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, 11 …The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

The king must have begun to seethe. ‘You delay my executions, you ask for time, and you come back with the same line that the rest of the wise men gave me?’ He may have shot a sideways glare toward Arioch who had just confidently presented Daniel as the answer to the king’s demand. Daniel admits his own incompetence, along with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

But God

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

But God… When there is no human hope, God steps in.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, … 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

We need to feel the hopelessness of our situation before we are ready to hear where hope can be found. None is righteous, no not one. Every mouth must be stopped (Rom.3:10, 19).

The Humility of the Messenger

Daniel wanted Nebuchadnezzar to recognize his hopelessness outside of God. There is no hope outside of God. Nebuchadnezzar was looking to his wise men, enchanters, magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers to give him what he needed. His focus now turned to Daniel, and Daniel deflected the king’s gaze from himself to God. No wise man can do this, but there is a God in heaven. He is the one to whom you must look. Don’t look at me. Look instead to God.

Where Arioch sought to grab some of the credit, Daniel refused to take any. He knew where hope was to be found, and it wasn’t in him. Daniel together with his friends sought mercy from the God of heaven, and when mercy came from the God of heaven, Daniel wasn’t about to interpose himself, as if he were the source of anything.

Daniel understood mercy. Daniel had received an undeserved gift, so Daniel first gave thanks back to God, and then Daniel showed appropriate humility before the king.

God in Heaven who Reveals Mysteries [Elah Shamayin Gelah Raz]

Daniel 2:27 …“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.

God is the mystery revealer. God is the one who made known to the king what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be. God is history writer;

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 …I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God can say with absolute certainty what will happen, even in the far distant future, because he is sovereign over history. He accomplishes his purpose; what he says he himself will bring about.

Liberal scholarship wants to attribute the accurate world history unfolded in Daniel to a nameless writer after the fact, at the time of the Maccabees, pretending to be Daniel and writing already completed history as if it were prophecy. But this is to deny the very character of the God who Reveals Secrets.

This is one way God shows us who he is.

Jesus gave this authentication to his disciples:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am [he].

Authentication. Believe that I AM, I am God and there is no other, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done. I am telling you now, before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe that I AM.

We need to sit up and listen, because God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar (and to Daniel, and through Daniel to us) ‘what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be.’ God is revealing something that spans history, up to the very end of time. The book of Revelation in the New Testament expands this vision;

Revelation 4:1 … I will show you what must take place after this.”

Not Anything in Me; Conduits of Glory

We are going to have to wait to get into the content of this dream.

Daniel 2:30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel wants to be clear; this is not about me. It is not my wisdom. It is not that I have more wisdom than anyone else. It is not that I am better than all your wise men. Listen to his tender hearted humility! God is simply using me as a conduit through which he can bring his truth to the world. We are nothing more than anyone else; mere conduits of God’s grace. May we always remember that we are only ever recipients of mercy, may he fill us with humble gratitude, and may he see fit to use us as conduits to bring his grace to a hurting and broken world.

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

June 19, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrection Realities – Romans 6

03/28 Resurrection Realities – Romans 6; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210404_resurrection-realities.mp3

Resurrection Realities

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s the cool thing about Christian holidays; they are not merely commemorative; they don’t merely look back and remember some event in the past. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter; they don’t merely look back with fondness and sentiment on an historical event. No, they powerfully change our present reality! If we merely look back at the incarnation, the cross and the empty tomb as facts of history, we are missing out! These are present realities we as believers live in.

Christmas means that the God who is, the God who created everything, so loved us that he came down, he became one of us, so as one of us he could die in our place. That’s what Good Friday is about, that he took my sins on himself, that he died the death I deserve, that he paid my price in full. Easter Sunday is the Father’s seal that the finished work of Christ on the cross was accepted, that what he did was sufficient.

Romans 6:4 tells us that ‘Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father’, and the rest of Romans 6 tells us that the resurrection of Jesus has implications for us today in how we live our lives. Romans 6 also connects Christian baptism (which we are going to witness today) with Christ’s death and resurrection. Listen to Romans 6:4-5

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The resurrection of Jesus is where we as followers of Jesus find the power to live for the glory of God. Let’s look at this passage, at the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, and at what this means for us today.

Raised by the Glory of the Father

Romans 6:4 says that Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This is a unique expression, probably not what we would expect. We might expect him to say that Jesus was raised by the power of the Father, but what does it mean to say that Jesus was raised by means of or through the glory of the Father? The glory of God is the outward manifestation of who God is; his splendor and power and greatness that causes us to be in awe and wonder. And Romans is all about God’s glory.

The Glory of God in Romans

Romans begins by condemning us, who suppress the truth about God, his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature (1:18-20). We did not honor God as God or give him thanks, but instead exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (1:21-23). We were meant to reflect the glory of God, to bear his image, to put on display his invisible attributes, in the way that Jesus described:

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

But we all fail to do this properly. We fail to live for the glory of God.

Romans 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We don’t naturally give God glory; we are inclined to steal glory for ourselves or to glorify lesser things.

In Romans 4 Abraham’s faith is held up as an example of a life that brings glory to God. We are told that Abraham ‘believed God’ (4:3); he did not work.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

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

If he worked, if he earned something, he would have ‘something to boast about’ (4:2). But depending on the finished work of another gives glory to the one who does the work for him.

In Romans 5, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

In Romans 8, we look forward to being restored to the glory for which we were created, the glory of properly reflecting God’s image in such a way that he gets all the glory (Rom.8:17-30).

In Romans 11, Paul interjects this doxology:

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In Romans 15, he points to practical ways to live life to bring glory to God (Rom.15:5-9), and he closes the book with this doxology:

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

We were created to reflect God’s glory. In our self-seeking, we failed to glorify God with our lives. Jesus came to defend the honor of his Father and restore us to our proper place in his creation, to bring glory to God. Jesus took our sins, paid the ultimate price to demonstrate the magnitude of our dishonor toward God and the infinite worth of God, and God’s glory was put on display in raising Jesus from the dead.

Romans 6 in the Argument of Romans

In order to understand these verses in Romans 6, we need to locate them in the flow of thought of the book of Romans. Paul has demonstrated in chapters 1 and 2 that although we were designed to reflect God’s glory, we have miserably failed. Both Jews and non-Jews have failed to live up to the standard they had been given. No one is righteous; all fall short of giving God the glory that is his due.

In the middle of chapter 3, we are introduced to a different kind of righteousness, a righteousness not our own,

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

This is a righteousness that comes to sinners as a free gift from God, paid for in full by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

Chapter 4 shows that this gift of God’s own righteousness given to all who believe is not contrary to, but connected with the Old Testament examples of Abraham and David. Righteousness does not come from keeping the law, but even the law points us to this alien righteousness that is graciously credited to our account.

Chapter 5 revels in the fact that the peace we have with God by God’s grace is so unshakable that no trial, no sin, not even death can now separate us from God. Chapter 5 concludes by pointing to the fact that the law was intended to demonstrate our sinfulness by increasing our trespasses, and this dark soil of our sinfulness was the very place where God’s free grace could thrive.

Romans 6

So the question we find at the beginning of chapter 6 flows out of this truth.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

If God’s grace is magnified by the black backdrop of my sin, if an increase in sin causes grace to abound, then should I continue in my sinning to increase the glory of God? Paul’s answer to this is the strongest possible negative.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Choosing to continue in sin would actually detract from the transforming power of God’s grace. That is the truth he takes us to in Romans 6.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The fact that Paul points us to is that we who are believing in Jesus and receiving the free gift of his righteousness are not only forgiven of all our sins and declared righteous before God (we are justified by faith) but also that the power of God’s free grace in our lives actually changes the way we live. When we believe, we are united with Christ, and that extends to his death and resurrection.

The Greek word ‘baptizo’ means ‘to immerse.’ When we believe in Jesus, we are immersed into his death. That’s the spiritual reality. Water baptism is a picture of what has happened to us spiritually. We were baptized into Christ Jesus, or immersed into Christ Jesus. We become connected with Jesus, united with Jesus, saturated with Jesus. We are united with him in his death. What this means for us right now is that we have died to sin, so we cannot be at home with it. We were buried with him in his death. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we are given the power to walk in a new kind of life. Since we have died to sin, and since we have been raised with Christ, we today can live different. Christ Jesus is alive in us. He continues in verse 6:

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

God’s grace has broken the power of sin in my life. The me who did the sinning is dead and buried. I am no longer enslaved; I have been set free from sin. Because I am united with Christ, the me I used to be is crucified and gone. If we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. We look forward to the day when we will be raised from the dead and live with him for eternity. His death killed our sin. His resurrection promises our resurrection. This truth breaks the power of sin in our lives.

Imperative follows Indicative

His question was ‘should we continue in sin’, and his answer was an emphatic no, and he gave solid theological reasons; our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.

So far this is all theological truth. Paul is telling us what has happened to us when we believed in Jesus. He hasn’t told us to do anything yet. That comes next. But it is essential to see that everywhere in the Bible our action is the fruit of theological truth. The imperative always flows out of the indicative. The Bible lays out the indicative, the facts, the truth of who we are in Christ, of what Jesus has done for us, and then, in response to that we are given the imperatives, the commands, how we are to live our lives. All Christian action is rooted in and flows out of the theological truth of what God has done for us. Here is our action that flows out of the truth of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and our being united to him by faith.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

First, we are commanded to believe the theological truth. I don’t feel very dead to sin. Most days, I feel that sin still has a lot of power over me. But that is not the gospel truth. The good news is that Jesus died for me, and the sinful me died with Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead and because I am united with him by faith, I too will certainly be resurrected to be with him forever. First, I must believe the gospel truth, that in Christ I am dead to sin and alive to God. And because this is true of me, I can begin to live out this truth. Because this is true, I can rebel against sin. I can reject its authority. I can refuse to obey sin’s passions. I can refuse to use my body to do evil; instead I can take this body that has been given new life as a free gift from God, and present my body back to God as a tool to do what is right. I can do this because of my union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Through the power of the resurrection, I am now alive to God.

Romans 7 says:

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Because of my death and resurrection, I am under new ownership. I am free from my old master – free to bear fruit for God.

Romans 8 says:

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

This is life-transforming truth. The resurrection life giving Spirit of God lives in me. He gives life to this body of death. I am animated by the Spirit of God. The resurrection is not just an historical fact; it is a present reality. I have resurrection power at work in me. The Spirit of God gives life to me right now to live a transformed life.

If

As we close, I want to draw your attention back to a very important little word that shows up in 6:5 and 8 and 8:10 and 1l. That word is ‘if’.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his… 8 Now if we have died with Christ…

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you,… 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…

This ‘if’ is crucial. ‘If’ asks a question. Is this true of you? If you have not been united with Jesus in his death, you will not be united with him in resurrection. If you have not died with Christ, you have no reason to believe that you will ever live with him. You only have a fearful expectation of the judgment and wrath of Almighty God against your sin. Have you received his free and gracious gift by faith? Have you stopped working, stopped trying to earn and started trusting in the finished work of Jesus? Have you been united to Christ by faith?

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

April 7, 2021 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn

02/14_2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210214_2cor12_7.mp3

It’s valentines day, and providentially we’re in 2 Corinthians 12, the passage about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. So to make the connection I thought I’d use a corny cliché to title this message; every rose has its thorn.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul’s Parody of Boasting

Paul is engaged in foolish boasting to combat the dangerous servants of Satan that were promoting a kind of celebrity leadership based on alleged private (and hence unverifiable) spiritual experiences. God appeared to me, God told me, I had a dream, I experienced a vision, I’ve been entrusted with a word from the Lord; therefore you need to listen to what I have to say, you need to follow me, do what I say.

Private visions, private revelations may benefit the one who experienced them, but they do not establish spiritual authority. Paul does everything he does to be beneficial, useful, to build up the church. He says there is nothing to be gained from boasting in visions and revelations. No benefit to the church. It might sell a book or pack out a room, but it won’t build anyone up.

In this mock parody of the false apostles false boasting, he starts in 11:16-22 by boasting in his own heritage, but then he quickly moves to say that he is a greater servant of Christ, because he suffered more than others in his service to his Lord.

They expect divine supernatural authentication, so he brings up his Damascus experience, but instead of recounting his Damascus road vision of the risen Christ, he recounts his disgraceful and laughable escape from the city, being let down under cover of night through the wall in a basket.

In chapter 12 he lifts our expectations by saying that he will go on to visions and revelations. He gives us his experience, but in the third person; it’s not Paul the great apostle, but simply a man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven, to paradise, who heard inexpressible words that he is not allowed to speak. He doesn’t give any description of what he saw, he can’t tell us what he heard. He doesn’t claim that in any way it authenticates his ministry; rather it is an experience that belongs ultimately to anyone who is in Christ.

Paul’s Fear

2 Corinthians 12:5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Paul’s fear is that if he were to boast of his supernatural experience, someone might think more highly of him that is warranted. They might think of him as larger than life, more than an ordinary Christian, more than a man in Christ. Paul is afraid that someone might attribute to him some unattainable celebrity status, lift him up because of his exceptional experience as more spiritual than others who are in Christ. Paul insists the criteria of faithful ministry must not be unverifiable visions and revelations; ministry must be judged by the objective criteria of life and teaching. What do you hear taught? What do you see in my life?

Paul’s concern is that they evaluate ministry by the wrong standards and listen to the wrong kind of leaders, who, based on their life and teaching, he calls servants of Satan. He’s concerned, because of his own surpassing revelations, that they will listen to him for the wrong reasons.

Paul’s Danger

Paul is concerned for the church. But he is also aware of another threat. He himself is in grave danger.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul was in great danger. The surpassingly great revelations given to Paul created a great threat to Paul. What he saw, what he heard, was so far beyond, so great, so intimate, that he can’t help but conclude that he is special. No one else had this privileged vision. He was lifted up by the Lord to such incomparable heights that he was in danger of being lifted up with pride in his own heart. It would be all too easy for him to think too much of himself. You hear his concern, repeated both at the beginning and at the end of verse 7; ‘to keep me from being conceited.’ This was a real danger for the apostle, and he recognized it.

This word ‘conceited’ is a compound word ‘surpassingly lifted up’ that connects it with the ‘surpassing greatness’ of the revelations he was given.

The only other place this word ‘conceited’ or ‘surpassingly exalted’ appears in the New Testament is 2 Thessalonians 2:4, where:

2 Thessalonians 2:3 …the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

This is a real danger. Charles Spurgeon says of Paul,

“He had entered into the nearest communion with God, possible to a man while yet in this life. Should he not feel somewhat exalted? Surely exultation must fill that man’s bosom who has been brought within the veil to see his God, and to hear the unutterable harmonies! It was natural that he should be exalted, and it was not unnatural that he should stand in danger of being exalted above measure. Devout exaltation very rapidly degenerates into self-exaltation. When God lifts us up, there is only one step further— namely, our lifting up ourselves; and then we fall into serious mischief indeed. I wonder how many among us could bear to receive such revelations as Paul had? O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours! We have neither head nor heart to sustain so vast a load of blessing. Our little plant needs not a river to water its root: the gentle dew suffices— the flood might wash it away.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

Pride is the sin that damned the devil. It is dangerous. ‘O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours!’

God’s Good Gift

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

To prevent Paul from falling into this deadly devilish danger, he was given a gift. He doesn’t say who gave this gift, but it is clear from the context. This word ‘given’ speaks specifically of God’s favor bestowed; in Eph.3:8 and 4:7 it speaks of God’s grace given; in 1Tim.4:14 of God’s grace-gifts. God is the giver of every good gift, and if this gift prevents Paul from pride, it is a good gift.

Thorns

What might startle us is what God’s good gift is. Paul says he was given a thorn in the flesh. That doesn’t sound good, and it is certainly not pleasant. Have you had a thorn in your flesh? Inevitably, when pulling weeds, I’ll get a little tiny thorn in my hand. Some of these thorns are so small, so insignificant, I can’t even see them. I can’t see them, but I certainly can feel them! I might not notice it for a while, until I go to pick something up and it irritates the thorn and reminds me that it’s still there. I’ve used a needle or a blade to literally dig a hole in my finger where I think the invisible source of my torment is, trying to root it out.

Thorns aren’t very impressive either. If you ask for my help and I say I can’t help because I was on the battlefield and suffered a gunshot wound to my arm that hasn’t fully healed yet, you might be impressed. But if I say I have this little thorn in my hand, so it hurts me when I pick anything up, you might roll your eyes and come at me with tweezers. And if I tell you it’s no use, it is too small even to see, I’m sure you will be very impressed with my undaunted bravery.

Everyone wants to know what Paul’s thorn was. About every malady, physical or spiritual, every form of persecution or opposition has been suggested. The fact is he doesn’t tell us. We aren’t meant to know. Whatever it was, it was given in response to the heavenly rapture experience 14 years earlier, and it was meant to keep Paul humbly trusting. Spurgeon again has a helpful word:

“we have unveiled before us a portion of the secret life of Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. We may not only see his bed-chamber, but learn the apostle’s visions; we may not only see his private infirmities, but learn the cause of them. Let us not, however, be actuated by so low a motive as mere curiosity, while we gaze upon the open secret; let us remember that the apostle never intended to amuse the curious, when he penned these words, but he wrote them for a practical purpose. Let us read them with a desire to be instructed by them, and may the Holy Spirit teach us to profit. This record was not sent to us merely that we should know that this eminent servant of Christ had abundant revelations, or that he suffered a thorn in the flesh, but it was written for our profit.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

We learn from this that pride is more dangerous than thorns, and God may give us the good gift of a thorn to keep us trusting in him alone and not in ourselves or our past experiences.

Satan’s Angel

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul parallels his description of the thorn in the flesh with ‘an angel of Satan to harass him’. The word here is the same one used of our Lord in his treatment at the hands of the Jewish leaders.

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him,

A demonic messenger was sent to strike him, to buffet him. This too is startling; that God’s good gift to him is Satan’s emissary. So who sent this Satanic thorn to pummel Paul? Was it Satan or God? Paul’s answer is ‘yes’. The thorn was sent by Satan, and it was a gift from God. We must remember that Satan is a created being, part of God’s creation, over whom God is omnipotent and sovereign.

We could think of the evil action of Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery,

Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

The brothers intended evil, but God intended good. We could think of the first chapters of Job, when God instigated Satan to test him. We could even think of Judas; when Satan himself entered Judas, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas, under control of Satan, sold Jesus out to be executed. And we know from Colossians that Jesus death [canceled…]

Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Satan incited Judas to betray Jesus to the cross, the very thing that secured our forgiveness and disarmed and conquered the powers of darkness. This is clearly a case, as Jesus predicted:

Matthew 12:26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?

Satan, in seeking to destroy Jesus, brought about the even that set us free from his power and sealed his own fate.

The early church understood:

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

This proved to be the case for Paul. Satan’s angel no doubt intending to discourage and destroy Paul, actually was a gift of God that crushed Paul’s pride and secured his utter weak dependence on the Lord alone. God wields circumstances, sufferings, even Satan himself to bring about his good ends. As Paul said in the beginning of this book, about his affliction in Asia,

2 Corinthians 1:8 …we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 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.

The devil is a tool in the hand of the sovereign Lord to wean us away from our self sufficiency and trust him completely.

Our self-exaltation is more deadly even than demonic oppression.

Persistent Prayer for Deliverance

Don’t misunderstand; Paul didn’t look for this thorn; Paul wasn’t asking to be abused by a satanic emissary. Quite the contrary.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Here again the apostle demonstrates that authentic ministry is ministry shaped by the cross. Genuine ministry follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus, in dread of the cross, three times

Matthew 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Paul pleaded with the Lord Jesus three times about this that it should leave him. This is one of the few places we see prayer directed to Jesus rather than the Father, because Paul found in him a high priest who is able to sympathize with his weakness (Heb.4:15-16). He desired that the thorn, the satanic messenger be taken away. Like his Lord, he did not receive the answer he hoped for. Rather, like his Lord, he was strengthened to endure what was necessary for him to endure. Like his Lord Jesus, he would bring glory to God not by escaping the unwanted trial, but by persevering through it. He was promised sufficient grace to meet the trial.

Do we underestimate the danger of our own hearts, of our self-important thoughts? Do we rightly estimate the deadly disease of pride? Likely none of us have had the rapturous experience that Paul had, and yet we allow ourselves to be puffed up beyond measure. It is God’s grace that uses a thorn to deflate our self-obsession so that we embrace weakness as the way to glorify God.

***

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

February 16, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:30-33; Boasting in Weakness

01/31_2 Corinthians 11:30-33; Boasting in Weakness ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210131_2cor11_30-33.mp3

We are going to jump back in to our study of 2 Corinthians today. We have been away from this book for the holidays, so a quick overview to orient ourselves in this letter from the Apostle Paul to a troubled church.

Acts 18 recounts Paul’s first visit to Corinth (around AD 50 or 51), where he spent 18 months preaching the gospel and establishing the church. But shortly after leaving, he heard there were troubles in Corinth, so he wrote them a letter (AD 52) confronting some of the issues, a letter that was misunderstood. He again received visits from some in Corinth communicating that all was not well, so he wrote them again (AD 53; the letter we have as 1 Corinthians). About a year later (AD 54), he heard of more problems, so he traveled in person to Corinth, a visit that did not go well. He quickly retreated, and wrote them a letter through his tears. Having sent his co-worker Titus ahead to Corinth to try to patch things up, he was now traveling through Macedonia en route to visit them again, and he wrote this letter (AD 55) to prepare them for his visit.

Chapters 1-7 seek to re-orient their thinking about ministry. They had developed a distorted understanding of what ministry is all about; Paul argues that gospel ministry is ministry that is shaped by the gospel. The good news is that God humbled himself, became one of us, to seek and to save the lost, to lay down his life for us. Christian ministry is not all about paychecks and positions and privilege. Gospel ministry must be shaped by the gospel, by the cross. It must look like humility, like sacrificial service for others. It must pattern itself after Christ crucified. It must conform to the cross.

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 3:5 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…

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. …7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

In chapters 8-9 he reminds us that this gospel grace that has been extended to us by God will so transform our hearts that we will overflow in practical generosity to others. Part of his purpose for this trip through Macedonia to Corinth is to take up a collection for the poor and persecuted believers in Jerusalem, so he extends them the opportunity to participate in this practical ministry.

In chapters 10-13 he confronts head on the false apostles who had gained a hearing in the church, who were proclaiming a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

Paul changes his tone in this section to biting irony. The false teachers are engaged in foolish boasting, so he answers fools according to their folly so that their folly will become evident to all. He warns the Corinthians are being led astray from a sincere devotion to Christ, and that the false apostles are taking them as slaves, devouring, taking advantage of, putting on airs, even striking them in the face (11:20).

2 Corinthians 11:21 …But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I.

Paul possesses the credentials to meet them in their foolish boasting. In fact, he can go further than that.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman…

But here he switches gears on them. He reminds them that a servant of Christ is just that, a servant.

2 Corinthians 11:23… —with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Res Gestae Divi Augusti

When we put this in historical context, we see Paul is making a parody of the typical self-praise of the powerful.

Augustus Caesar (who reigned 31 BC to 14 AD) had his lengthy autobiography inscribed on two columns in Rome. Here is a short excerpt:

“the achievements of the deified Augustus by which he placed the whole world under the sovereignty of the Roman people, and of the amounts which he expended upon the state and the Roman people”.

[4] Twice I triumphed with an ovation, thrice I celebrated curule triumphs, and was saluted as imperator twenty-one times. Although the Senate decreed me additional triumphs I set them aside. When I had performed the vows which I had undertaken in each war I deposited upon the Capitol the laurels which adorned my fasces. For successful operations on land and sea, conducted either by myself or by my lieutenants under my auspices, the Senate on fifty-five occasions decreed that thanks should be rendered to the immortal gods. The days on which such thanks were rendered by decree of the Senate numbered 890. In my triumphs there were led before my chariot nine kings or children of kings. At the time of writing these words I had been thirteen times consul, and was in the thirty-seventh year of my tribunician power.

It was common for the powerful to catalog their accomplishments. Paul meets the super-apostles in their boasting, but he takes it in a direction they wouldn’t anticipate. We expect boasting to be in accomplishments, in victories, in triumphs. But Paul boasts in his trials, in his brokenness, in his sufferings.

Divine Commission

We pick up on some of the credentials they were looking for from chapter 12, where Paul says ‘I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. …The signs of a true apostle were performed among you …with signs and wonders and mighty works’ (12:1,12). They expected the supernatural; visions, revelations, signs, wonders.

We could think of the divine commissioning of the Old Testament prophets, like Ezekiel, who said “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” or Isaiah; “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” or Jeremiah; “Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” or even the Apostle John “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book…”

We would expect Paul to share with us his commissioning by the risen Lord that we find in Acts 9:

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (cf. Acts 22:6-11; 26:12-18)

No doubt this was well known to the Corinthian church, as Paul had referenced it in 1 Corinthians 9:1. But that’s not what he says here.

Glory To God Alone

Paul says

2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul is answering a fool according to his folly, but he refuses to play their game on their terms. He will not answer a fool according to his folly. He changes the criteria. He says ‘You make it necessary for me to boast, but I’m going to boast about that which puts on display my weakness, so that God gets all the glory.’

2 Corinthians 11:31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.

God must get all the glory. God alone is blessed forever. God is related to Jesus as his God in his humanity, and he is the Father of our Lord Jesus in his eternal divine nature. Christian ministry is intimately linked to the Father through our Lord Jesus.

Paul takes an oath by the God who is Truth, that he is telling the truth. This heightens our expectation of what he is going to say next. He brings up his Damascus experience, but not in the way they expect.

Damascus Escape

2 Corinthians 11:32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me,

This account, by the way, is anchored in history. Aretas was a royal title. This was Aretas IV, a Nabatean vassal king who reigned in Petra from 9 BC to 39/40 AD; he was the father-in-law to Herod Antipas. Herod divorced his daughter to marry Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip (Mat.14:3-4; Mk.6:17-18 Lk.3:19). This is the Herod whom John the Baptist rebuked, and was eventually executed by. Aretas avenged his daughter by attacking and defeating Herod Antipas in 36 AD.

2 Corinthians 11:32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (cf. Acts 9:20-25; Gal.1:17)

This is shocking. He turns boasting upside down. Paul was powerful, triumphant, marching in broad daylight to Damascus with authority to persecute and imprison followers of Jesus. This is the posture of the false apostles. But he didn’t know Jesus. Jesus knocked him from his high horse, lowered him to the dust, so that he could reveal himself to him.

And then he was helpless, blind, weak; he had to be led by the hand. He had to be prayed for by a reluctant disciple from Damascus that he was coming to persecute. Ananias laid his hands on him to restore his sight. He immediately began to proclaim Jesus, and this soon got him in trouble. The hunter became the hunted; the persecutor became the persecuted. The powerful became weak. The pursuer was pursued. The one who came to take lives had to flee for his life. In a humiliating turn, those he came to persecute helped him escape; he was lowered in a large basket under cover of night, a basket normally used for salted fish or produce.

Saul the persecutor came to know what it was to be persecuted for the name of Jesus. But he had met Jesus, and Jesus was worth the cost. Christian ministry is characterized by humility, willingly sacrificial for the good of others.

Corona Muralis

It was well known that one of the highest military honors for valor was the Corona Muralis or Wall Crown. It was awarded to the first Roman soldier to successfully scale the wall of an enemy city. Ironically, Paul boasts in his weakness. He didn’t scale the wall in victory; he was lowered down the wall and slunk away under cover of darkness.

The false apostles wanted credentials, they wanted evidence of divine commissioning. They wanted an account of a vision or evidence of divine favor. In bringing up Damascus, Paul alludes to his divine call and commissioning, but instead he recounts his shameful exit from the city.

Jericho and David

But Paul was not the only one to escape down a city wall. Under Joshua’s command, the two spies who entered Jericho were let down a scarlet cord through an opening in the wall by Rahab the prostitute (Josh.2:15). David escaped from King Saul when Michal let him down through the window, and he fled (1Sam.19:12). In each of these accounts, what seems like an ignominious and shameful escape turns out to lead to a display of God’s power.

This is exactly Paul’s point. God’s power is displayed most vividly through human weakness. So he is glad to boast in the things that display his weakness, so that God alone would get all the glory.

***

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

February 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds… (Matthew 5:14-6:21)

06/21 [Father’s Day] Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200621_righteousness-exceeds.mp3

Today is Father’s day, and I want to look at Matthew 5-6 where Jesus teaches us about our relationship to our Father. We are all in different places regarding our relationship to our fathers. Some of us have lost a father, some never knew their father. Some love and admire their father, others have been deeply wounded by their father. Some of us are fathers of young children, some fathers of adult children. But Jesus points us to the perfect Father, his Father in heaven, and he addresses us who have been adopted into his family, who can now also call God ‘Father’.

The Light of Our Works Give Glory to Our Father

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus is teaching us what our lives are to look like as his followers. We are to be like a city set on a hill, like a lamp up on a stand, giving light to the world. Children are often scared of the dark, and life is hard when you stumble around in the dark and stub your toe. But understand, not everyone loves the light. When the lights are turned on, the cockroaches scurry for cover. Jesus said ‘the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil’ (Jn.3:19). We are to be the light of the world, a city on a hill, a lamp on a stand. We are told to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ Let the light of your commendable conduct shine in such a way that people see you and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How does this work? I remember (and it has been a long time since this has happened), when our children were younger, and we would herd them into a nice restaurant to have a special dinner together as a family, when we entered you could feel the people we were seated near brace themselves as this large family intruded on their otherwise peaceful dinner. On several occasions, as a neighboring couple would finish their meal and get up to leave, they would come over to Deanna and I and say ‘your children are so well behaved!’ Like I said, this was a long time ago. We would thank them and let them know that it was by the grace of God. But what they were doing was exactly what this verse is talking about. Sometimes they would direct a complement toward our children, but they would always bring it back to the parents, recognizing that we were ultimately responsible for our children’s behavior. ‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ When our conduct is like a light shining in a dark place, it reflects on our upbringing, on our parenting. It reflects on our Father in heaven. We are always representing our adopting Father in heaven. We are either bringing him honor and glory or we are shaming his name.

The Heart of the Law

Jesus continues by pointing us back to the law of God.

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. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus came not to abolish but to fulfill the law of God. He came to do what we cannot. He says that we are to do and to teach the law of God. He condemns those who relax one of the least of these commands. And he says that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, or we will never even enter the kingdom of heaven. God’s children must conduct themselves as his children. And then Jesus goes on to expound some of the commands of God.

In verses 21-26 he reminds us of command #6 in the 10 commandments, ‘you shall not murder,’ and he addresses the root of anger in our heart, and commands us to seek reconciliation.

In verses 27-32 he reminds us of command #7 ‘you shall not commit adultery,’ and he addresses the root disease of lust in our heart.

In verses 33-37 he reminds us of command #9 ‘you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor’ and he tells us that we should not even have to take an oath; that we should be known always to speak the truth.

In verses 38-42 he reminds us of the law of retribution; an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Ex.21:24) and he teaches us that rather than demanding and exacting the justice that is due to us, we should rather be wronged and go the extra mile to serve others.

In verses 43-48 he reminds us of the requirement to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev.19:18), and he extends this to love of even our enemies.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Jesus doesn’t relax the requirements of the commandments; he says that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. He digs down to the heart issues that underlie the outward actions. The religious leaders, seeking to justify themselves by their conduct, made them merely about outward observance, and defined exactly when and how far and to what the commands did and did not apply. Jesus says the issue is our hearts; what do you love? Is your heart formed after the heart of your father? Do you bear the resemblance of your Father and his heart toward people?

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

Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Our hearts must be reshaped by the new birth to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Our hearts must grow to resemble the heart of our heavenly Father.

Not Works Righteousness But Real Spirit Wrought Righteousness

Please don’t misunderstand, Jesus is not driving us to pursue a righteousness that we earn by our good performance. The point of the law is that we can’t, that we fall short. The standard is absolute. The standard is perfection. The law teaches us that we need a hero that fights the battle for us; who can fulfill the law for us and give us his perfect righteousness as a gift that we don’t deserve. This is exactly what Paul understands in Philippians 3. He counts his earned righteousness under the Law as loss and rubbish,

Philippians 3:8 …in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him…

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them, to accomplish them. He fulfilled the commandments in our place, as our hero, and he clothes us in his perfect righteousness as a gift, received by faith. He makes us his own.

But do not make the other mistake that because Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf that it no longer matters how we live. Now that we have been clothed in his perfect righteousness as a gift, now that we are reconciled to God through the death of his Son, now that we have received the gift of the Spirit of the living God through faith, now, the Holy Spirit living inside begins to transform our hearts to make us into what we are. We are perfectly righteous before God by faith in Jesus’ finished work, and we are becoming righteous day to day, as the Spirit brings about his holiness in us as we let our light shine before others.

Seek the Reward of your Father

Jesus goes on in Matthew chapter 6 to warn us:

Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

And after teaching us to pray to our Father in heaven, he continues:

Matthew 6:16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

At first read this passage seems to directly contradict what went just before. In 5:14 he said ‘You are the light of the world, a city on a hill, a lamp on a stand;’ in 16 he said ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ Now in 6:1 he says ‘Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.’ Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works,’ and ‘beware of practicing you righteousness before others in order to be seen by them.’ How do we put these together? Do we let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works, or do we beware of practicing our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them? Do we let our light shine before others, or do we only practice our righteousness in secret to be seen only by our Father who is in secret? Do you sense the problem here?

Jesus is cautioning us against a dangerous and seductive motive. He is commanding us to let our light shine before others, but he is warning us not to do so in order to pursue the praise of others. Our hearts love praise. We want to be praised by others. We want the affirmation and approval of people. How many people desperately seek the affirmation and approval of their earthly fathers? How many people have been deeply wounded because no matter what they did or how hard they tried, they could never measure up and never feel the approval of their father? We naturally long for the approval of those who are important to us. Jesus is warning us against the danger of seeking the praise and approval of people.

I want us to see something here. Do you see how repeatedly Jesus encourages us to seek the reward? He warns that if you pursue the praise of people, their praise will be all the reward you ever receive. But if you seek to glorify your Father, if you give in secret and pray in secret and fast in secret, then your Father who is in secret and sees in secret will reward you.

This is the context of verse 19:

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Do not seek the praise that comes from people. Seek the reward that comes from your Father who sees in secret.

Here’s the thing, we do long for approval, especially approval from those who are most important to us. If we live to pursue the affirmation of people, that will be all we get, and that won’t last. But if we seek the approval of our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God, we are guaranteed to get it, and it will last forever!

Remember the parable of the talents?

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Two of the servants put what he had entrusted to them to work. The one buried what he had been given. When the master returned, the servant who distrusted his master and did nothing with what he had been given was thrown out, but the two who had put what they had been given to work both experienced exponential increase, and heard these words:

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (cf. v.23)

The reward we are to pursue is the approval of our Father who loves us and who has freely given us much. Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, it must be a righteousness that flows out from a Spirit transformed heart, who does not practice righteousness in order to be praised by other people, but rather ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’

***

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

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

Obey Jesus – Abide and Pray (John 14-15)

05/03 Obey Jesus: Abide and Pray; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200503_abide-and-pray.mp3

Obey Jesus’ Commands

Jesus said to his disciples:

Matthew 28:18 …“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Make disciples, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. We are to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commands. What did Jesus command? That’s what we are looking at. We’ve looked at Jesus command to come to him and believe in him, to find him and meet with him in the Scriptures. Today I want to look at Jesus’ command to abide and pray.

The Upper Room Discourse; John 14-16

John records some amazing teaching that Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room before he was betrayed.

Our Only Access to the Father is Through Jesus

Jesus was telling his disciples that he was leaving them and going to his Father to prepare a place for them.

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

When his disciples expressed confusion about where he was going and how to get there,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Anyone who wants access to the Father must come through Jesus. Jesus wants us to be with him and with his Father throughout eternity, to enjoy his glory with his Father. But we must come through the way Jesus opened to us by his blood.

Greater Works Than These

I remember reading this section of John’s gospel for the very first time. I was downtown Minneapolis on a weekend retreat with my High School campus ministry. And what I read blew me away.

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.

Jesus prefaces his statement with ‘truly, truly.’ He wants us to take note, to pay attention to what he is about to say, and he wants us to be doubly confident that what he says is true. ‘Whoever believes in me;’ whoever believes in Jesus, that included me! Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works that he does. What did Jesus do? He fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead! Is Jesus saying that I will do all that?

But he doesn’t stop there, as if that is not enough. He said ‘greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Greater works than these? What could possibly be greater than all that Jesus did? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had to show someone. Jason, have you ever read this? Look at this! Look at what Jesus promises us!

Ask Jesus Anything

Look at the next verses:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Ask me anything. Jesus invites us to ask him anything in his name, and he will do it, to the glory of his Father. This tells us that we can pray to Jesus, we can ask Jesus directly for anything, and he will do it, if we ask in his name.

What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? The typical Christian prayer ends ‘in Jesus’ name, amen.’ Is this a special formula that guarantees to get our prayers answered? Why do Christians pray like that?

In My Name

If we look in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 18 God says:

Deuteronomy 18:19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

God takes what is said in his name seriously. If anyone presumes to speak in his name something God did not speak, the penalty was death. I am not to use God’s name to give weight to what I want to say, when it is merely my words; when God hasn’t said it.

A person’s name is tied to their reputation. The Lord’s name is holy, set apart, but his people have dragged his reputation through the mud by bearing his name while acting inconsistently with who he is. In Ezekiel 36, God acts to defend the honor of his own name.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

God’s name, God’s own reputation is at stake, and he acts to vindicate the holiness of his own great name.

Think of it this way. A steward in biblical times was a trusted servant to whom his master would delegate certain responsibilities in his absence. He had access to his master’s resources, he could make decisions, buy and sell in the name of his master. We might say he was given the ability to sign checks in his master’s name. But he was a servant, doing his master’s business, and he was expected to have his master’s best interest in mind. He was free to make decisions and sign his master’s name, but he would be held accountable for those decisions upon his master’s return. Jesus told a story about a steward in Luke 16 who had wasted his master’s resources and was being called to account.

We could say that Jesus has entrusted to us the ability to sign checks in his name. To ask in Jesus’ name is to sign his name to the request, to represent him. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask consistent with who Jesus is, is to ask for something that he would ask his Father to do.

James 4:2 …You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Abide in Me and bear Fruit

Jesus says in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Abide in me. Abide. Remain connected, like a branch of the grapevine is connected to the vine. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit to the glory of God. But he knows that to be fruitful, a branch must be connected to the vine. It must continually draw sustenance from the vine, to get nourishment from the vine. A disconnected branch will quickly wither and dry up. A dead disconnected branch doesn’t produce fruit. Rather, it’s only good as fuel for the fire. The only way we remain fruitful is to remain in Jesus, to stay connected to Jesus, to constantly be listening to him, communing with him. We are to draw strength and sustenance from him, to be with him, and enjoy him being in us. Disconnected from Jesus, we can do nothing, nothing good, nothing of eternal value. We are fruitless apart from Jesus. But if we remain plugged in to Jesus, if his words, his truth, his teaching is nourishing us, we can ask whatever we wish and we will bear much fruit that glorifies the Father and shows that we are Jesus’ followers indeed.

Abiding is the prerequisite for asking. If we are abiding in Jesus as a branch in the vine, we can ask whatever we wish, because our wishes begin to flow out of Jesus’ own heart. Our wishes will align with Jesus’ own words. Our wishes will be to bear fruit for God, to glorify the Father. Our wishes will truly begin to express the name and nature of Jesus.

Jesus commands that we abide in him, that we stay connected and talk with him.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

He commands that we ask the Father that we may be fruitful in his name.

Jesus Modeled Prayer

Jesus modeled prayer for us. He made prayer a priority in his own ministry. He found solitary places to pray alone (Lk.5:16); He prayed early in the morning (Mk.1:35); he prayed late into the evening (Mt.14:23; Mk.6:46); on one occasion he prayed all night long (Lk.6:12); he invited his close friends to pray with him (Lk.9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:40-41). Jesus took time to pray for the seemingly insignificant (Mt.19:13). John 17 records Jesus’ own lengthy prayer to his Father. Jesus was honest and even emotional in his praying (Lk.22:44), but he always submitted his own will to the will of his Father in prayer (Mt.26:39,42,44). Jesus not only commands us to pray, but shows us by his own example how essential prayer is.

One of the things that infuriated Jesus most, that stirred him to zeal for this Father’s house, was the clutter and commotion that deterred people from prayer. (Mt.21:12-13; Mk.11:17; Lk.19:46)

Jesus Taught How and What to Pray

Jesus taught his followers “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk.18:1). He taught that humility and not self-righteous pride was the appropriate way to approach his Father (Lk.18:10-13).

He taught us to pray for deliverance (Mk.9:29), for strength and faithfulness (Lk.21:36), for protection from temptation (Lk.22:40). He taught us to pray for God to send more laborers into the evangelistic harvest (Mt.9:38; Lk.10:2). He even taught us to pray for our enemies, for those who persecute us (Mt.5:44; Lk.6:28).

He taught us not to pray in order to impress others, but rather to pray privately and sincerely (Mt.6:5-6). He taught us not to make long prayers or pile up empty words to impress God or man (Mt.6:7, Mk.12:40).

He taught us to pray with persistence, with bold confidence, assured that our Father loves to give good gifts to his children.

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

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to all who ask him. Jesus encourages us, actually he commands us to ask, to ask in prayer.

Jesus’ Model Prayer

When Jesus’ followers asked him ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Lk.11:1)

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Jesus invites his disciples to address God as Father, because through Jesus we are adopted into God’s family as his children.

Notice that this prayer is in the plural voice. It begins with ‘our Father’ and it continues with ‘give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us’. We are to pray in secret, privately to our Father, but there is an essential communal aspect to prayer. Even when we pray individually, we acknowledge that we are part of a blood-bough community of believers. We are not independent, we are interdependent. We are connected to each other.

Jesus teaches us that our praying must be God centered. We ought to start by acknowledging that God is above us, over us, sovereign and superior. He is enthroned in heaven. We ought to be pursuing his glory in prayer. Remember, in John 15, Jesus commands us to abide in him so that we will be fruitful, ultimately so that God will be glorified. We are to pray that God’s name be treated with honor and awe.

We are to pray that his kingdom and will might be fully realized. He is sovereign over all creation, but much of his creation has rebelled against him. We are to pray that all creation is brought back under his supreme authority. As God is obeyed by his heavenly armies, so we are to ask that we too would obey him immediately, enthusiastically, completely. We are really asking here for him to change our hearts, our desires, what we value most.

We are to ask him for daily bread. Father, give us what we need for today. We don’t always know accurately what it is that we need or what is best for us. So in this is implicit trust in his superior wisdom. Lord, give us what we need for today.

And if you remember what Jesus taught in John 6, after he had fed thousands with a few loaves,

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you… 32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” …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.

Father, give us Jesus. Give us Jesus for today. Sustain us in Jesus today.

John 6:48 I am the bread of life. …51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

We are to abide in Jesus. We are to feed daily on him, to draw daily nourishment from our connection with him.

As we daily ask for nourishment, we are to daily ask forgiveness, daily acknowledging that we continue to fall short. We need the gospel applied daily. We need his mercies that are new every morning. In our daily connection with him, we need daily grace, daily cleansing.

And we are to remind ourselves that as we have been freely forgiven, we ought to freely forgive. We have sinned and been freely forgiven. We have been sinned against, and as followers of Jesus, we must freely forgive.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We acknowledge that God leads us wherever he deems best for us, and as his followers, we must follow. But we ask that he spare us from temptation, and when we are tempted, we ask that he rescue us from evil. We need his strength to stand firm. Without his daily deliverance, we will turn each of us to our own way. We will go astray and fall into evil. Apart from him we can do nothing.

Bear Much Fruit

Jesus commands that we come to him in prayer, that we abide moment by moment in him, so that we will bear much fruit to the glory of his Father. He commands us to ask the Father because he loves to give good gifts to his children. We only have access to the Father through the finished work of Jesus, who died in our place to bring us to God (1Pet.3:18).

And Jesus said:

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.

Jesus fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead!

When Jesus fed thousands, he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples to give to others. Jesus has given us himself, the true bread from heaven, and he intends that we pass him on to others.

Greater works than these will we do, because Jesus finished his work and sat down at the right hand of his Father, and he is now at work through us as he abides in us.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We have this ministry by the mercy of God. By the open statement of the truth …we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and God shines in blind hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2Cor.4:1-6). ‘God… through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; …we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us’ (2Cor.5:18,20).

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

Greater works than these will he do.’

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing….7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

***

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

May 4, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2:14; Glory to God in the Highest

12/08 Glory to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191208_glory-to-god.mp3

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

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift is beyond fully telling, so we must tell of it over and over at different times and in different ways. We owe him our thanks and worship and praise, because he is the giver of every good gift. We must look at different aspects of his most glorious gift, and encourage each other to treasure and cherish and savor his good gift, and continually come to him with thanks.

The Christmas story is a familiar story to most of us, so we need to guard ourselves from becoming numb to its glory and taking it for granted. It’s easy to yawn and say ‘yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.’ The gift we received that very first Christmas is glorious beyond expression, so we must continually seek to give fresh expression to its glories and encourage one another to taste and enjoy and worship.

Today and next week, I want to take the very first Christmas carol sung by the angelic choir announcing the birth of our Lord and listen carefully to what it declares. Songs mean things, and it is good to stop and listen to what we are saying in our singing.

Listen to the familiar story once again from Luke 2:

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Announcement

This story is full of wonder. There is so much here. We can’t take it all in. First, listen to the angel’s announcement:

Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

The angel brought good news. News of great joy. And not just for the shepherds. Not even just for the Jewish nation. This good news of great joy is for all the people. For the world! For you and me, today! What was that good news?

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Born in Bethlehem, today, is a Savior. A rescuer. A deliverer. One who will rescue you from the greatest threat to your peace and happiness.

The identity of this rescuer is the Christ, the promised one, the long awaited anointed Son of David.

And the identity of this one is staggering. Christ, the Lord. No mere human king, not only a physical descendant of David the king. He is that, but he is more. Christ the Lord. King of kings and Lord of lords, YHWH God of the Old Testament, himself come down. God with us. Immanuel. The Rescuer born is God himself.

This one is born to you, for you, for your benefit. Good news of great joy. For you, personally, and for all the people.

This next line is almost as startling. God himself born to rescue you, what will that look like?

Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

A baby? God with us as a helpless newborn? God swaddled? Omnipotent God wrapped up tightly in strips of cloth so he feels secure and can’t roll around and wiggle too much?

The long anticipated King of the line of David, God with us, placed in a cold and slobbery stone trough that farm animals eat from?

The Angel’s Priority

As if this announcement is not stunning enough, suddenly the sky is ripped open to reveal the vast multitude of angel armies worshiping.

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Pay attention to what the angels said. They gave praise to God, because that is what angels are created to do. Notice where they start. They don’t start with a message of peace among men. That is an important message, and they will get to that. But that is second. It is not first. The salvation of humankind takes second place to the glory of God. Humans, like angels and all the rest of creation, were created to bring glory to God. That is the primary purpose of everything. That is why we exist. We were created to glorify God.

Our Failure to Glorify

We have failed miserably. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23) That was the sin of Satan. He was not content to give glory to God; he wanted to be like God and get glory for himself. That was the lie of Satan to our first parents in the garden, that rather than be content to give glory to God, you can be like God, and get glory for yourself. We failed to give God the glory he deserves (Rom.1:21-23). We fail to honor God as God, we rob him of worship, and treat him with ingratitude, we ignore him, act as if he doesn’t even exist.

That is what Jesus came to restore. Jesus came to elevate the glory of God back to its rightful place. Jesus said in John 7:18 that he ‘seeks the glory of him who sent him’.

The Story of the Glory of the LORD

Look back at verse 9.

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

The angels sing glory to God in the highest. When the angel appeared, the glory of the Lord shone around them. This is a magnificent event.

Tracing this theme of God’s glory back to the Exodus, God said that he would get glory over Pharaoh and his hosts. (Ex.14:4, 17-18). After the people were safely outside of Egypt,

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature. Our God is a consuming fire! (Deut.4:24; 9:3; Is.33:14; Lam.2:3; Heb.12:29)

God gave his people instructions to construct a special tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people and a weighty process by which he could be approached by sinful people. After the tabernacle was constructed,

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Once Israel was finally in the promised land, when Solomon finished building a permanent place for God’s presence to dwell,

2 Chronicles 7:1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house.

But the people did not remain faithful to the Lord. Their hearts went after other gods and committed spiritual adultery. As God warned, he sent them into captivity and the prophet Ezekiel (10:4, 18; 11:23) records his glory departing from his temple. Israel was sent into captivity. 70 years later, some of the exiles returned, and rebuilt the temple, but we are never told that God’s glory returned. For about 600 years of Jewish history, God’s glory was absent. God’s glory had departed.

And then, on one dark night in the Judean countryside, among a group of unsuspecting shepherds, the glory of the Lord blazed out in radiant splendor! Something awesome is happening! The glory of the Lord had returned to Israel! Glory to God!

Glory to God in the Highest

If the glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature, then God gets glory when his nature is acknowledged and worshiped. God is glorified when he is seen for who he is, when we tremble at him and treasure him.

God is constantly glorified among angel hosts. In Isaiah 6, we get a glimpse of worship around God’s throne where the six winged beings continually cry out:

Isaiah 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (cf. Revelation 4:8)

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s name would be revered, glorified on earth as it is in heaven (Mt.6:9-10). Jesus taught us to live in the world in such a way that we bring glory to God.

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

The Chief End of Jesus

The angels announcing the birth of God the Son cried out ‘Glory to God in the highest. That takes priority. God’s glory comes first. The primary purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Let me say that another way; the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Jesus displayed the glory of God.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …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.

Jesus explained, displayed, exegeted the Father’s glory. He said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). He put the glory of God on display.

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

It was at the cross that Jesus most fully displayed the glory of God.

John 12:23 …“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. … 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

It was on the cross that Jesus displayed both the absolute justice and the unstoppable love of God. He put on display both the terrible wrath and the free and undeserved grace of God. He taught us to tremble and to treasure. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18), and it fell on Jesus on the cross.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Purpose Restored

Jesus gave us an amazing gift. He restored to us that for which we were created.

Luke 2:10 …good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…

Jesus rescued us from our own futility. From the futility of worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator. He restored to us the great joy that comes only in right relation, in worshipful relation to our glorious God.

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

Thank God for the gift of bringing glory to God as we were created to do. We have been restored to our primary purpose. We were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus lived and died for the glory of his Father, and he gave us back the ability to live to the glory of God. He gave us the ability to live for something bigger than ourselves. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! Glory to God in the highest!

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

December 9, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion

11/24_2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191124_2cor9_13-14.mp3

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

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.

The question we have is ‘How do we glorify God? What does it mean to glorify God? What does that look like in practical daily life?’ This passage in 2 Corinthians 9 gives us one clear way we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God.

Glorify God by Loving God and Neighbor

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous (single-hearted) in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you for all simplicity, for abounding in every good work. When we use what God has freely given us to extend his grace to bless others, it does more than just meeting that need. It produces thanksgiving to God.

We want to live for the glory of God. We long for the Lord alone to be glorified. We want him to get the thanks he deserves. Paul tells us in these verses how to produce thanksgiving to God. He tells us that our unmixed devotion and love for the Lord will produce thanksgiving to God. For the Corinthians, this was specifically in the context of the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Our context will be different, but the results can be the same. This will look different for each of us. There are myriads of ways we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God in daily life. Whenever we in simplicity love God and love neighbor, we glorify God.

Approval and Authenticity

Paul goes on in the next verses to tell us how this works. How does our love for God and practical expression of love for neighbor bring glory to God? He says of the saints in Jerusalem:

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity (simplicity) of your contribution (fellowship) for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

By the approval (δοκιμή) of this service they will glorify God. It is through their approval of this service or ministry. The service of cheerful giving is proved or tested and approved by them. Paul used a related word to this word ‘approval’ in 8:8.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove (δοκιμάζω) by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Prove that your love is genuine. Proving demonstrates the genuineness of a thing. A thing is approved when it is proved to be what it claims to be. It is by the approval of this service that they glorify God. There is such a thing as service that is not really service, ministry that is not really ministry. It appears to be, but it is not genuine. The outward thing might look identical, but it is intrinsically different. Fools gold might appear to be gold, but in the furnace it is proved to be a different thing altogether. In this context, cheerful giving is the service. There might be two givers who give, and the amount might be identical. The outward act is the same. But what is the heart and attitude behind the gifts? The one might be out of a simple affection for Jesus and a desire to honor him with what he has given. The other might be mixed with a desire to be noticed, to be perceived as generous, to gain the status and respect of a generous giver. It might be out of a sense of pressure or obligation, or out of a desire to repay a debt. It might be a way to relieve guilt. Both gifts might meet the need, but as we’ve seen throughout these chapters, the heart of the giver is most important. One is proved genuine, the other proves to be fools gold.

Which is it? Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. What is the ultimate result? Who gets glory? Jesus said:

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

Let your light shine before men. Do good works. But do them in such a way that God gets the glory. The giver gets the glory. If the giver is God and it is clear that I am merely a conduit or channel through which God’s good gifts flow, then God gets the glory. If I attempt to share his glory, to claim credit for myself, I obscure where the gift comes from, and I attempt to steal glory for myself, glory that rightly belongs to God alone.

Remember Annanias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5)? Many of the believers were selling their possessions and sharing what they had. They sold a piece of land, and presented part of the sale price as a gift, but secretly withheld part for themselves. It was not wrong to keep some of the proceeds. It would not have been wrong to keep the entire amount. The apostles make this clear. What they were accused of was lying to God. They were not genuine. They were trying to deceive, trying to be perceived as something they were not. Their hearts were wrong. They were seeking to impress others, to be perceived as generous, to gain status and approval. Instead they were exposed for what they were, and they dropped dead on the spot. Our hearts matter greatly to God.

People may be deceived. People may misread motives, but God knows our hearts.

Gentile Submission to the Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.

This word ‘submission’ is used in contexts of submission to authority, submission of children to parents, of a wife to her husband, of slaves to their masters, of citizens to their governing authorities. It is used of the submission of Jesus to his Father. It is used of the submission of demons to Jesus, and ultimately of all things under God. This is an interesting use of this word here in this context. What is ‘the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ’?

This word submission seems to have a large overlap with another word, often translated ‘obedience’. Both are used for submission to or obedience to parents, to masters, of demons to Jesus. The obedience word has more to do with hearing and obeying; as the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ voice. This submission word has more to do with being subject to authority. The obedience word is used several times in the context of obeying the gospel, as almost synonymous with believing. To hear his voice and respond to him is to believe. This is the only place that this submission word seems to be connected with the gospel. But it is not just submission to the gospel, but the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ.

This idea of submission points to something bigger. There are some verses that use this submission word to speak in a cosmic context of all authorities and powers and everything being put under the authority of Jesus, and ultimately of his Father. Here’s just one example:

Ephesians 1:19 …according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things [in subjection] under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

This points to a time when the whole universe will be under the dominion of Jesus. That there are non-Jewish people who are trusting in the Jewish Messiah, that there is a church of Jesus followers in Corinth and in Philippi and in Ephraim Utah is a big deal! This is a foretaste of everything in the universe being in subjection under King Jesus! For the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to see that there were genuine followers of Jesus from every tribe and nation was a big deal.

Confessing The Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

The submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ. What does it mean to confess to the gospel of Christ? Gospel means good news. To confess is the compound word ὁμολογία from homo – the same and logia or logos – word or reasoning. Literally it is to say the same thing. We confess or profess the gospel when we say the same thing. What the gospel says is what I say. If the good news is that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned but has eternal life (Jn.3:36) then I say the same thing. I trust in Jesus so I am no longer under condemnation but I have eternal life. If the good news is that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph.2:8), then I say the same thing. There is nothing I can do to rescue myself. I am depending on Jesus, I receive his free and undeserved gift. I confess the gospel. What the gospel says, what God says is true, I say is true.

The good news is Christ. The good news is a person. In confessing the gospel of Christ I am submitting to a person. I surrender. I place myself under his good authority. I trust him and entrust myself to him.

Communion and Community

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They give praise and honor to God because you are believing the gospel. You are confessing the gospel of Christ. You are placing yourself under the rule and authority of Jesus.

And they glorify God because of the generosity (literally simplicity or sincerity, openness) of your fellowship. When they see your single hearted love for God and neighbor, they see the genuineness of your faith, and they glorify God.

The gospel creates communion, fellowship, something in common. People who had nothing at all in common, when they belong to Jesus, now they have a common bond, a connection, something in common. The most important thing in common. People of different language and culture and ethnic background, when they belong to Jesus, have the most important thing in common. And this creates a bond, a connection. Have you experienced this? You meet a total stranger, someone you have nothing in common with, and you discover that they too are a lover of Jesus, and you suddenly have this unity, this connection, you can enjoy communion. The opposite is true. You might have so many shared interests, so much shared life experience, you might have so much in common, but if the other person is not a believer, you can’t have true fellowship, true communion. Not at the deepest, most important level. They see the simplicity of your communion to them and to all. There is a connection with every other believer, and that brings glory to God.

Passion and Prayer

This communion is reciprocal. What this looks like is described in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Have you ever had someone tell you that they have been praying for you? Maybe someone you’re not really all that close to? Yet they are invested in you enough to take you into the very presence of God and speak to him about you. That is humbling and amazing. They long for you and pray for you. Their affections are involved. They care about you. They care enough to pray for you. They are bringing you into the presence of God as a praise. They are thanking God for you, for the work God has done in you. You are loving God and loving neighbor, and maybe you don’t even feel like you’re really doing that much. But they recognize the grace of God on you, that you are a trophy of God’s unmerited grace. And they glorify God because of you. That is a humbling, encouraging experience. That creates a connection. That is communion.

Surpassing Grace

And this brings us full circle. Your ministry, your simplicity of service to others is evidence of the tested genuineness of the submission of your confession of the gospel of Christ. This is evidence of the surpassing grace of God on you. Paul started this section encouraging simplicity and generosity by pointing to the grace of God,

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

The grace of God had been given, and it overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted simplicity, love first for God and then for neighbor. Now he comes full circle. He began with the grace of God given to them, and he ends with the surpassing grace of God on you, recognized by others.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

This generosity, this love, this openness and simplicity, this ability to increase thanksgivings and glorify God is all of grace from beginning to end.

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

November 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving

11/17_2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191117_2cor9_11-12.mp3

What are you thankful for? What should we be thankful for that we may not be? Is your heart characterized by gratitude? How is thankfulness developed? What can we do to grow our gratitude? Here’s another question: Is there anything that we can do to affect the thankfulness of someone else?

In Paul’s instructions on generosity and cheerful giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9 he gives some important insight into thanksgiving.

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

Paul says that there is a way to produce thanksgiving to God. He says that what we do can overflow in many thanksgivings to God. If we want God to be glorified through our lives, then we should be very interested in what he has to say here.

Paul is talking about giving. He builds everything he says on God’s grace, God’s undeserved gift to us in Jesus. He looks to God as the ultimate giver, the source of every good thing. Anything we give to others is actually a re-gifting of what God has first given to us, and that is what he intends for us to do.

Simpleness or Generosity

He says in 2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” This word translated ‘generous’ is a word we saw before in 8:2. Some interpretation has to happen in translation, and most English translations use the word ‘generosity’ because the context is clearly one of financial giving. But the word itself means simplicity, singleness or sincerity; free from pretense or hypocrisy; not self-seeking; an openness of heart. In Ephesians 6 and in Colossians 3 it is used in the context of a servant’s obedience to his master.

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

It is with an undivided heart, as to the Lord, not only while they are watching, but at all times eager to please the Lord. There is to be openness, integrity. Paul used this word to point to his own integrity in 2 Corinthians 1:12

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity…

Simplicity, transparent openness and integrity.

The first translation of the Bible into English, the Wycliffe Bible in 1382 translates like this: “that in all things ye made rich wax plenteous into all simpleness”

A more modern literal translation might read something like this: ‘in all enriched to all simplicity, which works through us thanksgiving to God.’ That doesn’t make great sense in English, so a good translation will put the words in an order that makes sense in the target language, and will pick up clues from the context as to how a word is being used. Paul is talking about an undivided heart, single or simple, seeking in all things to please the Lord, loving the Lord with a whole heart, and your neighbor as yourself. This includes generosity, but it is bigger than generosity.

Enriched to Simplicity

‘In all things enriched to all simplicity.’ You will be enriched in every way to be single-hearted in every way. What does it mean that we will be enriched in everything or in every way? This is defined by the context.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

God will supply everything needed so that we can abound in every good work. He will give us what we need to live a righteously, to distribute freely and give to the poor; he will supply and multiply our seed for sowing and increase our harvest of righteousness. We will be enriched in every way for a simple whole-hearted love for God and neighbor.

What About Poor Christians?

Do you believe this? Do you believe that God will supply all your needs? Does this mean that no Christian will ever be poor? Paul himself said he knew how to be content in plenty and in want. At times he went hungry. The Macedonian believers were in the depths of poverty. The collection was for the poor saints in Jerusalem, because they were poor. Our brothers and sisters are beaten and imprisoned and even killed because of their love for God. How do we account for this?

God doesn’t here promise exemption from poverty. He doesn’t say that as long as you’re following him, you will have enough money for your own needs and extra to give away. Apparently the Macedonians didn’t have enough for their own needs, but they gave anyway. If we view this as a financial formula, we will have to turn a blind eye to all of church history right up through our present day, or we will have to write them all off as not having enough faith.

But if we understand that God will give you all his grace so that you can stand firm in your faith and continue to love God and neighbor even in the worst of circumstances, then this is realistic and reliable encouragement for us.

Bigger Than Humanitarian

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

God gives us everything we need so that in every circumstance we can love God and neighbor which will produce thanksgiving to God. Do you believe this? Do you believe that you can live to the glory of God regardless of your circumstances? Do you believe that you can stay faithful to God and serve others even if you have nothing? This is the word of God! This is the promise of God to us. Do we live this way? Do we step out in love and serve, trusting that God will be enough?

Paul says that through us this will produce thanksgiving to God. Paul was involved in the transaction. He was orchestrating the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. He understood that God would use him and his companions to deliver this gift, to be the connecting link between Jew and Gentile churches. He believed that this would produce thanksgiving to God. Paul’s goal was bigger than a humanitarian mission. He was all for alleviating suffering where possible, but his purpose was bigger than that. Paul’s ultimate goal in everything was to bring glory to God. And he shows us how this humanitarian collection will produce thanksgiving to God in verse 12.

2 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ministry of this service not only does this, but also does that. Not only does it supply what is lacking in the saints; it does that, as he said back in 8:14 that your abundance will supply their need. It does meet a real need, but it is bigger than that. It is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Service and Worship

How does it do this? Paul uses an interesting word to describe this ministry. He uses two different words that have a large area of overlap to describe the collection. Both words could be translated ‘ministry’ or ‘service’. It is ‘the ministry of this ministry’ or ‘the service of this service’. The first word has a more a sense of administration or stewardship. It is where we get the word ‘deacon’. It is ministering or administering practical service or help.

The second word is less common, and it comes from the context of the Old Testament priest. John the Baptist’s father Zechariah was a priest, and we are told in Luke 1

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And then it says:

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

That’s our word; his time of priestly service. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word shows up often in connection with the tabernacle and then the temple. It has to do with approaching God in worship. It is where we get our English word liturgy.

Paul describes giving to the poor out of a single heart a service or ministry of priestly worship. Paul refers to this collection as a priestly service in Romans 15.

Romans 15:25 …I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

Giving is an act of worship. Paul describes his own ministry in these terms.

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

His language pictures himself in terms of a priest at the altar, presenting a holy sacrifice pleasing to God, only his service is not at the temple, but in the gospel; and his offering is not an animal sacrifice or a grain offering, but people, Gentile people made holy by the Spirit of God.

He uses similar priestly imagery in Philippians 2

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Here he describes his own life as the offering being poured out on the sacrifice and priestly service of their faith.

Paul has told the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 …that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? …

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are the temple. We are the place of meeting with God. Peter fleshes out this imagery when he says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

You are the temple. You are a holy priesthood. You are to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You get to proclaim the excellencies of him! This is worship. To proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Paul tells the Romans

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Our bodies are the sacrifice, made holy by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for us. He goes on to tell us more specifically how:

Romans 12:5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity (or simplicity); the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Use your gifts to the glory of God. Through love serve one another.

The book of Hebrews, which focuses on Jesus as our greater High Priest, also exhorts us:

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

A sacrifice of praise; lips that acknowledge his name. Do good and share what you have. In single simplicity love God with all your heart and love and serve your neighbor as yourself.

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

The ultimate motive is always God centered. We are always to pursue the glory of God in all things. God the giver deserves to receive the overflow of gratitude for the gifts he has given. When we love and serve others in the strength that he supplies, he gets the glory; we produce thanksgiving; many will overflow in thanksgiving to God.

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

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

2 Corinthians 8:19; To The Glory of The Lord Himself

09/29_2 Corinthians 8:19; To the Glory of the Lord Himself; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190929_2cor8_19.mp3

Paul takes 2 chapters in 2 Corinthians to encourage them toward generosity. They had expressed an eagerness to give to the saints in Jerusalem the previous year, and Paul had given instructions for the collection at the end of his letter we know as 1 Corinthians, but it seems they had not yet followed through. There were troubles in Corinth, which Paul had to address. There were those who were questioning his authority, and undermining his integrity, and it appears, the collection had stalled. They needed encouragement.

So he encourages them with the example of the Macedonians. He encourages them ultimately with the self-sacrificial service of our Lord Jesus Christ, who being rich, for your sake became poor, so that you through his poverty might be made rich.

He is not asking the Corinthians, however, to follow the example of the Macedonians, who gave beyond their ability, or of Jesus who became poor for our sake. Rather, he desires that there be equality, that your abundance would supply their lack. Not that you be impoverished to bring them relief, but that you give out of what you have, according to what you have.

Today I want to zoom in on verse 19, where he gives the overarching purpose of this generosity, this act of grace, this fellowship with the saints. He is encouraging Titus to return to them and bring to completion in them this grace.

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.

These last two clauses of verse 19 give the purpose of this act of grace. It is to the glory of the Lord himself, and our willingness.

Paul’s Willingness

First, Paul’s willingness. This word translated ‘good will’ is the same word translated ‘readiness’ or ‘eagerness’ in verses 11 and 12. It is a word that communicates a forward desire to do something, a passion for something. This eagerness or good will on the part of Paul was expressed as early as Acts 11, where in preparation for a famine, the disciples in Antioch:

Acts 11:29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Barnabas and Saul, or Paul delivered this service to the saints. This may be the same visit to Jerusalem that Paul refers to in Galatians 2, where he privately presented the gospel he preached to the leaders in Jerusalem, and they added nothing to him.

Galatians 2:9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Paul was eager to remember the poor. The gospel they believed and proclaimed of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone was the same. And they together believed that the faith that saves is never alone; the New Covenant work of the Spirit in the heart of a believer would so change them that there would be an eagerness to serve others. Paul looks at this act of grace as an opportunity to prove the genuineness of the Corinthian’s love (v.8). He is in total harmony with James, who teaches that genuine saving faith will produce a transformed heart that overflows in self-sacrificial service to others.

Paul in 2 Corinthians is finalizing his plans for the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, and here he says, it is to show his own readiness or goodwill. But this aim is subservient to his greater aim.

To The Glory of the Lord Himself

2 Corinthians 8:19 …as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.

This act of grace is first of all to the glory of the Lord himself. Paul is concerned primarily with glory, with bringing glory to God, living to his glory. To the glory of the Lord himself. On the issue of idolatry in 1 Corinthians 10, he said:

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. …31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The ruling principle under which all of life, including issues of liberty, eating and drinking, should be lived is the pursuit of the glory of God.

In Romans 1, the wrath of God comes on those who suppress the truth about God, his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature. They refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him; they exchange the glory of God for images; they fall short of the glory of God, and they are justly under his wrath. To fail to give God glory, to fail to honor him as God or give him thanks, is sin, treason against God. We were made, Isaiah 43:7 tells us, for his glory.

Paul has talked much about glory in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. He talked about the glory displayed under the Old Covenant, the glory of the Lord manifest in the tabernacle; the glory of the ministry of death carved in letters on stone, the glory reflected in Moses’ face, which was being brought to an end, He contrasts this with the glory of the New Covenant, written on tablets of human hearts by the Spirit of the living God.

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.

Then he says in

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The glorious New Covenant ministry has far surpassed the old in glory. We all can behold the glory of the Lord unmediated, and this transforms us into his image, to reflect his glory.

He goes on in chapter 4 to talk about the veil, the satanic blindness on unbeliever, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. The gospel, the good news, is the glory of Christ. God overcomes this supernatural blindness by his own sovereign word.

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.

Our willful suppression of the truth about God’s glory is guilty, and we are justly condemned. And God, by his word, overcomes our darkness and gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. As we with new eyes behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we are being transformed. God’s glory reflected in our lives should far surpass the glory that made Moses’ face shine.

What God’s Glory Looks Like

Here in chapter 8, Paul tells us what this New Covenant glory looks like. It looks like God’s grace made tangible. It looks like followers of Jesus loving and serving and helping other people. It looks like the impoverished Macedonians begging earnestly for the grace and fellowship of giving beyond their means to serve the saints. It looks like the Corinthians out of their abundance and out of their genuine love for the Lord joyfully giving to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

I’ll tell you one instance of the New Covenant glory of the Lord that I have seen. As a young married couple, we visited a new church. That very first Sunday a family invited us to come over the following Sunday after church for lunch at their home. But the intervening Saturday Deanna and I were bicycling on a trail, and while we were going down a fairly steep hill her front tire came off, and her bike flipped and she was knocked unconscious. We took an ambulance ride to the hospital, and when I realized that obviously we weren’t going to make it either to church or to lunch the following day, I called to cancel. That couple showed up in the hospital to pray with us, and after we returned home, we had people from that church that we didn’t really even know showing up at our door to bring us meals and to pray with us. That was sometimes a bit awkward, and it was a humbling way to get to know our new church family. But we saw the glory of God in the faces of people we didn’t really know as they surrounded us with love and care and support. They were truly the hands and feet of Christ to us in our time of need. That was the surpassing glory of the New Covenant; people who had been transformed by God’s grace extending that grace freely to those in need.

The Nations Bringing Glory to God

The glory of the Lord looks like Paul and those appointed by the Gentile churches carrying a generous gift to the believers in Jerusalem.

The glory of the Lord is seen in these simple tangible expressions of grace in the body of Christ. But I think there may be something even bigger in Paul’s heart when he writes this.

In Romans 15:15, Paul views his role among the Gentile churches as ‘priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable’, then he goes on in verse 25 to talk about his plan to travel to Jerusalem bringing this service to the saints from Macedonia and Achaia.

When he says here in 2 Corinthians 8:19 that this act of grace is for the glory of the Lord himself, could he have in mind the glory of the Lord in some of the prophetic passages like Isaiah 60?

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

Could it be that Paul sees his work of proclaiming the glory of Jesus among the nations as at least a beginning toward the fulfillment of these passages? That “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Is.40:5)? In fulfillment of Genesis 12, where Abraham is blessed in order to be a blessing to the nations? Paul brings the good news of the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Messiah to the nations, and now believing Gentiles are bringing their wealth back to their Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.

In Romans 11, Paul talked about the failure of many of his fellow Jews to believe in Jesus their promised Messiah, and he says that

Romans 11:11…through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

In Romans 15 he says:

Romans 15:27…if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

The prophecies of Isaiah end with a vision of the new heavens and the new earth. Those who rejoice with Jerusalem and mourn over her are invited to

Isaiah 66:11 …drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” 12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

It looks to the time,

Isaiah 66:18 …the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory,

God will send to the nations

19 …that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD,

The glory of the Lord is proclaimed among the nations. And God takes from the nations a people for himself. Through the Jewish Messiah, all the nations of the earth are blessed.

The glory of the Lord himself is displayed;

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

The glory of the Lord himself is displayed when the unity of the body is displayed in tangible practical ways.

Romans 15:5 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. 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”

Welcome one another for the glory of God. Live in such harmony with one another …that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Glorify God for his mercy. Joyfully and eagerly extend God’s grace and fellowship in service to the saints for the glory of the Lord himself.

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

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

September 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment