PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

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

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

Dream Interpretation and Dream Manuals

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

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

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

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

Aramaic

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

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

The Confidence of the Chaldeans

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

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

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

The King’s Demand for Proof

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

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

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

Skeptical Demand for Evidence

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

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

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

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

The Admission of Incompetence

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

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

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

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

The Very Furious King

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

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

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

God’s Favor and Daniel’s Wisdom

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

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

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

God Who Dwells With Man

Look back at the confession of the Chaldeans:

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

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

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

God Who Knows Our Thoughts

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

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

Multiple times in the gospels we read:

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

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

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

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

Christ In You

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

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing

04/18_2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210418_2cor13_12-14.mp3

Paul has shown the Corinthians what authentic ministry is. By his life and teaching he has marked out for them and for us the way of the cross. He leaves them with this final exhortation.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Paul addresses the wayward Corinthians affectionately as brothers. He gives five commands: rejoice, be restored, be comforted, think the same, make peace; and he follows these commands with a promise, the promise of the presence of God, that the God of love and of peace will be with us. God with us – the motive and power to live in unity, to reconcile, to be courageous, to find true joy.

The Holy Kiss

Then he gives us another command.

2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

We firmly believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, and we want to heed James’ instruction:

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

So greet one another with a holy kiss. What do we do with a command like this? Here’s what we don’t do. This is the word of God. We don’t just squirm for a moment because it sounds uncomfortable and then move on and forget about it. We want the word of Christ to dwell in us, to change us, to change our behavior, to change how we relate to one another.

Here’s what else we don’t do. We don’t lift this out of its context and take it as biblical license to pursue our passions and make moves on someone we might be interested in. Note it says ‘one another’; that means everyone, no exclusions. Note, it also says it is to be ‘holy’; not impure, not selfish.

Here’s what we do. We need to look at a command like this in its context; its historical context, its cultural context, and the context of the letter in which it appears. This is a letter that is almost 2,000 years old, it was written by a Jew who became a follower of Jesus and it was written to a church planted in a Roman colony on the Achaian peninsula.

This is not the Song of Solomon (1:2) kind of kissing (there is a place for that, and God takes pleasure in our enjoyment of his good gifts to us). The holy kiss is commanded in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 Thessalonians, and also in 1 Peter.

Jesus, in Luke 7 rebuked the Pharisee Simon who invited him over, for failing to give him a kiss.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

Jesus points to a number of cultural customs that are foreign to us in the West today. It was appropriate hospitality to offer water for washing the feet, and to welcome with a kiss. Simon was rebuked for being inhospitable and rude to his guest. The kiss, on alternating cheeks, even today in the middle east, is used as a greeting, an expression of welcome and respect.

In Corinth, the culture was stratified. There were wealthy patrons and those who were indebted to them. There were slaves and those who had gained their freedom. There were rich and poor. And in 1 Corinthians Paul rebuked the divisions among them, especially at the Lord’s Supper:

1 Corinthians 11:21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Those kind of divisions are eradicated at the cross. They do not belong in the church. We are to welcome one another. No one is to be excluded because of social or economic status. Because of Jesus we can ‘in humility count others as more significant than ourselves’ (Phil.2:3). We are commanded to extend welcome, extend hospitality to those we might naturally be uncomfortable with, because we are really no different; we are sinners saved by the undeserved kindness of an extravagantly merciful God.

All The Saints

2 Corinthians 13:13 All the saints greet you.

Often Paul sent greetings from specific individuals or groups. But here he makes the greeting universal, reminding this church that they are not on their own or in a class by themselves; rather he connects this church to the wider body of Christ. You are part of something bigger than you.

The word ‘saints’ is the same adjective translated in the previous phrase as ‘holy’; they are to greet one another with a holy kiss, and all the holy ones greet you. We enjoy a holy unity with every other believer made holy by the blood of Christ, ‘Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Rom.15:7).

And we are to express that unity in a tangible way.

Trinitarian Blessing

Paul concludes the letter with this blessing:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

As Paul opens every one of his letters with some variation of ‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’, he closes every one of his letters with some form of the benediction ‘grace be with you’, or ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you’. But here in 2 Corinthians he expands this to include a blessing from God the Father and from the Holy Spirit.

This is a rich trinitarian blessing. He places the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit in parallel phrases, on an equal level, and he attributes each respectively as the source of grace, of love and of fellowship. God is the source of every blessing, and he asks specifically that God’s undeserved grace would flow to them through Jesus, that God’s love would be poured out from the Father, and that fellowship would be experienced as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is Only One God

It was in light of plain statements like these, and in response to false teachers who began to teach things about God that contradicted the plain teaching of God’s word that the early church formulated the doctrine of the trinity.

The Scriptures clearly teach that there is only one God, that he has always existed, that there were no Gods before him and there will be no Gods after him. God will not share his glory with another (Is.42:8; 48:11). When Jesus was asked about the great commandment,

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There is not two Gods or three or many; there is one. You shall have no other gods before him (Ex.20:3).

Three Persons are God

And yet it is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus claimed to be God; in John 10, when Jesus said ‘I and the Father are one’, ‘the Jews picked up stones again to stone him.’

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and they considered it blasphemy. Jesus in many ways on many occasions claimed to be God, did things only God can do, and received worship as God.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Lord or the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians we are told:

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God’s temple is inhabited by God the Spirit. In Acts 5, Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, and in the next breath he said that he lied to God (5:3-4, 9).

The Father is God, Jesus claims to be God, and the Spirit is God.

The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit

But it is also clear from the Scriptures that Jesus is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or Jesus.

Jesus regularly prayed to his Father. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended on him like a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven.

These are the Scriptural data which must be held together; there is only one God; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God; but the Spirit is not Jesus or the Father, and Jesus is not the Spirit or the Father. There is one God who eternally exists in the three distinct and unconfused persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No confusion of persons, no division of substance. Three in person, one in essence or being, they three share the God-ness of God.

John begins his gospel:

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

The Word, who at a point in time became flesh, had eternally existed both with God and as God. He is and always was himself fully deity, and he is and always was in fellowship with his Father, in a relationship of one person with another. Jesus said:

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

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as ‘the helper, whom’ – note the Holy Spirit is a whom not a what; a he not an it. The Father will send the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus. Three divine persons; one eternal God.

Enjoy the Truth

The truth of the one who is three is not esoteric and theoretical, not something for academics alone to ponder and defend. This is a truth to be enjoyed. By the church. By everyone. Paul calls down a blessing on the church from these three who are one.

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Grace, God’s undeserved unearned favor and kindness, when we justly deserve his wrath and hell, finds its source in the once-for-all wrath propitiating substitution of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord in my place, paying the debt I own and crediting me with his own perfect righteousness.

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

Grace, the grace of the Lord Jesus extended to me, undeserving sinner. We are given ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (4:6). ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image’ (3:18).

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.

Jesus said ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (12:9).

Love, the infinite love of the Father, ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction’ (1:3-4). It is God in whom we hope, the God who raises the dead (1:9-10); God who is faithful to all his promises (1:18, 20). God commanded light to shine in the darkness of our hearts (4:6). God through Christ reconciled us to himself (5:18). It is God who said

2 Corinthians 6:16 …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.

God desires to dwell among us, to be with us.

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

God is the God of love (13:11) and the love of God is extended to you!

Fellowship, intimacy, communion, union with God and one another brought about by the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who gives life (3:6). The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom and transformation (3:17-18).

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

We are given the gift of the Spirit who lives in our hearts; we are established, anointed, sealed. The Spirit is given as the guarantee (5:5) of one day being at home with the Lord.

It is ours to enjoy the present fellowship we have with the Spirit, and the fellowship created among us because the same Spirit lives in each of us.

In the Old Testament, God commanded that his threefold name be placed on the people of Israel in blessing:

Numbers 6:24 YHWH bless you and keep you;

25 YHWH make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

26 YHWH lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Let us make this our prayer: may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

***

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

April 23, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

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

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

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

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

How To Wait

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

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

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

John 14; Jesus is the Way

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

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

And then Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abide and Bear Fruit

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

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

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

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

The Word

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said back in verse 3:

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

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

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

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

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

Full Joy

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

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

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

Love One Another

His command?

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

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

Friends

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

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

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

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

Ask and Receive

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

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

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

And in chapter 14:

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

And again in John 16, he says:

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

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

The Spirit in You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

***

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

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

Obey Jesus; Love and Obedience

09/13 Love and Obedience (John 14-15; 1 John 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200913_love-obedience.mp3

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

We’ve been talking about obeying Jesus. We obey what Jesus commands us when we believe in him, see him in all the Scriptures, abide in him and pray to him, give him our primary allegiance, treasure him above all else, and anticipate his coming. We obey him when we proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the triune God, and endure suffering for the sake of his name. We honor Jesus when filled with the Holy Spirit, we walk by faith, rest, worship and remember him, when we love God, neighbor and enemy, when love one another and extend hospitality to others, and in humility serve the least.

Love – The Motive for Obedience

There’s a lot that Jesus expects of his followers, but we must understand the motive, where our obedience comes from. Jesus said:

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Obeying everything Jesus commands must be rooted in love for him. Obedience flows out of love. If we love, we will obey. Obedience is evidence of love. We may say that we love Jesus, but if we don’t obey him, it demonstrates that we don’t really love him. Obedience flows out of our affections for Jesus. We want to do what pleases him because we love him. That’s the only sustainable kind of obedience.

Love and Obedience in Deuteronomy

I want you to see that this connection between love and obedience is not new with Jesus. What Jesus teaches is in continuity with the Old Testament. In the Ten Commandments, God requires that we worship no other gods, and that we do not use images in our worship, because he is a jealous God who punishes iniquity,

Deuteronomy 5:10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In Deuteronomy 6, we are told that the commandments were given so that God’s people would fear him.

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. …5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

We are commanded to love God with heart and soul and might, and if we love God, we will love his commandments; we will keep them on our hearts and on our lips and we will pass them on to others.

In Deuteronomy 7, God is described as

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

God keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him, those who keep his commandments. The flip side of this is that he repays to their face those who hate him. To refuse to keep his commands is to hate him.

This sounds harsh, but we need to back up in Deuteronomy 7 and look at what comes before: He warns them to guard themselves against anything that would turn their hearts away from following the Lord.

Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

You are a set apart people, a people freely chosen by God above other people. You are treasured, his treasured possession. You have been rescued and redeemed, God loves you because he loves you. Therefore, know that this God who is God above all is faithful, and he keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. God initiates. We are to reciprocate. We are to love because he first loved us.

Jesus’ Obedience to His Father

In John 14, Jesus is talking about leaving his disciples and he promises to send the Holy Spirit to be in them. He is on his way to the cross. At the end of John 14, Jesus holds up his own obedience as a proclamation of his own love for the Father.

John 14:31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Do you know why Jesus died on the cross? Because God so loved the world. Because he was made sin on my behalf. In order to drink the cup of God’s wrath that I deserve, as the Lamb of God sacrificed in my place. Those are all right answers to why Jesus died. But here in John 14, Jesus says that he is ‘obedient’ to his Father ‘to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2:8) so that the world may see his love for his Father. Christ’s obedience to the command of his Father is the most powerful demonstration of God the Son’s own love for his Father.

Jesus invites us to proclaim our love for him by our obedience.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:21

John 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

The one who has and who keeps the commandments of Jesus is the one who loves Jesus, and is the one who is loved by both the Father and the Son.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Here the opposite is stated; it is the one who does not love Jesus who does not keep his words. And Jesus’ words are the Father’s words. To disobey Jesus’ words is to disobey the Father who sent him.

Abiding and Obeying

In John 15, Jesus invites his followers to abide in him, in intimate communion and relationship, like branches in the true vine, so that we bear much fruit.

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Jesus is saying that the proof of a genuine disciple is about remaining in his love, remaining in intimate communion and fellowship with him.

He says ‘as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’ Did you hear that? Exactly how deeply and profoundly does the Father love his only Son? That is the kind of love Jesus has for you! That should cause our knees to buckle! And this is past; ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you’; indicating the fullness, the completeness of his love. The command to us is to abide, to remain in his love. How do we do that? How do we remain in his love? We keep his commandments, just as Jesus kept his Father’s commandments and abides in his love. Our obedience demonstrates our love. We abide, we remain in close and intimate relationship with him.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…

It is Jesus’ words coursing through our veins and our asking connection to him in prayer and his Spirit living inside, empowering our fruitful action that characterize this abiding. This is New Covenant Spirit wrought obedience, in accord with Ezekiel 36:27

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.

He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. The Holy Spirit is the effective cause of our obedience. Jesus says:

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…

Jesus’ purpose for us is that we bear much and abiding fruit to the glory of God.

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Love, Abiding, and Obedience; 1 John

If our fruitful abiding is characterized by obedience to his commands, and if our obedience is an outworking of our love for him, where does this love come from? We see this same connection between obedience and love in the letter of 1 John.

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. …

1 John 3:24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

John again connects this abiding with keeping his commandments with the transforming New Covenant work of the Holy Spirit.

1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. That’s what loving God looks like. And his commands are not a burden but a joy.

The Source of Love;

So where does this love that expresses itself in obedience come from? John tells us.

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.

God is love. If we truly love God and love one another, it is evidence that we have been born of God, born again by the Spirit. Love is from God, and it is produced in us by the new birth.

1 John 4:9 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.

Love is from God, and God displayed his love by sending his only Son Jesus to be crucified as the wrath propitiating sacrifice for our sins. This is where love comes from.

1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John here connects abiding with the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all who confess Jesus. Where does our love originate? We look to Jesus, to the cross. We come to know and believe the love that God has for us. Our love is derived from the love that God has for us. Our love is rooted in God, who is love, who ‘loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’

1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

God’s love made manifest in Christ on the cross brings about our confidence for the day of judgment. Because God loved us by sending his Son to die for us, all fear of God’s just punishment is cast out forever. Here it is:

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

We obey Jesus because we love him and desire to please him. We love because he first loved us. He chose us to be his own treasured possession. We have been set apart, loved, rescued, redeemed. We love because he first loved us. We can’t understand love, we don’t even know love apart from his love.

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.

Love is demonstrated in obedience, and we love because he first loved us.

***

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

September 15, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Baptize

08/16 Baptizing Them (Mt.28:19; Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200816_baptize.mp3

We have been looking at the Great Commission found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Looking at obeying Jesus, at what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus.

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

After the service today we are going to have some baptisms, and this morning I want to look at why we baptize, who we baptize, and what baptism means.

The Command to Baptize

It is this command of Jesus to his followers that compels us to baptize. We baptize followers of Jesus in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command here is simple: ‘make disciples of all nations’. That is the command. If disciples are to be made from every nation or every ethnic group, then ‘going’ will be necessary. A disciple is a student, a learner, or a follower. There are two primary things Jesus commands that we do with his disciples. We are to baptize them and teach them. Baptism is the initiatory rite that indicates to everyone that they are beginning the life of a disciple, following a new Master. Teaching them all that Jesus taught is the continuation of the process of disciple making.

Baptizing Into

Jesus is clear as to what his disciples are to be baptized into. In that day it was common for someone who was not Jewish by descent but wanted to worship the God of Israel to be baptized into Judaism as an indication that they had left their old gods behind and had turned to YHWH. John, who was know as ‘the baptist’ or the one who baptized, came with a radical message. He preached a baptism of repentance – calling Jews to turn from their formal outward religion and prepare their hearts for the radical transformation that the Messiah would bring.

Jesus here tells his followers to baptize disciples ‘in (or into) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Jesus does not tell us to baptize into an -ism or a church or a group, but into a name; into a person, into a relationship. One’s name stands for one’s character, nature or reputation. The word ‘Name’ is singular, as Israel was so clearly taught that ‘the Lord our God is one Lord’.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

There is one name, one character or nature, one God. And yet Jesus tells us that we are to baptize into the name of three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is one of many reasons why orthodox Christianity since the time of Jesus has held faithfully to the doctrine of the triune God: One God eternally existing in three distinct persons. We baptize into the one Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The duration of this command is also stated by Jesus in this verse. How long are we to make disciples, baptizing and teaching? And where does the authority lie? Jesus said ‘all authority has been given to me’. I have no authority – Jesus has all the authority, and Jesus said ‘I am with you always’. The person who does the baptizing is nothing. Jesus retains his own authority. Jesus said ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. So as long as this age lasts, we will go on making disciples, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded us, with the confidence that he promised to be with us.

Who Can Be Baptized?

What is the prerequisite for baptism? Baptism is to be done in the disciple making process, so it is for those who have become disciples or followers of Jesus.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter said that repentance was what must precede baptism. To repent literally means to turn. I was going in this direction trusting in my good works and thinking I was fine with God, but then I felt the weight of my sin and recognized my good works are filthy rags in God’s sight. Jesus apprehended me and I had to turn around and leave my good works behind and cling to Jesus alone and what he accomplished for me on the cross to forgive my sins. A few verses later, Luke tells us that:

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

When Peter proclaimed the good news that ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (v.21) and that the crucified Jesus is the Lord that we must call out to for salvation (v.36), those who received this word turned and became followers of Jesus and were baptized.

When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas ‘what must I do to be saved?’, they told him:

Acts 16:30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Belief in Jesus as Lord brought salvation to each individual in this household. In response to their faith, their trust in Jesus, they were baptized.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Those who believe in the Lord, those who call out to Jesus for salvation, who repent or turn from whatever they were trusting in to Jesus, those who become disciples or followers of Jesus are baptized as a public declaration of their new faith.

What Is Baptism?

We’ve looked at Jesus’ command to baptize disciples, and we’ve looked at repentance and faith (turning from whatever you were holding on to and depending on Jesus alone) as the biblical prerequisite for baptism, but just what is baptism and what does it mean? A definition of the word itself will be helpful. The word is actually an untranslated carry-over from the Greek language that the New Testament was written in. Rather than translate the word with an English word that has the same meaning, the Greek characters were simply replaced with English characters and [βαπτίζω] became ‘baptize’, a new word in our language. When we study how the word [βαπτίζω] was used in New Testament times, we find that it means ‘to dunk, dip, plunge, immerse or submerge’ in water. It might help us understand what the Bible is saying if we translate the word ‘baptize’ with the word ‘immerse’ or ‘plunge’.

Baptism is an Illustration of Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized [immersed] into Christ Jesus were baptized [immersed] into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism [immersion] into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Water immersion or baptism is a picture of what spiritually happened to us when we trusted Christ. We have been immersed into Christ Jesus, and specifically plunged into his death. Going down into the water pictures our death and burial with Christ. It is an effective picture, because if the one doing the baptizing is not strong enough or not kind enough to bring the person being baptized back up out of the water, the picture will become a reality. Jesus referred to his coming crucifixion as a baptism in Mark 10:38-38 and Luke 12:50. Coming up out of the water illustrates our resurrection and new life as believers. Paul is arguing in Romans 6 that we cannot continue to live in sin because we have died to our old sinful way of life, and we are now alive to God in Christ Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, we will live differently, not because we are under a new set of rules, but because we have a new resurrection life in us that has different desires. Paul goes on in the next verses to describe our baptism with Christ as being united with Christ:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

We are united with Christ in his death; being plunged into Christ connects us with him. We are plunged into his crucifixion. The old me is dead and buried. We are now set free from sin; I am no longer under its power. I have died to that which once held me captive. We are united with Christ in his resurrection; Because I am connected with him, I become enveloped in his resurrection power.

Baptism is Similar to Circumcision as the Sign of the Covenant

In Colossians 2, baptism is compared to circumcision, the sign of the old covenant. Circumcision was the cutting off of physical flesh; in Christ, our fleshly nature is put off.

Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

This resurrection power comes to me ‘through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Jesus from the dead.’

Paul goes on to describe our desperate condition and what God did:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Baptism, like salvation is passive; it is something done to you, not something you do. God made us alive. God dealt with our sins at the cross. God united us with Christ. God saved us. Salvation is God’s work. We don’t save ourselves. We trust in another to save us. In baptism, we show up, we participate, but it is something done to us, not something we do. We are at the mercy of another.

Baptism Follows Justification by Faith

In Galatians 3, Paul explains that all the promises of God come not to law keepers, but to those who believe in Jesus. We are justified (we receive the verdict of ‘not guilty’) by faith; by trusting in, depending on the righteousness of another.

Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized [immersed] into Christ have put on Christ.

Justification – being declared ‘not guilty’ – comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But justification changes us. As we are immersed into Christ, we become so saturated with Christ, that we wear Jesus around and drip him all over everyone we come in contact with.

Baptism Unites with the Body Of Christ

Paul goes on:

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our immersion into Christ destroys all ethnic and social and economic barriers. Because we are united with Christ, we are now united in a spiritual connection with our brothers and sisters.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized [immersed] into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Baptism Pictures Washing Away Guilt

Peter compares the ark that brought Noah and his family safely through the waters of God’s judgment with baptism.

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus. When we cry out to God in faith, our conscience is washed clean by the blood of Jesus and we are free from guilt because ‘Christ suffered once for sins the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1Pet.3:18).

Baptism in Water or Baptism with the Spirit?

This raises the question ‘what is the difference between baptism in water and the cleansing of the conscience by faith in Jesus?’ John the baptist said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

So there is a distinction between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. John did the water baptism, Jesus would do the Holy Spirit baptism. John immersed people in water to symbolize their repentance. Jesus would submerge and saturate people with God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus, when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, told them:

Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The disciples experienced this, and when Peter preached his first sermon, he said:

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is given in response to repentance and faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Water baptism is a picture of this spiritual reality.

Summary:

Jesus commanded us to baptize believers because baptism is a symbol rich in spiritual significance.

  • It illustrates our baptism by Jesus with the Holy Spirit when we believe in him.
  • It pictures our connection with Jesus in his death and resurrection, demonstrating that we are dead to sin and have new resurrection life so that we can live pleasing to God.
  • It demonstrates our connection with all other believers.
  • Baptism is done in response to repentance, turning from our way to God’s way, and faith or trust or belief in Jesus as Lord and King, and his finished work on the cross – where he took the punishment in full for my sin.
  • In baptism, we are identified with the name of the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – as being owned by him.
  • By being baptized, we are declaring to all that we are now disciples, followers of Jesus, submitted, committed and devoted to him.

Jesus said:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

The Light of Our Works Give Glory to Our Father

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

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

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

The Heart of the Law

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

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Works Righteousness But Real Spirit Wrought Righteousness

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

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

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

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

Seek the Reward of your Father

Jesus goes on in Matthew chapter 6 to warn us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the context of verse 19:

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

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

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

Remember the parable of the talents?

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Pentecost: You Need the Holy Spirit

05/31 [Pentecost: Sunday] Obey Jesus; You Need the Holy Spirit; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200531_holy-spirit.mp3

We have been looking at discipleship, being disciples or learners or followers, disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded.

Impossible Obedience

One of the things we have seen throughout this study is that what Jesus commands is impossible. It is humanly impossible to obey Jesus. We simply can’t. We can’t believe in him, we can’t see that all the Scriptures point us to him, we can’t abide in him, we can’t give him our primary allegiance, treasure him above all else, put the needs of others above our own. We can’t. We can’t do this consistently, with a whole heart. We need help. Actually, we need more than help, we need a new heart. We need God himself to come live inside us and obey the commands of Jesus through us.

Pentecost [Shavuot] (Lev.23:15; Deut.16.9)

40 days after his resurrection, after appearing repeatedly to his disciples and teaching them, Jesus ascended to the right hand of his Father. At the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus will send the promise of his Father, and he commands them to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high. In Acts, Luke resumes the story where he left off.

Acts 1:1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

You will be baptized with, immersed with the Holy Spirit. Wait for the promise of the Father.

At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, Luke 3 records John’s response to questions of whether he might be the Christ.

Luke 3:16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

In Acts 2,

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost, or the feast of Weeks [Hebrew: Shavuot] comes 7 weeks (or 50 days) after Passover, and commemorates the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, where Israel entered into a covenant and became a nation under God.

New Covenant Glory

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The law was given 7 weeks after the Exodus where God freed his people from Egypt, but the people immediately and persistently failed to obey his commands.

50 days after Jesus accomplished his Exodus, freeing us by the Passover sacrifice of himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn, 1:29; 1Cor.5:7), leading us out of our slavery to sin, he gave us his Holy Spirit, to live inside.

Paul draws this contrast in 2 Corinthians 3.

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.

He draws a contrast between the letter that kills and the Spirit who gives life, the ministry of death and the much more glorious ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of condemnation and the ministry of righteousness, the veiled temporary and fading with the unveiled permanent glory of Christ, the hardened minds and the transforming work of the Spirit.

Pentecost changes everything! The God whose Spirit brooded over the face of the deep at creation,

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

By his Spirit and his Word he brought life and light out of darkness and chaos.

Heart Waters Flowing

This is what Jesus was talking about in John 7.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Rivers of life giving water pouring out of the hearts of believers. The Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.

Do you have life giving rivers flowing out of your heart? What is flowing out of your heart? ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Lk.6:45).

Out of the hearts of his believers will flow rivers of living water. ‘This he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given.’ Wait for the promise of the Father, stay until you are clothed with power from on high. ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh’ (Acts2:17; Joel 2:28-29).

When the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, and the crowds, gathered for the pilgrim festival, rushed together, amazed, perplexed, some mocking, Peter (who had self confidently asserted that he was willing to die with Jesus, and then denied even knowing him three times) now addresses the crowd:

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Peter preached Jesus, the cross and the resurrection. He pointed out their sin and guilt.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

This is the fulfillment of the promised Spirit, whom those who believe in Jesus would receive.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart,

That is the work of the Spirit of God! When the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn.16:8)

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Repent. Turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That promise is for you! For everyone the Lord our God calls to himself. Notice carefully, the Holy Spirit is given by God, a gift received, he is poured out on all who believe.

You Must Be Born of the Spirit

We looked at the gift of the Spirit in John 7, whom those who believed in Jesus were to receive. If we look back in John 3, Jesus referred to this as being born of the Spirit.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus’ teaching comes from the New Covenant promise in Ezekiel 36,

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 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. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

You must be born of the Spirit. In order to obey Jesus, you must be born again. Jesus goes on to describe how this takes place:

John 3:14 …so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Whoever looks to the Son lifted up, crucified, as his only hope, whoever believes has eternal life. God gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him is born of the Spirit.

Ask

Jesus promised in Luke 11

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

Asking, seeking, knocking are other ways of describing believing. The Father will give the Holy Spirit to everyone who asks. The Spirit will be poured out on every believer.

Every Believer Has the Spirit

Paul rebukes the Galatians for turning away from their simple belief in Jesus.

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Paul assumes that upon hearing the preaching of the cross, the Galatians trusted Jesus, they believed in him, they had faith, and they received the Spirit. They didn’t do anything to earn this free gift. They received the Spirit by hearing with faith. There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus who does not have the Spirit of God living in them.

Paul commands the wayward Corinthian church to flee sexual immorality.

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.

He doesn’t question if the foolish Galatians or the sinful Corinthians have the Spirit. He bases his argument with one for living by faith, with the other for God glorifying holy living on the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In Romans, it is abundantly clear that everyone who belongs to Christ has the Spirit living in them.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. …11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

You, right now, if you are a believer in Jesus, have the Spirit of the living God dwelling in you! Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God!

We Need Help to Love, Obey

In John 14 Jesus connects loving and obeying him with the Helper, Counselor or Comforter, the coming Holy Spirit.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus has just told his disciples to ask him for anything in his name and he will do it, and he had promised that they would do the works that he does, and greater works than these because he goes to the Father. To do greater works than Jesus we need help, supernatural, divine enablement, and this is exactly what he promises; Jesus will ask his Father to send the Holy Spirit to live in us. Loving Jesus, keeping his commands requires divine power from the Holy Spirit living inside. Jesus ordered them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. And then,

Luke 24:47 …repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

You must be born again. To love him, to obey him, to be his witnesses, you need the Holy Spirit. Wait for the promise of the Father, stay until you are clothed with power from on high. Believe in Jesus and out of your heart will flow rivers of living water, and you will ask Jesus according to his will and through you by the Spirit in you he will do greater works than even he did when he was here physically.

***

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

May 31, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Beware What You Treasure (Luke 12, 15, 16, 18, 19)

05/17 Obey Jesus: Beware What You Love – Treasures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200517_treasures.mp3

Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded. We are looking at some of the things Jesus commanded, so we can obey him, and teach others that we disciple to obey Jesus in everything.

One thing Jesus talked about frequently, maybe more than any other thing, was treasure. He warned us about what we treasure. Jesus commanded us in regard to what we treasure, to take care, to be on our guard.

Beware on Guard against Covetousness

Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness. Jesus warns us to be on our guard, because this one is sneaky. We may think we’re fine, that it’s not an issue, but this is one that sneaks up on you. Be on your guard. Covetousness. Greed. Wanting more, wanting something you don’t have. Your life doesn’t consist of your substance, of what you have.

We know this. Stuff doesn’t make us happy. Possessions don’t ultimately satisfy. But how often do we see something and think “I wish… If only… Things would be much easier if… Life would be better if…” He warns, ‘take care, and be on your guard.’

Be Rich Toward God

Luke 12:16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’

This sounds a lot like what we call here in America ‘retirement’. This is not to say that it is evil to wisely invest and prepare for the future. That is good and wise. But this person is hoarding all that he can to pursue a life of pleasure and ease and consumption.

Luke 12:20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

God says that it is foolish to pursue your own pleasure in this life. This life won’t last. We have no guarantee. He says the one who fails to be rich toward God is a fool.

What does it mean to be rich toward God? If we keep reading,

Do Not Be Anxious but Generous

Luke 12:22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

What are you anxious about? What are you worrying about? What are you focusing on? Seek his kingdom. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Seek to advance his kingdom by bringing others into the kingdom. Be generous to the needy. Jesus said that to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcome to the stranger, clothing to the naked, to visit the sick and imprisoned is to do it to him (Mt.25:34-39). To be rich toward God is to seek his kingdom, to be generous and use what he gives us to bless others.

Pursue treasure in heaven. Because your heart will follow your treasure. What you treasure is what you think about, what you worry about. If you want your heart to be more fully devoted to God, then invest your resources with him.

Treasure in Heaven

This raises a question. What does it mean to have treasure in heaven? Does this mean that if we sell what we have and give to the poor, that we are filling some treasure chest in heaven with gold? Does having treasure in heaven mean that we are making deposits into some eternal bank account so that when we get to heaven we will have greater resources, greater access to pleasures, a larger mansion, a more opulent lifestyle than others in heaven? Is this saying that by denying ourselves now, we are pursuing our own greater pleasure later?

If by pursuing our own greater pleasure, we are thinking in terms of gratifying our own fleshly desires and having more stuff than others in heaven, then no, I don’t believe that is what Jesus is talking about.

But we are told in the Psalms that “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps.16:11). By denying our own fleshly desires now to pursue God and his kingdom, we are pursuing our own greater pleasure, because we acknowledge that the greatest imaginable human pleasure is enjoying our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. By investing in what pleases God, by using our resources in ways that bless others rather than pursuing our own temporal pleasure, we are saying that our heart and our treasure is in the Lord, in pursuing his pleasure. The deepest satisfaction in human relationship is found not in using others to pursue our own pleasures, but rather in using our resources to pursue the pleasure of the one we love. So in our relationship with God; we find satisfaction in pursuing his pleasure. We are storing up unfailing treasures in heaven by treasuring our relationship with him above all.

The Lost Son

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son, teaching that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. In the parable of the lost (or prodigal) son,

Luke 15:11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

An inheritance wasn’t to be given until after the death of the father. This younger son was saying he wished his father was dead and all he was interested in was the money. And he took the money and ran. He indulged himself in everything he hoped would make him happy, and ended up empty and broken.

Luke 15:17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

He came to himself. In his emptiness he realized the value of the relationship he had squandered. ‘And he arose and came to his father.’ His father ran and embraced him, received him back as his son, clothed him, and called for a feast.

Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

This parable is actually about two lost sons. The younger son was obviously lost; he rejected his father and wasted his inheritance, and he was found, was dead and is alive.

The older son was also lost, but in a more respectable way. He was the faithful son who never disobeyed. He too was after the inheritance, but to get it he was following the rules and patiently waiting. But he also failed to value his relationship with his father, rather he reveals that his desire was a feast where he could celebrate with his friends. Now that his brother had wasted his portion of the inheritance, anything the father gave to his younger son would cut in to the older son’s inheritance. He referred to his relationship with his father as a servant, not a son, and he further distances himself from the family by referring to his brother as ‘this son of yours’. He refuses to enter into the family celebration, but remains outside, angry. His younger brother’s return revealed the true condition of his heart. “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.”

You Cannot Serve God and Money

In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable of a dishonest manager who abused his position to forgive debts and make friends to secure his own future. Although he was dishonest, his master commended him for his shrewdness. Rather than using people to make money, Jesus says we should make use of money to make friends. The money will fail but friends will last. We are to imitate his shrewdness but not his dishonesty. Jesus says:

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Be on your guard against all covetousness. What do you love?

Rich Man Lost; Drop Your Baggage and Follow Me

In Luke 18, a rich young man runs up to Jesus and falls before him.

Luke 18:18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”

Jesus points this man to the commandments. And this man claimed to have kept them all. But Jesus mentioned only commands from what is known as the second table; commands that have to do with our relationship with our fellow man. He didn’t mention the first table, that we are to have no other Gods, that we are to worship and serve no idols, that our love for neighbor is to flow out of our primary love for God himself. Outwardly, this man felt he was doing well. So Jesus pushes on his heart.

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Is Jesus demanding that we all must sell everything and take a vow of poverty in order to follow him? No, he is wisely sensitive to this man’s unique heart problem, and puts his finger on it in a way that shows this man clearly what is keeping him from the kingdom. Jesus is wisely answering this man’s question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? God must be your greatest treasure. You must be willing to trade in every worldly treasure for the greater Treasure. Jesus is inviting him, ‘drop your baggage that is holding you back so that you are free to come, follow me.’ You cannot serve two masters.

Impossible With Man

Luke 18:23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

You see how we desperately need to take care and be on guard against all covetousness? It is eternally dangerous. This man came running up to Jesus, falling down before him, eager to do whatever it takes to have eternal life. But Jesus showed him that he loved his stuff more than he loved God, and he went away sad, unwilling to let it all go and follow Jesus.

How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. It is just as impossible as stuffing a big hairy camel through the eye of a sewing needle! The people ask ‘is that a one hump camel or a two hump camel?’ No, they recognize the utter impossibility and despair ‘who then can be saved?’ If those who have power and access can’t get in, then nobody can!’

Jesus doesn’t correct them, and saydon’t worry, it will be much easier for you who are poor and have little, to enter.’ You see, when Jesus put his finger on the heart of this rich young man, and pointed out that he loves something more than God, he put his finger on the hearts of us all. We can’t. It is impossible for us to love God more than anything else. We can’t obey Jesus. It is impossible. Absolutely.

Luke 18:27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

You are right. Salvation is impossible. It is impossible for anyone to treasure God more than anything else. No one seeks for God, no not one (Rom.3:11). God alone is mighty to save. God must overcome our impossibility and by his own Holy Spirit create a new heart and new life with new desires and new affections in us. It is impossible for us to obey Jesus. It is impossible for us to do what he commands. “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn.3:3).

Rich Man Saved

The next chapter, Luke 19, we see the impossible happen as Jesus enters a rich man’s life.

Luke 19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

This was an impossibly rich man, and so an impossibly lost man according to Jesus in chapter 18, but Jesus came to seek and to save him. ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’

Luke 19:6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus did an impossible miracle that day, probably more impossible than making the blind see or the lame walk. Jesus enabled a rich man to treasure him more than his possessions, to drop his baggage and follow him joyfully.

What about you? What do you treasure? “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.”

***

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

May 18, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2020 Vision – The Church – Matthew 16:18

01/05 2020 Vision – The Church; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200105_vision-church.mp3

I recently got my eyes checked. I was way overdue for an eye exam, and I’ve been noticing that my vision isn’t as keen as it once was. I’ve been having some trouble reading, especially with my contacts in. Vision is so important, and affects so many things.

One of my kids has glasses that she doesn’t wear very often, because her eyesight really isn’t that bad. But while we were traveling, she was looking out the window and said ‘Whoa, look at that buffalo!’ Of course everyone looked, but nobody saw any buffalo. Finally one of my other girls said, ‘Do you mean that big rock over there?’ If you can’t see clearly, you might fail to interpret accurately what is really there. That’s a problem.

Another time we were driving and the windshield was a bit dirty, but when we came around a bend so that we were heading directly into the sun, the glare made it impossible to see the road. It’s extremely dangerous both to yourself and to others around you when you can’t see the road. You have to be able to see the lines so that you can stay between them. Clear vision is essential to see the way ahead.

Vision and Vision Casting

It’s worthwhile to periodically check your vision. It’s worth stopping to clean your windshield before you find yourself facing directly into the sun. As a pastor, I am occasionally asked ‘What is your vision for the church?’ I understand that the question is meant in the sense of vision casting, what are your goals, your objectives, your strategic plans for the future. Dictionary.com defines vision in two distinct ways: 1. the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight. 2. the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be: prophetic vision; the vision of an entrepreneur.

I’m not a visionary, and while I don’t want to disparage those who are, I would rather focus on making sure we are seeing clearly and accurately.

Vision and Absolutes

In visiting the eye doctor, I discovered that they believe in absolutes. They have an objective standard. They put letters on the wall, and they ask you to tell them what letters you see. When your vision is fuzzy, the capital G is easily confused with the C or even the Q. But it’s not enough to answer confidently. If I said that the F was a P, they adjusted my prescription. Telling them that it was a P to me just confirmed their suspicion that I wasn’t seeing accurately or clearly.

We have an absolute standard, and it is the word of God. I want to be sure that my hopes and dreams for the church stay between the lines God has established for his church, and that we are moving together in the right direction.

Matthew 16:18

What is the church? What is God’s vision for his church? In the coming weeks I want to refresh and clarify our vision for the church, what we are meant to be. Today I want to look at Jesus, his promise to built his church; I just want to walk through the text in Matthew 16 together and make some observations about the church.

Matthew 16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Ownership

The first thing that Jesus says about the church that I want us to pay attention to is an issue of ownership. Sometimes when pastors talk with other pastors, I hear things like ‘how are things going at your church?’ or ‘this is what we do in my church’. Now I don’t want to be the word police and I’m sure I’ve said things like that myself; that’s easier to say than ‘this is what’s happening in the church that I serve’. But I want to be clear. Jesus said ‘I will build my church.’ The church belongs to Jesus. Sometimes people refer to ‘my church’ not in the sense of ownership, but in the sense of belonging. When someone says ‘this is my restaurant’ we know they don’t mean that they actually own the restaurant; it’s the one they always eat at. ‘My church’ can mean the church I belong to, the church where I serve. But if we are talking about ownership, Jesus holds exclusive right. It is his church that he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28). The church belongs to Jesus.

Built on the Identity of Jesus

The second thing to note is that Jesus started this conversation off with a question about his identity. Who do people say that the Son of Man is? Who do you say that I am? The church is built on the rock of the identity of Jesus. Peter’s great confession was ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” There are lots of opinions about Jesus floating around, but it is essential that we see clearly who he really is, who he claims himself to be. The Christ, the promised Messiah, the long awaited anointed one. Prophet, Priest and King. The Son of the living God. “He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (Jn.5:18). The identity of Jesus is the foundation of his church. You are:

Ephesians 2:19 …members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

On this rock I will build my church.’ The identity of Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Spirit Wrought Faith

There’s a third thing we need to see in this passage. This great confession was not a clever conclusion drawn from evaluating the evidence. Jesus makes a point of pointing this out.

Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Peter, you are blessed. You have been given a great treasure. You didn’t come up with this on your own. It wasn’t your keen insight or brilliant logic. It was revealed to you. My Father revealed it to you. It was given to you from above.

There was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night with his own perception of who Jesus was. He called him ‘Rabbi’ and identified him as a teacher who came from God doing signs. He acknowledged that God must be with him. Jesus challenged him on his need for a spiritual transformation so that he could see Jesus for who he really is:

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 …‘You must be born again.’

…or born from above. Jesus went on to describe the work of the Spirit of God in bringing about this new birth.

John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The Spirit brings about the new birth when and where and in whom he wishes. Jesus went on to reveal his identity as the only Son given by God the Father to bring eternal life and salvation to a world condemned by sin.

The new birth is necessary to see Jesus for who he is, and that seeing is a work of the Spirit of God. There is a spiritual blindness that keeps us from seeing.

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

God through the supernatural work of his Spirit and through his omnipotent word reveals Jesus to us.

The church belongs to Jesus, it is built on the identity of Jesus, and that identity is perceived and believed by those who have been born again by his Spirit.

Un-opposable Authority

Let’s look at some other things we can glean about the church from this passage.

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The church is not depicted here as a fortress immune from attack. Instead it is an organism on the move, advancing and taking ground. The gates of hell can’t hold up against the advance of Christ’s church.

And there is unopposable authority. Keys unlock doors and grant access.

Peter, on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed the forgiveness of sins in Jesus, and opened the kingdom to three thousand Jews. (Acts 2:38-41)

Later, in Acts chapter 10, Peter went to a Gentile’s house proclaimed the good news:

Acts 10:43 ..that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

And the door was unlocked to the Gentile nations. This was not unique to Peter.

When Paul and Barnabas returned from their first missionary journey

Acts 14:27 … they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

If we jump ahead from this great confession to the great commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel, we read of this unstoppable authority.

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

Jesus holds all authority. And he invites us to make disciples of all nations. The church is made up of disciples, followers of Jesus from every diverse people group. We operate under the authority of Jesus, who is with us always.

The Offense of the Cross

But if we read on, there is something else we can learn about the church.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

There is an offensive element to the church. It is the offense of the cross. In fact the church is built on the offense of the cross. There is a warning here. We have a tendency to want to avoid the cross. We have a tendency to set our minds on the things of man, not the things of God. We tend to look to human means, to strategies for success to grow the church. This is not God’s way. Jesus builds his church through the offense of the cross. Jesus triumphed over sin and death by bearing our sin and dying. We want the church to look presentable to the world, but the cross is not presentable. It’s not politically correct to talk about sin and judgment, but the good news is that Jesus took my sin and carried my shame and died the death that I deserved. The church advances when the message of the cross is unapologetically proclaimed.

Community of Self-Sacrificial Service

Jesus goes on in the next verses to define his followers.

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. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The offense of the cross extends to Jesus’ followers. A disciple is one who patterns his life after the one he follows. Following Jesus means a life of self-sacrificial service to others. Jesus laid down his life in love for us. We are to lay down our lives in loving service to others. The church is made up of people who follow their Master and pattern their lives after his self-sacrificial service to others.

Conclusion

Let’s keep a clear vision of who we are as the church; who we are meant to be. The church is a community of Jesus followers united in one family by new birth. The church belongs to Jesus, it is built on the identity of Jesus, and that identity is perceived and believed by those who have been born again by his Spirit. The church embraces the offense of the cross both in belief and practice. The church is a community of Jesus followers who gladly surrender and sacrifice for the good of others. Let us see clearly who we are, and let our identity shape our actions.

***

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

January 6, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry

03/24_2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190324_2cor6_6-7.mp3

Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. The Corinthians were looking for outward evidence of God’s blessing on his ministry, and they were beginning to question his authenticity. They were looking for power, prosperity, praise, eloquence, something flashy. Paul commends his ministry as a ministry that gives obstacles in nothing and to no one. Paul’s goal is that no fault could be found with the ministry. In all things he commends himself as God’s minister. He cares much more about what God thinks of his ministry than what anyone else thinks.

And the way he commends himself is not what anyone would have expected. What he includes in his resume is in the way he responds to adversity: ‘in much endurance’. And he lists three general hardships: ‘in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities’; then three specific types of persecution: ‘in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots’; then three hardships he willingly endures for the sake of the advance of the gospel: ‘in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers.’ Nine hardships, faced with much endurance.

The Manner; Four Essential Characteristics for Ministry

Now beginning in verse 6 he lists eight means of ministry; four essential character traits for effective ministry, followed by four enablements for effective ministry.

He started the list in verse 4 with the character trait ‘much endurance’; remaining under these nine different types of hardships. Now he gives four more character traits; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. These describe the manner of his ministry, not so much what he does as much as how he does it, and ultimately who he is. Character. When hiring for a position, many companies are looking for skills, abilities, experience. Have you been trained in this field? Do you have the knowledge necessary to carry out the task? How much experience do you have in this field? What are your accomplishments, successes, abilities? Paul emphasizes not so much what he does as how he does it, who he is.

Who are you? Are you a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker? That is not who you are; that is what you do. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a pastor. Those are roles, hats I wear. They define my relationships to other people. I was born in a Christian home, raised in a healthy two parent family in Minnesota, the youngest of five. That is some of my history, my background, where I come from. That is not who I am. I like to hike, canoe, to be outdoors, to be creative, build things, fix things. Those are hobbies, likes, preferences. But who are you? Strip all that away, who are you when no one is looking? What is your character?

6 In Purity [ἐν ἁγνότητι]

Paul starts with purity. This word shows up only here and in chapter 11. The verb shows up in the gospels and Acts referring to ceremonial purification, and in James, Peter and 1 John it shows up in reference to heart and soul purified through the new birth. The adjective shows up a little more frequently in contexts of moral purity, blamelessness, innocence, integrity. In 11:2 the adjective is used in the metaphor of betrothing a pure virgin to her husband, and in 11:3 this noun shows up alongside sincerity, and in contrast to being seduced or beguiled with trickery or cunning, being defiled, spoiled or corrupted.

In 1 John 3:3 the adjective describes the character of God;

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We become like God as we see him as he is; through our hope in him, in looking to him, we purify ourselves as he is pure.

Paul points us to his innocence, blamelessness, integrity, moral purity. This purity is not because he always had clean hands and a pure heart; rather his blood-stained hands were washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and through the new birth he stands pure and holy, a new creation in Christ.

In Knowledge [ἐν γνώσει]

Next he lists knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. He recognized that they were ‘enriched in all knowledge’ (1Cor.1:5). But he drew a contrast between the knowledge they claimed and love for brother and sister (1Cor.8:1,7,10,11; 12:8; 13:2,8). They prided themselves in their knowledge.

But as Paul had already made clear,

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

For Paul it was not about what you know, but it had everything to do with who you know. He was in everything pursuing and advancing the ‘knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5).

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

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

Paul was spreading the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul everything else was worthless, except “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know him” (Phil.3:8,10).

In Patience, In Kindness [ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] [ἐν χρηστότητι]

Next he mentions patience and kindness. The word translated patience is literally ‘slow to anger’. These two words are listed side by side in Galatians 5:22 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Both patience and kindness are attributed to God in Romans 2

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Where patience or slowness to anger is negative, refraining from responding immediately in anger even when there is something to be rightly angry about; kindness is its positive counterpart, actively doing good to those who have wronged you. God not only refrains from immediately punishing our sin; he also shows us his undeserved kindness. As Jesus instructs in Luke 6,

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

We are to extend kindness even to our enemies; in doing so, we reflect the character of God. In being patient and kind, we are living out the gospel; we are conducting ourselves toward others how God has been toward us.

It is clear that these character traits are not natural. Who joyfully endures afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleeplessnesses, hungers? Who extends patience and kindness to enemies? These are supernatural character traits. In Colossians 1 Paul prays:

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

He combines endurance, the first on his list, and patience, and he says that we need God’s strength; we need the glorious might of divine enablement to respond to circumstances with endurance, slowness to anger, and joy. He says in Colossians 3:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

He tells us that because we have been raised with Christ (3:1), because we are his chosen ones, because we are holy and beloved, because we have been strengthened with his mighty power, we can clothe ourselves with kindness and patience.

The Means; Four Divine Enablements for Ministry

When we understand how Paul uses these words, it makes complete sense where he goes next in this list. He gives four divine enablements for ministry. The character, endurance, purity, knowledge, slowness to anger and kindness is fruit. It is not Paul as he is naturally; this is Paul as he is empowered by God through his Holy Spirit for the ministry to which he has been called.

In Holy Spirit [ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]

After four character traits, fruit necessary for ministry, Paul turns to the source. In the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time he has brought up the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in this letter.

In 1:21 he mentions God in Christ by the Spirit who establishes, anoints, seals and guarantees us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (and then again in 5:5). In chapter 3 He announces the new covenant ministry which has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, who writes on tablets of human hearts (3:3); who gives life (3:6); who brings freedom (3:17); who effects transformation in us (3:18). He said

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

His competency is not from himself but from God through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has made Paul competent for the ministry. This is God a ordained, God empowered, God initiated, God sustained task.

In Love Unhypocritical [ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ]

In love unhypocritical. Paul seems to have shifted gears when he mentioned the Spirit from a list of four character traits or fruit to the means or divine enablements for ministry. Is he switching back to character traits here when he mentions sincere love? Is this his love for others, or God’s love for him that enables him for ministry. To see this as God’s love for him seems to fit his flow of thought, as well as the context. He has just said (in 5:14) that ‘the love of Christ compels us’ and there he defines that love concretely as Christ dying for us; that God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. God’s love is a compelling force for ministry. It is when I know that I am loved, sincerely loved, loved without a mask, that I am freed to love others as I have been loved. It is seeing the gospel in action, that God so loved me that he sent his only Son to die for me, that I am freed from the need to seek love, freed and empowered to give love freely away. Love without a mask.

7 In Word of Truth [ἐν λόγῳ ἀληθείας]

In the word of truth. Here again we could ask, is he referring to his own integrity? Should this be translated ‘in truthful speech’ (NIV, ESV) or ‘in the word of truth’ (NASB, KJV)?

So far in 2 Corinthians, Paul has referred to how he handles God’s word, speaking in Christ (2:17); he refuses to tamper with God’s word but openly proclaims the truth (4:2). God has entrusted to him the word of reconciliation. If we turn to Ephesians we see that he refers to ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (1:13). And in Colossians he points them to ‘the word of the truth, the gospel, which… is bearing fruit and increasing,… since … you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth’ (1:5-6). Paul encourages Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2Tim.2:15). Peter says that we were born again ‘ through the living and abiding word of God’ (1Pet.1:23), and James says that God ‘brought us forth by the word of truth’ and that we are to ‘receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls’ (Jam.1:18,21).

What ultimately authenticates Paul’s ministry is the content of the gospel he proclaims. It is not a mere human message. It is not his own message; it is God’s word, a word that causes new birth, that is able to save your souls, a word that is bearing fruit and increasing. As he commends the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

This word is at work. It is a powerful word.

In Power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ]

In the power of God. Paul opens the letter to the Romans by saying

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. He says in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of truth, the word of the cross, the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts God’s power with human weakness.

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

His competency for ministry, even his character is not from himself. It is from God. It is God’s Spirit at work in him and through him. His endurance of hardships, his purity, his knowledge, his slowness to anger, his kindness, is all of God worked in him by the Spirit.

May we too reflect the character of God in our conduct by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, through the transforming word of truth, the gospel.

***

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

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