PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 2:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man

05/30_Daniel 02:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210530_dan02_1-16.mp3

Daniel chapter 1 tells the story of God’s grace even in the midst of trauma, oppression, exile. Daniel and his friends were ripped from their homes, taken hundreds of miles away to a pagan city, a city opposed to God, but we learn that God was still in control; that it was God who gave the king of Judah and the treasures of his own temple into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. We learn that in the face of pressures to conform, to assimilate, God gave Daniel and his friends grace and mercy, favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. And God gave these four youths learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. They resolved not to allow their hearts to become ensnared by the pleasures of Babylon, and their God-given wisdom proved ten times better than all their teachers.

Dream Interpretation and Dream Manuals

Chapter 2 moves the story forward with a demonstration of God’s wisdom in action, when the gifts of Daniel and his friends are put to the test in contrast to the wisdom of Babylon.

Daniel 2:1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”

Dreams were considered significant, meaningful, communication from the gods. Not to be able to interpret a dream was considered a worse omen than even a dream which predicted unfavorable events.

We have discovered ancient dream manuals; the extensive Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, (668-627 BC) was discovered in Mosul, or Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. This library contains over 1,000 Babylonian divination texts, including the 11 tablets of the Iskar Zaqiqu, a manual on interpreting dreams. These manuals catalog various dream symbolism and potential outcomes based on the records of the experiences of others with similar dreams in similar circumstances. The library pre-dates Daniel by 50 -100 years, and is representative of what would have been available to the various groups of Babylonian dream interpreters. This would have been part of the training of Daniel and his friends in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Aramaic

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

This is a language cue. The text from this point to the end of chapter 7 was written in Aramaic, the common language of the world in that day. Up to this point Daniel wrote in Hebrew, and chapters 8 to the end are again in Hebrew, the language of the people of God. Chapters 1 and 8-12 address the concerns of Israel more specifically, while chapters 2-7 have a more universal scope.

The Confidence of the Chaldeans

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”

The magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, the Chaldeans are confident in their ability to interpret dreams. They had studied the dream manuals and case histories of dreams, they were experts in the art of dream interpretation. They could look up any dream scenario and give an interpretation.

Daniel is so relevant to today. A simple internet search to find information on these ancient dream interpretation manuals, and the majority of things that come up are modern day versions. You can enroll in a course to teach you how to unlock your dreams, an online dictionary with ‘over thousands of skillfully interpreted dream symbols for people who want to access the deeper parts of their minds’, a dream interpretation manual ‘written by a scientist who has decades of experience and great expertise in dream interpretation.’ And of course, there are principles of Christian dream interpretation, a biblical dream dictionary, and prophetic training to unlock your dreams. We are still captivated today, even Christians, by the hope of accessing hidden wisdom.

The King’s Demand for Proof

The Chaldeans address the king with the appropriate formalities and respect, and ask to be given the contents of the dream so they can offer an interpretation. They are confident there is no dream they cannot interpret. But king Nebuchadnezzar throws them a curve ball.

Daniel 2:5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”

King Nebuchadnezzar is asking for more than the interpretation of his dream. He demands that they give him both the dream and the interpretation. The consequences for failure are severe, the rewards are great, and the demand is resolute. Make known to me the dream and its interpretation.

Skeptical Demand for Evidence

There must be some misunderstanding. That’s not how this works. You tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation.

Daniel 2:7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”

Here we learn that Nebuchadnezzar is a skeptic. He wants proof. This is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, probably not counting the year of his accession to the throne after the death of his father in 605 BC. These would have been the counselors to his father, likely older than him, and for whatever reason, he was suspicious of them, of their loyalties, of their abilities. He is going to test them. If they really are magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, in touch with the gods, then they ought to be able to tell him his dream. If they can accurately describe to him what he alone knows, then he can have confidence that their interpretation of the dream would also have a supernatural source.

Nebuchadnezzar is the opposite of the evil king Ahab of Israel, who preferred 400 prophets who told him pleasant lies over one prophet of YHWH who told him the hard truth; ‘I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil’ (2Chr.18:7). Nebuchadnezzar cared about truth.

The Admission of Incompetence

Listen to how the Chaldeans respond to this skeptic’s demand for proof.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

They admit their own incompetence. They can’t bluff their way out of this one. In the face of this demand for evidence, they are empty handed. They resort to say that the thing is too hard, it is humanly impossible. They even appeal to his pride – no great and powerful king has asked such a thing. You need to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings and not ask such things. You ask too much of us; only the gods could grant your request, and we don’t have access to them. All the magicians, the sorcerers, the enchanters; the wise men of Babylon admit their lack of the required wisdom.

The wisdom of Babylon is ultimately bankrupt. Sorcery is bankrupt. Magic is bankrupt. Divination is bankrupt. Astrology is bankrupt. Over and over again we are shown the bankruptcy of this world’s wisdom, and yet we still run to it time and again as if we don’t know the one who is sovereign over all.

The Very Furious King

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

The king was furious with his deceiving wise men. But he was not just furious. He was very furious. He was not just very furious, he was angry and very furious. He had proved them all frauds. They failed to give evidence of ultimate supernatural access. He may have been thinking back on all the times they offered interpretations and counsel to his father Nabopolassar, and how they tried to explain their way out of circumstances not going exactly according to their predictions. He may have based his own decisions on their so-called wisdom in the past, and he was angry at being conned. He had entrusted them with the education of the best and brightest of his conquered peoples, and they had wasted three years worth of his lavish resources. “You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change…there is but one sentence for you… You shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.”

These were the experts, the Chaldean teachers. If the teachers are corrupt, their students likewise would be corrupted. All the wise men of Babylon, teacher and student alike, were to be destroyed.

God’s Favor and Daniel’s Wisdom

Daniel 2:14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed great wisdom to his executioner. In chapter 1 we were told that ‘God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs’ (1:9). Here it is not stated, but something happened behind the scenes to give Daniel favor and compassion now in the sight of Arioch the king’s captain. Arioch didn’t owe Daniel an explanation. He didn’t have to make the matter known to Daniel. In fact, he had every reason not to waste his time answering questions of the trainees. He had been given a huge task, and the king was in no mood to put up with delays in carrying out his orders. In fact this would entail personal risk. If he fails to carry out the king’s edict, he could expect the kind of punishment that he was commanded to carry out on others. Although God is not mentioned, he is evidently at work behind the scenes.

Where the Chaldeans approached the king with confidence in their own ability, Daniel approached the king with confidence in his God. Where the Chaldeans were treated with suspicion, ‘accused of trying to gain time,’ Daniel is treated with respect, granted the time he requests. Where the Chaldeans were helpless in the face of the king’s impossible demand, Daniel knew exactly where real help was to be found.

God Who Dwells With Man

Look back at the confession of the Chaldeans:

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

The Babylonian gods may not dwell with flesh, they may be aloof and inaccessible, distant and devising, but the God of Israel is different. He is a God who dwells in the midst of his people (Ex.25:8; 29:45-46); who ‘will walk among you and be your God’ (Lev.26:11-12). The Chaldeans only knew their false gods. They didn’t know the one true God of Israel. Daniel is set to show them what God is really like.

The God of Israel is not only a God who will dwell with flesh, he will dwell in flesh. The divine Word who was with God and who was God, himself became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He is God with us, Immanuel (Mt.1:23; 28:20).

God Who Knows Our Thoughts

The Chaldeans were right. There is not a man on earth who can tell you the secrets of your heart. Paul asks ‘who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). But in John 4, a man was at a well looking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. She went away and told everyone

John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” …39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” …41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Multiple times in the gospels we read:

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (cf. Mt.12:25; Lk. 6:8; 9:47; 11:17)

Not even Satan knows our thoughts. No doubt, he has learned to guess well, but Jesus knows the thoughts of our hearts. And Jesus said:

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

Jesus controls the future. He can tell what will happen before it happens so we know that he is the I AM, the one who writes history. The Old Testament test for genuineness of a prophet was 100% accuracy (Deut.18:22).

Christ In You

The God of Israel is a God who dwells with his people. Daniel and his friends had the Spirit of God with them to help them. But Jesus promises something even better for us. Jesus promised that the Spirit who dwells with you will be in you (Jn.14:17). Jesus said I and the Father, ‘we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (Jn.14:23). Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). The riches of the glory of God’s mystery is ‘Christ in you’ (Col.1:27).

***

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

June 5, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 1:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God

05/02_Daniel 01:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210502_dan01_1-4.mp3

Faithful God

Daniel is a book about God. The Lord is the one true God. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, sovereign over the nations. He alone is God over all

And God is faithful to his promises. We can have hope, we can take confidence because God will always make good on his word. He will do what he says he will do, every time. You can bank on it. That is faith. Paul defines faith by the example of Abraham in Romans 4.

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

Promised Blessings and Curses

Back in Deuteronomy 28, before God brought his people into the promised land, God gave his people his word, promises.

Deuteronomy 28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.

God promised to bless his people if they would walk with him in fellowship, in obedience. But he also promised consequences for disobedience and betrayal.

Deuteronomy 28:14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.

God was very specific with his promises;

Deuteronomy 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. 33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually,

Their consequences would even affect the next generation.

Deuteronomy 28:36 “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. 37 And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away.

God promised to bless his people if they walked in obedient relationship with him. But he warned that he would give them into the hands of idolaters if they chose to go after false gods.

Hezekiah and Assyria

Around 701 BC, we see a specific instance of this playing out, recorded by Isaiah. Sennacherib, king of Assyria had taken all the fortified cities of Judah. On defeating Lachish, he sent word to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem that they were next. He warned him not to trust in an alliance with Egypt, and not to trust in the Lord their God, because the Lord had sent him to destroy the land (Is.36:6,10).

Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

In dependence on the Lord alone, he asked God to defend the honor if his great name so that he would get glory among the nations.

God’s answer came.

Isaiah 37:33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 36 And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord alone, and God alone wrought a great defeat of the Assyrian army.

Hezekiah and Babylon

But only two chapters and about 4 years later (705 BC), in Isaiah 39,

Isaiah 39:1 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.

Assyria was the world power, but Babylon was seeking independence. No doubt word had come to them about the Assyrian defeat at Jerusalem. Babylon sent a present, seeking an alliance. Hezekiah, who responded to the threatening Assyrian letter with prayer and dependence on God, responded to the flattering Babylonian letters differently.

Isaiah 39:2 And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

Hezekiah missed an opportunity to give glory to God for the defeat of the Assyrians. Instead he flexed his own muscles, showing off his wealth and military might, showing them what they had to gain by a political alliance with Israel.

Isaiah 39:3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

The prophet Isaiah was sent to confront the king over his failure to trust in the Lord, instead seeking the strength of a political alliance with pagan Babylon.

Isaiah 39:5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

God Keeps His Promises

100 years later, in 605 BC,

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

God is faithful to all his promises. He is faithful to discipline his people when they are disobedient to him. The carrying off treasures and captives in 605 BC is a direct fulfillment of the word of the Lord to Hezekiah through Isaiah.

This may seem strange comfort, that the Babylonian captivity was a fulfillment of the promises of God. But when all is chaos and seems out of control, it is anchoring to remember that God is sovereign, he is still in control, he has not forgotten, he is active, he is keeping his promises.

Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Daniel and his friends could lose hope and give up faith, responding with bitterness and resentment; asking ‘why me?’ But instead they chose to see God’s hand in difficult circumstances, ultimately for their good and his glory. This is not random chance and accident conspiring against us; this is ‘the Lord giving Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Whose God is Stronger?

Notice what is happening here; Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon takes the vessels of the house of God and puts them in the house of his god, in the treasury of his god. This was more than merely taking objects of inherent value, gold and silver. Kings would war in the name of their gods, and they would credit victory to their gods. A triumph in battle meant the gods of the victor proved stronger. They would honor their gods by taking the gods (idols) of their enemies and putting them in the temple of their gods.

This happened back in 1 Samuel 5, when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in the house of Dagon their god. If you remember, that didn’t end well for Dagon or for the Philistines.

That is what is happening here; Jerusalem surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, so he plundered the holy temple. It must have been strange for him to enter a temple and find no images, no statues, but rather a throne with no one seated on it. In the eyes of the world, Marduk had triumphed over YHWH. But Daniel interprets this differently. He understands that this was exactly what was promised. This was the all-mighty YHWH fulfilling his own decree.

The Philistines learned (and Israel should have understood) that Dagon was no match for YHWH. Sennacherib was shown (and Hezekiah should have paid attention) that the angel of YHWH is mightier than 185 thousand Assyrians and Nisroch his god. Daniel understood that YHWH is more than capable to defend himself. His temple could not be plundered unless YHWH had given it over to be plundered. And this produced great hope and confidence. God still sits enthroned unrivaled, not in the temple of Jerusalem, but in heaven above. He is God over all. God is sovereign and does whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

The Tale of Two Cities

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Daniel uses the ancient name ‘Shinar’. This connects us back to Genesis 10; Noah’s son Ham fathered Cush, and

Genesis 10:8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Nimrod was a murderous warrior who established cities opposed to God. We read in Genesis 11,

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Babel in the land of Shinar was established in direct opposition to God and his commands. It was the proud attempt of arrogant man united against God to steal glory from God and make a name for himself. ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; Mt.23:12).

Victory Through Defeat

Like Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:21-40), Daniel sets up his story as a competition between the Lord and the gods of Nebuchadnezzar, between the proud city Babylon in the land of Shinar, and the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah, where God chose to make a name for himself.

But surprisingly, Daniel is the story of God’s victory through defeat; he wins by losing, he gains by giving away his treasures and his people into the hands of his enemies. He infiltrates the highest ranks of government by sending captives, boys of 14 or 15, to be trained in the language and literature of this pagan nation. His foolishness proved wiser than their wisest of men. The simple faith of these helpless young men in their omnipotent God changed the direction of empires and the hearts of kings and nations.

Hebrews recounts their faith;

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of …the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

God demonstrates his supremacy over the nations by the unlikely means of defeat and exile. But this is God’s way, who shows himself victorious by sending his best, his only Son into exile here on earth, not to be served but to serve, to learn our language, to confound the wisdom of the wise by his simple faith in his Father, to suffer for sins not his own, to go through the fire and come out alive as a testimony that whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (Rom.9:33).

God is faithful to all his promises, promises to bless those who walk with him in obedience, promises to curse those who turn from him. And we all have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:6). He became a curse for us, so that in Christ Jesus all the blessings he deserves might come to us through faith in him (Gal.3:13-14).

***

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

May 3, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 13:3-4, 9; Power in Weakness

03/28 2 Corinthians 13:3-4, 9; Power in Weakness; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210328_2cor13_3-4.mp3

Palm Sunday; Triumphal Entry

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we celebrate the triumphal entry, when Jesus rode in to the city of Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ (Jn.12:13; Mt.21:9). But Luke tells us that Jesus also wept over the city of Jerusalem, predicting its destruction ‘because you did not know the time of your visitation’ (Lk.19:41-44). Celebration mingled with sorrow.

It was not even a week later that the crowds, possibly some from this same crowd, cried out before Pilate ‘Away with this man, …crucify him!’ (Lk.23:18,21). The people wanted a king, but Jesus was not the kind of king they had expected.

In Matthew 16, Peter acknowledged Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ and Jesus promised ‘on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:16,18).

Jesus is God with us, the anticipated King, and his church will triumph. It was:

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

This is when Peter rebuked Jesus, saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Mt.16:22), and Jesus responded “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mt.16:23).

Peter began to understand who Jesus is, that he is the one who is God, sent out from God, the promised Messiah-King. But he couldn’t connect the conquering King with the suffering servant. He wanted a King without a cross. And Jesus said this was satanic deception.

Crown Without the Cross

Corinth suffered from a triumphalism that wanted the crown without the cross; they wanted to reign as kings but avoid suffering. They wanted powerful charismatic leaders. They were ashamed of Paul and his suffering. He seemed weak, his speech was unimpressive. And their desire for an outwardly powerful ministry was leading them astray from a simple devotion to Christ.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul is not defending his ministry; he is ministering. He is re-centering them on the gospel, on authentic ministry that looks like and sounds like and feels like Jesus and the cross. Authentic ministry must resemble the gospel it proclaims.

Strength in Weakness

In chapter 10 he said (with a bit of sarcasm):

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

The Corinthians accused Paul of being weak. Paul admits that he is meek, gentle, and humble – like Jesus, but that he also wages war with divine power. In chapters 11 and 12 he boasts in his weaknesses, and he concludes with a word from the Lord.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Corinthians assumed that strength and weakness are mutually exclusive; if you are weak, you are not strong; if you are powerful, you are not weak. You are either one or the other; you can’t be both. Paul contradicts this thinking. Christ’s power accomplishes its purpose in weakness. Paul’s strength was not his own; it was in his weakness that the power of Christ dwelt on him. It was precisely when he was weak that he was strong.

The Transforming Power of the Gospel

Here in chapter 13, he gets to the source of this power in weakness.

2 Corinthians 13:3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

Christ, who speaks to you by means of me, is not weak toward you but is powerful in you. Did the good news I preached to you change you? Did Christ do a mighty work of transforming you by the gospel I preached to you? Were you changed? As he told them back in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The gospel, the word of the cross, is the power of God to us who are being saved. Jesus powerfully transforms sinners into saints through the gospel. ‘If anyone is in Christ, new creation! The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’ (2Cor.5:17). ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed (2Cor.3:18).

If the Corinthians were transformed through Paul’s ministry of the gospel, they have to admit that something extremely powerful happened among them.

The Source of Power in Weakness

Paul gives them the foundation of this life-transforming power.

2 Corinthians 13:4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. …

Jesus was crucified in weakness; literally out of weakness. Jesus, in his humanity, in his humiliation, was weak. He was not weak in the sense of inability;

Matthew 26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

He has omnipotent power at his fingertips. Yet he did not count his equality with his Father a thing to be held on to, but he humbled himself. He became one of us. He chose obedience to his Father to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil.2:6-8). He was not inherently weak; he chose weakness in the path of obedience. He chose to surrender his rights. He took our weakness upon himself. He became weak, and it was out of that weakness that he was crucified.

Irony of Good Friday

And this is the great irony. The irony of Good Friday was that the crowds were eager to embrace Jesus as a conquering King. But when he failed to meet their expectations, when he was publicly displayed in weakness, flogged, beaten, mocked, clothed in a purple robe and wearing a crown of thorns (Jn.19:1-6), they rejected him, crying out ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’

When he was crucified, hanging helpless between heaven and earth,

Mark 15:29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

Jesus Christ was crucified in weakness. The crowds and the religious leaders, the soldiers, and even those crucified near him mocked him in his weakness. He claimed to be king, messiah, savior. He can’t even save himself. He cant’ come down from the cross.

The irony of Good Friday was that as God in the flesh, he still possessed all power and could have come down, could have made a spectacular display of power, could have wiped out those who mocked him with a word, but he ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk.10:45). He was not sent ‘into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn.3:17). The irony of the cross was that he possessed the power to come down from the cross, but that would have condemned the world. In order to save us, he could not save himself.

The mighty power to save was unleashed in his embracing the weakness of crucifixion.

The Resurrection Power of God

Crucifixion in weakness was not the end of the story.

2 Corinthians 13:4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. …

Jesus now lives out of the power of God. Paul prays for us in Ephesians that we might know

Ephesians 1:19 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.

It was God’s power that raised Jesus from the dead. God’s resurrection power was displayed in Jesus precisely because Jesus was crucified in weakness. Had Jesus not willingly laid down his life as a substitute for sinners, there would be no resurrection. God’s power is displayed in Christ’s weakness. And it was precisely when Christ was weak that he was mighty to save. The cross is a picture of simultaneous weakness and strength. This is what Paul patterns his ministry after in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 13:3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

Just as Christ was crucified out of weakness but lives out of the power of God, so also Paul is weak in him but will live with him out of the power of God. Paul is in Christ. He was crucified with Christ. He no longer lives, but Christ lives in him (Gal.2:20).

Paul gladly boasts in his weaknesses because it is in his weaknesses that the power of Christ encamps upon him. Paul says:

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. (lit. ‘out of us’)

Outward Show of Power

The Corinthians are not content with God’s power hidden in weakness. They want an outward show of power. That outward show of power is coming. 2 Thessalonians speaks of the time:

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

That outward show is coming, but it will mean condemnation and not salvation. Jesus was crucified out of weakness, but lives out of the power of God. Now is the day of salvation. He will return ‘on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Mt.24:30), but then the day of salvation will be past, and he will be coming in judgment, and the people of the earth will mourn.

Paul says he is weak in him, but he will live with him out of the power of God toward the Corinthians. This future living with Christ out of the power of God is not pointing to the resurrection on the last day, but to Paul’s upcoming visit to Corinth. The crucified and resurrected Christ is mighty to save, but he has also been given all authority to execute judgment (Jn.5:22, 27). If they refuse to repent, he will come in judgment out of the power of God toward you.

But this is not what he desires. Paul does everything he does to build them up, not to tear them down. He doesn’t want to come in a show of outward power. He says down in verse 9:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

Paul is praying for their wholeness, their full mending and restoration. It would bring him joy if this letter brought about repentance and restoration so that he could continue to be seen among them as weak, and they be seen as strong. Paul desires that his ministry always be shaped by the cross. He desires to come in weakness, with the meekness and gentleness of Christ. He wants his ministry to look like Jesus, who paradoxically was crucified out of his weakness, but in that very weakness he is not weak toward you but is powerful in you. The seemingly weak and foolish message of the cross brings about powerful life transformation in all who hear and believe.

What is the message we bear? With our words? With our lives? Do we rejoice when we are seen to be weak and Jesus is seen to be strong? Do we never seek our own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved (1Cor.10:33)?

***

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

April 1, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding

03/14_2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210314_2cor12_19-21.mp3

Paul’s Defense?

In 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12, Paul confronts the danger of false apostles spreading a false gospel about a different jesus, receiving a different spirit. He is forced to defend his character, his ministry, his own integrity. At least that is what he appears to be doing. But is it?

2 Corinthians 12:14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

As he said back in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. …

Not much has changed over the 2 years since the writing of 1 Corinthians. They are still behaving like children, and Paul, as their father in the faith, is willing to spend and be spent for their sake.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

Paul is forced to defend his own integrity by appealing to his accountability and the integrity and character of his co-laborers in the gospel. Paul has been attacked, his character has been maligned, his credentials and authority have been doubted. He has been forced into foolish boasting to defend his character and his apostolic authority. But is that what he has been doing? Defending himself?

Not a Defense to Them

Paul says no, I am not defending myself to you. I don’t need to defend myself to you. You are not my judge and jury.

Children often know so much more than their parents, that their parents are uninformed and clueless; kids think they know better than their parents what is best for them. My wise parents often said to me ‘When you have your own kids, then maybe you’ll understand.’ Have you ever heard that? Have you who are now parents ever said that?

He has already told them in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul says ‘No, I am not defending myself to you. That would give you far too much credit. That would assume that you are competent to critique apostolic ministry.’ They have demonstrated their own incompetence by receiving the false apostles bringing another jesus, a different spirit, a false gospel.

It is not before you that I stand trial. It is before the Lord alone that I am ultimately accountable.

In The Sight Of God

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul says ‘we have been speaking in the sight of God.’ We are not responding to your demands and expectations. All the way back in chapter 1, he started this letter by saying:

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

His conscience was clear, by God’s grace and before God.

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

He speaks in Christ. It is ‘not I, but Christ who lives in me.’ And he speaks as commissioned by God and in the sight of God. God sent him on mission to them. And it is to God he is accountable for what he says. He had asked back in chapter 3:

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

He said in chapter 4:

2 Corinthians 4:2 But 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.

Paul lives openly, transparently, in the presence of God. He said in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But 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.

He is not commending himself to them. He doesn’t have to. His integrity is seen by God; he lives in the presence of God, in the fear of the Lord, who sees what is in the heart.

In chapter 7, he invites them in, to also live in awareness of the presence of God in their lives. He writes what he writes:

2 Corinthians 7:12 …in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

In chapter 8, in matters of financial integrity, he says:

2 Corinthians 8:21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

And in chapter 10, he says:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

We live in the presence of God, to please God. He is our judge. Before him we stand or fall. Paul is not defending himself to the Corinthians. He was commissioned by God and carries out ministry in the sight of God.

All For Your Upbuilding, Beloved

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul is not defending himself. He is doing ministry in the sight of God. He is seeking to build them up. With his use of biting irony and sharp sarcasm in these chapters, it may not feel or sound like he is seeking to build them up, but that is exactly what he intends to do. And he reminds them, they are dearly beloved. He is not against them, he is for them. But sometimes the He wants to build them up, but the ground must be cleared of debris before building can occur. Sometimes existing structures must be demolished and cleared away before the proposed building can go up. As he said in chapter 10,

2 Corinthians 10:3 …we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Every stronghold, every argument, every proud opinion raised against the knowledge of the real Jesus must be torn down. The ground must be cleared. He wields God’s authority to build up, not to tear you down (10:8), but their false thinking must be demolished.

Apostolic Fear of Continued Division

Paul is ready to clear some ground.

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Paul is afraid. He said he was afraid back in 11:3

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

He was afraid that they were being led away by satanic deception after another jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel. Here he is afraid that when he arrives, he will find in them a proud divisiveness. He addressed the division, quarreling and strife back in 1 Corinthians (1Cor.1:11; 3:3). He is afraid not much has changed.

Apostolic Fear of Failure to Repent

He is afraid because the gospel changes people. He is afraid that he may not find them as he hopes, as genuine believers, transformed by the gospel. Throughout this letter he has been re-framing for them what authentic ministry is all about. He has reminded them of the gospel he proclaimed, and has implored them ‘be reconciled to God’ (2Cor.5:20). He appealed to them ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’ (2Cor.6:1). He is afraid that they will have been led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ, to follow a false jesus and a false gospel. He is afraid that when judged by their fruit, their conversion may prove to be false.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul fears that the fruit of repentance will not be demonstrated in their lives. In 1 Corinthians chapters 5-7, Paul confronted them over their immorality. He called them to ‘flee from sexual immorality’ (1Cor.6:18). He called the church, if someone claimed to be a believer yet persisted in immorality unrepentant, to remove them from fellowship with the church (1Cor.5). Repentance is essential in the life of the believer. Repentance is a change of heart and mind, a recognition that sin is sin against a holy God. We have all sinned and gone astray, we have all followed our own way. And every sin can be forgiven when we confess it as sin, when we agree with God that what he thinks about it is true. Paul told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We all have sinned. And every sin can be washed away in the blood of Jesus. Repentance is essential in the life of the believer; turning away from sin and back to Jesus; turning away from pride, from performance, from good works, from an ethic of earning.

These are not two distinct issues, divisive pride and sexual immorality, as if he is addressing the gossiping quarreling divisive group who entertained false teachers in verse 20 and the lustful sexually immoral group in verse 21. Bad theology leads to bad ethics. False teaching and immorality go hand in hand. Turning away from a sincere and pure devotion to Jesus leads to wrong thinking, wrong feeling, wrong acting. When our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, our hearts go after every kind of counterfeit.

Grief Over the Sins of Others

Listen to Paul’s heart. He is not self-righteous, gloating, rejoicing over the destruction of the wicked. He is not Jonah, sitting in the shade of his gourd, eager to see God pour out his almighty wrath on sinners.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented…

Paul is broken-hearted at the prospect of sinners who have not found true forgiveness at the foot of the cross. Paul takes the persistent unrepentance of this church personally, as his own responsibility. He will be humbled as having failed to see the gospel take effect in them.

2 Corinthians 5:15 [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. … 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul’s pursuit and his heart is to see them built up into the image of Jesus, beholding the glory of Jesus and being transformed into his image by the Spirit (2Cor.3:18). He is willing to do the difficult work of confronting their sin to clear the ground for this building up that he is constantly striving for. He does everything he does and says everything he says for their upbuilding. Because he loves them.

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision

03/07_2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210307_2cor12_13-18.mp3

Paul is pouring out his heart to this troubled church. They have put him on the defensive by giving a willing ear to false apostles preaching another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel (11:4). He has indulged in foolish boasting, to make a mock parody of the things that were celebrated by them, power, prestige, popularity, supernatural signs and wonders. Paul points to his perseverance under suffering for the sake of Jesus and in the advance of the gospel as the genuine marks of a true apostle.

2 Corinthians 12:11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

I am not inferior, but I am nothing. I ought to have been commended by you. You experienced firsthand my authenticity. You saw my sufferings. Your hearts were transformed by the gospel I brought to you. I’ve endured with great patience. You ought to have known better, but I’ve put up with you.

Not a Burden

Then he says:

2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

In what way did I denigrate you, treat you worse than all the rest of the churches? This one way; I did not overburden you.

He is picking up the issue that he dealt with back in chapter 11, his refusal of support from the Corinthian church. They were offended because he refused their money. There he said he robbed other financially poorer churches in order to serve them. He asked if he committed a sin by humbling himself by preaching God’s gospel freely as a gift. Here he asks them to extend grace to this injustice!

This was evidently a sore issue for them, as he brings it up now a second time. The Corinthians believed that nothing worth anything is free, and the more they paid, the more status and prestige they earned. If they could hire the best teacher at top dollar, they had bragging rights over others, and that teacher became obliged exclusively to the family who hired him. Paul refused to fall in line with this culture, withholding the gospel from the poor, selling out to the wealthy, becoming obligated to cater to their every whim. Rather, remaining ‘free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them’ (1Cor.9:19). He refused to cater to their culture, because their culture was an affront to the gospel itself, which is the greatest gift that comes at infinite cost to the giver, but is freely given to those who don’t deserve it. Any attempt to earn it or pay for it is an affront to God’s grace.

Ironically, even this commitment to decline pay for the free advance of the gospel was used against him. The false teachers’ spin was that he refused pay because he knew his teaching was sub-standard and worthless. They obviously were much better teachers; look how much they charge! Paul himself taught (1Tim5:18) that the worker is worthy of his hire, so Paul must know he is not genuine because he declines payment. They overlooked the fact that although it was a legitimate right of an apostle to be supported by those he served (1Cor.9), it was not required of an apostle to make use of that right; Paul was willing to ‘not make use of that right, so as not to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel’ (1Cor.9:12).

Paul sarcastically asks them to forgive him the injustice of not charging them for his services.

Seeking Relationship

2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong! 14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. …

Paul is writing from Macedonia, having just reconnected with Titus who gave him an update on the situation in Corinth. Paul is sending Titus back to them with this letter just ahead of his own visit to them, to give them a chance to prepare themselves for his visit. He re-affirms his commitment to his policy of refusing their support. He said back in chapter 11

2 Corinthians 11:9 …I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

He will not be a burden to them. Here he gives this reason; ‘I seek not what is yours but you.’ He is determined by his actions to demonstrate to them that he is not after their money. He is after much more than that, he is after all of them. He is seeking a restored relationship with them. He is not interested in taking anything from them. This ought to highlight the contrast with the false apostles who were all too eager to take what is theirs. They don’t really care about you; they are taking advantage of you for their own gain. Paul is seeking them, what is best for them, even if that is difficult and painful, even if it means he has to confront them and risk offending them. I seek not what is yours but you.

Saving, Spending, and Being Spent

2 Corinthians 12:14 …For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

Paul continues to talk in monetary terms, but he is talking about much more than money. He is seeking a restored relationship, and so he reminds them of their relationship. Back in 1 Corinthians 4 he said:

1 Corinthians 4:15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Here he reminds them of his relationship to them as a parent to a child through the gospel. The reason I haven’t been sponging off of you for my daily sustenance is that as your parent in the gospel, I ought to be treasuring up for your future. He’s clearly moved beyond talking about money here. There will be a time when he’s not around any more, and he ought to be preparing them to be spiritually self-sufficient without him. By saving up, he is talking about pouring into them, investing in them for a stable future when he’s gone.

He will most gladly spend and be spent for them. He will pay his own way if that is what it takes to make sure they really get the gospel of grace. But again, his language moves beyond literal spending of money. He is also willing to be spent, to pour out his energy and even his life for their good. He is interested in their eternal souls. He is looking beyond earthly provision and an earthly inheritance to a heavenly one.

He said something similar to the church in 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.

He is willing to be broken and poured out for their faith; to be entirely spent for their souls. Notice in both of these verses he is aware that ministry may cost him literally everything. He is willing to lay down his life for the believers (1Jn.3:16).

Hedonistic Spending

And in both of these passages notice the attitude that accompanies his sacrifice. He is glad; he rejoices. He is willing to spend and be spent, and he is most glad to do it. In verse 9 he said he will boast most gladly in his weaknesses. It is sweet to him. The word he uses is ἥδιστα; this is the root from which we get our word hedonism; to spend and be spent for their souls is not grudging toil; it is his greatest pleasure.

You parents understand this. Sacrificing for your children is no sacrifice; whatever the cost it brings you pleasure to provide for their needs and do them good. Paul is glad to pour out his very life for their faith, for their souls.

Love Lacking

He asks them this probing question: if I love you more, am I to be loved less? The translation loses some of the emphasis of the original. If I love you super-abundantly, am I to be loved less?

This word ‘superabundant’ occurs only 13 times in the New Testament, and over half of those in this letter. In 2:4 he speaks of his desire to communicate the super-abundant love that he has for them. In 7:13 he rejoiced super-abundantly at the joy of Titus toward them, because (7:15) Titus’ affections super-abounded toward them. And here again he uses this word to emphasize the extent of his love toward them. He loves them super-abundantly.

If as a parent he loves them beyond measure, and that expresses itself in not taking from them but rather spending and being spent for them, ought he be loved the less in response? In their culture it was a child’s duty to show gratitude, honor and love to his parents. He had fulfilled his duty; they had shamefully failed to show him the appropriate love in response. They wanted to obligate Paul to themselves by supporting him, but he is the parent, and they are indebted to him.

He had already addressed their lack of love for him back in chapter 6:

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

And again in chapter 7:

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

And here he confronts their lack of reciprocal love head on. In the midst of correction and confrontation, he has affirmed his love for them repeatedly. If he loves them super-abundantly, ought they love him less?

Parental Betrothal

Remember, Paul has made it clear that he is not a jilted lover, wishing to win back their affection for himself. He is a parent, and he has betrothed the church as a virgin bride to her husband Christ (11:2-3). He is jealously guarding her affections to keep her from being turned away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Paul plays the role of the father of the bride; “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn.3:29-30). Like John, Paul is content to be spent, poured out, to be nothing, if only he can have the joy of presenting her a pure bride to her husband.

Paul the Crafty Deceiver

Verses 16-18 address another accusation that was being leveled at Paul in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty [πανοῦργος], you say, and got the better of you by deceit.

Not only are they offended that he won’t take their money, but they are also suspicious that he actually is taking their money. The spin here is that Paul is using the guise of a collection for the saints in Jerusalem to actually steal their money. It seems that, like Judas, who cared not for the poor, but was a thief and helped himself to what was put into the moneybag (Jn.12:6), the false apostles were eyeing the money that the Corinthians were setting aside for the poor, and wanted to get their hands on it. If they could convince the Corinthians that Paul’s collection was a scam, they could get access to more of that cash. So using cunning and deceit, they accused Paul of what they themselves were guilty of; cunning and deceit.

Paul expressed his fear in chapter 11, that the Corinthians were being led astray from Christ by satanic cunning. In chapter 4, he stated plainly ‘we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning’. Now he answers the charge dripping with sarcasm; ‘I was cunning and took you by deceit’.

His defense? He had been careful to be above reproach in all financial dealings. He outlined his policy of accountability in chapter 8, where he let them know that the other churches had appointed a brother to accompany Paul and oversee that their funds were handled properly. At the end of 1 Corinthians, he had invited the Corinthians to send someone themselves to do the same, and Paul was willing to step away and let them do it without him.

Here he asks:

2 Corinthians 12:17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

These accusations are absurd, and they know it. Paul and all those he sent to them have been above reproach.

Walk in the Spirit

He asks ‘did we not walk in the same spirit?’ The false apostles were encouraging them to receive a different spirit. Paul writes the Galatians and the Romans to walk in the Spirit, not according to the flesh. Paul and Titus walked in the same footsteps, controlled by the same Holy Spirit. This is in direct contrast with the false apostles, who walk in and promote a different spirit. Paul and his co-workers walked in gospel unity.

Paul responds to their accusations with dripping sarcasm, but even this it is saturated with his own tender affections for them and his self-sacrificial pursuit of their good. He is willing to spend and be spent, it brings him joy to lay down his rights to serve them.

How is your heart toward those who question your integrity, who doubt your intentions, who undervalue your relationship? Can you find joy in spending and being spent for others? Are you willing to walk in the Spirit, to display the gospel with your life, that although there is infinite cost to the giver, it is freely extended to those who don’t deserve it?

***

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

March 12, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Are You Afraid Of? (Matthew 10:28)

01/24 Jesus; What to Fear; Fear God (Mt.10:28); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210124_jesus-what-to-fear.mp3

What Do You Fear?

What are you afraid of? Many fear disease, fear danger, fear loss, fear failure, fear rejection, fear people, fear disappointing others, fear being alone… the list could go on and on.

What are you afraid of? Fear is a natural and normal part of our human existence. Some fears help keep us safe. A healthy fear of heights may keep you from getting to close to the edge and falling. Fear of the dark may keep you from stubbing your toe. Fear of snakes might prevent you from getting bit.

In Mark 4,

Mark 4:37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Fear of drowning is a legitimate fear. Fear of death, fear of violent storms and shipwreck are all reasonable things to be afraid of.

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

The disciples had something real to fear. But Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and tells them not to be afraid.

In Mark 6, Jesus was not in the boat. They were again out on the sea, again facing a storm, this time in the dark, this time alone.

Mark 6:47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. …

The disciples, in the boat battling the storm see a figure approaching them across the water. We already know the story, but put yourself in their boat. That’s terrifying. They thought it was a ghost, a phantasm, a spectre, a spirit. Something unnatural, spiritual, other-worldly. They were rightly afraid.

Mark 6:50 …But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,

Do Not Fear What Is Frightening

Do not be afraid. In John 14, when Jesus tells them that he is leaving and they cannot follow, he says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Jesus commands us ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not fear.’ How? How do we not fear things that are legitimately frightening?

Sheep Among Wolves (Matthew 10)

Look with me to Matthew 10. Jesus tells us what’s coming. He says in verse 16,

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

If there is one wolf that gets in to the sheep pen, the sheep have much to be afraid of. But here Jesus says he is sending each of us as sheep into the midst of a pack of wolves. One wolf in the sheep pen and one sheep is likely to be torn and carried off, but the rest may hope to escape. But one sheep sent into a pack of hungry wolves has no chance. That’s what Jesus prepares us, his followers for.

Matthew 10:17 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.

You will be arrested. You will be beaten. You will be put on trial and testify. But do not be anxious. Don’t be afraid.

Matthew 10:21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

You can really trust no one. You will be hated. You will be persecuted. You may have to flee. You may be betrayed and even put to death. Endure to the end.

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Jesus is the teacher, we are his learners. Jesus is the Master, we are his slaves. Jesus was misunderstood, maligned, mistreated, betrayed, taken into custody, falsely accused, beaten, executed. If you follow Jesus, you can expect the same. Encouraging? Frightening? Listen to Jesus’ conclusion:

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

Jesus prepares us for the worst, and our response is to not be afraid. There will be a tendency when under pressure to be silent, to go into hiding, to lay low. Jesus tells us that we should have no fear, that we should not be afraid, but rather boldly and openly proclaim. ‘So have no fear of them.’

The Freedom of a Greater Fear

In verse 28, Jesus gives us the ground for our freedom from fear in the face of mortal danger.

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. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Jesus tells us both what not to fear, and whom to fear. Freedom from fear comes from a greater fear.

You understand how this works? Fear can be overcome by a greater fear. The Princess Bride throws herself into the water and begins to frantically swim, seeking to escape from her kidnappers. But when she discovers these are eel infested waters, she is willing to be brought back on board and risk her fate with Vincini’s band rather than be eaten by the shrieking eels. The greater and more certain threat makes her willing to endure the lesser threat.

Consider this; if you are deathly afraid of skydiving, your fear may prevent you from jumping out of the plane. But if you have a greater fear of snakes, and you discover that the plane is teeming with the slithering creatures, you may gladly take leave of the plane and entrust yourself to your parachute. Our fears can be overcome by a greater fear.

How many of you would jump out of the plane? How many of you would stay on board and face the snakes? Much of this is subjective, based on perceived danger. People perceive danger differently. But there is real objective danger.

Luke records Jesus’ words in Luke 12:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

The fear of being killed is real. This is sobering when we consider the various ways the apostles were tortured and executed. But legitimate fears are overshadowed, overturned, overthrown by a greater fear. Those who can kill the body is high up the list of things to fear. But the fear of God should be greater. In fact, Jesus says we should not fear death, but we should only fear God.

Fear God the Judge

Our greatest threat is not disease, disaster, poverty, famine, or war. God is our greatest threat, the real, objective, all powerful and eternal danger. God has the authority to cast our souls into hell, and it would be right for him to do it! As the Judge of all the earth, it is what we deserve. We all have sinned and fail to give God glory. We were dead in our sins, in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, …by nature children of wrath. We deserve hell. It’s what we have earned by our God rejecting, God ignoring, God belittling hearts.

It is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that he took our punishment on the cross, that offers any hope of escape from what we rightly deserve. And if we would look to Jesus on the cross, God forsaken, crushed, shamed, abandoned, our jaws would drop in stunned horror at he price that was paid for us. A look to the cross should remind us to fear the Lord.

Re-Calibrating Our Fears

Throughout the Scriptures we are commanded to fear the Lord, and the wisdom literature tell us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Ps.111:10; Pr.1:7; 9:10; 15:33). We are commanded and instructed to fear God because our perception of danger is skewed and needs to be corrected. We naturally fear the wrong things. We must continually re-calibrate our fears by the truth of God’s word.

Fear Self-Deception

Jesus goes on in Matthew 10 to say:

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

We ought to fear the real possibility of deceiving ourselves, and one day hearing those terrible words ‘I never knew you, depart from me’ (Mt.7:23).

Flee to Jesus for Refuge

Jesus is coming back. He will judge the living and the dead (Acts.10:42). He will give to each person according to what they have done (Mt.16:27). As 2 Thessalonians predicts;

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

The Lord Jesus is to be worshiped, and he is to be feared. Recognize that he will surely punish every evildoer, and you are an evildoer. Run to him for forgiveness, for cleansing, for refuge. Hide yourself in him. Be found in him, not having a righteousness of your own that comes from the law, but the righteousness from God which comes through faith in Christ (Phil.3:9). Obey the gospel and be safe.

Back in Mark 4, where Jesus was asleep on the boat in the middle of the storm, when the disciples feared for their lives, when Jesus awoke and calmed the wind and the waves with his word, it says:

Mark 4:41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They had been afraid of the storm. But they began to realize the one in the boat with them was more powerful, more to be feared than the raging sea. The sea was now calm, and they were filled with great fear. ‘Who then is this?’

Exhortation

Hear this exhortation from the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

***

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

January 25, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

01/03 Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210103_jesus-while-we-wait.mp3

We have been looking this Advent season at what Jesus said about his coming, and about his coming again. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to seek and to save us, those who were lost, gone astray, sick, sinners. He came to fix and restore and heal what is broken. Being fully and eternally God, equal with his Father, he came. He stooped down. He humbled himself. He became human. He became one of us to die for our sins, to bear our shame, and to give us new life. He came to rescue us, to set us free.

And he is coming back. He will return for us, as the groom for his bride, to take us to be with him forever. He went to prepare a place for us. His prayer to his Father for us was that we would be with him.

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

How To Wait

Jesus is coming back for us! We await his return. But how should we wait? What ought we do as we wait?

Last time we saw from Matthew 24 and 25 that we are to be on guard so as not to be led astray (Mt.24:4). We are not to be alarmed, even though the world seems to be falling apart (Mt.24:6). Even if we are persecuted, hated, put to death, we are to persevere, to remain faithful to Jesus, to endure to the end (Mt.24:13). We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone everywhere (Mt.24:14). We are to to stay awake, to be ready, to be faithful with what Jesus has entrusted us with and to discharge our task (Mt.24:42, 44-46; 25:10, 21). We are to show our love for the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters, caring practically for their needs (Mt.25:31-40).

This is a tall order. Be on guard, be watchful, stay awake, be ready. Proclaim the good news to everyone everywhere. Be faithful to use the gifts he has given you and do what he has called you to do. Through love serve one another. Be faithful, endure even to death. How? How can I do all that? I don’t think I’m alert enough, smart enough, strong enough, determined enough. I don’t know, if it comes to it, if I would be willing to lay down my life for him. Is this even possible, what he expects of us?

John 14; Jesus is the Way

We started in John 14, where Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for us to be with him, and promised that he would come again to take us to be with him forever. Let’s go back to John 14 for help.

At the end of John 13 is where Peter brashly says that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he’s going to fail, he’s going to deny him three times before morning.

And then Jesus says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Don’t let your heart be troubled. You’re going to fail, but don’t let that agitate your heart. Instead believe, trust, depend, rely on God, rely also on me. You can’t do this. You don’t have the strength. You must depend on God, lean in to God, allow God to work these things in you.

Jesus desires us to be with him. He goes to prepare a place for us. And he is coming back to take us to himself. And we know the way.

Thomas was confused at this point. Not knowing where Jesus is going, how could he possibly know the way? Jesus responds:

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

Jesus is the goal, and Jesus is the way. Our end goal is to be with Jesus, and we get there only through Jesus. We must believe in Jesus, trust him, rely on him, depend on him, let him carry us. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And Jesus is our life. We live this life by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We live and walk in utter dependence on him. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in me.

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

This time it is Philip who doesn’t understand. He wants to see the Father.

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus is to be trusted in as well as the Father, because Jesus is inextricably related to his Father. He is one with his Father; he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He shares the same nature, the same essence or being as his Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. At the beginning of his gospel, John said:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus made his Father known. Jesus made his Father knowable. Jesus is the only way to his Father. Through Jesus, we can enter into relationship with God. As Jesus prayed in John 17,

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

Eternal life is knowing God. Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and the Son. We were made for intimacy with God, but ‘our sins made a separation between us and God’ (Is.59:2). Jesus came to take away our sins and reconcile us to God (Rom.5:10).

One day when we see him, ‘we will know him fully, we will see face to face. Now we see dimly. Now we know in part’ (1Cor.13:12). But we do now see, albeit dimly. We do now know, albeit in part. We get a glimpse, a taste now of the eternal reality we are meant to enjoy.

Abide and Bear Fruit

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of branches on a vine to describe his relationship with his disciples. Jesus is the vine, we branches. We are meant to bear fruit.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Abide. Jesus says ‘Abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing.’ Nothing. No fruit apart from abiding in Jesus. We must abide; remain in Jesus, stay connected to Jesus, draw life and strength and sustenance from Jesus. If we disconnect from Jesus, we wither. Abide in Jesus and Jesus promises to abide in you, and you will bear much fruit. Abide.

Abide in his love. He loves you. If you ever doubt that, just look to the cross, where he demonstrated decisively his love for you. What does it mean to abide in his love? The waterfall of his love is ever overflowing, pouring down, never ceasing. Many people work hard to put up an umbrella, to build themselves a shelter to block the flow of his love. Many step out of the flow and walk away from his love. Abide. Remain under the waterfall of his love, immerse yourself in his love for you.

The Word

How do we abide in his love? He tells us in verse 10.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

We abide by obedience. We do what he says. We keep his commandments. We listen to him. We listen. And our listening is rooted in relationship. We want to hear him. We want to know what he wants because we want to do what pleases him.

This is not earning by obedience. Notice his love comes first. ‘I have loved you.’ Now abide in my love. The love is already there. The love is not produced by the obedience; rather obedience is produced by his love.

Jesus draws the comparison with the Father’s love for his only Son. Jesus didn’t earn the Father’s love; he was already eternally loved. He obeyed his Father because he was loved. Obedience is a by-product of being loved. Because we are loved, we want to do what pleases him, so we listen to his words. This is abiding in loving relationship.

Jesus said back in verse 3:

John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

We have been washed clean by his word. So we abide in him, and he in us. He says in verse 7:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We abide in him and his words abide in us. We want to know what he says, so we listen. We cling to his words. We rehearse, we re-read, we memorize. We let his words abide in us.

We tend to be unjustly jealous. The grass is always greener. We say that we only have his word written. We wish we had been there to hear him speak audibly, to hear his voice. Rather we should be amazed and grateful that we have his completed word written. So many believers throughout history have only had bits, pieces, sayings. Many lived while it was being given, before it was written. Many had limited access to only parts of it. We have his word quite literally from beginning to end. Those who heard it audibly would have to trust their memory; we can go back to the very words over and over again to check and listen and read and study. We are truly blessed!

Full Joy

Look at verse 11. Do you see the connection between his word and our joy?

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He spoke, he gave us his words to fill up our joy. His commands are not burdensome. Quite the reverse, through them he gives us rest for our souls (Mt.11:28-30). He came to give us life abundantly (Jn.10:10). Jesus is eager for us to find true joy, lasting joy in him.

Love One Another

His command?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Pass his love along. Love others with his love. Abide in his love for you, and then love one another.

Friends

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Friends. Jesus calls us his friends. Intimacy. Relationship.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus invites us in to his confidence. He invites us in as friends. Because he has given us his word, the word of his Father.

Ask and Receive

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

You are meant to bear fruit, so ask. Ask the Father in the name of Jesus he would cause you to bear much fruit for his glory. Back in verse 7 he said:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And in chapter 14:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

And again in John 16, he says:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus is eager that we talk to him, that we pray, that we ask. He wants to fill up our joy as we bear fruit for him in answer to our prayers.

The Spirit in You

There is one other thread that runs through this passage that we must pay attention to. Back in 14:16, he said:

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

Jesus will ask his Father to give us his Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit will be in us. Not only are we to abide in Jesus and he will abide in us, and his word will abide in us, but also his Spirit will abide in us. In 14:26 he says:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words. He will point us back to the word.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit delivers the word of God. The Spirit seeks the glory of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit living in us to open his word to us and enable us to obey. We need the Spirit to empower us to bear much fruit to the glory of God.

Conclusion

Jesus is coming back for us. We are to be ready, anticipating his return. How are we to wait? Let not your hearts be troubled, but rather trust in him. He is coming back to take us to himself, to be with him. Relationship is the goal. If we abide in him, draw strength and sustenance from him, from his love, we will bear much fruit for his glory. We abide in him by his word abiding in us. We ask him to glorify himself through us. We depend on the presence and power of his Holy Spirit living inside. Abide and pray. Trust, depend on his Spirit. Press in to know him better!

***

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

January 4, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; Where He Came From

12/20 Jesus in His Own Words; Where He Came From; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201220_where-jesus-came-from.mp3

This week is Christmas! We remember, we celebrate, we wonder at the coming of Jesus. We are looking at Jesus in his own words; what he said about himself, about his coming. Last week we looked at why he came. Jesus said that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mk.2:17). He came to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). He came to lay down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:10-11). Jesus came because we had gone astray; we were sick, lost, hopeless sinners. He came because we were that bad; to pursue us and rescue us, to redeem us and forgive our sins, he had to die in our place. That’s why he came.

Jesus came. But what does it mean to say that Jesus came? Where did he come from? Who really is this Jesus?

John was Sent and Came

In the beginning of John’s gospel we are told

John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

John the baptist came. John was sent by God. But was he sent in the same way that Jesus was sent? Did John come in the same way that Jesus came?

John was the son of the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

Luke begins his gospel by telling us their story. Elizabeth was barren; she was unable to have children. They were both ‘advanced in years;’ they were getting old. Zechariah was chosen to burn incense in the temple in Jerusalem. In the temple, he saw an angel, and he was terrified. The angel told him that his prayer had been heard and his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son, and they were to name him John.

He was told that the boy would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. He would go before the Lord God ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah …to make ready for the Lord a people prepared’ (Lk.1:15-17).

Luke tells us

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived…

Zechariah went home to his wife, and she became pregnant. John was sent by God with a task. He was sent to ‘prepare the way for the Lord’ He was empowered by the Spirit of God for this task. He came into this world in a supernatural way; he was born to a woman who was barren. He was born to parents who were ‘advanced in years;’ beyond the typical age of childbearing. In much the same way as Isaac to Abraham and Sarah some 2000 years earlier, John was born in a supernatural way.

But in another sense he, like Isaac, was born in the natural normal way. His parents came together and he was conceived.

Uniqueness of Jesus

But Jesus came differently. Luke records the angel came also to Mary and announced:

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. …

But Mary’s question to the angel:

Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Jesus was different. Jesus would not be born in the natural normal way. Matthew records:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

John himself said:

John 1:15 …“This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”

John, who is 6 months older than Jesus (Lk.1:36), born 6 months before Jesus, tells us that Jesus, who comes after him existed before him. John was sent by God with a mission and empowered by God. The circumstances of his birth were supernatural, but he was conceived in the natural way. But John claims that his younger cousin who came after him existed before him. John didn’t exist before he was conceived. But John believed that Jesus did.

Angel Gabriel was Sent and Came

The text also tells us that the angel Gabriel was sent from God; he came. Gabriel said to Zechariah:

Luke 1:19 …“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

And to Mary:

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

Gabriel was sent from God, but in a different sense than John was sent. We understand from Scripture that angels are supernatural beings created by God to serve God. Gabriel was in the presence of God; unlike John, he existed before he was sent. He was sent to deliver a message. He appeared, he delivered the good news, and then he left.

Both John and Gabriel were said to have been sent by God, they were said to have come. But in very different ways.

Jesus was Sent and Came

But what does Jesus have to say about himself? Last time we looked at John 3, a conversation between the teacher of Israel and Jesus. Nicodemus comes to him by night, seeking to understand who Jesus really is. He has concluded that Jesus is ‘a teacher come from God’ and that God is with him. Jesus points him to his own need; he is in need of total transformation, he needs to be born anew, born from above, born of the Spirit. Nicodemus is confused. Jesus says it is an issue not of understanding, but of belief. He says:

John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Jesus is claiming to be telling Nicodemus heavenly things. He claims to tell him heavenly things because he claims to have been there. Jesus is claiming to be the one who descended from heaven.

And Jesus goes on to say:

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Jesus claims to be God’s unique one-and-only Son, given by the Father. Jesus claims to have been sent into the world on a rescue mission.

Bread From Heaven

We looked at John 6, where Jesus compares himself to the manna in the wilderness, the bread God gave his people to sustain them those 40 years.

John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus claims that the bread from God is a person.

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

Jesus said:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

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

Here Jesus again claims to have been given by the Father, to have come down from heaven. He claims to give up his own life to give eternal life to his followers.

I Am From Above

In John 8, where Jesus claims to be the light of the world, the Pharisees are questioning the validity of his testimony.

John 8:14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. …16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

Jesus claims to have been sent by the Father and with his Father’s authority to judge. Jesus tells them rather cryptically that they don’t know where he comes from and where he is going, but he knows where he came from and where he is going. He clarifies in verse 23.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus claims to have an origin different from the rest of mankind. I am from above. I am not of this world. In fact, Jesus here claims to be God the I Am, and that they must believe this or they will die in their sins.

Jesus promises that ‘if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death’ (Jn.8:51). The Jews begin to catch on to what he is saying. They ask:

John 8:53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

Jesus claims that the God of the Jews is his Father, and God the Father is glorifying Jesus.

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham existed. Even more than that, he claims to be the I AM, the self-existent God. The Jews understood what he was claiming. He was claiming to be God come in the flesh.

John 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him…

Come From and Going Back to God

In John 13, in the upper room,

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. …3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,

Jesus was preparing to die. He was preparing to depart out of this world to the Father. Jesus, knowing that he had come from God and was going back to God,

John 13:4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It was Jesus’ self awareness of who he was, where he had come from and where he was going that motivated him as their Lord and Master to set an example for them of loving self-sacrificial service.

In John 16, Jesus told his disciples:

John 16:27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Jesus came into the world from the Father. His disciples were coming to believe in him, who he is, that he came from God.

Before the World Existed

In John 17,

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus prays and asks that his Father would glorify him. Jesus is the one who has authority to give eternal life, and eternal life consists in knowing God, being in relation with the Father and the Son whom the Father sent. Jesus asks that his Father would glorify him with the glory he had with his Father before the world existed. This goes back long before Abraham, even before Adam, before creation. Jesus is claiming to have existed with the Father before the world existed.

And Jesus prays for us:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Eternal life consists in knowing God and Jesus Christ. Eternal life is being with Jesus, seeing his glory, participating in the eternal inter-trinitarian love between the Father and the Son.

My Lord and My God

In John 21, when Thomas sees the resurrected Jesus, Jesus says to him:

John 21:27 …Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Even doubting Thomas came to believe that Jesus is both Lord and God. John goes on to tell us why he wrote what he wrote.

John 21:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus eternally existed as God, enjoying relationship with his Father. And God gave us his only Son. The Father sent his Son into the world. Jesus came into the world to rescue us.

The Word Who Was God

If we jump back to the beginning of John, the Apostle gives us his understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that he was sent, and that he came.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

In verse 14, we see

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

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

So Jesus, the Word, the only Son from the Father, was in the beginning. He didn’t begin, he simply was. He existed eternally with God, and he was himself God. And he came. He came to make God known. He came to make God knowable. He came to seek and to save the lost. He came to seek you! Let this sink in. Let this fill your heart with wonder and worship.

***

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

December 22, 2020 Posted by | advent | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; Why He Came

12/13 Jesus in His Own Words; Why He Came; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201213_why-jesus-came.mp3

There are a lot of voices to listen to at Christmastime. Many voices are competing for our attention, telling us what it’s all about. Some voices seek to distract, to drown out the truth with noise, to keep us from paying attention to what really matters. Even in the Christmas story there are many voices we could listen to, pointing us to the truth. We could listen to the prophets, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men. We could listen to Zechariah and Elizabeth, to Anna and Simeon, to Mary and Joseph, all pointing us to Jesus, who he is, why he came.

But today I want to listen to Jesus himself. Let’s listen to Jesus and let him tell us, in his own words why he came, what he came to do.

Repent and Believe the Good News

We will start with the gospel of Mark, chapter 1. After John prepares the way, after Jesus’ baptism, after his testing in the wilderness, it says in verse 14

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

Jesus came proclaiming good news, good news from God; good news about God. Prophecies fulfilled. The kingdom of God arrived. And his message: repent. Change your mind. You were thinking wrongly. Turn and think differently. Repent and believe the gospel. Change your mind and entrust yourself to God’s good news.

Jesus called some fishermen to leave everything to follow him, and he would teach them how to catch people instead. Jesus set people free from demons, he healed many sick people, but he didn’t set out to gather a crowd.

Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”

Jesus, you’ve gained a following. Your popularity is on the rise. Everyone is looking for you.

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

I didn’t come primarily to fix people’s problems and meet people’s needs. I came with a message. I came with a declaration of good news. I came to call people to change the way they think; to repent and trust in the good news.

Authority To Forgive

He begins to unfold this good news in chapter 2. Back in Capernaum, Jesus was preaching the word to a crowd so pressing it filled the house and spilled out into the streets, so there was not even room at the doors. Four men carrying their paralyzed friend could not get him to Jesus, so they opened up the roof and lowered him down on his stretcher in front of Jesus.

Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

That is unexpected. Don’t miss how awkward, how out of place that is. That’s as out of place as if one of you came to me asking for prayer and I asked you ‘do you like broccoli?’ What does that have to do with this? This guy is paralyzed. He’s dependent on his friends carrying him around on a stretcher. He can’t walk. They take drastic measures to get him to Jesus because they hope Jesus can help him, and Jesus starts talking about sin. In fact, it’s worse than that. Jesus is being downright offensive. The man already can’t walk, and now Jesus is telling him that he is a sinner, as if that were his most obvious problem. ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

And apparently he is content to leave it at that, except that this creates a stir in the crowd.

Mark 2:6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Jesus heals the paralyzed man, but he does it primarily to prove that he can do something that can’t be seen, that he has authority to forgive sins. He healed this man’s outward physical problem to show that what he said about this man’s inward spiritual problem was true. Not only was Jesus able to accurately identify and diagnose the real problem, he was able, with a word, to fix the problem. Your sins are forgiven.

The scribes were right, by the way. Only the one sinned against can forgive. God alone has the authority to forgive sins. The good news Jesus proclaimed is that the kingdom of God is near, because God the King has come down!

Bad Company… Transformed

Jesus goes on to call a despised tax collector to be one of his closest followers, and then he went to eat at his house.

Mark 2:15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

This is offensive. This is a scandal. Who you choose for your friends says a lot about who you are.

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Proverbs 1:15 my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths,

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

You become like who you spend time with. If you refuse to compromise, people who do won’t want to be around you. You only join a leper colony if you are a leper. And if you weren’t before, you will be soon after.

But Jesus has already shown that he is different. He touched a leper, and instead of being defiled, the leper was made clean! (Mk.1:40-42)

‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

Mark 2:17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus does not associate with sinners because he is one. Jesus goes to sick people because he is the great Physician. He came to bring the cure. Who Jesus chooses to spend time with does say something very significant about those people. If you have the full attention of the specialist who deals with rare and extreme forms of cancer, it says something about your condition. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” According to Jesus, why did he come? Because he is the cure, and because we are sick.

Seeking the Lost

On another occasion, when Jesus was passing through Jericho, he invited himself over to the house of a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus. Everyone grumbled because ‘he has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house… 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus said that he came for the lost, the hopelessly lost. For those who have gone astray. He came to seek for those who don’t even know they are lost unless someone comes looking for them.

Jesus didn’t come to make righteous people feel good about themselves. He came for sinners. It’s been said ‘Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.’ A diagnosis of cancer is bad news. A diagnosis of sin is eternally bad news. But a diagnosis that comes with the assurance that ‘we have a cure for that, and it has proven 100% effective with all who have been treated’ – that turns the bad news on its head. The bad news is that you are a sinner. But the good news is that Jesus came for sinners, and he came with the authority to forgive sins.

Under Condemnation; In Need of Salvation

Let’s look at what Jesus tells the teacher of Israel in John 3. Nicodemus is trying to understand who Jesus is. He has concluded that Jesus must be a teacher come from God, and that God must be with him. But Jesus confronts the teacher with his own need; ‘unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ You cannot enter the kingdom of God unless you are born of the Spirit, born from above. Jesus is telling the teacher of Israel that he doesn’t qualify to enter God’s kingdom. Even the teacher of Israel is a sinner in need of total transformation.

But Jesus goes on to tell him why he came. It was God’s love. He is God’s gift

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Jesus wasn’t sent to condemn the world. The world is already condemned. Even the teacher of Israel is condemned already. God sent Jesus because the world stands condemned; he sent his Son in order to save the world from that condemnation.

Jesus didn’t come for the righteous, because no one is. Not even religious people are righteous. Every person is a sinner in need of total transformation.

And that transformation comes through repentance; a change of mind. I thought I was OK. I thought I was good enough. But I now realize that if God is just, I stand condemned. My condition is terminal. I am a sinner in need of saving. Jesus is the one who has authority to forgive my sin. Jesus is the one who brings not condemnation but salvation to everyone who trusts him, who believes in him.

Giving My Flesh as Food

Later in John 6, Jesus becomes more explicit. He confronts those who are following him around just to get another free lunch.

John 6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” …51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus claims to be the bread of life; the one who comes down from heaven to give his flesh as food so whoever feeds on him will have eternal life. Not surprisingly many choked on this teaching. But Jesus wanted to be clear. He would give us life by giving us his own flesh. He would die so that we could live.

Laying Down His Life for His Sheep

In John 10, he says:

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus is the door to the sheep pen. He came to provide abundant life for his sheep. But he knew this would cost him his own life. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.

To Serve and Ransom Many

In Mark 10, when his disciples were posturing for the primary places of status in his coming kingdom, he said

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

Why did Jesus come? He came to serve. He came to give his life as a redemption price, to buy us out of slavery.

Why Jesus Came

Christmas is about Jesus’ coming. But let’s be clear. Why did he come? According to Jesus, he came because we were under condemnation, we were lost, we were sick, we were sinners. He came to change the way we think; to show us that we are not good enough, that we can’t do it on our own, that we need to trust the work of another. He came with good news for sinners. He came to lay down his own life for us, to give his life as payment, to give us himself as food. He came to forgive our sins.

This Christmas, let’s remember why Jesus came. Let’s let him confront us with our need. And let’s stand in awe and worship that he would give himself up for us.

***

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

December 16, 2020 Posted by | advent | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Deceptive Transformation

11/08_2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Deceptive Transformation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201108_2cor11_13-15.mp3

Done Beating around the Bush…

In 2 Corinthians Paul paints a picture of what authentic gospel ministry looks like and smells like and walks like. Authentic ministry is ministry that follows in the footsteps of Jesus and is patterned after his sacrifice for the good of others.

In chapter 10 he began to point out more directly the character of those who were leading the Corinthians astray. He contrasted his own Christlike meekness and gentleness with their boldness; he said he wages war with divine power to demolish spiritual strongholds. His authority was given to build them up not tear them down. His opponents were classifying and comparing and commending themselves. They measured themselves by one another. And they boasted in the labor of another.

In chapter 11 he warns them that he is going to come out to play and meet the false teachers on their own boastful turf, and he tells them why.

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

Here in chapter 11 he becomes much more direct in pointing out the problem. He says that he betrothed them to one husband, Christ. But the Corinthians were under a satanic deception, being led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ to receive a different spirit, a different gospel, a different Jesus.

2 Corinthians 11:5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

He is accused of contemptible speech. Here he ironically calls these skillful speakers ‘super-apostles’, but says that he does not come up short in his knowledge.

2 Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

In verses 7-12 he undercuts their claim to work on equal terms with him, because he refuses to be a burden, he refuses to take any money from them for himself, where these ‘super-apostles’ were clearly in it for the money. Paul forces their hand; if they want to claim they work on his terms, they will have to give up taking money from the Corinthians, something Paul is confident they will not do.

Calling a Spade

Everything Paul has said so far should have led them to draw this conclusion, but in case anyone missed it, here in verses 13-15 he directly labels the super-apostles for who they really are.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

In the previous verses, he labeled them ‘super-apostles’. Here he calls them false apostles, deceitful workers, servants of Satan. This is even more confrontational, more in-your-face than what he said to the Galatian churches. He said:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

He warns that even if an apostle or an angel from heaven brought to them a different gospel, they should not accept it. But here he directly labels his opponents as false apostles, deceitful workers, servants of Satan.

False and Deceptive

Paul has carefully laid out the character of a genuine apostle, and now he points the finger and says your so-called super apostles are not it. They are false. They are phony. They are liars. They are workers of deceit, using bait to entrap, they are crafty, employing trickery. They are not transparent. What you see is not what you get. They hide their true character behind a disguise.

Paul has shown that they proclaim another Jesus a different gospel and a different spirit. If they are apostles of a false Jesus, preaching a false gospel, then they are false apostles. They were not commissioned by the real Jesus and they are not testifying to who Jesus truly is. No matter how well they say what they say, the content of what they say condemns them.

The Danger of Appearances

Paul has already rebuked the Corinthians for looking at appearances and not at the heart (5:12; 10:7). Here he pulls off their clever disguise. The false apostles go to great lengths to transform themselves into apostles of Christ. But only Jesus can bring true inner transformation. That’s how Paul uses this word in Philippians 3

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

The transformation of the false apostles is in form, not in substance. And Paul is not surprised.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising [transforming] themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises [transforms] himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise [transform] themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

The servant does what his master does. Paul has shown this in genuine apostles, who follow in the footsteps of their suffering Savior. This is also true of false apostles, who are servants of Satan. He pulls off the mask and says ‘even Satan transforms himself as an angel of light.’ ‘The great dragon, …that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world’ (Rev.12:9). You are not going to catch a whiff of sulfur or the glint of a pitchfork in his red cloven hoof. He is called the dragon and the serpent, but he is not going to appear like one. Few who recognize him for who he is will listen to his lies.

He didn’t convince Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by telling her that it was foul smelling and rotten and would plunge her into ruin and sever her relationship with a good Creator who loves her. He convinced her that it was ‘good for food, …a delight to the eyes, and …to be desired to make one wise,’ and that God was withholding something good from her (Gen.3:4-6).

Jesus called him ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn.8:44), and that applies not only to the content but also to the form. He warned ‘of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves’ (Mt.7:15). They appear to be sheep, but it is a disguise. Satan, Paul says, transforms himself into an angel of light.

‘Do not believe every spirit’, John says, ‘but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1Jn.4:1). Test the spirits by the content of their message, not by how they appear. Do they confess the truth about Jesus? Jesus is God come in the flesh, to suffer in our place, to rescue us. Or do they proclaim a distorted Jesus?

Do not judge based on appearances. Isaiah 14 refers to the one who fell from heaven as ‘day star’ or ‘Lucifer,’ a shining one. Ezekiel 28 gives this description:

Ezekiel 28:12 …“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. …17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. …

Servants of Righteousness

Do not be deceived by appearances. Do not be deceived by a smooth tongue, by eloquent speech, by lofty arguments. Paul is in a spiritual battle for the souls of people. He is warning them of satanic deception that transforms its servants into servants of righteousness. In the name of Jesus they promote a false Jesus, under the guise of the gospel they proclaim a distorted gospel, and in the power of another spirit they promise present blessing by that spirit.

Paul claimed to be a minister of a new covenant (3:6), ministry of the life-giving Spirit (3:8), the ministry of righteousness (3:9), so that

2 Corinthians 3:18 …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…

Transformed in true inner righteousness, not in an outward show of righteousness that is not really righteousness.

So far in 2 Corinthians, we have seen that there is unforgiveness (2:7) and Paul exhorts them to forgive,

2 Corinthians 2:11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

They were yoked together with unbelievers and idolatry (6:14-16). And they were not pursuing holiness (7:1).

He appeals to them to be reconciled to God (5:20);

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We become truly righteous with God’s own righteousness credited to our account because God credited our sin to Jesus on the cross. Righteousness only comes to us through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for us. The false apostles masquerading as servants of righteousness were not righteous themselves; they were deceitful, disgraceful, cunning, underhanded (4:2), tampering with God’s word. They were not righteous themselves, and their message did not produce righteousness in their converts. They proclaimed a Jesus who didn’t suffer for our sins, a gospel devoid of the power of the cross, a spirit who cannot transform and produce holiness. The did talk about the spirit, the gospel and Jesus, but they twisted those words and filled them with foreign content. On the surface it sounds right, but it is not what it appears.

End Corresponds to Deeds

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Paul reminds them that God’s Holy Spirit produces the fruit of holiness. As he told the Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Anyone teaching that morality doesn’t matter is deceiving you with empty words. The true gospel is never earned, but it produces heart transformation. The false apostles were promoting a spirit that isn’t holy and can’t produce the fruit of holiness. As Jesus said;

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. …

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If the false apostles disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, but in truth are serving Satan and unrighteousness, their eternal end will correspond to who they really are, as it will be with all those who follow their teaching. This is a sobering passage. Paul is warning us that it is essential to guard the purity both of our doctrine and our living. He has ‘betrothed us to one husband, to present us as a pure virgin to Christ’ (11:2). Do not be led astray by satanic seduction from your single-hearted devotion to Christ.

***

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

November 11, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment