PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 8:10-12; The Benefit of Doing What You Want to Do

09/08_2 Corinthians 8:10-12; The Benefit of Doing What You Want to Do; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190908_2cor8_10-12.mp3

Grace-Giving and Jesus

2 Corinthians 8 is about grace. God’s grace was given to the Macedonian believers and it overflowed in joyful single-hearted simplicity of devotion toward Jesus, which found expression in an earnest eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

All service must be rooted in God’s grace received and experienced.

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

This is grace, that on our account Christ, the eternal Son of God, entered in to our poverty, took to himself out human nature, humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, so that we might enjoy the riches of his glory forever. This is grace, and an experience of this grace changes us. An experience of God’s grace toward us in Christ overflows in simplicity of joy in Jesus and expresses itself in earnest eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

Paul exhorts – he does not command, but invites and encourages – the Corinthians to demonstrate the genuineness of their love.

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

This Benefits You

Paul gives his judgment or counsel to them; his advice, his mind. He says ‘this benefits you. This is to your advantage.’

Every good salesman knows how to sell his product by showing you why you need it, what it will benefit you, how it would be to your advantage to have it, and why it will be worth more than its cost to you. Paul is no salesman; he is a herald; a proclaimer of the good news of the King. He has been given a message, gospel, good news. Paul, as apostle of the good news of Jesus Christ, knows what is good for you.

Paul says ‘I give my counsel.’ In this chapter on giving, we see the grace of God given in verse 1, and the Macedonians who gave themselves first to the Lord in verse 5, and now Paul giving his judgment, his counsel. This is important, and we ought to receive what is given.

Bring it to Completion

What is it that would benefit them? What is it that would be to their own advantage? Paul gives the only imperative verb, the only command in all of chapters 8 and 9, right here in verse 11. he says ‘finish,’ complete, perfect, bring it to its desired end.

In verse 6 Paul encouraged Titus to bring to completion this act of grace; here the Corinthians are told to bring to completion what they had purposed to do. They set out to do it, now it is to their advantage to bring it to completion. He says:

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

His language is roundabout, but his point is clear. They began not only the doing but also the willing from last year. But now also bring to completion the doing, so that just as the advance desire of the willing, thus also the bringing to completion out of the having.

In 1 Corinthians 16 he said:

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Do What You Want

A year ago you started doing this; more than that you wanted to do it. The desire was there. You had the will to do it; you purposed to make this collection. Paul is now saying ‘it is to your advantage to do what you wanted to do.’ You willed it, it is what you wanted to do. Now do it!’

Notice – and I think it is essential to notice – Paul’s focus on desire and willing. He uses the language of desire, of want. You had the desire to do it. You didn’t just start to do it, you desired to do it. It wasn’t arm twisting. It wasn’t compulsion or pressure. It was what you chose. It was what you wanted. Paul affirms their desire; that it was good. Desire has to be awakened.

It’s no good to do good grudgingly, half-heartedly, out of obligation. Paul wants more than that. That might benefit others to some extent, the ones you are serving. But that doesn’t benefit you. That is not to your advantage. He’s going to say in the next chapter ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (9:7). God cares about your heart, your attitude, your desires. He cares not only about the action, but also about the motive behind the action. Why are you doing what you are doing? What do you want to do? It matters.

Think of it this way. There’s sin. There’s temptation. You know it’s wrong. But it’s tempting. You want to give in. You want it because you believe it will give you fulfillment or satisfy some need you have. You want to but you are afraid of the consequences or getting caught or what people will think, so you don’t. But you still have the desire. You see what’s going on here? O you of little faith! You lack faith. You are believing the wrong things. You believe that sin will satisfy, will bring fulfillment. That’s a lie. And it’s a lie that dishonors God. God is the all-satisfying source of every good, and in your desire you are saying that God is not good enough. I need something more, something different. You are saying there is good out there apart from God; in fact God is withholding good from you. That’s how Satan deceived Eve in the garden. There is something good that God is withholding from you.

But Psalm 34:9-10 says:

Psalm 34:9 …those who fear him have no lack! 10 …those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

And Psalm 84:11 assures us:

Psalm 84:11 …the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

No good thing does he withhold. Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. God is not looking merely for outward conformity to his standard. He is not looking for half-hearted grudging obedience, as if he were some bitter pill that we know is good for us, but we throw a fit and pinch our nose and gag as we choke him down.

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

Taste! Take pleasure. Enjoy him. Happy are you if you take refuge in him.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

In his presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore because he is infinitely pleasing and ultimately fulfilling. Do you believe that? Taste and see. Desire him. Long for him. Our desires matter.

Psalm 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

To Will and To Work

It’s no good to do good grudgingly, as if God weren’t your greatest treasure. It’s also no good to have the right desires and do nothing about them. This is where the Corinthians were. Paul affirms their desires.

2 Corinthians 8:10 …this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

You want the right thing, now do what you want. This will benefit you. Jesus said:

John 13:17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples. He is inviting them to love and serve others as he served them. And he went on to tell them that one of them would betray him. Knowing is not enough. You will be happy, you will find joy, if you love others as I have loved you. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus said in Luke 6:

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. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

It is inconsistent to say one thing and do another. It is inconsistent to call Jesus ‘Master’ and not do what he says. It matters where your heart is, because where your affections truly are will eventually become manifest. What is in your heart will come out in your actions.

Luke 6:47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

A bad foundation is hearing and not doing. A good foundation that will weather the storm is hearing and responding. Listen and then do. And a lot of what Jesus said addressed issues of what we love.

Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to follow through and do what they desired to do.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Excuses Eliminated

Paul motivates them to follow through with their desire, and he eliminates some excuses we so naturally come up with.

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

One excuse we use is delay. We want to help, but it’s just bad timing. It’s not convenient. Maybe another time, but not now. It seems the Corinthians had been delaying, putting it off. They wanted to do it, but they were waiting for a more opportune time.

Another excuse (and it is related to the first) is lack. I really want to help out, but I am just not in a position to do much right now. I might be able to do more later, but right now things are tight. I have other obligations and just can’t spare much. Because I can’t do much, I don’t do anything. This is really pride at its root. If I give, I want it to be impressive. I don’t want to be embarrassed by how little I can give, so I won’t give anything. I am waiting until a time when I can really do it right.

Paul tells them to complete their desire ‘out of what you have.’ He tells them ‘For if the desire is present, it is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you do not have.’ This is simple. God doesn’t fault you for not giving what you don’t have. Give out of what you do have. There are some great practical principles here. If God is telling us that we ought to give within our means, that would imply that we also ought to live within our means. You are not faulted for not giving what you don’t have. You probably should not take what you don’t have and spend it on your pleasures. This is practical.

Acceptable Priestly Offerings

Use what you do have to love and serve others. Don’t delay, and don’t think its not enough. Remember, what you do is ultimately not judged by other people, and it is not meant to impress other people (otherwise, you already have your reward in full). If you have the simplicity of devotion to Jesus because of the grace you have received from him, and you are joyfully eager for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints, then complete that desire out of what you have, not out of what you don’t have.

That is acceptable. Acceptable to who? This is the language of sacrifice and temple. If an offering was acceptable, it was received by the Lord. Paul uses this language in Romans 15

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

He pictures himself a priest presenting an offering, and his desire is that it be received. Peter uses the same imagery

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We all are priests, offering spiritual sacrifices, and our sacrifices are made acceptable only through Jesus Christ. If we love and serve others out of what we have, out of the grace we have been given, that is acceptable; it is well received by God. Remember, it is God and God alone we seek to please. What others think matters not if we are accepted by him.

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ …40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

***

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

September 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God

07/07_2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190707_2cor7_8-10.mp3

Good Grief!

Charlie Brown walks by the doghouse where Snoopy is doing something ridiculous. “Good grief!” he exclaims. Good grief. That’s what we are talking about today.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul wrote the Corinthians a severe letter. He was anxious about how it would be received, so anxious that he passed up an open door for gospel ministry in Troas. But in Macedonia, Titus came and announced good news to Paul. Titus announced the Corinthians’ longing, their mourning, their ardor on Paul’s behalf. This brought Paul still more joy. Why does intense desire, moaning or lamentation, and jealous indignation elicit joy? This is an unusual combination. Titus announces that the Corinthians were grieved by his letter, and now Paul rejoices? Why? Paul rejoices over the Corinthian’s grief? Is it right to rejoice over the sorrows of others? Paul in Romans tells us to

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Paul had told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

But here Paul rejoices over their grief. Isn’t this cruel? Paul explains. Because even if I grieved you in my letter, I do not regret it. Even if I did regret it. Because I see that that letter if even for an hour grieved you. Now I rejoice. Not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved to repentance.

Grief According to God

His joy was not over their grief only, but over the outcome of their grief. Their grief was godly grief, literally grief according to God.

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There are different kinds of grief. It matters what kind of grief you experience. What is grief according to God? And what is the grief of the world? The text says that grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss. Worldly grief in contrast works death. But both are called grief. What is the difference? How do we know which is which? This is important, because one works itself out in death, and one results in salvation. It matters that we experience the right kind of grief.

Achan and Rahab

Some illustrations might help, and the Bible is full of them! First, Rahab and Achan. Achan was an Israelite during Joshua’s conquest of Jericho. They were commanded to devote everything in the city to the Lord, to destruction.

Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

After Israel’s defeat at Ai, and Joshua is asking ‘Why?’,

Joshua 7:10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’” 16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Achan knew what he had done. He watched this whole process of selection unfold, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, household by household, man by man, which certainly took some time. Not until he was singled out and confronted as guilty did he own up to what he had done. He took of the spoils that were devoted to God, in effect stealing from God. He acted as if God didn’t exist, as if he would get away with it. He idolized the treasurers of the idolaters more than he treasured the true God of Israel. He was sorry that he got caught. His was a worldly sorrow, and it brought death.

But a few chapters earlier, when the two spies entered Jericho, they were hid and protected by the pagan prostitute Rahab,

Joshua 2:8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

This pagan prostitute turned, she repented; she hid the spies from her own people who were searching for them, she took a risk; she extended hospitality to enemies, she transferred her allegiance to the God of the Israelites, who she acknowledged as ‘God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.’ She experienced grief; her heart had melted within her, but she cast herself on God’s mercy, and her turning, her repentance was according to God, without regret, and resulted in the salvation of herself and her family.

Joshua 2:14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

Rahab turned from trusting in false Gods to the one true God, and she acted consistently with what she said she believed. Achan, although in name an Israelite who should have worshiped the one true God, acted as an idolater and lived as if God didn’t exist.

Saul and David

Here is another example. Saul and David. Saul was anointed king by Samuel. Saul was commanded in 1 Samuel 15 to strike the Amalekites, and devote everything to destruction.

1 Samuel 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. 10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night. 12 And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

There’s already some troubling things in this story. The despised and worthless things they devoted to the Lord, but the best things they refused to destroy. And Saul set up a monument for himself! (That’s just weird.) And when he sees Samuel he gives him a spiritual sounding greeting and says that he has obeyed the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 15:14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”

You see what Saul is doing here? When confronted with his sin, he shifts the blame. He says ‘they, the people’ did this. And he makes excuses. He says it was for a good motive. He says that their disobedience was supposed to be an act of worship, a sacrifice to God.

1 Samuel 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.” 17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

Saul persists in making excuses and attempting to clear himself. He won’t admit guilt. He insists that he knows better than God, that disobedience can be an act of worship.

1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the LORD.”

You see what happens here? When faced with the consequences of his sin, his rejection, then he admits guilt. But he still deflects, saying it was out of fear of the people. He asks for pardon, and he wants to save face publicly.

1 Samuel 15:26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” 30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.”

Saul is remorseful faced with the consequences of his sin, but he is eager for public honor more than for pleasing God. His grief stems from the consequences of his sin, not out of a genuine remorse for displeasing God. He is content with an outward show in place of inward reality.

Consider on the other hand, David. King David has experienced abundant blessing from the Lord. But he indulged the flesh, and now he has committed adultery and murdered to cover it up. The prophet Nathan confronts David;

2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

Note that his sin is no less serious than Saul. He despised the word of the Lord. He did what is evil in his sight. Adultery. Murder. This seems too easy. “I have sinned against the Lord.” How can that be true repentance? Its beauty lies in its straightforward simplicity. He doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t deflect blame. He owns it. He doesn’t complain about the consequences of his sin. He doesn’t say much, as if an eloquent confession holds some merit. He acknowledges his sin against the Lord, and he is forgiven. This is the gospel! He doesn’t say much here, but we get a glimpse into his heart when he writes Psalm 51

Psalm 51

[To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.]

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 ​Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 ​Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 ​Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 ​Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 ​Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 ​For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; 19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

David is convicted of his sin. He agrees with God about his sin. He acknowledges that his sin is against God, and he throws himself on God’s mercy. He pursues a heart change that only comes from God. His repentance is focused on God. It is not concerned with what others think. It is not proud, seeking to save face. It is not self-focused, seeking to escape punishment or discomfort. He owns what he deserves. He recognizes that he has dragged God’s glorious name through the mud. And he boldly asks for the joy of his salvation to be restored. He doesn’t wallow in guilt and regret. He asks for inner transformation.

Grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss.

Treasure with me the gospel. Treasure today the simple beauty of 1 John 1:8-9

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

***

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

July 7, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections

04/28_2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190428_2cor6_11-13.mp3

Paul’s Resume

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul commends his ministry; he gives us his resume, but not as anyone would expect. He highlights his ministry as a ministry that reflects the great Shepherd. Jesus said:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Authentic ministry is patterned after Jesus; authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

In verses 4-5 Paul lists his endurance in the midst of the hardships of ministry as evidence of his authenticity. He experienced general troubles: in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities; specific persecution: in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots; voluntary hardships: in labors, in sleeplessness, in hungers. Then he lists God’s grace in action in his life producing the fruit of character: in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness; and he points us to the source: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

He goes on in verses 7-8 with the means of authentic ministry; through the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, through glory and shame, through slander and praise. Ministry is war, and he is thoroughly equipped to glorify God even when he is put to open shame; even when slandered to offer a life of praise.

Verses 8-10 he points to the paradoxical nature of gospel ministry;

2 Corinthians 6: 8 …We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

We are not what we seem to be. Inward (or should I say Godward) reality often differs greatly from outward appearances.

Gospel Issues

Paul is building a case for authentic ministry, gospel ministry that is shaped by the gospel, ministry that follows Jesus, even becoming like him in his suffering.

Remember, he is writing to a church that he planted, in a city where he preached the gospel, as he said in 1 Corinthians 15

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

In 1 Corinthians he was fighting for the gospel, and the issue was primarily doctrinal or theological. They were doubting the resurrection, and he was bringing them back to the gospel, lest they had believed in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

In 2 Corinthians, no less, he is fighting for the gospel. He pleads in

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Be reconciled to God. The implication is that there is a fracture in their relationship that needs to be healed. He goes on in chapter 6:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 …Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Paul is again fighting for the gospel, urging them to be reconciled to God. Where the issue in 1 Corinthians was theological; some were questioning the resurrection, here in 2 Corinthians the issue is relational; their relationship with the apostle Paul was strained and tenuous, and as we learn in chapter 11, they were developing relationships with false apostles. They were in danger of being led astray from the simplicity of the cross to a different gospel, and this was happening as they began to distance themselves from Paul.

This is no less a danger today. It is a danger for us to fit the gospel to our culture, rather than allowing the gospel to transform our thinking and shape our culture.

There are some even today who are rejecting Paul, leading people back into bondage under the law. They are rejecting the true gospel of grace. Beware of those today who undermine Paul and the gospel he preached.

Be Reconciled to Paul; Open Mouths

After painting a picture of his character in the midst of sufferings, a picture of cross-shaped ministry, after calling them to be reconciled to God, he calls them now to reconcile with him.

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.

This is direct. Paul addresses them affectionately only here as ‘Corinthians.’ He says literally ‘our mouths are open to you Corinthians.’ Our mouths are open.

Now for most of us, that’s not a good thing. Our mouths are open too much. The wisdom books, especially Psalms and Proverbs have much to say about the dangers of the tongue, as does James. Psalm 64 speaks of enemies,

Psalm 64:3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,

Does that describe much of what we see on social media today? Many of us have a Peter problem; in Mark 9 he spoke, because he did not know what to say. He opened his mouth just to stop the silence.

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

There is wisdom in knowing when to keep silent, when not to answer. Jesus, when he was falsely accused ‘opened not his mouth’ (Is.53:7; Mk.14:61).

Some have taken Paul to be saying that he has said too much. But the context makes it clear that this is an expression of affection.

Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Words can do great harm, or they can bring great healing. Isaiah says:

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…

Paul’s mouth is wide open in the sense that he will not withhold good any good from them. As he said to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:

Acts 20:18 …“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.’

Acts 20:27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

In verse 32 he says:

Acts 20:31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The word of his grace is able to build you up. Paul is confident in God and his word. He told them in Ephesians 4:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

What comes out of our mouths can be corrosive, or it can build up. Your words, what comes out of your mouths, can give grace to those who hear. What you say can actually convey God’s grace.

Paul says ‘our mouths are open to you.’ We are holding nothing back that would be good for you.

Enlarged Hearts

Not only are our mouths open to you, but our hearts are widened or enlarged. This is in contrast to constricted or restricted in verse 12. That word means a tight narrow place. Back in 4:8 he used this same word ‘restricted;’ ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed‘. Crushed or in a tight narrow place with no way out. Our hearts are not narrow or constricted with no room for you; they are wide; we have plenty of room for you in our hearts.

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.

If there is any narrowness, any constriction of affections, it is on your side; you are not squeezed out by us; rather you are squeezed out in your own affections. He changes words here from ‘heart’ to ‘affections;’ literally bowels or intestines, the seat of intense emotion. We might say ‘he experienced gut-wrenching sorrow’ or ‘I had knots in the pit of my stomach’. When we read in the gospels that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’ (Mt.9:36), it is the verb form of this word ‘affections’ or ‘bowels’.

The point is he is talking about emotions, affections. The Corinthians had begun to squeeze him out of their affections. He is asking for a fair exchange, as to his own beloved children, you also make room.

How To Enlarge Affections

I want to end today with a very practical question: How do you make room in your heart? How do you enlarge your affections?

You hear of married couples saying ‘The flame is gone, I just don’t think I love him anymore.’

Or you have someone who has been hurt so badly, so deeply, that they could never love, never open themselves up.

Or there is someone in your life, maybe someone in the church, maybe someone in the community, that you find difficult to love. The Bible says I have to love them, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them, right?

This is imperative; it is a command. Make room in your heart, in your affections. How do we do that? Can we do that? Can we obey a command to feel differently about someone? The biblical answer is ‘yes’. Yes, by the transforming power of God and the help of his Spirit we can obey this command. And he tells us how.

Cut Off All Inappropriate Affections

In the next verses we find that there are inappropriate affections going in other directions. The Corinthians are enamored with the false apostles. They don’t have room for Paul in their hearts because he has been squeezed out by others. They have given their affections to others, to false apostles, to a false gospel. We will plan to look at these verses next time. That is often the case. When love grows cold, the affections are being channeled in a different direction, an inappropriate direction. Something else is competing for your heart. Stop giving your heart to another. You are cheating yourself; you are constricting your own affections. Cut off all inappropriate affections.

Drink in God’s Love

But how can our heart be enlarged? Psalm 119 says:

Psalm 119:32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

It is God who enlarges a heart.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

Our love is a response to being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

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

We are to love others as we have been loved by Jesus. We our enabled to love others because we have been loved by Jesus.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We forgive because we have been forgiven. We are kind and tenderhearted to others, because God has been abundantly kind and tenderhearted to us when we didn’t deserve it. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. All our affections flow out of this love that we have experienced.

That’s where the love comes from.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Do you feel your affections are drying up? Go to the unquenchable fountain and drink in God’s unwavering love. Saturate your shriveled soul in Christ’s sacrificial love for you, his enemy. Let God’s love in the gospel fill your heart to bursting. We love because he first loved us.

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One

01/13_2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190113_2cor5_11-13.mp3

Who are You Seeking to Please?

You serve in the church. Maybe you volunteer to teach or host a bible study, maybe you help with nursery or Sunday school, maybe you clean or do maintenance or yard work, maybe you serve the youth, maybe you’re into administration, or maybe you give generously, maybe you make a meal for someone, maybe you write a note of encouragement, or visit someone who is sick, maybe you talk to everyone you run in to about Jesus, maybe you spend a lot of time in prayer for others, maybe you have people over to your house. Maybe I haven’t mentioned the thing you do, and you’re wondering if I’ll get to it.

Who notices? What if no one notices what you do? What if no one says thank you? What if no one seems to care? Do you get discouraged, wonder if it’s really worth it?

What if people do notice your service, and they criticize you for how you do what you do? Or what if no one comes to you, but you hear that people are talking about you and they don’t like the way you are doing things?

Or what if you happen to be there when people are talking about someone else’s service?

This is what was going on in Corinth. This is one of the reasons Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. We learn from reading the letter that people were talking about Paul. Some were questioning his character, his motives, his authenticity. Some who didn’t know him were questioning his gifting, his calling, his fitness for ministry. And some who did know Paul were hearing these conversations, but they were not coming to his defense. Maybe they were even being pulled in.

Recap/Outline

We are in 2 Corinthians 5:11-13. We have been away from 2 Corinthians for some time, so we need to orient ourselves on where we are in this letter.

Chapters 1-7 explain the characteristics of genuine ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is service that embraces suffering for the good of others.

Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God’s grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.

Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

In chapter 4, Paul described his apostolic ministry as cross shaped ministry. To follow Jesus is to go the way of the cross, a life laid down in service to others. He concludes:

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

Paul has an eternal perspective. He is keeping his eyes on the unseen realities. He spells out his hope in chapter 5, that he has certainty of what comes after death for the believer. In fact he has a deep longing to be at home with the Lord. In verse 9 he gives his prime motive for ministry.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul desires, more than anything else, to be pleasing to the Lord. One of the unseen motives that drives him is appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. We each will stand face to face with Jesus and give account for what we have done. This is a sobering prospect, a reality that should make each of us pause and ask some questions; Am I in Christ? Will I be found genuine? Have I made it my aim above all else to be pleasing to him? Have my attitudes, actions, and thoughts been pleasing to him?

Paul views this coming day of judgment with sober joy. He knows that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. He longs to be with the Lord, to see him face to face. But this is no casual flippant occasion. This is weighty, serious. Serious joy.

Persuading People

In light of this, he says in verse 11

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.

Knowing the fear of the Lord. Aware of the coming judgment, we persuade men, people. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, it says:

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

He reasoned, he talked through, his goal was to persuade people of the truth of the gospel. Paul understood (as he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4) that

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

And he understood that it is only

2 Corinthians 4:6 …God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [who must shine in their] hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But this truth did not prevent him from working hard to persuade others. Using the scriptures, using logic, using history, and his own experience, he sought to persuade people. But he never manipulated.

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…

But he did seek to persuade. He understood that every person will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and he would do everything in his power to persuade them to put their trust in Jesus alone. He understood his responsibility to them and sought to discharge his duty well. He understood that faith is the gift of God (Eph.2:8) and he understood that faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (Rom.10:17).

Manifest to God

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. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Paul sought to persuade all people to believe in Jesus, but he was having now to persuade the Corinthians of his own legitimacy. He again attests to his openness before God. What we are is known or manifest to God. He used this verb just in verse 10, where he said ‘we must all appear [or be made manifest or shown] before the judgment seat. Now he says ‘to God we are manifest.’ To God we are openly shown and known. But, he says, I hope in your consciences we are also manifest, known and shown.

Back in chapter 4, Paul said

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

By making the truth of the gospel manifest and open, we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience in the presence of God. If this is his stance before unbelievers, surely the consciences of the believers in the church he planted ought to recognize him. Back in chapter 3 he said:

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? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, …

‘We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again!’ We shouldn’t need to go over introductions again. Here in chapter 5, he says

2 Corinthians 5:12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

Outward Appearances

Don’t look at this as a letter of introduction; you already know us! Instead, look at this as a reminder of the gospel and who I am in Christ. You can then use this as a defense against those who judge by outward appearances. Here we get to the heart of the issue. Corinthian culture was all about status and position and eloquence and presentation, how much you made and how much you were worth. It was superficial. It was about how you were perceived by others.

I know none of you can relate to this, a culture so caught up in outward appearance, so I’m going to have to work really hard to help you see any kind of application that is relevant to us today. You don’t know anyone focused on outward appearances, do you?

There were false apostles in Corinth who were undermining Paul, raising doubts, questions about his character, his credentials, his credibility. Much of this was based on outward appearance. He was despised and rejected by many, all too acquainted with suffering and grief. If they would look closely, they would see that his life reflected his Master.

This wasn’t just a power struggle; we find out in chapter 11 that they are being led astray to a counterfeit jesus, a false gospel. Paul’s character is being criticized, the church he invested in is being led astray, no one in the church seems to be standing up for him or for what is right. How does he respond?

His response is to patiently instruct them. Paul is not eager to defend himself; but he is passionate about protecting the church. And in this case that means showing them how to defend their apostle.

Ecstatic or Maniac?

2 Corinthians 5:13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Verse 13 can be understood in more than one way. The word ‘we are beside ourselves’ is used differently in different contexts. Its usual meaning is to be astounded or amazed, usually at something supernatural. It is used this way 15 times in the gospels. Only once, in Mark 3, is it used with the sense of ‘to not be able to reason properly.’

Mark 3:21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

There is a different word ‘mania’ that is less ambiguous, that always means to be crazy or to not be thinking rightly. If Paul wanted to be clear that this was his meaning, he could have used ‘mania’, as he does in 1 Corinthians 14:23.

The noun form of the verb he uses here is where we get our word ‘ecstasy’. The noun is used four times for amazement, and three times for being in a trance. It is possible that Paul is referring to his ecstatic spiritual experiences. In 1 Corinthians he told them

1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

The Corinthians were enamored with the showy overtly supernatural gifts. They were focused on outward appearance. Paul’s focus was on building them up, not impressing them with a demonstration of his own spirituality. It may be that he is saying that if we (apostles) have ecstatic experiences, it is between us and God. That is not the basis of our leadership. The false apostles may make a big deal about their ecstatic experiences. But Paul would rather speak five words with his mind in order to instruct others. In Colossians, Paul warns of those who would disqualify you, who were

Colossians 2:18 …going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to [Christ]

If we are of sound mind, it is for you. Paul really doesn’t care if outsiders are impressed with him. He is willing to be misunderstood, to be thought a fool, as long as the church is being built up. His aim in all things is not to please people, but to please the Lord. He does not need the applause of people if he can stand before the Lord on judgment day with a clear conscience.

Boasting Only in The Cross

Paul is giving them reasons to be confident in him. He is re-framing their thinking to see as God sees, to see the cross not as shameful, to be shunned, but beautiful, to be embraced. Others were boasting in outward appearance. Paul gives reasons, grounds not only for defending him, but for boasting in him. Now how does this fit with Paul’s statement in Galatians 6:14 that he boasts in nothing but the cross?

They can boast in their apostle, because his life and ministry is shaped by the cross, so their boasting in him is in reality a boasting in the cross.

You see, Paul viewed the day of judgment as a day of boasting, not in himself; he said ‘that we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers’ (2Cor.3:5-6). In chapter 1 he boasts of the testimony of a clear conscience, but he goes on to say that he conducted himself by the grace of God (2Cor.1:12), a grace that is unearned, undeserved. He looks forward to the day of judgment,

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

There will be mutual boasting; ‘this is my church, the church I gave myself to! Look what God has done in them! Look how Christ is formed in them!’ ‘This is our apostle! Look what God has done in us through his ministry! He did not just tell us about the cross, he showed us the cross through his life and sufferings!’ They can boast in each other, and it is a boasting only in the cross, in the transformational power of the cross.

People naturally look at outward appearances. And the cross is not glamorous.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

‘It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’ (1Cor.1:21). We must learn to see past the surface. We must begin to see as God sees; because it is what God sees that matters. Man looks on the outward appearance; the Lord looks at the heart (2Sam.16:7).

What we are is known to God. To God we are open and manifest. And if we are pleasing to God, it shouldn’t matter too much what others think of us.

***

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

January 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation

04/29_2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180429_2cor3_1-3.mp3

Paul gets to the heart of the issue here. He lays out his credentials as a minister by pointing to the transformation that has happened in the lives of his readers.

Paul Commends Himself (Again!)

Paul has described the apostolic ministry in 2:14 as ‘ through us God in Christ always …spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.’ In 2:17 he contrasts himself with ‘so many,’ who peddle God’s word for profit. We are not like them; rather we are men of sincerity, our source of authority is God, everything we do is in the presence of God, and it is in Christ that we speak. Back in chapter 1:12, Paul boasted ‘in the testimony of his conscience, that he operated with simplicity and godly sincerity, by the grace of God.’

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?

This first phrase of chapter 3 should probably be read as an exclamation, not a rhetorical question. We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again! Paul is making a case for his integrity; he is laying before them the evidence of his authenticity. He even contrasts his ministry with those who are in it for profit. We, who planted the church, who spent 18 months with you investing in you, who visited you in the past and plan to visit again, who sent letters and messengers to you, we need to go over the formality of introductions all over again!? You, who experienced new life as a result of our ministry among you, now we are forced again to present evidence of our authenticity!

The letter to the Romans is a letter of self-commendation; Paul writes to believers he has never met, introduces himself and his ministry, and lays before them the gospel he preaches. In chapter 15 he outlines his plans to visit them, and his desire to be supported by them in his mission to Spain. In Romans he is commending himself to a church he has never visited.

In Romans 16, he says:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

We call this a letter of reference or a recommendation. A trusted person writes to affirm the character of another. Do you recommend this person as a student in our college? Would you recommend this person as a good fit for this particular job? Paul is not against letters of commendation; he writes them himself. In fact, in Romans 5:8 he says:

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

The death of Christ for sinners is a commendation of God’s love for us.

Paul uses the word ‘commend’ or ‘recommend’ twice in 2 Corinthians 3:1, and 7 more times in the rest this letter. He says in the next chapter

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

In chapter 5 he says that his character should be well known to them; he is not really commending himself again, but giving them reasons to defend against those who boast in outward appearances and not in the heart. In chapter 6 he says:

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

And then he lists not only his positive character traits, but also his hardships, afflictions, persecutions, his weakness. In chapter 10 he clarifies:

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

Paul is not against letters of recommendation. He is not even against presenting one’s own credentials to establish credibility. 2 Corinthians could be seen as an extended commendation of authentic apostolic ministry. The issue is not in the necessity of introductions. The problem lies in the ‘again.’ His point here in chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians (in actuality his fourth correspondence to this church) is that they ought to be well beyond the stage in their relationship that requires formal introductions.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:1 …Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

If I am not to others, at least I am to you! They were believers in Jesus because he had traveled to Achaia and preached the gospel in Corinth. They owed their very existence as a church to his apostolic ministry. In chapter 12 he says:

2 Corinthians 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you. …

The Corinthians, who ought by this time to be Paul’s loudest fans, now need to be re-acquainted with what genuine Christian ministry is all about.

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?

This second question is rhetorical, and it is framed to demand a negative answer. We do not need letters of recommendation to you, and we do not need letters from you. The Corinthian church had the audacity to place themselves over apostolic ministry as if the final authority to evaluate apostolic ministry was with them. Paul expected them to be able to discern between a true apostle and a false one, but they were flirting with false apostles and rejecting the one they knew to be true.

You Are Our Letter

2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.

The Corinthians don’t realize they are the letter. They are the objective evidence of Paul’s apostolic ministry. The fact that there are now followers of the Jewish Messiah gathering as a church in the pagan city of Corinth is evidence of a genuine work of God.

But notice where this is written. It is written on the heart of their Apostle. In this he is like his Master. In a similar metaphor Isaiah looks forward to Jesus “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (49:15). In the Song of Solomon we find this language of love:

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

Paul communicates not only that the Corinthians are a letter of reference, an authentication of his apostolic ministry, but also that he carries them always with him, not in his travel bag, but in his heart. As he says in chapter 11,

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches

As we saw at the end of chapter 2, Paul carries the Corinthians so close to his heart, that the relational tension prevented him from taking full advantage of an opportunity to preach the gospel.

And this is no secret. They are written on his heart, but he wears it on his sleeve. His heart is an open book, and anyone can read what is written there. Anyone who knows Paul knows of his affection for his churches. Certainly those in Troas would be aware of his great affection for them.

A Letter From Christ

2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

‘You show that you are’; this is the same word from 2:14 that the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is put on display or made manifest through us in every place.

Paul’s primary concern is always making Christ known. The Corinthian church, for better or worse, whether they know it or not, puts Christ on display. They put on display that they are a letter from Christ. This is the highest authority. This letter originates from Christ Jesus himself.

And this letter, Paul says, is ‘delivered;’ literally ‘ministered’ by us; this is ambiguous. It could mean that Paul pictured himself as the one delivering the letter, or it could mean that Paul is the amanuensis or scribe writing down every word Christ dictates to him. Because the Corinthians are the letter, it seems to make more sense to see Paul holding the pen, or possibly Paul is the pen in the hand of the Lord Christ. Either way, Paul is in a subordinate role to Christ. Scribe or errand boy, Paul is in service to Christ, ensuring that the message of Jesus is scrawled in large letters on the hearts of the Corinthians.

Ink / Spirit

Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. This is that which is actually applied to the page; not ink but the Spirit of the living God. Paul is instrumental in applying the ink of the Spirit to the page of the Corinthians lives in order to make Christ known.

Here we see the triune God at work in the ministry of the apostle. The letter originates from Christ, it is written with the ink of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is the Spirit of the living God, sent out by the Father.

Heart of Stone / Flesh

The next contrast is what is written on. That which is written on is not tablets of stone, but tablets of human (literally ‘fleshly’) hearts. Normally in Paul’s day we would expect ink on papyrus. But Paul mixes metaphors once again; it is ink on stony tablets contrasted with the Spirit on fleshy heart-tablets.

Paul is linking several Old Testament themes; the tablets of the covenant given to Moses on Sinai, tablets of stone written on with the finger of God, and the hard stony hearts of the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 9, when Moses recounts the initial giving of the law, he rebukes Israel for their stubbornness and rebellion against the Lord. While he was on the mountain with God receiving the tablets of stone, the people were provoking God to wrath by their idolatry. God’s law was written on stony tablets corresponding to the stony rebellious hearts of his people.

But Paul also has in mind the promise of the Spirit poured out in the New Covenant, promises we find in Ezekiel and Jeremiah

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

And again in Ezekiel 36:26

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

God knows that his people need a heart transplant. The heart of stone must be removed and replaced with a responsive fleshy heart. Ezekiel goes on in verse 27

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Not only will God remove their hearts of stone and give them a fleshy heart, he will put his own Spirit in them, enabling and empowering them to walk in his ways.

Just as the law written on stony tablets corresponded to the stony hearts of the people, so now the New Covenant work of the Spirit of God corresponds to the new fleshy hearts given to his people.

New Covenant Writing

Another New Covenant passage, Jeremiah 31, is the piece that gives the picture of God writing on the hearts of his people.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The content of what is written is not different; God writes his law; a law summed up by Christ as

Matthew 22:37 …“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

(love fulfills law: Rom.13:8,10; Gal.5:14; Mt.7:12)

But God has written, no longer on stony tablets, but on the newly given fleshy heart-tablets of the Corinthians, not with ink, but with his own Holy Spirit. As a result, Christ is put on display in the lives of the Corinthians. In this New Covenant transaction, Paul is a minister of Christ, facilitating their transformation. Paul’s evidence of authenticity is this very transformation that has taken place in the hearts of the Corinthians. And this has affected the heart of the apostle as well. These struggling new believers are written on his heart.

Application

What is your heart like? Is it hardened toward God? Ask him for a new heart; a heart that is tender toward him. Has your heart been transformed by love to love? Has God’s own self-sacrificial love written love for him and for others on your heart? Do you have people written on your heart? Is the Spirit of the living God bringing about real heart transformation in you?

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? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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

April 30, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus

06/04 The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170604_joy-like-jesus.mp3

The fruit of the Spirit is joy. It is interesting that joy is mentioned second. In a list of nine aspects of the Christian life, love tops the list and joy comes right after it. I don’t want to make too big a deal about the order, because as we’ve seen, every aspect is essential. This is one indivisible fruit produced by the Holy Spirit. All these characteristics together make up the genuine fruit. I think people would agree that the most important character trait of a Christian is love. But what would you choose next? After love, what is the next attribute or characteristic you think of when you think of a Jesus follower? Do you think of someone who is patient or kind? Someone who is faithful? Self-controlled? What do you see most evident in the followers of Jesus you know? What do you see being produced in your own heart? Do you see joy? Would others look at you and say ‘I see love there, and I see joy’?

Remember, this is not a list of moral virtues like those other lists we find in ancient Greek literature, where it is agreed that a good citizen will be upright and honest and generous and chaste, because that is what is best for society. It is true, a Christian who has the fruit of the Spirit growing in his life will be the best citizen, and will do what is best for society, but that is not the point here. The point is not to produce outward conformity to a standard that is agreed upon as best for everyone. No, this is fruit, changed heart, changed desires, transformed affections. This is not ‘look at the areas where you fall short and with self-discipline and force of will improve yourself so that you can stay out of jail and make a positive contribution to society.’ No. this is fruit. Paul says it comes by faith; by believing; It is organically produced by God the Holy Spirit living in you. It comes by looking with faith to Jesus, falling in love with Jesus. It is a change at the very core of your being. It is a change of your identity. It is a change in who you are. You were a selfish person; now you are a loving person. You were a grumpy irritable angry sour dour down person; now you are joyful. This is something that can’t be explained naturally; this is supernatural change – Holy Spirit change. This is something you can’t change by trying. This happens by faith; trusting God to work this in you by his power. This is what we mean when we talk about being ‘born again.’ The Holy Spirit of God comes in and begins to change and re-arrange things, he creates new things and puts to death old things. The new birth is inward transformation that results in a changed way of viewing life, changed attitudes, changed patterns of thinking, changed responses to circumstances.

Now remember, this is fruit; it grows. Organically. Slowly. Often imperceptibly. But inevitably.

Joy Defined

So what is this joy we are after? What does it look like? What does it act like? To define biblical joy, which is Spirit produced supernatural fruit, I want to look at something Jesus said in the beatitudes in Luke 6. Typically when we talk about the beatitudes of Jesus you might turn to Matthew 5, where Jesus says ‘blessed are the poor in spirit… blessed are those who mourn… blessed are the meek…’ But did you know Luke also records Jesus’ beatitudes?

What Joy is Not

In Luke 6, Jesus is declaring blessings on his followers. Actually blessings and curses. There are two ways to live. There is the way of blessing, the way of happiness, the way of joy; and there is the way of woe, the way of cursing, the way of pain, the wide road that leads to destruction. Jesus is warning us that there is a counterfeit happiness that is temporary and leads to destruction. We need to hear this, because there are so many false teachers selling a false gospel that if you follow Jesus he will bless you and prosper you and meet all your needs. You are a child of the king; so you should live like a king. Circumstances will go well for you. You will be healthy and wealthy and wise, and people will like you.

I want to start down in verse 24 with the curses, and then we will go back to the blessings to see what real joy looks like. We need to hear these warnings and guard ourselves against the counterfeit.

Luke 6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Notice the temporary nature of the counterfeit. There is the ‘now’ and the ‘you shall’. Woe to you who are rich now, who are full now, who laugh now, who are well spoken of by all now. As followers of Jesus, there is no promise of those things now. Those who have it all now have all the comfort they will ever have now. They shall not be comforted then. They shall be hungry, they shall mourn and weep. They will be condemned like the false prophets.

Joy that Coexists with Suffering

So true joy is not connected with popularity or prosperity or plenty. Let’s look back at verse 20 to see what Jesus says about real joy.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Happy are the poor. Happy are the hungry. Happy are the sorrowful. Happy are the hated. This sounds contradictory. Remember this is not natural joy; this is fruit – supernatural joy. Notice there is an enduring character to the blessedness. There is a present circumstance; poverty, hunger, sorrow, persecution. There is a future hope; the kingdom, satisfaction, laughter, reward in heaven. But there is a permanent blessedness. They are blessed. There is a future hope, but there is a present and enduring blessedness. There is definitely a future aspect of joy, but this joy overlaps with the present persecution and suffering. In the day that you are excluded and slandered and hated, in that very day leap for joy! The future hope bleeds over into a present experience of joy.

So does this passage mean that we should we bankrupt ourselves and starve ourselves and become obnoxious so people hate us? Is that the path to blessing? Jesus did not tell everyone with possessions to give away all that they have, but he did tell the rich young man “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk.10:21) because Jesus loved him and perceived he was treasuring temporal things more than God himself. In Matthew 5 Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Happy are the ones who are aware of their poverty, their own spiritual need, and look to Jesus to rescue them. This rich man came to Jesus asking ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life’ (Mk.10:17). Jesus was showing him that it wasn’t what he could do; he had a heart problem. He loved the wrong things. He needed someone to transform his desires.

How is hunger a blessing? The Matthew passage says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The ones who are happy are those who understand their desperate lack of the righteousness that God requires and turn to him alone to meet their need.

What about persecution? We are not excluded and slandered and hated because we are obnoxious and rude and socially inappropriate; Matthew 5 says ‘blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” We are hated only because of our relationship with Jesus.

Joy Untouched by Circumstances

Notice this joy is a joy that is untouched by circumstances. How often is our joy a product of circumstances. Things are going well at work or in my relationships or with my finances and I have joy. But when money is tight and things are out of control and I’m facing frustrations, I experience fear and anxiety and become irritable. That is natural. But this joy is unaffected by circumstances. It actually thrives in adversity. It can coexist with grief and pain and loss.

In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples to stay connected to him, to abide in him. He says in verse 11:

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

Then he commands them to love, and goes on to warn them that the world will hate you like it hated me. In chapter 16 he informs them that he is leaving, but promises the presence of the Holy Spirit. In 16:20 he says:

John 16:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

Notice what he does not say. He does not say ‘you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will be removed and replaced by joy.’ He does not say that when you are done being sorrowful and circumstances change, then you will have joy.’ What he says is ‘your sorrow will turn into joy.’ Then he gives an illustration of what he is talking about.

John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Childbirth, I have been told, is painful. There is sorrow. You might even say anguish. Unless she has been medicated enough so that she cannot feel. The word there is affliction, persecution, tribulation; literally it means pressure. When the hour comes, there is pressure. So much pressure it is extremely painful. Then the birth happens. If all goes well, the room that was just moments ago a place of great agony is suddenly filled with joy. But the pain is not gone. She still hurts, and she will continue to experience pain for a long time after. But that pain is now overwhelmed by something else, something greater than the pain. The pain had purpose. The pain was worth it. The pain is overcome by the joy. It is not that the sorrow is removed and replaced with joy; the sorrow remains, but it is overwhelmed by joy. Jesus says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

This is a joy that is unconquerable. This is a joy that is greater than all the sorrows we could face. This is not joy because you get to escape from sorrow. Remember, Jesus is saying this to his apostles. Have you ever read some of the stories of how the apostles were martyred? Jesus knew exactly what his followers would experience, the suffering they would endure, and yet he promises that no one could take their joy from them. He tells them ‘Your joy will be full, because it is my joy in you. No one will take your joy from you.’ This is Jesus’ joy in us.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…

Joy in Trials

This joy is a joy that can even rejoice in trials and suffering. James 1 says:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

We see this also in 1 Peter and many other places. Romans 5 says

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…

C.H. Spurgeon commented about trials

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.” [C.H.Spurgeon, M&E, Morning Feb 12, 2 Cor.1:5]

In 2 Corinthians 4, where Paul speaks of his affliction and persecution, he says:

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

Paul says that the affliction we endure is actually working in us, preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. He says in Romans 8:

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

Paul also uses the metaphor of labor pains. He calls them light and momentary. Not worth comparing. Really Paul? Countless beatings? Scourgings? Being stoned and left for dead? Shipwreck? Abandoned? Betrayal? Lack of basic needs? Light momentary affliction that is working in us an eternal weight of glory; not affliction that will be replaced by glory; but affliction that is accomplishing for us – that is digging deep my capacity for joy. In proper perspective the affliction is seen as light, momentary, transient. The glory, the joy is weighty beyond all comparison. The joy will overwhelm any sorrow and make it as if it were nothing at all.

But you don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what has been done to me. No, I don’t. And I don’t want to undermine or invalidate anything you have experienced. What I do want you to see, is that this is true for you. The joy promised us is greater, more immense, more weighty, more substantial than any suffering you have experienced. The wrongs done to you can be swallowed up in unquenchable joy.

I have tried to show you from the scripture that this joy is an enjoyment, a deep satisfying happiness, a weighty delight that is not grounded in outward circumstances. A joy that is not only not affected by circumstances, but can even thrive in the midst of and even because of adverse circumstances. A joy that is so weighty it can swallow up all sorrow. What is this joy and how do we get it?

Joy Linked to Love

Back in Luke 6, our passage on rejoicing and leaping for joy, even in the midst of suffering, Jesus links this kind of joy to love.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Every aspect of the fruit is linked to all the others. Rejoicing and leaping for joy while being persecuted is linked to love for enemies. Love is willingly, even joyfully self-giving for the good of the other. Joy accompanies this kind of love.

Jesus loved the rich man. He wanted him to experience real lasting joy. He wanted him to have the joy that moth and rust could not destroy, that thieves could not break in and steal. He wanted him to have joy in following Jesus. This man went away sorrowful, because of unbelief. He did not believe that the treasure in heaven was greater than his treasure on earth.

Fight for Joy with Joy

In love, Jesus calls us to make war against our fleshly desires. Do not settle for all those things that do not satisfy; insist on having the true joy that Jesus offers. We must fight for joy and we must fight with joy. We can overcome temptation only because we have something better. Are you enticed by the dollar store trinket when you are already in possession of the real thing? Yes! Yes we are, because our desires are deceitful (Eph.4:22). They lie to us and tell us that the plastic imitation is better than the genuine article. The rich fool went away sorrowful because he felt the change in his pocket was more weighty than an eternity following Jesus.

Joy in the Giver above the Gift

Contrast him to the man in Jesus’ story who found treasure hidden in a field and for joy sold all that he had and went and bought that field (Mt.13:44). He was not sorrowful over all he was losing. He was filled with joy because he knew that what he was giving up was nothing compared to what he was gaining. This is the joy of the Christian.

What is the treasure? What is the substance of our joy? What is it that overwhelms all our sorrows and outweighs all our treasures? Paul says

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him… 10 that I may know him…

The thing that is better than all the gifts we could possibly enjoy is the giver himself. That I may know him. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Being found in him. Abiding in him. Fullness of joy in relationship with him.

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” …5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; …8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. … 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 17:-19; Location of Worship

10/09 Leviticus 17; Location for Worship; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161009_leviticus-17_1-9.mp3

We are in Leviticus 17, a chapter that deals with the handling of blood. To step back and look at where we are in the big picture of Leviticus, we see:

Leviticus 1-10 Sacrifices and Priests that make Atonement

–Leviticus 11-15 Uncleanness that Needs Atonement

—-Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement

–Leviticus 17 Blood that makes Atonement

Leviticus 18-27 Holy Living in Response to Atonement

The remainder of the book tells us how forgiven people ought to live in response to the forgiveness they have been given.

In chapter 17, we see the location of sacrifice and the careful handling of the blood. If we outline this chapter we see something like this:

17:1-7 no peace offerings sacrificed outside the sanctuary

–17:8-9 no other sacrifices outside sanctuary

—-17:10 no blood consumption

——17:11 atonement by blood

—-17:12 no blood consumption

–17:13-14 no blood consumption from hunted animals

17:15-16 no blood consumption from dead animals

The first half of the chapter deals with the legitimate location of sacrifices. The second half of the chapter deals with consumption of non-sacrificial animals. The center section deals with the proper handling of blood, with verse 11 as the centerpiece of this chapter, giving us a pivotal statement about the role of blood in atonement.

We will take the first section today, then next week we will work through the central section of this chapter.

The Location of Sacrifice

Leviticus 17:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. 3 If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations. 8 “And you shall say to them, Any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that man shall be cut off from his people.

One question many have had about this passage is: Does this prohibit slaughter of any animals for food outside of the tabernacle? The first 4 verses use the general word for kill, which could include simple butchering for meat. If this is the case, then this passage would require all meat to be offered as a sacrifice first at the tabernacle. But Deuteronomy 12 specifically says that the Israelites may kill and eat animals in their own towns away from the sanctuary. Those that believe this includes all meat see this as a temporary requirement for Israel camped around the central tabernacle, and they see Deuteronomy preparing for a different setting, when Israel will be scattered across the land that they are going in to possess. But this overlooks the fact that verse 7 says “This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” And if this were a requirement that all animals that are killed for food must first be offered as a sacrifice, there is no instruction on what to do with blemished animals, for only unblemished animals may be offered in sacrifice to the LORD. Deuteronomy 12 states what is left unsaid in this chapter, that domestic animals may be killed for food away from the sanctuary. This chapter is focused on animals killed as sacrifices.

This first section deals with the location of sacrifices, but more importantly it confronts to whom the sacrifices are offered, and confronts our tendency toward idolatry. The goal of this section, stated in verse 5, is

Leviticus 17:5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

All sacrifices are to be sacrifices to the LORD, brought to the LORD’s one specified place of sacrifice. This is primarily an issue of who is to be worshiped. The altar is here called ‘the altar of YHWH.’ This is a unique designation of the bronze altar of burnt offering. It emphasizes that every sacrifice is to be brought to the one true God. The tabernacle is called the tent of meeting, because the focus is on meeting with God.

Verses 5 and 6 specifically deal with the peace offering of chapter 3, the offering where the fat was burned on the altar to the LORD, and the worshiper ate some of the sacrificed animal in communion with God. Verses 8-9 extend the issue to include burnt offerings or any of the other kinds of sacrifices. They are all to be offered exclusively to God at the one place he has established in the specific way that he has proscribed.

This is an issue of the first commandment.

Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In the context of Israel camped around the tabernacle, this mean that sacrifice was to be offered nowhere else but the tabernacle, officiated by the priests in the way proscribed by the LORD. Deuteronomy chapter 12 is the counterpart to Leviticus 17, giving instructions more specifically in the context of the occupation of the promised land, that sacrifice is then to be offered nowhere else but the one place that the LORD chooses to make his name dwell, the temple in Jerusalem. The Israelites were instructed to tear down all high places and altars that the pagans used and not follow their idolatrous practices. God demands exclusive worship. He is the God who triumphed over the gods of the Egyptians and set his people free to worship him. This is the God who would be victorious over the gods of the Canaanite people who occupied the promised land.

Idolatrous Inclinations

We might think that it would go without saying that the LORD is the only one to be worshiped. But our tendency to idolatry runs deep. Verse 7 says:

Leviticus 17:7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

Notice, this was not written to warn against an obscure possibility; this is written to confront a practice that was already going on, a practice that was incompatible with the worship of the one true God, a practice that was considered covenant breaking adultery. The people were sacrificing in the wilderness to goat demons. We find this almost unbelievable. How could the people of Israel, who had witnessed the ten plagues, who had walked through the Red Sea on dry land, who had seen the LORD destroy their enemies, who had seen the lightning and felt the thunder at Mount Sinai, who had seen the glory cloud come down and inhabit the sanctuary, how could these people sacrifice to goat demons in the wilderness? How could they!

But how can we, we who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we who have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus, we who have knelt at the foot of the cross and seen the divine Word made flesh, Love incarnate, die for our sins, how can we go after money and pleasure and power and position and praise and security and family and food and possessions and comfort and ease? How is it that we so frequently fail to acknowledge God as God or give him thanks? ‘Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Take my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it to thy courts above.’ We have wicked idolatrous, adulterous hearts.

This is why this issue is so serious, and carries such a severe penalty.

Leviticus 17:4 …bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.

God considers idolatry as serious as murder. He will have a people with hearts single toward him, with affections alone for him. He is a jealous God.

God knew the hearts of his people. In Deuteronomy 31,

Deuteronomy 31:16 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.

…18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. 19 “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.”

God knew the idolatrous inclination of the hearts of his people, so he warned them.

Deuteronomy 32:15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

Our tendency is to forget God. To fail to give him thanks and praise. To follow other things. To fix our affections on other things.

Idolatry in the New Testament

We tend to think that this issue of idolatry is remote and removed from us. We are not polytheistic. We do not bow down to idols. That this is still an issue for the New Testament believer is clear from Paul’s teaching to the church in Corinth. In chapter 10 he warns us:

1 Corinthians 10:6 …that we might not desire evil… 7 Do not be idolaters… 8 we must not indulge in sexual immorality… 9 we must not put Christ to the test… 10 nor grumble…

We would certainly agree that most of the things he mentions here are relevant temptations today. Anyone here struggle with grumbling? He goes on.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

The main issue Paul deals with in this chapter is idolatry. An idol is what we value, what we treasure, what we trust, what we hope in, what we work for, what we focus on, what we put time and energy into. Colossians 3 gives us insight into our idolatrous nature.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Covetousness, putting our hope in something we don’t have to fulfill a longing in us, is idolatry. Paul tells us that this is earthly and we are to put it to death. That is one side of his instruction – kill idolatry, kill evil desire, kill covetousness. The other side of his instruction comes first, and it is positive. He says

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Seek what is above. Set your minds on things above. Fix your eyes, fix your hopes, fix your heart on what is above. Notice, this comes first, and makes the second command so much easier. If our hearts and our hopes are attached to God and his glory, it is easier to crucify our covetousness. It is still painful, it is still a fight, but it is easier. It is much easier to let go of something when you have something more solid, more substantial, more satisfying to hold on to. Put to death that which is earthly, because you have been resurrected to a heavenly reality.

Jesus and the Location for Worship

Leviticus 17 restricts all sacrifice to one central worship location to prevent the people from continuing to follow after false gods.

In John 4 Jesus was asked a question about the location of worship.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

The woman from Samaria asked Jesus about the proper place of worship. Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem? Which place is the right place to worship? Place matters. Leviticus tells us to bring our sacrifices to the altar of YWHW. Which is the true altar? Who is right? The Samaritans or the Jews? This is a Leviticus 17 question.

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

This is a staggering answer! Which altar is the true altar? Which place is the right place? No. Neither. “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mk.11:17). The house was condemned. “There will not be left here one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mk.13:2). The glory presence had left. Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Where then? Where is the place to worship?

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

God is Spirit, true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Jesus is decentralizing the worship of YHWH. It is no longer about a location, no longer about an altar, because God is not confined to a location. The shadow is being replaced by the reality. God is spirit. He will be worshiped in spirit and truth. Where?

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

We are the temple of the living God. God’s temple is wherever you are. So glorify God in your body. Worship him in spirit and in truth. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. You are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you. Wherever you are, at all times, truly worship him. Honor him. Give him thanks. Fix your attention on Jesus.

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

October 10, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified

07/24 Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160724_leviticus-10.mp3

As The LORD Commanded

In Leviticus 8 we have seen the consecration of Aaron and his sons ‘as the Lord has commanded Moses’. In chapter 9 we have seen the first offerings made ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. Back at the end of Exodus we saw every detail of the tabernacle constructed ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. We heard this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Exodus 39:1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31, 43; 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32. At the end of Exodus we read

Exodus 39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did.

Exodus 39:42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

And then we hear again this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Leviticus 8:9, 13, 17, 21, 29; 9:7, 10. This all climaxes at the end of chapter 9, when

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

Which He Had Not Commanded

This is what makes chapter 10 so shocking.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

This should sound like fingernails on chalkboard. The newly ordained priests in the newly consecrated tabernacle in response to the manifestation of the glory of God, suddenly do something that God had not commanded them, offering something that was unauthorized. We tend to be shocked by what happened to them. We need to be shocked at what they did. In the context of grace, in the context of covenant treason, forgiveness, and then delighted obedience by all the people, we have priests who have been set apart to the LORD by a seven day process, now step out and do something unauthorized, something the LORD had not commanded. The exact details of their violation are not clear. Some speculate they were drunk based on verse 9. Some suggest they attempted to enter the most holy place, because of what is said in chapter 16. In light of that chapter, they may have been attempting to usurp the responsibility of the high priest. Some think they used the wrong censers, or the wrong fire, or the wrong kind of incense, or that they offered it at the wrong time. What the text tells us is that they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded. It could be any combination of these possibilities, but the bottom line is that their act was an act of defiant disobedience to the clearly revealed instructions of the LORD. They did that which was unauthorized in the presence of the LORD. They did that which he had not commanded them.

Fire From the LORD

2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

God is just, God is holy. God will not be trifled with. God will not be taken lightly. This is a warning to us all. We tend to take God for granted. To think of him lightly. To presume on his grace. God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate rivals. He will not be approached any way we choose. God is worthy of all honor and affection, all glory and praise. God will defend his own honor.

In Ezekiel 20, recounting the rebellion of the people in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt, God restrained his anger and did not fully destroy his people.

Ezekiel 20:22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. (cf. 20:9, 14)

In Ezekiel 36, God promises to regather his people from the nations into which he had scattered them in judgment for their rebellion.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (cf. 36:21; Isaiah 48:11)

Ezekiel 39, looking to a future time,

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

God acts for the honor of his holy name. He defends his honor. God cares about his reputation. If he is treated as common, ordinary by the people who claim to know him, to be close to him, then those that do not know him will more readily blow him off as no big deal, not worth attending to, to their eternal harm. So ‘fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.’ This was radical, startling, shocking. But it was right. For the sake of the advance of the gospel, God must defend his honor.

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

The appropriate response of anyone who has access to God’s presence is ‘holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ (Is.6:3). God will be set apart, recognized to be in a class by himself, by those who are near to him. He will be glorified before all the people. This is evangelistic. God has made a way for himself to be approached by sinful people. He has instituted sacrifices by which he can be approached while at the same time preserving the seriousness of sin and the absolute holiness of his nature. To come in a different way than he has established is to scorn his provision and to set oneself up as a higher authority than God. God’s sanctity, God’s glory is primary.

Aaron held his peace. Aaron was silent. Notice the contrast with the last chapter. In chapter 9, God’s instructions were heeded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in blessing, demonstrating that their sacrifice was acceptable, and the response was shouts of joy. Here in chapter 10, God’s instructions were disregarded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in judgment, consuming those who violated his commands, and the response was stunned silence. Aaron had lost in an instant his two oldest boys. But his silence affirmed the righteousness of God. God was right to punish them.

Priests and Mourning

4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. 7 And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

Because of their position as ordained priests, they were not permitted to touch dead bodies, or mourn or leave the tabernacle courtyard. They were set apart to God for service. Their service was to be characterized by joy, because ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy’ (Ps.16:11).

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? …

These were set apart to draw near to God. It would be inconsistent to mourn in the presence of God. Even in the face of great tragedy, the presence of God is greater, and joy in his presence outshines sorrow. Here we find a refreshing return to obedience. “And they did according to the word of Moses.”

Duties of the Priests

8 And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

This is a significant word from the LORD. In Leviticus we see 29 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses’; 4 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron’; only here do we find ‘the LORD spoke to Aaron’. God gave ‘wine to gladden the heart of man’ (Ps.104:15); but the priests are to be clear-headed in carrying out their duties. The first duty of the priests is to distinguish between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. They need to know the difference. Anything that would blur their judgment in these issues was prohibited while on duty. Nadab and Abihu failed to treat God as holy. They treated him as common. The first seven chapters on sacrifices deal with issues of what is common and what is holy. The next section, chapters 11-15 deal with making distinctions between the unclean and the clean.

The second duty of the priests is to teach the people the rules of the LORD. We rightly identify priests with sacrifice in the tabernacle, and with entering God’s presence on behalf of the people, but probably a more common role of priests in Israel was to apply the law to distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean, and to teach the people. Priests were to be teachers, communicators of God’s truth.

Priests Rights to the Offerings

12 Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his surviving sons: “Take the grain offering that is left of the LORD’s food offerings, and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, from the LORD’s food offerings, for so I am commanded. 14 But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons’ due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel. 15 The thigh that is contributed and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the food offerings of the fat pieces to wave for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be yours and your sons’ with you as a due forever, as the LORD has commanded.”

At first glance, this section seems out of place. The rights of the priests to eat specific portions of specific offerings has already been explained in the earlier chapters. Why repeat that here? This is addressed to Aaron and his surviving sons in the immediate aftermath of serious sin in the family where two of Aaron’s sons were executed by the LORD himself. It would be natural to wonder if this kind of sin in the family disqualified the remaining family from service or from the benefits of service. Moses affirms to the survivors that they are still fully entitled to eat the priests’ portions of the offerings.

Violation of the Command Approved

16 Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.” 19 And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?” 20 And when Moses heard that, he approved.

Nadab and Abihu were judged by the LORD and killed. Now Moses is angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the other two sons of Aaron. Moses rarely is angry, except when God’s glory is dishonored. He is angry because Aaron and his remaining sons failed to do what they were commanded to do. Nadab and Abihu did what they were not commanded to do and they were judged by God. Now Eleazar and Ithamar have failed to do what they were commanded to do and Moses is angry. They failed to eat the priests portion of the sin offering that was clearly given to them in chapter 6. Were they any less guilty than their brothers? Would they suffer the same judgment? To understand what is going on here, we need to step back and see the structure of this passage.

1-3 Incident of Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience

4-7 Holiness prohibits grieving for the dead

8-11 Description of Priests Role

12-15 Holiness requires eating of the sacrifices

16-20 Incident of Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience

The central part of this chapter is the description of the Priests role in verses 8-11. The rest of the chapter is mirrored around that instruction. The chapter begins with Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience, and the chapter ends with Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience. But where Nadab and Abihu were immediately judged by God, Moses receives Aaron’s reasoning for the disobedience of he and his younger sons. What is going on here? Aaron is stepping into his role as priest, distinguishing between the holy and the common. He is evaluating the situation and seeking in all things to honor the LORD. His heart and his desire in all things is the LORD’s approval, not man’s.

Andrew Bonar, Minister of the Free Church of Scotland commented in 1846 on this passage: “He saw that Aaron entered into the spirit and meaning of the rites he ministered among; and was satisfied. And it is to be noticed that this attention to the spirit, and not to the mere letter, of the ceremonial law, at the very outset, indicated to Israel that the things signified by these types were their chief concern, not the bare types themselves. …Aaron’s service was not formality; it was a worship done in the spirit; and where the spirit could not accompany the rite, he left the rite undone. Herein he glorified God – he gave Him the honour due unto His name! He felt that it was not worship at all if his soul was not engaged; for “God is Spirit.” [Bonar, Leviticus p.207-208]

Where Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience was proud, arrogant and flagrant; Aaron was carefully distinguishing in his own heart what was common and what was holy, and what would be acceptable to God.

Application

What can we take away from a passage like this? First of all, God is holy. God is zealous to defend his own honor. Especially among those who draw near to him. Lest we thing this is a distant Old Testament event with little relevance today, we need to be reminded of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who in the early church were struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. God still cares deeply that he be treated as holy. This is a gospel issue. Our interaction with God must reflect accurately who he is or no one will listen to our message, and God cares deeply that sinners come to him through the one way that he is to be approached, through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus.

Second, We must listen to God’s word.

Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Finally, God cares about your heart. Mere outward obedience without genuine affection for God is hypocrisy. True worship is not about my preference; true worship is that which is pleasing to God. Acceptable worship, worship in spirit and truth is worship characterized by reverence and awe. God is pleased when we approach him on the basis of Christ’s finished work.

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

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 3; The Peace Offering

05/01 Leviticus 3; The Peace Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160501_leviticus-3.mp3

So far in Leviticus, we have looked at the whole burnt offering and the grain offering. The whole burnt offering was a complete animal, skinned and cut up in pieces, that went up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to God. The whole burnt offering was intended to ‘be accepted for him to make atonement’ (1:4) ‘that he may be accepted before the LORD’ (1:3). The whole burnt offering pointed not to specific sins (that will be seen in the next two offerings, the sin and guilt offerings); but for the general sinfulness of mankind.

The grain offering was a kind of tribute offering, bringing the best of the labor of our hands, now sanctified by the Spirit, free of the leaven that takes pride in our own accomplishments, recognizing all that we have is first a gift to us from a gracious God, given back to God as a joyful tribute to our great King.

The third offering, in Leviticus 3, is called the peace offering, or sometimes it is referred to as the fellowship offering. These first three offerings are all voluntary offerings, given when the worshiper desires, and they are all said to be offerings ‘with a pleasing aroma to the LORD’. All three are called ‘offerings’ [qorban]; but only this one is called a ‘sacrifice’ [zebak]. The word ‘sacrifice’ means ‘a slaughter’ referring to an animal that is butchered in order to be eaten. This word ‘sacrifice’ is not used for the other five types of offerings in Leviticus.

Occasions for the Peace Offering

The peace offering would be given on three types of occasions, as we will see later on in Leviticus (7:11-12, 16). It could be a thanksgiving offering, a vow offering, or a freewill offering. The thanksgiving peace offering was made in response to a particular blessing that had been experienced. The vow peace offering was made to keep a promise to God after God had helped in the requested way. The freewill peace offering was a spontaneous act of generosity of the worshiper, prompted by God’s goodness, God’s unexpected and unasked for generosity.

Structure

Leviticus 3 is structured similarly to the other chapters, where the instructions are repeated depending on what type of animal is offered.

1-5 offering from the herd

6-11 offering from the flock

12-16a offering from the goats

16b-17 concluding general instructions

Leviticus 3:1 “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. 2 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. 3 And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 5 Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

The Peace Offering

The [shelem] peace offering, is a noun from the verb [shalam]; which means to restore, pay back, make good (as a debt, often after a theft), as in David’s response to the prophet Nathan’s story about a rich man who stole a poor man’s pet lamb to feed his guest.

2 Samuel 12:5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

To restore, make restitution, make amends, or pay back. It can also mean to reward, to make peace, to complete, to prosper. It is likely connected to the Hebrew word [shalom] well-being, wholeness, peace. In the book of Romans, the first 2 ½ chapters establish the universal guilt and condemnation of all mankind before God. Then chapters 3 and 4 declare a righteousness that is a gift of God that is opposite what we deserve, that comes to us through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We are justified, our sins are not counted against us; rather, the perfect righteousness of Christ is counted as ours through faith. Then Romans 5 declares:

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace with God comes through Jesus. Peace with God is a result of being justified by faith. Romans 5 goes on to say:

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We were enemies of God. But through the death of Jesus we were reconciled. We are now at peace. Colossians 1, speaking of the awesomeness of Jesus, the Father was pleased:

Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Reconciliation to those who were alienated and hostile. Reconciliation in his body of flesh by his death. Jesus made peace by the blood of his cross. He now presents us holy and blameless and above reproach, at peace with God. Ephesians 2 says

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God, far off. But now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He has made peace. He preached peace. He reconciled us to God through the cross. Jesus is our peace.

The Order of the Offerings

Notice, the peace offering does not come first. The offerings in Leviticus are not listed in the strict sequence in which they would be offered; the first three are listed together because they are voluntary offerings that are a pleasing aroma to the LORD. The sin and guilt offerings are grouped together because they are ways of securing forgiveness before God for specific offenses. But we see in Leviticus 3:5 that the peace offering always followed a whole burnt offering.

Leviticus 3:5 Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

This is theologically significant. Peace with God and fellowship with God only comes after sacrifice. In chapter 9, we see a sin offering and a burnt offering given for the priests, then a sin offering and a burnt offering given for the people, then a grain offering, then finally the peace offering. Sin must be dealt with first; specific sins and our sin nature, before we can have peace and fellowship with God. The peace offering is offered on top of the burnt offering.

Food Offering

The procedure for the peace offering is very similar to that of the whole burnt offering. An animal without blemish is selected by the worshiper. The worshiper identifies with the animal, laying his hand on, or leaning into the head of the animal. Then the worshiper slaughters the animal at the entrance to God’s tent. The blood is caught in a container and applied by the priests to the sides of the altar. Even the peace offering is a bloody offering, reminding the worshiper that access to a holy God comes at a great cost.

But here is where the peace offering differs. In the whole burnt offering, everything but the skin goes up in smoke on the altar. In the peace offering, only specific parts of the animal are burnt on the altar.

Although it is not the focus of Leviticus chapter 3, this sacrifice was to be eaten as a shared meal. It is called a ‘food offering to the Lord’ (v.3, 11, 16); not in the pagan sense that God needs to be given sustenance from his people.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

It is a food offering in the sense that it is a shared meal between God, the priest (ch.7:31-36); and the worshiper (7:15-18). This is why it is often called a fellowship offering, because it was an offering that enjoyed fellowship with God. Specific parts of the animal are burned on the altar to God, specific parts (outlined in chapter 7) are given to the priests to eat, and the remainder of the animal is returned to the worshiper to eat. This is truly a fellowship offering, a communal meal, where God, the priests and the worshiper all enjoy a feast together.

Fat and Entrails, Kidneys and Liver

The focus of this chapter is on what parts of the peace offering are burned on the altar to the Lord. We are told

Leviticus 3:3 And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys.

Why these parts? The guts or innards; the bowels or intestines, the kidneys, the liver, and all the associated fatty tissue was to be offered on the altar to the Lord. Why? The bowels, the inward parts, were understood to be the center of thought and emotion. Psalm 94 says:

Psalm 94:19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

‘Inward parts’ is translated ‘heart’ because we use the word ‘heart’ the way the ancients used ‘inward parts’. When we are told that Jesus ‘had compassion’, it could literally be translated ‘he was moved in his bowels’.

Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (cf. Matt.14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mk. 1:41; 6:34)

The liver kidneys are a vital organs that were believed to be the centers of emotional life.

Psalm 26:2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.

Psalm 26:2 literally reads ‘test my heart and my kidneys’

Proverbs 23:16 My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.

Proverbs 23:16 literally reads ‘my kidneys will rejoice’

Lamentations 2:11 My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile [liver] is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.

These parts are the core of emotional life, and they are to be given completely to the Lord. The fat, kidneys and liver were also considered a delicacy.

Psalm 63:5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

In Deuteronomy 32, we are told how God cared for his people with the very best of the best, suckled with honey and oil,

Deuteronomy 32:14 Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs, rams of Bashan and goats, with the very finest* of the wheat— and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape.

*ESV footnote: Hebrew with the kidney fat

The Hebrew text reads ‘fat of lambs … with the kidney fat of the wheat’, referring to the very finest of the best. The best of the best is to be given to the Lord.

In addition to this, if the peace offering is from the sheep:

Leviticus 3:9 …he shall offer as a food offering to the LORD its fat; he shall remove the whole fat tail, cut off close to the backbone,

The broad fat tail is a special feature of the species of sheep bred in Palestine, often weighing 15 pounds or more [Hartley WBC p.40], and also considered a delicacy. The richest best portion belongs to the Lord.

At the end of this passage, we find a general statement:

Leviticus 3:16 …All fat is the LORD’s. 17 It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”

All the fat is the Lord’s. The richest and best portions are to belong to God. This is put in the strongest terms. There are to be no exceptions. This is carved in stone. There are to be no exceptions because of the circumstances of a specific time or location. The best belongs to the Lord. Later in Leviticus we will learn that the life of the flesh is in the blood, which God has given to make atonement on the altar.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Such is the peace offering of the Old Testament.

Application

What does this mean for us today? Do you have peace with God? Are you experiencing peace with God? Is peace your present experience?

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace is an objective reality.

The common greeting in the New Testament letters is ‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ There is a consistent order. Grace, God’s free undeserved gift always comes first. Peace comes as a response to the experience of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ.

‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’

Rom.1:7; 1 Cor.1:3; 2Cor.1:2; Gal.1:3; Eph.1:2; Phil.1:2; Col.1:2; 1Thes.1:1; 2Thes.1:2; 1Tim.1:2; 2Tim.1:2; Tit.1:4; Phm.1:3; 1Pet.1:2; 2Pet.1:2; 2Jn.1:3; Jud.1:2; Rev.1:4

If you have trusted Jesus, depended on the blood of his cross to remove your sin, you have peace with God. Regardless of how you feel, you have peace with God as an objective reality. But peace can also be an inward experience for you.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Peace, perfect peace, belongs to those who trust in Jesus. Is your mind stayed on Jesus? Are you trusting in Jesus, clinging to Jesus? Jesus told his disciples:

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 gives us peace, his peace.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to be anxious for nothing but to pray about everything, with thanksgiving,

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Stop being anxious. Instead, take it all to God in prayer, with thanksgiving. And God’s peace will guard your inward being. The peace of God will guard you because the God of peace will be with you. You can experience true peace because the God of peace is with you.

‘The God of peace’

Rom.15:33; 16:20; Phil.4:9; 1Thess.5:23; Heb.13:20; cf. 2 Thess.3:16

Is peace with God your present experience? Are you enjoying intimate fellowship with the living God?

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus says

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Are you experiencing communion with God? He desires to have fellowship with you.

Are you giving your best to God? Have you surrendered your emotional life to God? Have you offered him your deepest longings and affections and desires? Christ Jesus laid his own inner desires on the altar to God.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

He withheld nothing. When we surrender our inner selves, or affections, our emotions to God, it it a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. It is a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

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

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowing the Incomprehensible

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

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

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

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

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

Meant to Know God

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

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

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

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

God says in the new covenant

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

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

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

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

Obstacles to Knowing God

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

Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incomprehensibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blind Men and the Elephant

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, “Ho, what have we here,

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,

And felt about the knee

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain,” quoth he:

“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said: “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Than seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

Incomprehensible yet Knowable

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

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

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

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

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