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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Psalm 22; The Innocent Sufferer and Exalted Savior

04/21_Resurrection Sunday; Psalm 22 – The Innocent Sufferer and Exalted Savior; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190421_psalm-22.mp3

The Innocent Sufferer

Good Friday night we looked at Psalm 22, the Psalm of the Cross, because it gives us insight into the heart of Jesus, what he experienced on the cross, what he went through for us. Jesus pointed us to this Psalm by quoting its opening words from the cross.

Today I want to look quickly back over the first 21 verses of this Psalm, which focus on the innocent sufferer who cries out to the Lord, and then we will look at verses 22-31, which jump ahead into the experience of the hoped for deliverance, and give us a glimpse of glory.

The Cry of Abandonment

Verse 1 begins with the cry of abandonment that Jesus uttered from the cross:

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Jesus experienced no rest, no answer from his Father, no salvation, a dark and desperate distance from his Father; he was abandoned and forsaken so that we could be received, reconciled.

Hope in the Character of God and the History of Deliverance

Verses 3-5 express unwavering hope in the character of God and the history of deliverance in spite of the current circumstances.

Psalm 22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

I love that phrase; ‘enthroned on the praises of Israel’ – the Holy one sits enthroned on the praises of his people. Today, your dependence on him, your cries to him and his rescue, your worship forms the glorious throne he is seated on.

De-humanizing Mocking

Verses 6-8 describe the de-humanizing mocking of the crowds, the leaders of Israel, even one who was crucified alongside him.

Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

He was despised and rejected so that we could be forever embraced, accepted.

Personal Dependence on the Lord

In verses 9-11 he recounts his own personal history of helpless dependence on the Lord

Psalm 22:9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

‘None to help.’ Jesus was abandoned even by his closes friends, so that we could enjoy sweet fellowship with our brothers and sisters both now and forever.

Physical Trauma of Crucifixion

Verses 12-18 liken the ungodly attacks of persecutors to wild and dangerous beasts; [oxen, a lion, dogs]

Psalm 22:12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

These verses are a vivid description of the physical trauma of crucifixion; hands and feet pierced, bones dislocated (but not broken), the agonizing thirst, the broken heart. The one who is the source of living water experienced unquenchable thirst so that we forever could be satisfied in his presence. He hung naked, exposed, vulnerable, so that we forever would be clothed in his perfect righteousness. He was broken and poured out so that we could be filled to overflowing. Jesus was laid in the dust of death so that we could experience abundant life in relationship with him.

Desperate Cry for Nearness and Rescue

Verses 19-21 repeat the desperate cry for nearness and rescue

Psalm 22:19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Where verses 12-18 list his enemies as oxen, a lion, and dogs, these verses mirror that in a cry for rescue from the power of the dog, the mouth of the lion, the horns of the wild oxen.

He experienced distance so that we could be brought near by the blood of Christ

Jesus Exalted

The last phrase in verse 21 is a hinge, a turning point in this Psalm. He moves from ‘deliver me, save me’ to ‘you have rescued me.’ The remainder of the Psalm moves from the present suffering to the future glory and speaks from the point of view that God has answered and the asked for salvation has come.

Welcomed as Brothers

Psalm 22:22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

This verse is quoted in Hebrews 2, where

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Jesus, eternal God, humbled himself and became human to suffer and die for us. Because he took our nature and suffered in our stead, in his humanity he is not ashamed to call us his brothers. Do you see what this is saying? I (that’s Jesus) will tell of your name (that’s the Father) to my brothers (that’s us!); in the midst of the congregation (that’s us) I (Jesus) will praise you (the Father). Jesus, crowned with glory and honor, exalted back to the glory he had with his Father before the world existed; Jesus looks forward to the day when he will have brought us into his own glory, and together with us sing his Father’s praise. Jesus, existing in very nature as God, does not cling to his equality with the Father, but gladly takes his place in the congregation he redeemed, singing with us his Father’s praise!

The Affliction of the Afflicted Accepted

Verse 23 begins a call to worship.

Psalm 22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.

Jesus is calling us, his brothers, to worship. God has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. The Father has accepted the suffering of Jesus in our place.

Acts 17:31 …of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Romans 1:4 …was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

The Father heard the prayers of Jesus. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt.26:39). There was no other way, and it was through his being forsaken that the Father’s face is now toward us. The one who was rejected is now accepted, the one put to shame is now honored, the one abandoned and alone now stands with a great company of blood-bought brothers in the congregation.

God the Source of All Praise

Psalm 22:25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!

‘From you comes my praise.’ The source of the praise is ultimately God himself; “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:36).

‘The afflicted’ or ‘the humble, the poor shall eat and be satisfied.’ Because the Father has accepted the suffering of the Son in our place, we, the poor and humble can eat. Because of his thirst, we can be satisfied. We who deserve death will live forever with him!

The Global Scope of Worship

Verse 27 shows us the scope of this future glory:

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

Where verse 23 names the offspring of Jacob and Israel, here the call to worship is global; ‘All the ends of the earth, all the families of the nations.’ Pilate had the inscription hung above his head ‘the king of the Jews’; but Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn.18:36).

Philippians 2:5 …Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 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.

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. To him every knee will bow. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord. Do you remember what he did for you? Do you remember what it cost? Have you turned to Jesus as Lord?

Both Poor and Prosperous Satisfied in Jesus

Verse 29 takes this even further.

Psalm 22:29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.

Where verse 26 says those afflicted or poor and humble, those who seek him shall eat and be satisfied, here even the prosperous are included. 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; not many wise, not many, powerful, not many noble were called. It does not say ‘not any‘; it says ‘not many‘. God can humble even the proud and prosperous so that we recognize our need and bow before him to receive his grace.

In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that God would give us hearts to see,

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

This is our hope, that because Christ was forsaken, we are accepted. Because Jesus thirsted, we can drink and be satisfied. Because he was pierced, we can be made whole. Because he experienced distance and separation, we are brought near by the blood of Christ. This is our gloriously rich inheritance.

It is God’s immeasurably great power, resurrection power that is at work in us who believe. The same power at work in Christ to raise him from the dead is at work in us to raise us who were dead in trespasses and sins to new life in Christ.

Jesus is exalted over all, he rules all nations, and we are connected to him, we are his body! The Father gave Jesus to us! All things are under his feet; he is head over all and he is God’s gift to us, the church!

Are you enjoying Jesus today as God’s gift to you? Are you experiencing his immeasurably great resurrection power at work in you today?

His Righteousness Proclaimed; He Has Done It!

Psalm 22:30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

The great congregation will include both Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, and it will include both past and future. We tend to look at the coming generation and ask ‘what is this world coming to?’ (Remember, that’s what your parents said about you!) God guarantees that there will be some from every generation around his throne singing his praises. Because of Jesus there is hope for every people group, for every socioeconomic strata, for every generation, even those yet unborn. The good news about Jesus will be told to the coming generation. That his righteousness, his perfect righteousness, is credited to the account of every person who depends on him. The sinless one died for sinners to make us righteous in God’s sight.

They will be told that ‘he has done it.’ God has done it. There is nothing we can add. Salvation is accomplished. It is finished!

***

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

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April 23, 2019 Posted by | occasional, podcast, Psalms | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry

03/31_2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190331_2cor6_7-10.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. He is commending himself in everything as God’s minister. He purposes that no fault may be found with the ministry. He refuses to create stumbling blocks for anyone in anything. He will allow no stumbling block but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 4-7 he gives a bullet-point list of 18 ways he commends himself, each introduced by the word ‘in’. He introduces the list by the way he faced adversity; in much endurance. Then he gives three general hardships, three specific forms of persecution, and three voluntary hardships, all in the plural.

Starting in verse 6 he lists four character qualities, fruit of the Spirit in his life: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness; followed by four divine enablements for the ministry: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

The Means of Ministry

Now after 18 bullet points of adversity and how he responds to it, all beginning with ‘in’, he switches prepositions; starting at the end of verse 7 he uses ‘through’ three times, followed by seven uses of ‘as’, introducing contrasts or paradoxes.

We are all called to minister, to serve others in love for their good. Ministry is conflict. Ministry is tension. Ministry is war!

You cannot please everyone ever. Jesus said ‘Woe to you when all people speak well of you’ (Lk.6:26). There will always be something someone doesn’t like about something you do. Expect it! Expect tension in ministry.

7… through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; [διὰ τῶν ὅπλων τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῶν δεξιῶν καὶ ἀριστερῶν,]

Paul uses a military metaphor here. Ministry is war. He endures hardships in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. He is equipped to respond this way in or by means of the Holy Spirit, God’s unhypocritical love, the word of truth, the power of God. He is equipped for war!

He uses this word ‘weapons’ in 2 Corinthians 10:4 also in the context of the power of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

He is thoroughly equipped from right to left, for the battle. His weaponry consists in righteousness or justification. ‘The one who knew no sin, on our behalf was made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2Cor.5:21). In Ephesians 6, righteousness is mentioned as the breastplate. Clothed with God’s righteousness in Christ he now stands ready, both for offensive and defensive, as with sword and shield. God’s righteousness is a weapon both offensive and defensive.

The next two contrasts are also introduced by ‘through’, indicating that all four of these nouns could be seen as part of his weaponry.

8 through glory and shame, [διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀτιμίας,]

through slander and praise. [διὰ δυσφημίας καὶ εὐφημίας·]

Paul’s sequence is positive-negative, negative-positive; sandwiching the negative inside the positive.

Glory is how he describes the new covenant ministry in chapter 3; the far-surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit; the lasting ministry of righteousness and life. It is a glorious ministry, but there is little glory in it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 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, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor [in-glory], but we in disrepute [ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. (adj)].

It is a glorious ministry, but its ministers are held in disrepute or shame. We understand how glory or honor could be considered a weapon, part of our equipping for ministry, but shame or dishonor?

In Acts 5,

Acts 5:40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor [ἀτιμασθῆνα (v)] for the name.

Did you hear that? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonored in the name of Jesus! Worthy to be shamed! They counted it an honor to be publicly dishonored. They remembered what Jesus had said in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, …17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Look at what Jesus is saying. You will be dishonored. You will be shamed. But in the midst of betrayals, even beatings and arrests is an opportunity to testify; to give Spirit empowered witness to Jesus. They saw slander and shame as an opportunity; an offensive weapon to bring glory and praise to Jesus!

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 4 to describe his role as a spectacle to the world, as fools for Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:11 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 [δυσφημούμενοι (v)], we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul is slandered, treated as scum and refuse, yet through it all he implores all to be reconciled to God. Shame and slander, glory and praise, in it all his desire is to make Christ known; to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14).

It is particularly in the slander and shame that we become like Christ.

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

1 Corinthians 2:8 …they …crucified the Lord of glory .

Peter says:

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Seven Paradoxes in Ministry

Paul switches in the next seven pairs to ‘as’ to introduce contrasts or paradoxes in ministry. Ministry is paradoxical. It is not always what it seems. Paul has already described gospel ministry as paradoxical; there are differing responses to the gospel between different groups of people; to those who are perishing and to us who are being saved. The same message of the cross sounds stupid to some and comes with power to others (1Cor.1:18). The same aroma of knowing God stinks like death to some and smells alive and beautiful to others (2Cor.2:14-16).

as deceivers, and yet true; [ὡς πλάνοι καὶ ἀληθεῖς,]

Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians (15:15) that ‘if Christ has not been raised… We are even found to be misrepresenting God’. Jesus was accused of being a deceiver in speaking about his own resurrection (Mt.27:63). Some perceive him to be a deceiver, yet

2 Corinthians 4:2 …we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

9 as unknown, and yet well known; [ὡς ἀγνοούμενοι καὶ ἐπιγινωσκόμενοι,]

Paul was unknown in the sense of being unrecognized, not considered authentic. His character was being questioned. Yet…

2 Corinthians 5:11 … what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Even if you don’t know me, don’t recognize me, God knows me fully, and that is all that matters.

1 Corinthians 13:12 …Now I know [γινώσκω] in part; then I shall know fully [ἐπιγνώσομαι], even as I have been fully known [ἐπεγνώσθην].

as dying, and behold, we live; [ὡς ἀποθνῄσκοντες καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶμεν,]

Paul was all to familiar with death. He said in chapter 4 that we are…

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the [dying] of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Paul faced death daily (1Cor.15:31). Yet he interjects an exclamation Look! Behold! We live!

2 Corinthians 5:14 …one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

We died with Christ, and his resurrection life is now at work in us!

as punished, and yet not killed; [ὡς παιδευόμενοι καὶ μὴ θανατούμενοι,]

These two statements echo the language of Psalm 118.

Psalm 118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

If we look at the content, we see the Psalmist in his affliction, surrounded by the nations, crying out to the Lord, and the Lord as a valiant warrior bringing victory with his right hand. Then the gates of righteousness are opened so that the righteous may inter in. Psalm 113-118 were traditionally sung at Passover, and these Psalms were likely sung by Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. Only a few verses later we find this familiar paradox:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

The rejected stone is the cornerstone. Hosanna! Save us we pray! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Paul is embracing the paradox of ministry shaped by his Master. “As dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed.”

Isaiah 53:4 …we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,…

The punishment that brought us peace was on him.

Throughout this Paul is identifying with the suffering servant. He is willing to take up his cross and follow Jesus.

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; [ὡς λυπούμενοι ἀεὶ δὲ χαίροντες,]

In a life of ministry, there is sorrow, but there is always joy. Paul writes from prison to Philippi:

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

There is sorrow, mingled with joy. Like Jesus,

Hebrews 12:2 …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Paul writes also to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. There is joy in the midst of sorrow when in our service we sacrifice for the good of others.

as poor, yet making many rich; [ὡς πτωχοὶ πολλοὺς δὲ πλουτίζοντες,]

How does someone who is poor make others rich? When Peter and John encountered the lame beggar, Peter said “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts3:6). He gave him something of greater value than what he was seeking.

Paul fleshes this out most clearly in 2 Corinthians 8

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

Matthew 8:20 …the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Paul voluntarily embraces a life of poverty in order to open the riches of eternal wealth to them.

as having nothing, yet possessing everything. [ὡς μηδὲν ἔχοντες καὶ πάντα κατέχοντες.]

How does someone have nothing while at the same time fully have all things? In Mark 10 Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give away all that he had and come follow me.

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

This is the paradox of the Christian life and ministry. You can give up everything and find that you have lost nothing. If you seek to preserve you life, you will lose it; you must lay down your life to truly find it (Mk.18:35)

This is the way of the cross; are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Are you willing to risk everything to experience the joy he promises in following him? Do I “ count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”? Am I willing to “suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”? Is my supreme desire

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

?

***

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

April 1, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:16; Seeing With New Eyes

01/27_2 Corinthians 5:16; Seeing With New Eyes ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190127_2cor5_16.mp3

How Do You Judge?

You pull up to a stop light in a bigger city. There’s a guy standing on the corner, long unkempt hair poking out from under his stocking cap, surplus army jacket a little too big, faded blue jeans, dark brown leather work boots laced loosely. Gaunt face, weathered and unshaven. Grimy tobacco stained fingers hold a tattered piece of cardboard, scrawled with ‘anything helps. God bless.’

You’re early to your appointment. Across the waiting room there is a woman, sitting uncomfortably in a chair. She seems irritable and speaks harshly to her 2 year old boy who is as poorly behaved as he is dressed. She is too thin, despite being noticeably pregnant. The faint remnants of a bruise are just barely visible under her left eye, and although she does not smile, it appears she is missing teeth.

On the other end of the room stands a young man, 30 something, crisp white shirt and tan sport coat, one hand in the pocket of his neatly pressed pants fidgeting with car keys, talking on his wireless earpiece while looking up at the ceiling, saying that he looks forward to meeting with them over lunch next Tuesday, and ending the call with a click.

What do you think? What conclusions do you draw? What do you feel? What goes through your mind, your heart?

So Then

Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5.

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

2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Verse 16 starts with ‘So then’ or ‘therefore’ making a connection with the previous verses. He is drawing a conclusion, an application of what he said in verses 14-15. Christ’s love for us is the controlling factor in our lives. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). Because Jesus died in our place, we died with him. Our old identity is dead, and we have been raised with him to a new kind of life. We are no longer to live to ourselves, but for him. And this truth, this doctrine, impacts the way we live. This truth of our relationship with Christ spills out into the horizontal, how we view the people around us.

Seeing According to the Flesh

So then, from the now, we see no one according to the flesh. In the context we see what he means by no longer viewing according to the flesh. Back in verses 11-12, Paul said

2 Corinthians 5:11 …what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

Outward appearances versus what is in the heart. Because of Christ’s death for us on the cross and our death with him, we now no longer view according to outward appearance, according to the flesh.

Paul’s Confidence in the Flesh

Paul was expert at drawing conclusions based on outward characteristics. He says in Philippians 3 that he had every reason to put confidence in the flesh

Philippians 3:4 …If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Paul had it all together. He was born into the right family, he belonged to the right group, he did the right things, he was passionate, successful, determined; he was going somewhere. He was morally upstanding, he had a flawless record, he was clean. Outwardly he had it all together.

But he ditched all that. In the next verse he says;

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul came to consider his outward standing, his standing in the flesh as loss, rubbish, dung, σκύβαλα.

A Church of Losers

The majority of the church in Corinth didn’t have it all together. They didn’t have the status, they didn’t have what mattered outwardly, according to the flesh.

1 Corinthians 1:26 …not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

When viewed from a fleshly perspective, they were losers.

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.

But what matters outwardly is not what matters to God. In fact God turns human evaluation on its head. He does this intentionally, to eliminate pride and boasting.

Paul’s Boasting

Paul understood how the world views people, how to evaluate according to the flesh, according to outward appearances. And he knew the expectations on him as an apostle and teacher and preacher. You see, the values of the world tend to creep in to the thinking of the church. He was supposed to come with eloquence, with wisdom, self-confidence, strength of character, with a show of power, demanding a high salary.

Instead he came to them in weakness and in fear and much trembling (1Cor.2:3). He was put on display as a fool, weak, in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted, homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered, the scum of the world, garbage (1Cor.4:9-13). He did not draw a salary from them, but worked with his own hands (1Cor.4:12; 1Cor.9; 2Cor.11:7-11). He describes himself as afflicted (2Cor.1:4-7), burdened and despairing (1:8), dependent on the prayers of others (1:11), he experienced anguish of heart, he cried (2:4). He experienced unrest of spirit (2:13). He could not claim any self-sufficiency (3:5). He came to them not as their lord but as a fellow laborer (1:24), as their servant; he didn’t promote himself (4:5). He compared himself to a common, disposable clay container (4:7). He was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, given over to death; death was at work in him (4:8-12). His outer nature was wasting away (4:16); his tent was being destroyed (5:1). In chapter 10:10 he quotes what others are saying about him; ‘For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”’

When viewed outwardly, Paul was a failure. He was not worthy to be followed.

Christ According to the Flesh

You see, Paul once viewed Christ according to the flesh. Let me read to you this description of Jesus:

Isaiah 53:2 …he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 …we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. …7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; …he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken … 9 And they made his grave with the wicked … 12 … he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors…

Jesus was not the Messiah anyone expected. Paul knew his scriptures. He knew that anyone who was hung on a tree is cursed by God (Deut.21:23; Gal.3:13). It was clear to him that the blasphemous claims of Jesus were proved false by his crucifixion. The fact that anyone would still follow this Jesus as Messiah and convince others to follow him was infuriating; Paul approved of the stoning of Stephen, and he set about himself to stamp out these deviant religious fanatics.

But Paul was not the only one to view Christ according to the flesh. Notice he says “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh” Even Jesus’ disciples, his closest followers, expected something much different that what he was.

In Mark 10,

Mark 10:32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to lay down his life, and for the third time he tells his disciples exactly what is going to happen. Their response? The very next verse:

Mark 10:35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

They just didn’t get it! They had no category for a crucified messiah. They were looking for the glory, for the kingdom. They were expecting the miraculous; that Jesus would in a show of power overthrow Rome and take his rightful throne (and they wanted to edge in on positions of earthly power).

The religious leaders had an expectation of a supernatural messiah.

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

The religious leaders of Israel anticipated a messiah who would come in power, who could manifest the supernatural.

Even the Roman soldiers understood what a king should look like.

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Everyone knows what a king looks like, and Jesus didn’t fit.

After his crucifixion his disciples didn’t know what to do. They hid behind locked doors. They went home. They began to return to their jobs. Two of his disciples, conversing with an unknown traveler about his crucifixion, said “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk.24:21). At first they disbelieved the reports of his resurrection. Even after they had seen their risen Lord they asked him “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They couldn’t see beyond their fleshly expectation of the messiah.

Seeing With New Eyes

The Lord had to open their eyes! He enabled them to see in a different way, a spiritual way. Jesus’ answer to his disciples?

Acts 1:7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses [μάρτυρες] in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Don’t concern yourself about earthly kingdoms. You will be Spirit empowered to be my witnesses, the Greek word is μάρτυρες; where we get our word ‘martyr’. Most of his followers would seal their testimony of him with their own blood. Outwardly this doesn’t look very successful. But it is the way of Jesus.

The Lord had to open their eyes.

2 Corinthians 4:4 …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. … 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 disciples could only see Jesus from a fleshly perspective, and they just didn’t get it, until God opened their eyes.

Paul could only see Jesus from a fleshly perspective. Until, on the way to Damascus, he was blinded. His physical sight was literally taken away for a time, so that he could begin to see with new eyes, to see things as they really are, to evaluate not according to the flesh.

Paul began to really see. God’s plan to rescue humanity was not a conquering messiah who would wipe out all his enemies, because that would mean everyone. Instead the messiah would take on himself the sins of his enemies, die as their substitute, and so make his enemies into his friends. The seemingly foolish way of the cross is the only true way to glory. His kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. Jesus said:

Mark 10:43 …But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Death is the only way to really gain your life. Christ died for us, and we died with him, and that affects the way we look at other people, other believers; even apostles. It is not the outward, visible reality that matters most. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2Cor.4:18).

We once evaluated people according to the flesh, outwardly. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.

***

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

January 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cross Before The Crown

12/23 The Cross Before The Crown; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181223_cross-before-crown.mp3

Christmas is a time to focus our attention on Jesus, who Jesus is, what he came to do. We looked at his eternal identity, the Son before the manger, we looked at his aim, to overcome the darkness in us with the light of his presence, that this was his plan before creation, to enter in to our mess and rescue us, that it was his eternal purpose to put on display the glory of his grace. Today I want to look again at who Jesus is, what he is really like, and how his rescue of us must happen.

The Image of Jesus

Who is Jesus? What is the mental image you have of Jesus? When you think of Jesus, how do you picture him? How do you imagine him?

Do you think of the baby in the manger? Do you think of a 30 something Caucasian with a slight build, long blond hair and piercing blue eyes? An olive skinned Hebrew with a robe and tassels? Some composite of the artwork and movies you’ve seen?

Did you know we have a visual description of what Jesus looks like in the bible? Let me read this description of one who saw the risen and glorified Lord Jesus. If you like, you can close your eyes and imagine.

Revelation 1:10 …I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet …12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

I dare say if we were to meet the risen Lord today, we too would fall at his feet as though dead. That description is from Revelation 1. There is another description in Revelation 19.

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Why don’t we think of Jesus this way? Except for one or two brief episodes (his transfiguration, and possibly at his arrest, when the armed mob drew back at his word and fell to the ground – Jn.18:3-6), Jesus did not look like this during his time here on earth. Of course these visions are highly symbolic, not necessarily meant to be taken as literal physical descriptions.

But even more important than what he looked like, he didn’t act like that during his time on earth. He didn’t come with sword and scepter, striking down his enemies, trampling them underfoot. But he will, when he comes again. Advent means coming. And advent is a time to look back at his coming, as well as forward to his second coming.

The Cross Before The Crown

We see both of these aspects of who Jesus is in Philippians 2. Philippians 2 is a call to love and unity, to put aside selfishness and pride, in humility to count others as more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being himself fully God, did not cling to his divine privileges. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. God humbled himself. He took the form of a servant; he was born into humanity. The Creator of all things became a part of his creation. He humbled himself even to the extreme of a humiliating death.

Verses 9-11 give us the rest of the story. God intended, as a result of his humiliation, to highly exalt Jesus.

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 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.

Humility and then glory. In that order. You see the ‘therefore’ at the beginning of verse 9? The Father exalted the Son as a result of his humiliation, his obedience even to the extreme of the cross.

We have to be careful not to misunderstand. It is not as if Jesus earned something that he did not before possess. He always was exalted; he did not need to be exalted. Verse 6 excludes the possibility of understanding this in a way that Jesus was somehow less and became great. It says that he existed in the very form or nature of God. His equality with God was not something he had to chase after. But having humbled himself, there was room for him to be exalted, lifted up to where he had come down from, restored to his rightful place.

What he has now that he did not before, is a human nature. At the incarnation, ‘remaining what he was,’ God from all eternity, ‘he became what he was not,’ truly human. He took a human nature, and he retains that nature for eternity. Jesus will be God incarnate forever. He now is seated at the right hand of his Father, a man; the God-man. Our advocate. Our brother.

And he now bears the title ‘Savior.’ From before time, before creation, he planned to rescue his fallen creation. But he had not yet carried it out in time. He was always full of mercy and grace, eager to forgive; that is his heart. But that is now seen, put on display because of his humiliation and crucifixion. The riches of his grace toward his enemies are now put on public display in the humiliation and crucifixion of Jesus.

The cross came before the crown. Humiliation before exaltation. “Therefore God has highly exalted him.”

Temptation to Reverse

We see in the temptation of Jesus, Satan’s attempt to reverse that order.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Use your power as the Creator to provide for your own needs. Put your own needs above the needs of others.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus would live in dependence on God, putting the needs of others above his own.

Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Use your privileged position and promise of divine protection to demonstrate to all who you are. Gain followers by a spectacular show of glory.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus would wait for the perfect timing of the Father. He would not step out on his own, seek his own glory, or force his hand.

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Here is an opportunity to avoid the horrors of the cross. Just a simple act of worship and I will freely sign over what you know will cost your own blood to secure. Every knee will bow to you, if you will only bow your knee to me, do it my way. Does your Father really know best? Does he really love you if he sent you here to die?

Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus was sure of his Father’s love and his Father’s wisdom. He would not be fooled as Adam was, questioning the Father’s goodness, questioning his wisdom or his ways. Jesus knew that humility was the only true path to glory.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

But it was Simeon at the temple who said

Luke 2:34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Jesus will reign. He will sit on the throne of David forever. But he must suffer first. He will be opposed. The cross before the crown.

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

We see this foreshadowed in the gifts of the Magi. Gold and frankincense and myrrh. All three were very valuable and used in trade. Gold is associated with wealth, royalty, and most notably the presence of God. Idols were often made of gold, and the most holy place, the place where God made his presence known, was entirely covered with gold. Frankincense is associated with the temple, used in the holy incense, burned with the grain offerings to create a pleasing aroma, and placed with the bread of the presence. Myrrh was also used in the temple service, in the holy anointing oil. It was also associated with passion and intimacy. Wine mixed with myrrh was offered to Jesus on the cross, but he refused it. Nicodemus used about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (Jn.19:39).

Economically these gifts would have provided the resources necessary for this poor couple to flee to Egypt and live there to escape the wrath of Herod ignited by the visit of the Magi, but it would be hard to miss the significance of the royal gift of gold that reminded of God’s presence with us, the priestly gift of frankincense that pointed to a sacrifice as a pleasing aroma to the Lord, and the myrrh as a preparation for burial. Jesus will reign, but he must offer himself, suffer and die first.

The Testimony of John

John understood both aspects of who Jesus was.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

Jesus came into the world after his cousin John (he was younger), but John said ‘I am not worthy to untie even his sandal strap.’ He has come to be before me because he existed first. He is is the eternal one who has come into the world, and he is worthy of all worship. But he is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Everyone in Israel knew how a lamb took away sin. It was slaughtered. It became a sacrifice. It received the death penalty as an innocent stand-in for a guilty person. It gave its life as a substitute. Jesus was the eternal one who entered our world, and he is worthy of all worship, but he came to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus would be worshiped as the king coming on the clouds in glory, but he must pay for our sins with his own blood first. The cross before the crown. This is why he came.

Worship and Imitation

What does all this have to do with us? First, it is reason to worship. Jesus, being God from all eternity is worthy of our worship. But Jesus came to die for your sins to rescue you and put on display the riches of God’s glorious grace. He would be worthy of our worship if he never stooped to save us. Every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. But what a treasure we have! That he did come! For us! To rescue us! What amazing undeserved grace! We can worship him not only at the worthy king, but as our savior, rescuer, friend. We have a man standing on our behalf in heaven. God took on our nature to be with us, to suffer for us, to advocate for us. What a savior! Worthy of worship!

Philippians invites us to have our affections stirred for Jesus, to take encouragement and comfort in his love for us, but also to learn from him. To be like him. To follow him. We will reign with him. We are promised his inheritance. We are welcomed in. The cross before the crown.

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

The cross before the crown. We don’t have to grasp at power and position and possessions. God has promised us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Pet.1:4). God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Eph.1:3). It is ours in Christ Jesus. We have been given it. We don’t need to compete for it. Our interests are looked after by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ himself! We are freed now to look after the interests of others. We can count others more significant than ourselves. Jesus has freed us to love, sacrificially love, because we have been perfectly loved. So church, love boldly!

***

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

December 24, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Plan Before Creation

12/16 The Plan Before Creation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181216_plan-before-creation.mp3

Christmas. The Incarnation. We looked at Jesus, the Son before the manger, the eternal only Son of God, who was sent to rescue us, made flesh to be with us. We looked at Jesus the light of the world, who entered into our darkness, who went under the shadow of death for us, who took into himself all our darkness, so we could enjoy the light of his presence.

All this was necessary, the incarnation was necessary, as a result of our sin, our rejection of God’s good rule, because we went astray, we went our own way. We created the need. We caused this. He made everything very good, and we messed it all up. What if…? Was the incarnation God’s response to our rejection? Was this God’s attempt to fix what we broke? Was Christmas an afterthought? Was this God’s plan B, the fallback plan just in case we blew it? Was God uncertain (as some teach) what would happen when he created man in his image to rule over his creation and placed them in the garden with but one restriction? Should we view this as a kind of insurance? We take out an insurance policy against something terrible that we hope never happens, but is possible. Should we imagine that the Father sat down with the Son and said ‘this whole creation thing could go terribly wrong. I hope not, but we need to be prepared, this is what it will cost us if it does. Was Christmas a contingency in case things didn’t go according to plan?

Christmas is a great time to recapture our wonder. Look at who God is, what he has done, and let your jaw drop. Stand in awe. Worship. Rejoice with joy inexpressible and filled with glory (1Pet.1:8).

God’s Unfailing Purpose

We could look at verses that tell us that God’s purposes are never frustrated, scriptures like:

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

And:

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

God always accomplishes his plans. God’s purpose is unchangeable (Heb.6:17).

2 Timothy 1:8-10; God’s Gift Before The Ages Began

Let’s look this morning at a passage that pulls together God’s unchangeable purpose and connects it with Christmas, and creates wonder.

In 2 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy not to be afraid but to have courage even in the face of suffering because it puts God’s power and his purpose on display.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Listen to Paul’s logic of courage in the face of suffering. Let’s just walk through this text together. Don’t be ashamed of me when I face suffering, and don’t be afraid to suffer yourself for the gospel. Share in suffering by the power of God, (because you can’t do it yourself; you need God’s power, and God’s power is available to you).

It is God who saved you and called you to a holy calling. God saved you. God saved you for this, and he called you to this. It is a holy calling to suffer for the sake of the gospel. God saved us, he called us, not because of anything he saw in us, not because of anything we did, not anything we would do; not because of our works.

If not because of anything in us, then why? God saved us and God called us because of his own purpose and grace. It is God’s own purpose. Not of the will of flesh or of the will of man (Jn.1:13). God’s purpose for us is gracious; we don’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it. It was nothing in us. God freely chooses to give it. Our salvation, our calling is rooted in God’s will, God’s purpose and is God’s gift to us. It is unearned, freely given; it is grace.

Notice where we get God’s gracious gift of salvation? Every good gift comes to us in Christ Jesus. We have no good outside of him. God’s purpose, God’s grace, God’s salvation, God’s holy calling come to us as a gift packaged in Christ Jesus. ‘I want salvation, but I’m not sure I want Jesus.’ There is no salvation outside of Jesus. All God’s blessings come to us only in Christ Jesus.

Notice when this gift comes to us? This will blow your mind. God gave us his own purpose and grace, this salvation, this holy calling before the ages began, before time eternal. How are we given grace before we need it? How are we given God’s grace before we even exist? But that is what this text says! Do you see what this means? Before God created man, before God created anything, he had a purpose. He had a plan. And that purpose had you in mind. This was no insurance policy! This was the plan, his purpose. God intended all along to give you grace! Revelation (13:8) tells us that before the foundation of the world, our names have been written in the book of life of the lamb who was slain. The lamb slain will be the focal point of our worship for eternity! And that means that you would need grace. You would be undeserving. You would forfeit all your rights. God would have no obligation to you whatsoever, and yet he would freely give you grace. The salvation of sinners by grace in Christ Jesus was no plan B. God’s purpose to graciously save sinners in Christ Jesus was established before the eternal ages. This simply boggles our finite human brains! Before God created, before we rebelled, God who is rich in mercy, gave us his own grace.

Do you see Christmas in verse 10? God’s purpose, God’s grace, this salvation purposed and given before time began has now appeared. It is now put on display in the appearing, the advent, literally the epiphany of our Savior Christ Jesus. The gift that God gave before the ages began, the gift of his only Son was brought to light, put on display, made manifest at a point in time in history, when Jesus appeared.

Look at what this gift accomplished. This gift of God in Jesus abolished death. Death has been rendered impotent for those who are saved by Jesus. He has taken the sting out of death. He took sin, our sin into himself. Eternal life, incorruptibility is brought to light through the gospel. The gospel, the good news of Messiah Jesus, God’s eternal Son, become flesh to take our death and give us life is now on display, being proclaimed. God’s eternal purpose has now unfolded before our eyes.

Paul says all this to Timothy to give him courage in the face of suffering. God has saved us. He has called us to a holy calling. Our performance didn’t earn it, and our failure to perform can’t take it away. It was given to us according to God’s eternal purpose, before we existed, and it is now put on display. By God’s grace, the death we earned has been rendered impotent to harm us. We can take courage, even in the face of suffering, because Jesus took our ultimate suffering, and now nothing, not even physical death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:39).

This is a holy calling, and we can be confident even in the face of suffering because it is ours as a gift from before eternity began.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

In chapter 2 Paul says:

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, …3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

This grace that God gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began is able to strengthen you to endure. In verse 10 he holds up his own suffering as an example.

2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Paul is in chains, but the word of God is not bound. Paul is willing to endure anything so that God’s elect may obtain this salvation.

Christmas was the public display of God’s gracious plan before creation. God’s eternal gift was put on display in a manger, and then on a cross. And we are invited to participate in passing this good news on.

Ephesians 1; God’s Purpose to Bring Praise to His Glorious Grace

I’d like to look at another passage that points us to God’s plan before creation, and gives us insight into his aim, his end goal. In Ephesians 1, Paul gives extended praise to God for his gracious eternal purpose to bless us in Christ.

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,

Do you hear God’s purpose, God’s plan for the fullness of time? God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. In his great love, God predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. We have redemption, forgiveness, according to the riches of his grace lavished on us. He made known the mystery of his will according to his purpose, his plan for the fullness of time, (there is his plan before the ages began); and this plan he set forth in Christ (there again is Christmas). All this is according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. God’s purpose is never thwarted. He works all things according to the counsel of his will.

We see in many places that the glory of God is the ultimate purpose of everything. All creation is meant to bring glory to God.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, ‘the glory of the Lord shone around them’ (Lk.2:9) and a multitude of the heavenly host were praising God, saying ‘glory to God in the highest’ (Lk.2:14). The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God’ (Lk.2:20).

We were created for his glory. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But Ephesians is even more specific. The eternal purpose of God in our rescue is ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’. Not just the praise of his glory, but the praise of his glorious grace. We were chosen before the foundation of the world to be to the praise of his glorious grace. Before God created anything, God purposed in himself to save sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus. Does that blow your mind? Before man was ever created, long before man sinned in the garden, God purposed to become one of us and to pay for our sins with his own blood! O the riches of his glorious grace! Undeserved kindness toward undeserving sinners.

Moses and Glory and Grace

When Moses boldly asked the Lord ‘please show me your glory,

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

God’s glory is seen in the riches of his grace and in his freedom to extend it to whomever he will. In the next chapter,

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.”

God’s glory is displayed in his mercy and grace, his abundant love and faithfulness, his forgiveness of sinners who deserve his wrath.

God’s plan A was to display the glory of his grace according to the riches of his grace. The righteous older brother didn’t need grace; the wayward prodigal’s only hope was undeserved grace. Our sin provided the stage on which the glory of God could be seen most clearly.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

God gave us his grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and now, in the fullness of time, he has has put on display his glorious grace through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. God has sent to us his only Son. This was the plan even before sin entered the world through one man. This was his purpose even before creation. This was his desire, to put on display his glorious grace.

It is one thing to know this. Have you received it? Have you received his grace? Have you welcomed his grace, his gift, have you allowed it in, to shape you, to make you new? Have you allowed his grace to capture your wonder, your amazement? Receive it!

Let your jaw drop. Wonder. Be amazed. Worship. Allow his grace to sustain you.

***

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

December 17, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:18; What Are You Looking At?

10/21_2 Corinthians 4:18; What Are You Looking At?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181021_2cor4_18.mp3

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, …

What Are You Looking At?

What are you looking at? What are you looking at? It matters what you are looking at. Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that what we fix our eyes on has great significance and great consequences. What we look at determines to a great extent where we are going. I love scenery. As we were on a road trip cross-country last week and I was driving, my wife had to gently encourage me once or twice to keep my eyes on the road. Why? Because where we are looking quickly becomes where we are heading. I learned this early on in my lawn mowing career; if you want to mow straight lines, you don’t look down at the lawn mower wheels. Pick a point in the direction you want to go, keep moving toward that point, and you will go straight. It matters what you are looking at. Paul uses the word ‘seeing’ four times in this one verse, as well as a different word for focusing or looking.

—Not fixing your eyes

———————on that which is seen

—————but that which is not seen

—————————-for what is seen is for this time

———————-but what is not seen is eternal

The Context of Suffering

It matters greatly what you are looking at. It especially matters what you are focusing on when you face suffering. Remember, Paul’s context here is suffering. He is being destroyed, being taken apart, being brought to the brink of despair and being done to death. His circumstances are those which would cause him to utterly lose heart, give up, quit,

Just so we understand a bit better the context, I’d like to pull together a few texts from the Pastoral Epistles that communicate the kind of things Paul faces in his ministry.

In 1 Timothy 1 he mentions that some have swerved away from sound doctrine and made shipwreck of their faith (1:3, 19). In 1 Timothy 6 he warns:

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

He says (6:9) that because of a love of money some have wandered away from the faith.

In 2 Timothy he exhorts Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel, or of Paul, who is now a prisoner in chains, and he tells Timothy to “share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (1:8). Paul says that he is suffering because he is a preacher, apostle and teacher of the gospel (1:10-12). He says:

2 Timothy 1:15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.

He tells Timothy

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

He says that it is his preaching the gospel “for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!’ (2:9). He names “Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.” He says “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2:17-18). He warns that some have been ensnared by the devil, “being captured by him to do his will.” (2:26).

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

He says of himself:

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

2 Timothy 4:9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me…

By the end of Paul’s life, many professing believers had swerved from the faith. Some pursued their love of money. Many were teaching false doctrines. Many were stirring up controversies, dissensions, slandering him, creating constant friction between people. Some had been captured by the devil to do his will. Their talk was spreading like gangrene. Personally he had endured persecutions and sufferings at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. He expected that all who followed Jesus would be persecuted. He is now imprisoned and bound with chains. He felt that his life was being poured out as a drink offering, and that he would die soon. He said “all who are in Asia turned away from me.” All in Asia? All the churches he had planted in Asia turned away from him? This would include Ephesus, Colossae, Pergamum, Thyatira, Smyrna, Sardis, Laodicea, Miletus! He says that when he stood on trial before Caesar, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” No one? Not one of his friends, not one of his co-workers stood by him? Completely alone, deserted? It seems that all his ministry was crumbling, all his efforts were for nothing.

How did he not feel utter defeat? From all outward appearances, the apostle’s ministry was a failure; it appeared he had wasted his life. He was a clay pot crumbling under the weight and pressure of ministry. And at the end of his life it seemed like everything he had labored for was coming apart. How did he not lose heart? What is he fixing his eyes on that keeps him from losing heart?

Paul’s Perspective on Suffering

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Last time we looked at the contrasts in verse 17 in duration between momentary and eternal; and in mass between light and the weight of glory. And we saw that the suffering he endured was actually purposeful; it was doing something; it was working something in him. It was preparing for him the exceedingly exceeding eternal weight of glory.

Now he tells us where he gets this perspective. Perspective comes from what you are focusing on. The word translated ‘as we look to’ is skopeo [σκοπέω]. This is where we get our English word scope, as the scope on a gun. It is what you look through to take aim and zero in on your target. It is the goal on which our eyes are fixed, the end toward which the attention, desires and efforts are directed. When you are looking through a scope on a rifle, your field of vision is limited. The target is magnified, and the periphery is excluded from view. What are you aiming at, zeroing in on, focusing your attention on? What are you excluding from your field of view?

Paul continues the contrast between what to set in your sights and what not to look at. Ironically he uses the common verb ‘to look at or to see’ to define what is to be held in the scope. And he flips it. He starts negatively; not fixing our eyes on that which is seen. Whatever he sees, he doesn’t look at. He doesn’t take aim or fix his attention on what he can see. The next phrase he gives us what he does fix his gaze on; that which is not seen. He excludes from his range of vision everything he can see, and he takes aim and zooms in on that which is not seen.

Focusing on the Unseen

Focus on what you don’t see, not on what you see. How do you focus on something you can’t see? How do you fix your eyes on what is invisible? This is what the Christian life is, and this is what enables us to not lose heart in spite of the outward circumstances. In the next chapter he says ‘so we are always of good courage’ (5:6), which is the positive way of saying ‘we do not lose heart’. He says ‘for we walk by faith, not by sight’ (5:7). Faith, not sight. Fixing our eyes on the unseen realities.

Romans 8 is in many ways parallels 2 Corinthians 4. In verse 18 he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Then in verse 24 he says:

Romans 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We hope for what we do not see. We have our eyes fixed on what is not yet seen. Hebrews 11 tells us:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith takes hold of the promises of God. Later in Hebrews 11, the author points us to the faith of Moses. He says:

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

It is interesting that he links faith and fixing his sights on him who is invisible with being mistreated and enduring persecution. Moses was able to endure without fear the anger of the king by fixing his view on the invisible one. He was looking to the reward. Notice the object of his gaze was personal; He endured as seeing him.

What? Or Who?

What unseen realities are we to fix our eyes on in the context of 2 Corinthians 4? In 3:18, with unveiled faces, we are beholding the glory of the Lord. In 4:4, Satan is blinding the minds of unbelievers “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” “God has shone in our hearts” in 4:6 “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is Jesus! The light of the knowledge of Jesus!

The author of Hebrews (12:1-2) tells us that we must “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” We are to fix our eyes on Jesus.

Not Circumstances

Notice he gives us both what not to fix our gaze on, and what to pay attention to, and why. We are not to look at the things that are seen, our outward circumstances. How can we possibly not look at our circumstances? Especially when our circumstances loom so large that they fill the horizon? Put them in the scale and weight them against something weightier, something larger. Light and momentary compared to the exceedingly exceeding weighty glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Why? Because that which is seen is temporary; literally for the time or for the season. Circumstances don’t last. Think back to the last major crisis you faced. Not the one you are facing now, but one you faced in the past. Can you? I have to think hard to even come up with what the last crisis I faced was. Because it was so small? No, because it’s over. It has been resolved. It seems big when it is staring you in the face, but it seems much smaller when you have moved past it and it is history. Don’t allow circumstances to overwhelm you because they are temporary, they will soon be in the past, and you will have moved beyond them. The things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal. Should we fear the things that will soon be past, or should we pay more attention to what is eternal. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Do not fear the one who can only do temporary harm. Rather fear, fix your eyes and give your attention to the one who is eternal.

What are you looking at? It matters what we fix our eyes on.

The Lord Stood By Me

Remember we looked at 2 Timothy where Paul says that ‘all who are in Asia turned away from me’ and ‘at my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.’ That seems utterly disheartening. But look what Paul says:

2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Do you see what he is looking at? His circumstances? His deserters? No, he did not focus on that which is seen, but that which is not seen. The one who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb.13:5); “the Lord stood by me”. “The Lord stood by me” He was looking to the things that are unseen.

Gospel to Feast our Eyes On:

Here are some unseen realities Paul may have been be looking at. These are unseen realities that I love to feast my eyes on:

1 Corinthians 15:3 …Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

Galatians 2:20 … I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

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

October 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory

10/14_2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181014_2cor4_17.mp3

The Secret of Not Losing Heart

Last time we looked at the secret of not losing heart. I asked, ‘What if I told you that I could show you the secret to endure any hardship, no matter what comes against you, to never fail, never give up, never lose heart? Not only to survive but to thrive under any adversity?’ Paul gives us his secret at the end of 2 Corinthians 4. He says in 4:16

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

We began by looking at how this being made new on the inside happens. It happens day by day, as he said in 3:18; as we are “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

To not lose heart requires an inner day by day renewal. We had to stop there, but there’s so much more to see here. He gives us the foundation, the reason, the ground of our day by day renewal. And he gives us the process, the means of being renewed.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Disparity Between Outer and Inner

In this chapter, Paul is contrasting the outward appearance with his inward reality. Outwardly, he is plain, ordinary, a fragile clay pot. But inside he carries the inestimable treasure of the good news of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Outwardly he is carrying in his body the dying of Jesus, but this is so that the resurrection life of Jesus can be displayed in his body. Outwardly he is being destroyed, but inwardly he is being renewed day by day.

From all outward appearances, Paul is being unmade, taken apart; he is wasting away. His life appears to be one characterized by defeat, discouragement, even despair. We are ‘afflicted …perplexed …persecuted …struck down’. It seems a waste, meaningless.

In verse 12 he gives one positive outcome of his sufferings that he can look at so that he does not lose heart. He said ‘so, death is at work in us, but life in you.’ So the suffering he experiences is the means God is using to bring good, blessing, eternal life, to his hearers. That’s good. That makes the suffering worth it.

But here in verses 16-18 he says more. Not only is his suffering a benefit to his hearers, it is also a blessing to himself. Did you hear that? My suffering is painful to me, but a blessing to you, so I can push through. But now he says my suffering, my persecution, my affliction is a blessing to me. It is not only bringing good to you; it is also bringing good to me. He says, on the inside, where it really counts, the suffering he endures is actually causing him to be made new day by day. How can this be?

I was reading one of the recent ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ magazines, and came across this story about a couple who had left a closed country and found Jesus. They returned to to their homeland with their two young boys to share the gospel, even though they were fully aware of the dangers. The wife said “It’s an interesting thing trusting God with your family. For us it was just so clear. The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” They shared Christ with their extended family, and then they began to plant churches. One of the questions he would ask before baptizing a new believer was always “Are you willing to give up your life for Jesus?”

After 7 years, the secret police burst in and ransacked their apartment, arrested them and drove them bound and blindfolded to the city’s interrogation unit. They were separately imprisoned, and repeatedly interrogated. The wife speaks of her two weeks in prison, thinking constantly about her children; “I knew it was a privilege to be there with the Lord, so that was sweet, but I also wanted to go be with them.” Her husband was released about a month later. She reflected on the experience and said “He was allowing us, His children, to suffer because He wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much – the judges, the interrogators, the guards – that He allowed us to go through a really, really hard time to carry His presence into their presence so they could come in touch with him.” [VOM Oct.2018]

How was she able to have this kind of reaction to that kind of suffering? Part of her answer points back to Paul’s earlier answer: “He was allowing us …to suffer because he wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much.” But there is something more, something deeper. “The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” and then, when it did happen, “it was a privilege to be there with the Lord.” It was joy! It was a privilege!

Perspective Matters!

Look at the foundation of this day by day renewal in the face of daily troubles. Look at verse 17. It starts with ‘for’; because. This gives the reason, the foundation of this inner day by day renewal.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Perspective matters! Look at how Paul views his affliction where he was so utterly burdened that he despaired of life itself. Look at the perspective he has on his affliction, his perplexity, his persecution, his being struck down and thoroughly ruined. He contrasts it with the purposes and the promises of God.

Do you do that? Do you take what you are facing today, and hold it up to the promises of God and the purposes of God for you, and compare it? Put it in the scales? See what it really weighs? Paul says that when he weighs it out, his afflictions are light, and they are momentary. Now before you blow Paul off as if he just doesn’t understand what you are going through, you could look over to 2 Corinthians 11 where he lists his imprisonments, his countless beatings, often near death, his 5 times receiving 39 lashes (that’s 195 lashes, but who’s counting?), his 3 times beaten with rods, his being stoned and left for dead, his shipwrecks, his betrayal by false brothers, his hunger, thirst, exposure, sleeplessness, his daily pressure and anxiety for all the churches. All this he piles in the balance and it weighs out ‘light’ and ‘momentary’.

Back in chapter 1, he said he was ‘so utterly burdened beyond strength’ because of the affliction they experienced in Asia. He felt the weight then, and it was more than he could carry. What gave him his perspective on suffering? What could possibly make this magnitude of suffering seem light and momentary? What is on the other side of the scales?

Momentary vs. Eternal

The thing that outlasts and outweighs our suffering is ‘an eternal weight of glory’. ‘Eternal’ answers ‘momentary.’ The length of our afflictions are momentary in comparison to eternity. If we endure 80 years of constant pain and suffering, persecution and affliction, and we hold that up next to the timeline of eternity; is so infinitesimally small it becomes insignificant.

As the song goes: ‘when we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.’ Compared to our eternal joy, the present afflictions are less than momentary. Can you take your present sufferings and measure them by eternity in the presence of God and say they are momentary? Perspective makes all the difference.

Light vs. Weight of Glory

Eternal answers momentary, and ‘weight of glory’ answers ‘light.’ The heaviness of our afflictions are light in comparison to the weight of glory. This is the same word he used in 1:8 when he says we were ‘so utterly burdened [or weighed down] beyond our strength.’ Now he compares this weight beyond our strength to the weight of glory. The weight of affliction is far beyond what we can bear, but there is something in the scales that far outweighs the heaviness of our present sorrows. It is glory.

The word ‘glory’ itself if we look back to the Hebrew of the Old Testament literally means weighty, massive, substantial. The eternal weight of God’s weightiness, the massiveness of his glory so far surpasses that the weight of our afflictions seem as inconsequential dust in the scales.

Exceedingly Exceeding

As Paul says in Romans 8,

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

It’s not just that the glory outweighs the burden and outlasts the sufferings; it is beyond all comparison; literally ‘according to hyperbole into hyperbole’. Words fail to capture the glory. It is surpassingly surpassing; exceedingly exceeding. So far beyond being beyond all ability to explain. The glory is so far beyond any ability to adequately explain that Paul piles hyperbole upon hyperbole to attempt to communicate that there is just no comparison between our present afflictions and the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Whose Glory?

Glory is the radiance, the outward display of God’s inner character and nature. The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of God’s invisible presence. It is his splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, majesty or dignity. God in Isaiah 42 and 48 says that he gives his glory to no other, and yet Jesus in his humanity prayed:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus’ own glory was veiled, hidden behind his plain, ordinary humanity. And yet here in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 6 we apprehend ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’; the light of the gospel is ‘the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. Hebrews 1:3 calls Jesus ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.’ We most clearly see God’s character and nature revealed in Jesus. Although this glory belongs to God alone, we were created to reflect, to image forth his glory. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2Cor.3:18).

Afflictions Work Glory

But look carefully at what he says.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

The present affliction is not just contrasted with the glory to come, it is causing it. It is preparing it for us; it is working it, accomplishing it for us. He looks both at the promises and the purposes of God. God intends our sufferings for our good, to increase the glory we will experience. God’s promise is that the eternal will far outspan the temporal, that the glory will far outweigh the trials. But the purpose of God is that the pressure produces in us the surpassingly surpassing eternal weight of glory. It is important to know not only God’s promises to us that give us strength to persevere through the suffering, but that God has a purpose in the sufferings. The afflictions are not meaningless, they are purposeful, they are accomplishing something, bringing something to completion.

We see this same truth (and the same word) displayed in Romans 5:3

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

And we see it in James 1:3

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Affliction produces steadfastness; the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Affliction produces in us an exceedingly exceeding weight of glory. So we rejoice, we count it all joy; we do not fail, give up, lose heart.

I think Spurgeon explains this as well as anyone (and with this we’ll have to end for now). He says:

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.”

There is …no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, February 12]

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

October 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:15; Missions Fuels Worship

09/23_2 Corinthians 4:15; Missions Fuels Worship; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180923_2cor4_15.mp3

Paul is teaching the essence of authentic ministry. Here in 2 Corinthians 4 verse 15, Paul climaxes with his ultimate passion and aim; worship. The aim of christian ministry is worship.

Earthen Vessels Display Resurrection Power

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul is highlighting his own human frailty to put on display the superabundant resurrection power of God. He is a fragile earthenware container, carrying around in his death-susceptible body the glorious light of the good news of Jesus Christ. His suffering, his afflictions, his persecution puts on display the supreme power of God who accomplishes his purposes through the unlikely and unqualified. Death is at work in the messenger to bring about life in the ones to whom he brings the message.

Theology Fuels Missions

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

He speaks out of a deep-rooted confidence in, a dependence on God who raises the dead. It is God who must give life, who must shine light in the sin-blinded hearts of unbelievers who cannot see Jesus for who he is. The god of this world has blinded minds, and the Lord of the universe must unblind them. Theology fuels his evangelism, his mission, his ministry. Knowing the truth of the resurrection, confident that the crucifixion of Jesus was a sufficient sacrifice to cleanse our sin-stained consciences and make us stand faultless in the presence of absolute holiness with great joy, dependent on the gospel to bring both he and those who receive his message into the very presence of almighty God, he speaks.

His confidence is not in his approach, his logic, his presentation. His confidence is not in his capable communication or his winsome wit and personality. His confidence is in God who raises the dead. He believes, so he speaks. Theology fuels missions.

And missions fuels worship. This is the goal of all Christian ministry.

Competing or Complementary?

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.

It seems in this one verse he offers two competing goals; for your sake, and to the glory of God. Is his ultimate ministry aim to benefit believers or to bless God?

All this suffering, all this daily dying, all this carrying around in my body the dying of Jesus is on account of you; it is for your benefit. Death is at work in us, but life in you! Through my suffering, through my affliction, I am making plain that Jesus is more precious than any earthly comfort. See, Paul didn’t have to suffer. As we saw last time, his persecution was a direct result of his speaking. If he would just shut his mouth and stop talking about Jesus Christ and him crucified, he would not have to suffer. But he looked at the believers in Corinth, he looked at and Crispus and Gaius and Fortunatus and Achaicus and Stephanas and their families (1Cor.1:14-16; 16:17), and he said it is all for your sake. He looked forward through generations of believers who would believe because of his testimony, and he said it is worth it. You are worth it. It is a small price to pay for your eternal joy. He said back in 1:24 ‘we don’t lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy’. Paul is eager to see people blessed. He is eager to see grace abound through the many. He said in 1 Corinthians 9 that he presents the gospel free of charge; he made himself a servant to all that he might win the many. He was eager to win Jews and Gentiles; he met people where they were ‘that by all means I might save some’. All this is for your sake.

But we have to take ‘all this is for your sake’ in light of verse 11, which says that we ‘are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake’ and verse 5 where he says we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord with ourselves as servants of the church ‘for Jesus’ sake’. How is he serving churches in his speaking and in his sacrifices ‘for Jesus’ sake’, and also all this is ‘for your sake’? Is he contradicting himself? Are these two competing goals, or are they somehow complementary?

Through and To

Grace superabounds through the many. Literally translated this verse reads ‘for all these things for your sake in order that the grace increases through the many the gratitude abounds to the glory of God. It is not to the many; as if they were the end goal and final recipients; it is through the many; through their agency gratitude abounds to the glory of God. Paul is passionate to see the gospel reach more and more people, and it is genuinely for their benefit. But he has a greater end in view. It is to the glory of God.

The Glory of God

We see this passion for God’s glory throughout the scriptures, from Psalm 8 where God set his name and his glory above the heavens; Psalm 19 where the heavens were created to declare the glory of God; Psalm 24, where he is called ‘the King of glory’; Psalm 29, where glory is due to his name, where the heavenly beings ascribe glory to the Lord; and ‘all in his temple cry ‘Glory!’; Psalm 86 where ‘all the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name’. Isaiah 6 where the angelic beings cry ‘the whole earth is full of his glory’; Isaiah 43, where he created everyone ‘for his glory’; In Isaiah 42 and 48 God says that he does not give his glory to another, nor his praise to carved idols.

In Romans 1 and 3 our sin is exchanging the glory of God for images, and we fall short of glorifying God. In Romans 5 we ‘obtain access by faith into grace and rejoice in hope of the glory of God’. In Romans 15 we are to welcome one another ‘for the glory of God’ and ‘with one voice glorify God’; the Gentiles will ‘glorify God for his mercy’.

1 Corinthians 6 tells us we are to glorify God in our bodies; 1 Corinthians 10 tells us that eating, drinking, whatever we do is to be done to the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 1 in response to the faithfulness of God ‘we utter our Amen to the glory of God.’ In chapter 3, our beholding the glory of the Lord brings transformation. In chapter 4 Satan wants to keep us from seeing the glory of Christ, but God shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. In chapters 8 and 9, their gospel generosity is meant to cause the recipients to glorify God.

3 times in Ephesians 1, our manifold salvation is ‘to the praise of his glory’. In Philippians 1 our righteousness through Christ is to the glory and praise of God. In Philippians 2 we confess Jesus Christ as Lord ‘to the glory of God the Father’.

In 1 Peter 2 our good deeds are to cause even evildoers to glorify God. In 1 Peter 4 we are to ‘serve in the strength that God supplies so that God gets the glory’ and even when we suffer for the name of Christ ‘we glorify God in that name’.

In 1 Thessalonians 2, 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1 we are ‘called to his own glory.’

In 1 Timothy 1 the good news is described as ‘the gospel of the glory of the blessed God’

The glory of God is the central theme of the Bible. The Westminster Shorter Catechism got it right in declaring that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

God Glorified by Gratitude

We get that. We want to bring God glory. But how? What does that look like? What does that even mean? This verse helps.

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.

Paul endures suffering in gospel ministry so that as the grace increases through the many the gratitude abounds to the glory of God. Grace abounds. Grace is multiplied through the many. Grace is God’s kindness, God’s favor that is unearned, undeserved. It is God’s gift given freely. Salvation is a gift; forgiveness, a right standing with God, inner transformation; all gifts of God’s grace. As Paul proclaims Jesus, God’s grace is abounds to more people. As Paul suffers for the gospel, more people take notice, pay attention, and receive God’s grace. God is infinitely gracious. But the experience of God’s grace is multiplied as more people lean into God’s grace, depend on his grace, receive it.

And what is the natural response when you experience grace? I ran in to the grocery store the other day just to get a handful of things for dinner. I get to the checkout, and the lady in front of me has about half a shopping cart of groceries. She looks up and says, ‘you go ahead’. She didn’t have to do that. I don’t deserve special treatment at the grocery store. I am not more important than her. She was there first. And it will cost her; if she lets me go first, it will take her longer. That is grace. How do you respond? My first inclination is not to receive the grace. No, it’s OK. I don’t need it. I can wait. Of course I only came to get three things, so I didn’t get a cart, but there were a couple other things on a good sale, so I ended up with five things, and I should have got a cart, but I’m trying to manage to hold on to them all. She smiles and says, no really, you go ahead. What is the response to grace? I feel humbled and grateful. She noticed my situation and extended a small kindness to me that I didn’t deserve.

God’s grace is infinitely greater, deeper, richer.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Grace results in gratitude. These words are connected. The Greek word for grace is charis [χάρις]; the word for thanksgiving is eucharistian [εὐχαριστίαν]. Eu-charis-tian is built on the root charis. John Piper suggests an English translation that retains this root word connection; grace and gratitude. Gratitude is a response to grace; gratis. As grace extends to more people, more people are moved to be profoundly grateful.

So how does this help us understand what it means to glorify God? An increase in gratitude gives glory to God. God is recognized as the giver. The gift he gives is a gift; it is unearned, undeserved. He is under no obligation; he is free to give or to not give, and he chooses to give. When I receive his gifts, the normal response of a healthy soul is gratitude. I am humbled (because I did nothing to deserve it) and I feel grateful (because I see his character that he is gracious and generous and kind). This brings glory to God, because I am seeing and enjoying him, who he is. I am recognizing his character, and I am blessed by him. He is the kind of person I want to be around.

These two things, gratitude and glorifying God are linked in Romans 1, where our healthy response is broken.

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,

Although God had revealed his character, we did not honor, literally glorify him as God, and we were not grateful. This is what sin is. A failure to respond to God’s gracious character with gratitude; a failure to glorify him.

When we fail to receive his grace, when we reject his generosity we don’t enjoy him and we won’t be grateful; we won’t glorify God.

This is how ‘all this is for your sake’ and it is ‘for Jesus’ sake’ to the glory of God. The experience of God’s grace that overflows in gratitude is the enjoyment of God as good and it is this that glorifies God. We are benefited, and God is glorified as the giver.

Our theology, what we believe, fuels missions. What we believe ignites us to go, to love, to serve others in the name of Jesus, even in the face of persecution and death, because we believe in the God who raises the dead. We believe, therefore we speak. And missions fuels worship. As we risk to proclaim Jesus to more and more people, as we invite more people to experience God’s grace, we multiply gratitude, and gratitude overflows in worship. Paul is looking forward to that day when God will ‘raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.’ He is looking to that day when those he has proclaimed Jesus to are gathered with him to enjoy the presence of God.

So what about you? Are you experiencing God’s grace? Are you enjoying him as the ultimate giver of every good? Are you getting to know him? Are you humbled and overwhelmed with joy that he would give you what you don’t deserve? Can you say that God is enjoyable? That is what glorifies God.

And are you passionately pursuing the advance of God’s glory? This too is the natural response of a healthy soul to God’s grace. When we truly enjoy something, we want others to enjoy it with us. I will go out of my way to get you to see how good it is, to try it, to enjoy it. I may even make sacrifices to get you to experience it for yourself. What are you willing to endure to see others experiencing God’s grace?

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.

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

September 24, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:7 Divine Treasure in Earthen Vessels

08/26_2 Corinthians 4:7; Divine Treasure in Earthen Vessels; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180826_2cor4_7.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 2 and 3 Paul displayed the surpassing glory of New Covenant ministry. It is ministry where ‘God through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere’ (2:14). It is self-authenticating ministry, where God writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts by the Spirit of the living God (3:3). It is the life-giving ministry of the Spirit (3:6). It is ministry more glorious than that of Moses, whose face radiated glory and had to be veiled (3:7-13). It is ministry that brings righteousness (3:9); it is permanent (3:11). It is ministry that removes veils (3:14-16), that brings freedom (3:17). It is ministry that beholds directly the glory of the Lord, ministry that brings about transformation (3:18).

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul has been giving us the characteristics of authentic Christian ministry; ministry that does not lose heart. Authentic ministry is ministry by mercy; it is not deserved. It is ministry with integrity; it isn’t secretive, it doesn’t tamper, it doesn’t use every means possible. It is engaged in spiritual warfare; the god of this world blinds the minds of unbelievers. It is the plain proclamation of the gospel; the good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners; Jesus Christ as Lord. Authentic ministry is accompanied by the creative power of God; God speaks in and through our speaking to create life and light, to reveal Jesus, to remove blinders. In the middle of our ministry God’s creative word flashes out and shines light in the dark hearts of unbelievers to create seeing and believing in Jesus.

This is exceedingly glorious ministry! And to think, this ministry has been entrusted to us! We do not lose heart. We can have confidence. We can be very bold.

But

But… In verse 7 we run in to a big ‘but’.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Woven throughout this passage are warnings to keep us humble. But here in verse 7 Paul illustrates the truth graphically to prevent us from becoming puffed up. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, jars of clay.

Earthen Vessels

We hold a great treasure, but it is placed in ordinary, unimpressive containers. Clay jars were about the equivalent of plastic or styrofoam cups. They were cheap, ordinary, fragile, disposable, and the landfills are full of them. They couldn’t really even be recycled. Many sites in Israel you can hardly walk without stepping on fragments of broken pottery [show examples]. There are even pits in the ground filled full of broken fragments. If a vessel made of glass broke, it could be melted down and re-blown into something useful. But not clay pots. Under Levitical law, bronze or even wood or leather or cloth containers that came into contact with something unclean could be washed in water and cleansed, but an earthen vessel must be broken (Lev.6:28;11:32-35; 15:12).

In Isaiah 30, God describes the consequences to his people of rejecting and distorting his word:

Isaiah 30:14 and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

A clay pot’s usefulness comes from its form. It does not come from the inherent worth of its material.

The Potter and the Clay

When it comes down to it, a clay pot is essentially dirt. Mud. Clay that has been formed for a specific purpose. And that is exactly what we are. According to Genesis,

Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Formed by God of dust from the ground. Then after our rebellion, we are told:

Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Lest we begin to think we are something, we are reminded that we are but clay jars, formed by the hand of our Master for a specific purpose.

This is an analogy that is used several places in scripture. In Isaiah 29 the Lord says:

Isaiah 29:16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

How dare a created thing reject its creator! How dare something formed insult the one who formed it! Again in Isaiah 45:

Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

I looked up how to make usable clay for pottery out of regular ordinary dirt. It is a simple but labor intensive process. It is basically a process of washing and screening and sifting to removing the impurities so that the clay will hold together.

Isaiah 64 describes us:

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

We are full of impurities, and in order for us to be useful, God must remove the contaminants.

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

For us to even make it on the potter’s wheel, there must be an intensive process of cleansing.

Paul picks up this theme in Romans 9

Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

God as creator has rights over the clay. He can do with it what he chooses.

In Jeremiah 18, Jeremiah is given an extensive object lesson with clay pots.

Jeremiah 18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

The potter is at liberty to do with his clay what seems best to him. God goes on to warn:

Jeremiah 18:7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

The point of these illustrations is that God is the potter. We are the clay. The potter has the right to make what he wishes with the clay. It seem ridiculous for a clay pot to take issue with the potter over the way it has been formed, especially when we spoil ourselves in his hand. Yet that is just what we so often do. The Potter is wise. Our Potter is good. He knows what he is doing. We can trust him.

Another thing to note about clay pots, is that they can be molded and shaped into something that looks great, but they are useless until they are fired. They have to be put in the furnace or kiln to become usable. I don’t know if Paul had this in mind when he calls us earthen vessels, but it certainly fits with what he goes on to say in the rest of this chapter. The furnace of affliction and trials proves character. It makes a soft pliable wet lump of clay into a functional container. It becomes useful. And it can last a long time. Many of these pieces of pottery are thousands of years old.

In Jeremiah 32, during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, God instructed Jeremiah to buy a field to demonstrate God’s promise that after the exile, fields will again be bought and sold in the land.

Jeremiah 32:14 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.

In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd discovered some clay jars in a cave near the Dead Sea. The jars contained great treasure, manuscripts of the Bible and other writings preserved in the jars for over 2000 years! Indeed, treasure stored in an earthenware vessel can last a long time.

This Treasure

The point of Paul’s contrast is between the nature of the jar and the nature of the treasure it is meant to carry.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We have some fancy vases in our house that we don’t ever put anything in. They are beautiful, and they are completely for show. If I were to put even a flower in it, the beauty of the vase would detract from the beauty of the flower. The simplicity and plainness of a container allows the beauty of the treasure to be seen and treasured for what it is. That is what Paul is warning here.

We contain treasure. We have been entrusted with New Covenant ministry. The ministry of the gospel; the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. We proclaim Jesus Christ the Lord. God’s creative word has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The container is not meant to compete with the glory of the treasure. We want nothing to detract from the treasure. Fancy pots won’t do!

The Power is God’s

This verse could be translated literally ‘but we have this the treasure in earthen vessels in order that the superabundance of power might be of God and not out of us.’ The verb is not ‘to show;’ rather the verb in this phrase is ‘to be.’ God’s purpose in putting his infinitely valuable treasure in these fragile human containers is that the power would be his and not ours.

If the container were impressive, attention would be drawn to the container. With containers this earthy, this ordinary, this vulnerable and common, there is no question whose the power is.

Paul may have had in mind the simple oil lamps that were so common in Corinth. Made of clay, they were inexpensive, yet functional. No one would question if the clay were giving off the light of itself or if it was the oil that was inside. It is the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God; it is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God creatively spoke this light into existence in our hearts. When this light shines out in such a way that others begin to see the light, it is evident that the extraordinary degree of the power is from God and not from us.

Paul was accused of being unimpressive. The Corinthians wanted someone powerful, someone eloquent, someone with a commanding presence. Paul said here I am; a simple clay pot, worn, tattered, vulnerable, broken, but containing a power not his own, a divine and supernatural light. The power of forgiveness. The power of knowing Jesus. The power to transform lives.

When Jesus blinded Paul’s physical eyes, and opened his spiritual eyes to who he is, he called a man named Ananias to go speak to him.

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument [vessel] of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Paul was a vessel, a container in which the name of Jesus would be carried around to all people. In the coming verses we will see how this treasure in earthen vessels connects with the necessity of suffering.

In Matthew 5 Jesus talked about light of a lamp that shines and gives light to others. He said:

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

How is it that we are the light of the world, and that we are to let our light shine in such a way that people see our good works, but they don’t praise us; rather they give glory to our Father in heaven? How do we let our light shine in such a way that God gets all the attention?

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers…

2 Corinthians 4:6 It is God who said ‘out of darkness light shine! … 7 [lit] But we have this, the treasure in earthenware vessels in order that the superabundance of power might be of God and not out of us.

You and I are really not all that impressive. God is.

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

August 27, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:3-4; When Authentic Ministry Seems to Fail

08/05_2 Corinthians 4:3-4; When Authentic Ministry Seems to Fail; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180805_2cor4_3-4.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul is describing authentic Christian ministry. We have been entrusted with ministry by God’s mercy, God’s pity and compassion that moves him to action to help the desperate. We have this ministry by his mercy, so we do not lose heart. We renounce hidden things of shame. We refuse to use every means possible; we refuse to adulterate God’s word (if we adulterate the one thing that has the power to transform, then what hope is there?) Instead, we plainly proclaim the truth. It is by the open declaration of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience. All this happens under the watchful eye of God.

So we do not lose heart, grow faint, get discouraged, burn out, give up, quit. We do not lose heart in the face of opposition. We do not lose heart in the face of criticism. We do not lose heart in the face of discouraging circumstances. We do not lose heart in the face of ministry failures.

How can this be? How can we not lose heart, how can we not give up persevering in ministry when we fail in that very ministry? When that ministry fails to produce the intended results? How do we explain ineffective ministry?

Spiritual Blindness

I’ve seen a lot of different types of ministry, and I have seen some very different responses to gospel ministry. In our very active student ministry in high school, we did everything from stranger evangelism on the streets to concert events where we invited people and the gospel was presented. I remember many fumbling conversations where I just couldn’t seem to find the right words or know how to respond to questions, and the frustration of feeling like a failure. I remember one particular event where we had invited friends, and the speaker gave a captivating presentation, and explained the gospel more plainly and clearly than I had ever heard before. It was so clear, so compelling, you just had to trust Jesus! I couldn’t imagine an unbeliever hearing that, who wouldn’t be eager to respond with faith in Jesus. I looked over at the friend I had brought. Nothing. I was looking forward to the conversation on the way home. Nothing. So I asked, ‘what’d you think?’ ‘It was ok.’ ‘What did you think of the speaker, what he said?’ ‘It was all right I guess. I’m not really that in to all that religious stuff.’ I sat there in stunned disbelief. How could you possibly sit there and hear what we just heard and be totally unaffected? It was like we must have heard different speakers. What room were you in? Were you even listening? It was all right?! He told you you have sinned, and sin separates you from a holy God who made you and loves you. But Jesus came to pay the debt you owe so you could have a relationship with him. Religion? He didn’t say anything about religion!

This was an eye-opener for me. How could you listen to that clear a proclamation of the gospel and not get it; totally miss it? It was like my friend was blind to what was said.

Listen to what our passage says:

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 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.

Spiritual Warfare

The fault is not always in the messenger or the presentation. Sometimes it is. We can work to improve our communication skills. We can always grow in our ability to lay out the gospel plainly. But the fault is not always in the messenger. There is a supernatural battle going on. There is a spiritual dimension to evangelism.

We are not talking about math; two plus two is four – do you believe that? We are proclaiming that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the grave alive – do you believe? ‘Wait, are you telling me that I am a sinner? I don’t think it’s right that God would kill somebody over some minor offense. Jesus, yeah, I believe he existed and was a great moral teacher. It’s really unfortunate what they did to him. But this nonsense about rising from the dead – I’m not so sure.’ When we say ‘do you believe?’ we are not asking if you agree that it is true or that it really happened; that is only a part of it. We are asking ‘do you trust him? Are you relying on Jesus, depending on him completely?’

There is a spiritual battle going on in the minds of unbelievers. The god of this world; when we chose to listen to, to obey the word of the serpent over the word of God; we gave our allegiance to the devil; we made him our god. Jesus calls him ‘the ruler of this world’ in John 12:31. 1 John 5:19 says that:

1 John 5:19 … the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the whole armor of God that we might be able to stand against the schemes of the devil; against the rulers and authorities; the cosmic powers; this present darkness; the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Put on truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, with all-prayer. Paul ends this description of our spiritual battle with a very specific request:

Ephesians 6:19 …that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 … that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Stand equipped in gospel truth, gospel righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace, gospel dependence, gospel defense; speak the word of God with all prayer and petition at all times in the Spirit with all perseverance.

Confidence Even In Ministry Failure; God’s Word Never Fails

Paul has been talking about veils that obstruct the real purpose from view, minds that were hardened, veils that lie over their hearts when God’s word is read. He said ‘only through Christ is it taken away’ (3:14); ‘if one turns to the Lord the veil is removed’ (3:16). ‘This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit’ (3:18).

Paul is defending his ministry; he doesn’t adulterate the word; he doesn’t use tricks to manipulate or deceive. He plainly and simply proclaims the truth of the gospel. And even with the right message and the right methods, that open statement of the truth sometimes seems to fail.

I say ‘seems to fail’ because it never really fails. God’s word always accomplishes its purpose, always.

Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God’s word always accomplishes the purpose for which he sent it. But we tend to think that the only goal of ministry is conversion. When God sent Isaiah back in chapter 6,

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

God told Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 7:27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

This is not the kind of promise we are looking for in ministry. We would love it if everyone responded positively to the gospel. But Paul recognized two categories of people, two responses to the gospel.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Back in 1 Corinthians he said

1 Corinthians 1:18 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.

Paul divided humanity into two categories; those who are perishing and those who are being saved. The gospel, and the messenger of the gospel comes as a fragrance to both. It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). And the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men …so they are without excuse (Rom.1:18-20).

God always accomplishes his purposes. He sends us to warn some in their rebellion, to heighten their accountability; to others he uses us as his instrument to give life and set them free. To one a fragrance of death into death; to the other a fragrance of life into life. Although our desire, as God’s is that none should perish and all should come to repentance, we should not gauge success in ministry by the number of professions of faith. We talk about successful ministry; instead we should pursue faithful ministry. We would not consider Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel successful ministries; but we would call them faithful ministers.

2 Timothy 2 puts it this way:

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Sowing Seed

Jesus compared it to a sower sowing seed. He scattered his seed all over.

Luke 8:5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.

Jesus explains:

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Notice who takes away the word from their hearts; who blinds the minds of unbelievers? The devil, the evil one immediately snatches away what has been sown in his heart (Mt.13:19; Mk.4:15). Faithful sowing gets the seed out to everyone. Sometimes the word does not even have a chance to germinate in the mind before even the thought is snatched away. The fault is not in the seed. Neither is the fault in the sower. The fault is in the differing soils.

We have been looking at authentic gospel ministry. Faithful ministry can be defined as scattering seed. The open statement of the truth. Don’t tamper with, don’t adulterate the seed. Don’t attempt to genetically modify the seed, thinking you will get enhanced results. The pure word, the simple gospel, is what God uses to produce life.

Don’t get overly critical of methods of scattering seed. Everyone is different, uniquely designed by our amazingly creative God. I have found that if you scatter the seed this way, it works best. Are you an overhand seed scatterer or an underhand seed scatterer. Just don’t be underhanded in your seed scattering. Do you use one of those things with the crank that scatters the seed, or do you push one of those two wheeled seed scatterers? People write books on how to scatter seed. Don’t waste a lot of time evaluating techniques. It doesn’t really matter. Just get it out there!

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

Do you hear that? God gave the growth. Only God gives the growth. Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything. Anything!

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…

We are not sufficient to claim anything, anything as coming from ourselves. God has made us competent. Take great courage in the fact that your competency does not come from your technique or even your success rate. Our sufficiency for gospel ministry is from God.

The Glory of the Gospel

Before we leave this passage today, we’ve got to get to the good stuff! Even in the negative, it’s beautiful. In chapter 3, Paul has been talking about glory, the glory of Moses’ ministry, and the surpassingly greater glory of the New Covenant ministry. He’s been talking about glory that is veiled, glory that is concealed. And he’s talked about beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord. What is it that the god of this world wants to keep us from seeing? What is the glory of the gospel?

2 Corinthians 4:4 …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.

O do not be blind to this today! Do not let Satan blind you to the glory of the good news! He wants to harden your mind and veil your heart and keep you from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ! Jesus said:

John 8:12 … “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The light of the gospel is a person. It is only the blind who cannot see the light. The light of the gospel is the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Jesus Christ is the image and glory of God. Satan would blind you to the truth of who Jesus is. Jesus is ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb.1:3). Jesus is the word made flesh; God with us.

O ask for eyes to see more of the glory of Christ! Do not be choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things (Mk.4:19), and miss the glory of Christ! O press in to see more of Jesus. Turn to the Lord.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Turn to the Lord with unveiled face. Gaze on the beauty of the Lord. Look to Jesus! See the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God!

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

August 8, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment