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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 1:12-14; Mutual Boasting in Transforming Grace

11/05 2 Corinthians 1:12-14; Mutual Boasting in Transforming Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171105_2cor1_12-14.mp3

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, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

Connections: Thanksgiving and Boasting

Paul has just finished saying that when the believers unite in working together with God by prayer on behalf of someone in need, thanksgiving is multiplied because many faces are turned toward God.

And now in verse 12 he brings up boasting. How do these things go together, thanksgiving and boasting? Thanksgiving is multiplied in response to God’s grace extended to the needy in answer to the prayers of many. Verses 12 – 14 is a section that is marked off by boasting; that begins and ends with boasting.

He moves from suffering in verses 3-10 to thanksgiving in 11 to boasting in 12-14. In verses 6-7, he invites them into (koinonia) fellowship in suffering,

2 Corinthians 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

In verse 11 he invites them to labor together in prayer and thanksgiving for him.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Here in verses 12-14 he is inviting them to join him in his boasting; our boast in you and you in us. The relationship between Paul and the Corinthians is strained and tense. All of this is designed to encourage and highlight the Corinthians connection with Paul. They are to fellowship with him in his sufferings, to be co-laborers in prayer, and to mutually boast together in one another.

Boasting; Good or Bad

Paul talks about boasting more in 2 Corinthians than any other book. He even indulges himself in a little foolish boasting in chapters 11-12. But in Galatians 6 he says

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

How do we put this together, that Paul refuses to boast in anything but the cross of Christ, and here in 2 Corinthians he seems to let loose and boast, even inviting the Corinthians to boast in him?

We see at the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

God saved us in the way he did in order to exclude human boasting. (see Judges 7:2; Eph.2:9) The only appropriate boasting for the believer is boasting in God.

Paul is quoting Jeremiah 9

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

We are not to boast in self; we are to boast only in God. Later in 2 Corinthians, he records that:

2 Corinthians 12:9 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. (cf. 2Cor.11:30; 12:5)

Paul’s boasting is not boasting in his own abilities but in his weaknesses and the demonstration of God’s power through his weaknesses. Paul glories in, exults in, boasts in God. So when Paul boasts, he is boasting not in himself, but in what Jesus has accomplished in him. We will see this clearly in this passage as we look more closely at it.

The Testimony of Conscience

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, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Paul calls his conscience to testify to his conduct, his manner of life in the world and especially among the Corinthians.

What is the conscience? The conscience is the inner voice that bears witness, the inner awareness of the rightness or wrongness of actions, accusing or excusing (Rom.2:15). The conscience can be weak (1Cor.8:7-12), creating feelings of guilt where God’s objective standard has not been violated. The conscience can be defiled, wounded, or seared (1Tim.4:2; Titus 1:5) so that it no longer functions as the warning system it was intended to be. Although the conscience is not an infallible guide (1Cor.4:4), it is a very valuable guide. As Luther said “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” [Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521].

Hebrews tells us that under the Old Testament “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (Heb.9:9). Hebrews goes on to say:

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The conscience can be purified by the blood of Christ. Purified from dead works to serve the living God. Our hearts can be “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb.10:22). We can “appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pet.3:21).

Conduct in the World; Simple and Transparent

What is the testimony of Paul’s conscience and that of his co-workers?

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, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

His conduct in the world was in simplicity and sincerity of God. Paul’s conduct was single, not duplicitous. He was not two-faced; no hidden agendas. With Paul, what you see is what you get. He was simple and he was sincere. This word literally means ‘judged by the sun’. Expose something to the light of the sun to examine its genuineness. Paul’s life was transparent, vulnerable, he lived out in the open; nothing hidden or secret. He demonstrated this in verses 8-10, where he informed them of his weakness and desperation in response to so great a trial.

Paul’s simplicity and transparency was not due to his own strength of character or natural constitution. His simplicity and sincerity were godly, literally ‘of God’. The source of his integrity was God. Paul was a messenger sent to communicate God’s simplicity, God’s transparency in the gospel. His clean conscience was a result of gospel cleansing that transformed a persecutor into a fellow-sufferer.

He makes this explicitly clear in the next phrase. He contrasts fleshly wisdom with the grace of God. His life operated not out of fleshly wisdom, the wisdom of this world. He didn’t make his decisions based on what would be best for him. He lived in God’s grace; everything he did was done in grace; he moved in the realm of God’s undeserved favor. He made decisions based on God’s grace. His filter was not ‘what makes most human sense?’ but rather ‘what is an expression of God’s grace? How has God treated me in Christ?’

His conscience bore him witness, that in the world, and superabundantly toward the Corinthian church, he conducted himself simply, transparently, graciously. All this was no credit to him, but all credit to the life transforming power of the gospel at work in him.

Writing and Understanding; Hermeneutics

Paul continues:

2 Corinthians 1:13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—

Paul here writes about his writing. This is an incredibly helpful little verse on the subject of hermeneutics, how to understand or interpret the Bible. Paul applies what he said regarding his conscience not only to how he lives, but to what he writes. He writes with simplicity, with transparency. He communicates God’s grace in Jesus, not fleshly wisdom. He does not hide his meaning, there is not some deeper truth encoded in his letters. He does not intend his readers to read between the lines and hear what he is not saying. His writing is simple, plain, straightforward. He is transparent. He means exactly what he says. We can take it at face value. We aren’t writing anything other than what you read. Paul uses the root word ‘to know or understand’ four times in this sentence. The word for ‘read’ is a compound word literally meaning ‘to know again’. The word for understand is ‘to know upon’ or ‘recognize’. We don’t write anything other that what you receive and perceive, and I hope you perceive completely just as you have even perceived us in part. Paul is partly understood. But he hopes they will completely understand him as they take what he says at face value and believe him.

Paul is not so concerned that they believe him as much as that they believe the gospel. But the gospel is the gospel he and the other apostles preached. To disbelieve or distrust him and his writing was to distrust the gospel.

Paul wants them to fully understand him, his heart, his motives, his simplicity and transparency, his integrity. He wants them to understand the simplicity of the gospel, the beauty of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Eschatological Perspective

2 Corinthians 1:14 … —that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

Paul returns to the topic of boasting. His boast is the testimony of his conscience as to how he lived and what he wrote. Here he looks forward to the final outcome of their knowledge of him (and really their understanding of the gospel). Paul looks forward to the day of our Lord Jesus, the day when Jesus comes again to rule and reign. On that day there will be mutual boasting; not in the sense of ‘wow, look at how great I am and all the great thing I did,’ but rather ‘look at God’s grace on display in the life of our faithful Apostle!’ Look at the magnificent grace of God who transformed the sinners in Corinth into saints through the foolishness of my preaching!’

Paul puts an eschatalogical (or end times) perspective on the tension in their relationship. They were questioning the integrity of their apostle. They were doubting the straightforwardness of his communication. Paul’s soul was in turmoil over this wayward church. Harsh words had likely flown in both directions. Reconciliation needed to happen. Fellowship needed to be restored. Healing of a strained relationship. Paul asks ‘what will our relationship look like for eternity?’

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

We are going to be mutually boasting in one another for eternity. There will be mutual exultation in God’s grace evidenced in them and in their relationship with one another. I will be proud of you and you will be proud of me; what God has accomplished in me and through me for his glory. If that is what our relationship will be in glory, why not pursue that kind of relationship now? Why not enter in to the fellowship of suffering now, labor together now in prayer and rejoice together now in thanksgiving for God’s gracious answer, why not overlook the faults and offenses and boast in one another now?

Just think, God used the weaknesses of the Apostle and the weakness and wandering of the Corinthian church to occasion the writing of a letter that has served to equip and encourage the saints through the centuries and even down to our church here in Ephraim Utah! What amazing riches of God’s boundless grace in using our weakness, our brokenness, even our damaged relationships for his glory and our eternal good.

***

-What is the state of your conscience? Weak? Seared? Blood washed and gospel transformed?

-How do you make decisions? Fleshly wisdom or gospel informed grace?

-How do you respond to criticism? When your character is undermined?

-Could you allow an eschatological perspective on your differences and conflicts to move you toward reconciliation and deeper fellowship? Can you boast in the evidence of God’s grace in the life of someone who has hurt you?

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

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November 7, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What We Are All About

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What We Are All About

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

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

Equipping and the Mess Hall

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

We see this in Jesus’ statement;

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

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

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

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

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

The Mission: To Glorify God

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

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

The Mission: To Enjoy God Together

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

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

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

Verse 4 contrasts this with the counterfeit product:

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

Then he turns back to the real thing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mission: To Spread Joy in God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Glorify God

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

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

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

Angelic beings in Isaiah 6 declare

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

The Psalmist declares

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

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

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

Philippians tells us that one day

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

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

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

1 Cornithians tells us

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

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

Jesus tells us to

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

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

The Glory of God and Spiritual Blindness

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

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

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

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

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

The Glory of God; Light and Weight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How We Glorify God; Drink and Do

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

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

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

Listen to the prophet Isaiah

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

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

Listen to the Psalms:

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

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

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

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

Listen to Jesus:

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

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

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

Doing and Not Doing

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer, Bible, Sermons

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

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

Expect Great Things; Attempt Great Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Church and the Glory of God; Ephesians 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the Praise of his Glorious Grace

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

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

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

Grace Lavished

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

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

His love has no limits,

His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,

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

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

To Unite All In Him

God makes to abound to us his grace,

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

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

To the Praise of The Glory of the Son

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

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

To the Praise of The Glory of the Spirit

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

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

Triune Glory

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

The Glory of God in Ephesians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

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

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

Romans 15; Glorify with One Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 9; Enjoying The Presence

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

Climax of the Torah

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

The Presence of the LORD

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

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

In verse 6,

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

Then in verse 23, after offering the appropriate sacrifices,

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

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

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

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

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

The Bull Calf

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

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

Offering for the Priest

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

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

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

Offering for the People

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

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

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

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

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

Blessing the People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The All-Consuming Glory Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus our Great High Priest

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and unshakable joy!

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

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

Glorious Blessed Perfection

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect, Lacking Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfection of All His Attributes

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

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

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

Glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Glory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in 2 Corinthians 4 he says:

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

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

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Hebrews 1 tells us Jesus:

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

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

Blessed Perfection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Holy Holy God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God says in Leviticus 22:

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

And in Ezekiel 39:

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

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

What does Holy Mean?

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

I The Lord Am Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delighting in God’s Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 29 says:

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

Psalm 96 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

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

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

Listen to Isaiah 57:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God All Knowing and Wise

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

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

The Good News of Omniscience

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

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

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

The author of Hebrews says:

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

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

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

God who Cannot Learn

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

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

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

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

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

God and ‘Chance’

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Aloof or Involved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

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

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus rejoices (Lk.10:21) at his Father’s gracious will to hide these things from some and reveal them to others. In the same breath he invites all who recognize their need to come to him and find rest for their souls.

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

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

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

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

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

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

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing the Incomprehensible

08/23 Knowing the Incomprehensible; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150823_knowing-the-incomprehensible.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, to see what the Bible has to say about who God is, what he is like. As we seek his face, see him for who he is, we must learn to respond to him in worship and service and thanksgiving. It is not enough just to know what he is like. We must respond to him, interact with him. We must know him.

Last time we ended with a prayer of longing for God from Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

We long to know God, but we need to ask the question, is this even possible? If God is the all satisfying source of every good thing, if to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment, can we know him? Is he knowable?

Meant to Know God

As we saw last time, the answer to this must be yes, at least in some sense. According to Romans 1, we are expected to know him, and held accountable for how we respond to what we know of him. We are under God’s wrath because we have irreverently and falsely suppressed the truth about God.

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images … 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. …28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, …

God can be known, indeed he is known, because he has made himself known. Here is a key principle that will help us throughout our endeavor to know God. What we know of God is what God has made known to us. What can be known is plain because God has shown it to us. What we know, we know because of the self-revelation of God. Romans 1 is specifically talking about what we can know about the Creator from looking at his creation. His invisible attributes, his eternal power, his divine nature are clearly perceived in the things that have been made. How much clearer will our perception be if God has communicated directly, in words, telling us what he is like! This is an amazing truth, as Francis Schaeffer reminded us, ‘he is there and he is not silent. God has spoken. He wants to be known. He is a God who communicates, who makes himself known.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

God says in the new covenant

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

God intends for a relationship with his people. I will be there God and they will be my people. They will know me. Paul prays for the church in Colossae.

Colossians1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

We were meant to know God, to be in relationship with God. From creation we were intended to walk with God, to enjoy fellowship with him. That relationship was severed when we rebelled against his good rule. But now, because of the cross of Jesus, we can be always increasing in the knowledge of God.

Obstacles to Knowing God

We are meant to know God, but there are some obstacles to knowing him. Some of those obstacles are on our side, and some are on his.

Sin

On our side, we have a sin problem. Sin has damaged everything.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Our sin has severed our relationship with God. If God seems distant, it is because we have pushed him away. We were meant to know God, but we rejected his rule and questioned his goodness and love. We usurped his authority and attempt to rule in his place, to run our own lives. Our sin has hidden his face from us. The good news is that through Jesus Christ, our sin can be taken away so that we can be reconciled to God. But sin has left its mark on every part of our being. Humanity is twisted, distorted because of the fall. We are not as God intended us to be.

Romans 1:21 …but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Sin has tainted our thinking and our feeling. We do not think as we ought to think. Our ability to reason correctly has been affected.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

What seems right and reasonable to us may be very distant from what is truly right. We need to maintain a healthy distrust of our own ability to think clearly, especially when it comes to such a high subject as God. Romans 1 tells us that we have a tendency to suppress the truth. Our desires influence our perception. What we want God to be like influences what we think of him. We need to remember that what can be known about God is plain because God has made it known. The only safe path is to let God define himself, and allow him to critique and correct our inadequate views of him.

Our thinking is distorted by sin, but also our desires.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Our hearts are twisted and sick. We cannot trust our own desires. Our desires are deceitful, they lie to us. The things we want the most are not the things that will truly satisfy. There is in our world a desperate lack of desire to know God. If you look around at the people you know, very few of them are interested in God at all. Very few are interested in really knowing him. Some are interested in going to heaven, or in doing something to gain his favor so that he will give them some good thing, but very few are interested in knowing God. In fact, the bible says that no one seeks God. No, not one (Rom.3:11). If you find in your heart a hunger to know God, thank him for that! God placed that desire for him in you. God is the author of that desire.

Many people want God to be different than he is. They want to re-define God in a way that suits their fancy. They hold self up as the ultimate good, and require God to submit to their ideas. They want to conform God to their own image.

Our hearts and our minds are distorted by sin. The gospel is the remedy!

Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Our hearts are softened and our minds are renewed as we are taught the truth that is in Jesus. Sin is a major obstacle to knowing God. It is an obstacle that has been overcome by the sacrifice of Jesus, but its effect lingers, and we must continue to battle against it. But this is all on our side. There are obstacles to knowing God that come from God’s side.

Incomprehensibility

Even if we had no sin, there would still be an enormous obstacle to knowing God. Even when we are ultimately set free from our sin and see him face to face, this obstacle will remain. And it is an obstacle rooted in the very nature of God. It is the difficulty of the creature attempting to understand the Creator; of the finite attempting to grasp the Infinite; the temporal grappling with the Eternal; the eye attempting to perceive the Invisible.

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

Immortal, invisible, unapproachable. That certainly does put a damper on our relationship!

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Deep, unsearchable, inscrutable. Who has known his mind? It is past finding out.

Psalm 145:1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Psalm 147:1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. …5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Beyond measure. Abundant. Words fall short to describe him. Moses described his appearance on Mount Sinai.

Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

Fire wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. No visible form. Unapproachable light. We have a big word to describe an even bigger concept. Incomprehensibility. How many other 8 syllable words do you know? God is incomprehensible. He is far beyond our ability to understand.

A.W. Tozer in his book ‘Knowledge of the Holy’ points to our difficulty in grasping God.

We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most vigorous and daring mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination. …

The effort of inspired men to express the ineffable has placed a great strain upon both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. These being often a revelation of a world above nature, and the minds for which they were written being a part of nature, the writers are compelled to use a great many “like” words to make themselves understood. When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and beheld visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back upon the language of resemblance. “As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.” The nearer he approaches to the burning throne the less sure his words become: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it…. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p.7-8)

The other way we seek to describe what God is like is by way of negation. We can only describe what he is by comparing him with things we are familiar with, and he is utterly unlike anything else. So we must resort to using negatives to trim away the things that he is not, leaving what he is somewhat undefined. We have a number of words that begin with ‘in-‘ or ‘im-‘ or ‘un-‘ to narrow down what God is not. When we say he is uncreated, we mean that he was not brought into being by something else. Immortal means that he is not subject to death. When we say he is ‘invisible’ we mean he is something that is not visible, but he is still something. What it is exactly, we can’t be sure. Infinite means that he has no limit.

A poem might help us feel the weight of our difficulty.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, “Ho, what have we here,

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,

And felt about the knee

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain,” quoth he:

“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said: “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Than seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

Incomprehensible yet Knowable

To say that God is incomprehensible is not to say that God is unknowable. We can know true things about him. Real things about him. But we must recognize that we cannot know everything about him. We will never have an exhaustive knowledge of God. I don’t fully understand everything about myself, and I certainly don’t understand a lot of things about my wife. But I do know some things about her. And I can enjoy a relationship with her. I can do things that I know will make her angry. And I can do things that I know will make her smile. And I know I ought to do more of the one and less of the other. The fact that God is incomprehensible yet knowable allows us to enjoy our relationship with him, yet continually long for more of him. We can continually behold him – we can perceive true things about him, what he has made known to us, and respond in worshipful reverence and awe.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

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

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:58; Labor in the Lord is not Vain

06/14 1 Corinthians 15:58 Labor in the Lord is not Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150614_1cor15_58.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

58 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Today we finish 1 Corinthians 15 and look at verse 58. This is a very encouraging verse. This verse is a command with a promise. It is a command to be something and to do something. It is a command of character and behavior. And it is character and behavior based on a promise, based on knowing something.

Character Commanded

How many of us want this kind of character to define us? What do people think of you? How do people describe you? When a friend is telling someone about you, what adjectives do they use to describe you? When you meet someone, and they say ‘oh, you’re so-and-so. I met your friend the other day. They said you were…’ What do you want to hear them say? Would they say you are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Do you hope that is what they would say?

This is a command of character. This is a command to be a certain kind of person. This should give us hope. Some might say, well, I’m just not that kind of person. That’s just not how I am. But according to this, you can change! You are not stuck! You can be different than you are. Your character is not a fixed entity that you were born with and can do nothing about. You can be better than you are. You can grow and learn and change, and Paul will tell us how.

Imperative follows Indicative

This is a command, a command to be a certain way, and it is a command based on a promise. It is a command based on truth. We find this sort of thing all over the Bible. You can observe this pattern in much of the teaching of the New Testament. When you find a command, look around to see what that command is built on. We can see that in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Before God says ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’, he makes this statement:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (cf. Deuteronomy 5:6)

The commands are based on and rooted in a statement of truth. The imperative (or command) follows the indicative (or statement of fact). Another way to say this is that exhortation follows information. I am going to inform you of truth, which I believe will shape the way you live. We see this all the time in advertising. The little sidebar pops up on you screen that says ‘one rule for a flat tummy’ or ‘three foods that fight cancer; click here to find out more’. There is something you need to know, the information, the secret, that will change your behavior, so that you can attain the goal, the promise.

This verse begins with ‘therefore’. And whenever we see the word ‘therefore’ we should look to see what it’s ‘there for’. This is the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection. Paul is teaching truth to combat error that will shape behavior. Let’s look back over the chapter.

1 Corinthians 15 Outline

In verses 1-7 he reminds us of the gospel message, with an emphasis on the fact that the historical resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel message, evidenced by a substantial crowd of eyewitnesses.

In verses 8-11 Paul holds himself up as an eyewitness and an example of the power of resurrecting grace which produces a transformed life.

In 12-19; he points to the negative consequences for those who preach and those who believe if the resurrection were not historical.

In 20-28 he holds up Christ as the new representative of mankind who undoes what Adam did and brings resurrection where Adam brought death.

In verse 29 he argues for the incoherence of the practice of baptism if there is no resurrection.

In 30-32; he argues for the incoherence of Christian sacrifice and suffering if there is no resurrection.

Verses 33-34 we find another imperative demonstrating the negative consequences of unbelief in resurrection on a person’s morality. He warns them not to be deceived, and says that because the resurrection is true, you need to ‘wake up from your drunken stupor and stop sinning’

In verses 35-41 he answers objections to the natural implausibility of a resurrection with evidence of the power and creativity of God as seen in creation.

In 42-49 he comes back to the contrast between our representatives Adam and Christ; where we have borne the fallen image of Adam, we are destined to bear the image of our new representative, Christ.

In 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection transformation to enable us to participate in the kingdom of God.

In 54-57 he demonstrates the prophetic necessity of the resurrection.

And finally in verse 58 he gives concluding imperatives; because the resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact and our resurrection is a certain future event that God will bring about, we should live a certain way.

It matters what you believe. What you believe will impact the way you live. If you claim to believe something but there is no evidence of that belief working itself out in your character in everyday life, it is legitimate to question whether you truly believe what you claim.

Brothers, Beloved

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul addresses his readers as brothers. Earlier he addressed them as fools. Actually, in verse 35 he quotes the questions of ‘someone’ and he responds to that hypothetical ‘someone’ who asks those questions with ‘Fool!’ because those questions were motivated not by a desire to learn but by an effort to make belief in the resurrection look silly. They were the questions of the fool in Proverbs who says in his heart ‘there is no God’. But here he refers to his readers as brothers, siblings, not subordinates or underlings, but equals. And he calls them ‘my beloved’. We are dearly loved. This is a command, but it is a command clothed in gentleness and compassion. He genuinely cares about us and he communicates that to us. The command is rooted in love, a desire to bless, to do good to us, to help us to find joy and fulfillment.

Be Steadfast, Immovable

This word gives the idea of firmness, steadiness, being settled. Paul used this word in chapter 7 talking about the resolve of a single man who chooses not to marry.

1 Corinthians 7:37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.

This same word also shows up in Colossians 1 in a similar context to this one.

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

We are to continue in the faith, stable and steadfast. Interestingly the word for ‘shifting’ is the positive verb form of the negative adjective translated here ‘immovable’. It means to be unmovable, not moved from its place, firmly persistent. We are not to be moved from the hope of the gospel. We are to be firmly persistent in the good news.

This is the same idea that he expressed with different words at the beginning of this discussion on the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

He began the discussion with an ‘if’. There is a danger of not remaining in the gospel, not holding fast the word. Now he concludes the section with a loving exhortation to be settled and unmovable.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

It seems the Corinthians were in danger of allowing the culture and the beliefs they were surrounded by to sweep them off their sure footing in gospel truth. They were wavering on the foundation truth of the bodily physical resurrection. Paul exhorts them to remain anchored and to stand fast on the truth that they had believed.

Abounding Always

This character, being steadfast, immovable results in action. A person of character acts in ways consistent with that character. A person whose foundation is firmly rooted in gospel truth will abound in the work of the Lord. They will super-abound. They will overflow. Not occasionally, not sometimes, but always. Beyond measure, abundantly. What do they super-abound in? What do they do? What is the work of the Lord?

The Work of the Lord

Most simply, the work of the Lord is the Lord’s work. It is what the Lord does. What is it that we see the Lord doing? What is it that he tells his followers to join him in doing? In Mark 1, Jesus said

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus came from the the Father in order to preach the gospel of God, telling people to repent and believe the good news.

Jesus says in Mark 10:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf. Matthew 20:28)

Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to give his life a ransom. In Luke 19 Jesus tells us:

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

The work Jesus came to do was to find and rescue lost people, to serve, to give his life, to proclaim the good news.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said “I will build my church”. Jesus is all about building his church, one sinner at a time.

What did Jesus tell his disciples to do? In John 6, Jesus encouraged people to seek not the temporary but the eternal. Some listening asked him a question:

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The work of God is to believe in Jesus. First things first. We must understand the simplicity of the good news. We must come to Jesus ourselves, with childlike faith. Trust in Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus for eternal life. Without this kind of relationship with Jesus, nothing else is possible. You cannot call yourself a follower of Jesus if you have not come in simple dependence on him.

For a person who comes to Jesus in childlike faith, what is the work he invites us to join him in? In John 20:21, Jesus says to his disciples “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In Luke 24 and Acts 1 he calls them to be his witnesses, to testify of him and “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Lk.24:47).

It seems clear that those who have been rescued by Jesus are to join him in his work of seeking and saving the lost by proclaiming his good news to everyone. Paul said in chapter 1 that “Christ… sent me… to preach the gospel” (1:17) and “we preach Christ crucified” (1:23). In chapter 2 he said that we are “servants through whom you believed… I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. …We are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (2:5-6, 9). In chapter 9 he says “you are my workmanship in the Lord (9:1). He says “we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (9:12). He says “I have made myself a servant of all that I might win more of them… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (9:19, 22-23). In chapter 10 he says “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved.” (10:33). In 14:12 he uses this word ‘super-abound’; “strive to excel (or super-abound) in building up the church”. He envisions an unbeliever entering the orderly worship service of the church and “the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (14:25). In chapter 16 he says:

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.

What is that work of the Lord other than joining him in seeking and saving the lost, proclaiming the good news, making disciples of all nations, building up his church?

Labor Not In Vain

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul changes the word in the last phrase. He said ‘the work of the Lord’ – whatever it is that you undertake to do, what you are occupied with, what you are busy about. Here he says ‘your labor’ – toil, trouble, pain, sorrow, weariness; it carries the idea of beating one’s breast with grief. This is intense labor united with trouble and sorrow. Paul described his ministry in chapter 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, … We are weak, … we [are held] in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Sometimes following Jesus is just plain hard. Doing what Jesus calls us to do, being people of character as Jesus calls us to be, is hard. It is labor, it brings trouble, it is wearisome, it is toil. Sometimes you just want to give up. Sometimes you wonder ‘is it worth it?’ This is where strong encouragement is necessary.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In the Lord your labor is not empty, worthless, vain. In what way could our labor be in vain, and how is it not in vain in the Lord? Paul started this chapter on the resurrection warning that the gospel should not be believed in vain. Paul says that the gospel saves unless we believe in vain. To believe the gospel in vain would be to believe it in such a way that it is worthless and does not accomplish its intended effect; it does not save. This, in the context, would mean shifting away from the hope of the gospel, not holding fast to the gospel message. In verse 2 Paul uses a synonym to the word translated ‘vain’ in verse 58. he uses the same word four times in this chapter and nowhere else in the book. In verse 10 he says:

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

God extended his grace to Saul, and it was not in vain. God’s grace always accomplishes what he sends it to do. God’s grace transformed an enemy of Jesus into the man who risked everything and went to the ends of the earth to make Christ known.

Paul uses this word twice in verse 14

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

If the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christ’s death accomplished nothing and preaching the gospel is worthless and believing the gospel is worthless. It is an empty and impotent message if it is not true. But because it is true, proclaiming the message of the cross is never a waste. Because God is in the business of seeking and saving the lost, of bring life to the dead, transforming sinners into saints, and because God chooses to do his work through the unlikely means of our weakness and foolishness so that he gets all the glory, we can be confident. Because these bodies will be raised and transformed, what we do in these bodies matters. As he said in

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

And

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

All glory to God. All honor and praise and thanks be to God.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

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

June 14, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment