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2 Corinthians 4:2; Characteristics of Authentic Ministry

07/29_2 Corinthians 4:2; Characteristics of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180729_2cor4_2.mp3

The Roots of Authentic Ministry

Therefore, on account of this; because we have this kind of ministry, a new covenant ministry, Holy Spirit ministry, ministry driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, ministry that gives life, ministry that brings righteousness, ministry that creates lasting transformation, ministry that removes the veils that obstruct the glory of God; because we have this kind of ministry, we do not faint, fail, lose heart, get discouraged, give up.

We do not lose heart because we have this ministry by God’s mercy. Not because we deserve it, not because of our performance, not because of our strategies or techniques, not because of our skill or expertise, or our tenacity, not because of our methods or our success rate. We have been entrusted with this transformational ministry by God’s mercy.

Last time we defined mercy as divine pity or compassion resulting in action to help one who is powerless to remedy his own situation. It is God’s rescue in response to our need. Each part of this definition is important; it is rooted in God’s emotional response to our need – he feels pity or compassion. This emotion of pity results in action to rescue – God does something to help. And it is God’s action toward those helpless to do anything – we are powerless to do ministry apart from him.

We do not give up even in the face of discouraging circumstances and failure because of God’s mercy. God’ feels divine compassion toward us. He feels compassion or pity because we are really and truly helpless, powerless to effect any change in anyone on our own. And his divine pity moves him to action; to show up with supernatural power to do what is beyond our reach.

We have experienced God’s mercy in salvation. We must also experience God’s mercy in ministry; in our service to others. Just as we are helpless to save ourselves from our sins, so we are helpless in ourselves to truly serve others. We must depend completely on the mercy of God to empower our service, our ministry to others. It is only in this way we can love and serve others and persevere in ministry.

Authentic Christian Ministry; What it is Not

In verse 2, Paul lays out what authentic Christian ministry looks like. He begins by renouncing the things Christian ministry must avoid, and then he gives us what authentic ministry consists of. Paul is defending the integrity of his apostolic ministry, but remember, we are all called to ministry, to love and serve others.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, …

Paul renounces the hidden shameful things. This word ‘renounce’ is a strong word, meaning to disown. This is the only place it occurs in the entire New Testament. He utterly rejects secret or hidden methods in ministry; he divorces himself from tactics that are shameful or would bring disgrace.

What kinds of things come to mind? Scandal, immorality, pornography, greed and financial corruption, manipulation, abuse of authority all come to mind. Anything that would bring shame on the name of Christ. Anything secretive, hidden, underhanded. What does Paul specifically have in mind when he says ‘we have renounced the hidden things of shame?’

Not Crafty or Cunning

He lists two things. First, not walking in craftiness or cunning. This word literally means the ability to do anything and everything, and it is always used in a negative sense. This is the willingness to do anything necessary to accomplish the desired ends. The scribes and chief priests sent out spies to catch Jesus in his words in Luke 20. They used flattery and asked him if it is lawful to pay the tribute tax to Caesar. We are told that Jesus ‘perceived their craftiness’. They were willing to use any means possible to bring an accusation against Jesus to get rid of him.

This word shows up later in 2 Corinthians 11

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

There it speaks of the temptation of Eve to disobey and rebel against God in the garden. Satan employed every means possible; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life to deceive and lead her astray. He worked all the angles. He came at her from every side.

We’ve had our share of door to door sales people come to sell us stuff we didn’t need. They are masters at working all the angles. We were newly married and had a vacuum salesman show up at our door. He demonstrated how amazing his vacuum was, and we were impressed, but when he told us the price tag we both laughed. That’s more than I paid for my car! Can I drive it to work? But he worked all the angles. He had won a new vacuum that he didn’t need and he was willing to give it to us for a fraction of the sticker price. I’m a sucker for a deal, so he had us. Another time, we were listening to a sales pitch for a time share resort we couldn’t afford. The salesman made the mistake of looking at my wife and asking me ‘but isn’t she worth it to you?’ That was low and dirty. Yes, she is worth it. She is worth protecting from financial ruin by not spending more than we can afford for something we don’t really need. We walked. Sales people learn how to work all the angles, manipulate emotions and personalities and they will do anything to close the deal.

Ephesians 4:14 is another place this word shows up. We are to equip the saints toward unity and maturity and Christ-likeness,

Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

There are a lot of winds of teaching blowing around. There is a lot of human cunning and deceitful schemes sold to Christians today. We all need to be plugged in to a solid Christian church, and be rooted in the truth of God’s word so that we aren’t tossed around and blown away by the latest thing that seems impressive.

I once attended some training on evangelism that sounded too much like door to door training for some multi-level marketing scam. Try to get a feel for where the person you are talking to is at, what they are struggling with, and adapt your presentation to target those felt needs, work to move the conversation toward a decision point, and don’t forget to close the deal. Now there is wisdom in listening well to where a person is at and skillfully applying the gospel personally to that individual, but we must be very careful not to be so eager to see a profession of faith in Jesus that we compromise the message, withhold vital information, or deceive in any way. We have renounced disgraceful underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning.

Not Adulterating God’s Word

Or tamper with God’s word. The word ‘tamper’ is a word that means to adulterate, falsify, to make false through deception or distortion. Peter, in 1 Peter is talking about our new birth brought about by the word of God

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

…25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

And then he says:

1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

He uses the root of this word twice in these verses. ‘Deceit’ is the noun form, and ‘pure’ is also the noun form with a negative prefix. We are to desire unadulterated milk, untampered with milk. We are to put away tampering or adulterating. Who would think of messing with a baby’s bottle? ‘It’s mostly milk; I’ve only added the tiniest amount of poison. I’m sure it’s not enough to do any harm.’ We have renounced disgraceful underhanded ways. We refuse to tamper with God’s word.

Turn over to 1 Thessalonians 2. Verse 3 contains this word; there it is translated ‘attempt to deceive.’ It is worth reading that passage because in it Paul is also defending the integrity of his ministry.

1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

Paul spoke of his boldness or openness of speaking in 2 Corinthians 3:12. He goes on to refute false motives:

1 Thessalonians 2:3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

It was not out of error or impurity or deceit; there was no flattery, no greed, no glory seeking. He was entrusted with the gospel, and his only aim was to please God. In 2 Corinthians 2:17 he said:

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

He goes on in 1 Thessalonians to lay out his heart and motives:

1 Thessalonians 2:7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 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 [truly] is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Here he equates the gospel he preached, the gospel of God with the word of God. In 2 Corinthians 4 he refuses to deceive or tamper with or adulterate God’s word. That is the negative.

The Open Statement of the Truth

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Now he gives the positive, what authentic ministry consists of – the open statement of the truth. He puts the truth out on open display. Nothing hidden, nothing secret, no sales pitch, nothing tampered with. Plain, up front, transparent, honest integrity.

What is the truth of God’s word? We saw in 1 Thessalonians that he equates the word of God with the gospel of God, the gospel he preached (2:4, 8-9, 13). In 1 Corinthians he equates the gospel with the word of the cross (1:17-18); he preached Christ crucified (1:23); he decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2). Here in 2 Corinthians he says that God is through us spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere, an aroma that brings death or brings life, to those perishing or to those being saved (2:14-16). In 1 Corinthians 15 he summarized the gospel he preached by which you are being saved this way: ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…’ He points to Christ, the long awaited promised King. But he gets right to the point; he died. He doesn’t waste any time with ‘Jesus was a great prophet, a great moral teacher.’ He came to die. And what is really offensive is why. He died for our sins. He doesn’t leave out the fact that I am a sinner. That I have a need. That I deserve death. ‘Don’t you think if you left out all that morbid death stuff and telling people they are sinners that less people would be offended and more people would want to listen?’ Maybe, but that wouldn’t be the gospel, and that wouldn’t save anyone. The gospel is Jesus Christ crucified in my place, now having conquered my guilt he rose victorious and he is alive. Today we can know him, have a relationship with him.

Ministry in the Presence of God

Paul commends himself to everyone’s conscience; even those who are perishing must admit he tells it like it is, he is up front, he shoots straight, he holds nothing back.

But the ultimate judge of his ministry is no man. As he said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

In 2 Corinthians 1:12 he said:

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

He speaks and lives in the presence of God. As he said in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ‘so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.’ He plays to an audience of one. He aims to please only one. He lives and ministers, he serves not to win the approval or the applause of those he serves, but in everything only to please the Lord God.

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

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August 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:18; Transformed By Beholding

07/08_2 Corinthians 3:18; Beholding and Being Transformed; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180708_2cor3_18.mp3

The Goal of Sanctification: Christ-likeness

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

How does sanctification work? This passage answers that question. Where justification is decisive forgiveness, being declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus, sanctification is the process of growing in holiness, growing into the likeness of Jesus. Paul’s desire for the Galatians is that Christ would be formed in them (Gal.4:19). He tells the Romans they are ‘predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’ (Rom.8:29) and to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom.13:14). He instructs the Ephesians to ‘put on the new self, created after the likeness of God’ (Eph.4:24). He tells the Colossians that the new self ‘is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col.3:10). 1 John looks forward to the day when ‘we shall be like him’ (1Jn.3:2).

Paul is talking about new covenant ministry, ministry of the Spirit. He is talking about being transformed. In 2 Corinthians he is comparing and contrasting the New Covenant ministry with that of the Old, the ministry of the Apostles with that of Moses. There was glory in the ministry of Moses. When he came down from meeting with the Lord face to face, his face was radiating, glorious. But it was a glory that was being brought to an end, being abolished. It was not meant to be the final word. The greater glory brought about by the Spirit remains.

Into The Same Image

This verse talks about Spirit wrought transformation, and the goal of the transformation is clear;

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…

We are being transformed into the same image. We need to understand the biblical concept of an image to appreciate what Paul is saying. When Jesus was challenged whether or not Jews should pay taxes to their Roman oppressors, he asked to see a coin. He asked whose image and inscription was on it . He responded “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt.22:21; Mk.12:17; Lk.20:25). Jesus was saying that the coin that carries the image of the emperor ultimately belongs to the emperor. And you, who are made in the image of God, ultimately belong to God.

This goes all the way back to Genesis, to creation, where God said:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Man was created to be the image, the visible representation of the invisible God (Deut.4:15-16; Col.1:15; 1Tim.1:17; Heb.11:27), to exercise dominion, to display God’s character and nature. But we refused to acknowledge God as God or give him thanks, we exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images, we exchanged the truth about God for a lie (Rom.1:21,23,25). We defaced and distorted the image of God so that we no longer accurately display what God is like. By Genesis 5:3 we are told that Adam ‘fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image.’ We were created to bear the image of God, but we sinned, and although that image still remains, it is marred and distorted.

But God intends to restore his image in man. 1 Corinthians 15 says:

1 Corinthians 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

We have carried the skewed image handed down to us from Adam. But God intends to remake and restore his image in us. God sent his only Son to be born as a man, who is

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

John 1:18 says:

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 is

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

And he says of us:

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The goal of our transformation is to be conformed to the image of Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God.

They Had Been With Jesus

How does this transformation come about? How are we shaped and conformed to the image of Jesus? We are being transformed into the same image from glory into glory. The source of the transformation is glory; the glory of God, and it results in God’s glory being reflected in us. In Acts 4 we are told that the rulers and elders and scribes together with the high priest had taken the apostles into custody because they were preaching salvation in Jesus. It says:

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

They saw in them an unnatural boldness that they couldn’t explain. In verse 4 it says that in response to their preaching ‘many who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand’. The religious leaders were astonished. The occupation and upbringing of the apostles couldn’t explain this. Their education (or lack thereof) couldn’t explain it. Their social status couldn’t explain it. The only thing they could attribute it to was ‘that they had been with Jesus.’ They had been with Jesus. They had been with Jesus. They didn’t conclude that they had learned from Jesus, or that they had studied under Jesus. The conclusion was that these men had been with Jesus. They had been transformed by being with Jesus. Verse 8 tells us that Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ when he spoke. His being filled with the Spirit was a direct result of spending time with Jesus.

Transformed By Beholding

Here in 2 Corinthians we are told that we all have access to this transformation.

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

We are being transformed by beholding. Not by our doing, not by our working, not by our striving, not by our diligence or effort. Not by our studies, not by our learning, but by our looking, by our being with. When Moses went in to meet with God, he came out changed. He didn’t do anything. He didn’t even know that something had happened to him. But everybody could tell. He had been in God’s presence, and it left a mark.

Jesus, describing being born of the Spirit in John 3 said:

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Jesus is referring back to what happened in Numbers 21, when the people rebelled against God and God sent poisonous serpents to punish them for their sin.

Numbers 21:8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Note all that was required to be saved was to look. Jesus equates this looking with believing in him. I look in faith to Jesus lifted up on the cross, bearing my sins, and I am saved. This looking to the Son brings about Holy Spirit transformation, the new birth.

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

Beholding we are being transformed. Are you looking? Are you beholding? Does Psalm 63 express your heart?

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Are you desperate to be in the presence of God? Does Psalm 27 express your ruling passion?

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

Is gazing upon the beauty of the Lord the one thing your seek after? Psalm 17 links beholding with becoming.

Psalm 17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Beholding his face brings about his likeness in us.

We all understand how this works. We become like the one we spend the most time with. We imitate the ones we admire. You pick up the habits, the mannerisms, the idiosyncrasies of the person you spend the most time with. There may be more than one way to accomplish a task, but you tend to do it the way you were shown by the one who taught you. In music or in athletics, this may be intentional. You may spend hours studying someone who is great, working to imitate their techniques. Often this is unconscious. I like to listen to different preachers. In different seasons I might spend more time listening to one or another. If I’m listening to a lot of James MacDonald, I find myself preaching a little more like James. If I am listening to more of John Piper or Timothy Keller, I begin to sound a little more like John or Tim. It’s not intentional. It’s not that I’m trying to mimic them. It just happens. You become like the one you listen to. You pick up things from the one you spend a lot of time with.

The scriptures invite us to imitation. Examples are powerful, both good and bad. Don’t do that; instead be like this. There are at least 10 direct commands or invitations in the New Testament to imitate God or godly people (1Cor.4:16; 11:1; Eph.5:1; 1Thess.1:6; 2:14; 2Thess.3:7,9; Heb.6:12; 13:7; 3Jn.1:11; cf. Lk.6:40).

1 John 3:2 also makes this connection between beholding and being transformed.

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.

We will be like him because – because we shall see him as he is. Seeing results in transformation. Beholding is becoming.

Unmediated Beholding

There is a verbal link between verse 13 and verse 18. The emphatic word ‘καθάπερ‘; ‘just like’ or ‘just as’ appears in both verses. In verse 13 Paul say his boldness or openness is not just like Moses. At the end of verse 18, he says we are being transformed into glory just as from the Lord the Spirit. It is so instructive to see what he does not say. Paul is drawing a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New, between Moses’ ministry and the Apostolic ministry, and he is establishing the authenticity of his own ministry. We would expect him to say it is not just like Moses’ veiled ministry; it is just like our apostolic unveiled ministry. But he completely removes the intermediary. It is not just as the veiled ministry of Moses; it is direct, just as from the Lord the Spirit. The Old Covenant was a mediated ministry; the people had no direct access to the Lord; in fact:

Exodus 20:18 … the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

But in the New Covenant:

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Paul is careful to not place himself in the mediatorial role of Moses. Paul emphatically includes us, his readers, when he says:

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord…

In the New Covenant we have access purchased by the blood of our Lord Jesus, we all have blood-bought access with boldness into the direct presence of Almighty God. We are invited in, to gaze on his beauty, to bask in his glory, to be transformed.

In the Old Covenant, the Israelites could not gaze at Moses face because of its glory (v.7). Moses put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze (v.13). Even today, a veil lies over the hearts of Israel (v.14). But we all with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord

How To Behold

How do we look at his face? How do we behold the glory of the Lord? Is this some mystical experience we should seek? Sing some worship songs, close your eyes and visualize? No. Be careful. Deuteronomy 4 warns:

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

Don’t make images, metal or mental. God is invisible. You saw no form; you heard only a voice. So how do we behold the glory of the Lord?

This text tells us. See what he says in verses 14 and 15? When they read the Old Covenant with hardened minds the veil remains unlifted. Whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. Reading the scriptures, seeking Jesus in his written word. Verbal revelation is how we behold. In chapter 2, hearing and smelling were intertwined; he says that his preaching stinks. To some it is the stench of death, to others the smell of life. What he says smells. Here in chapter 3, he mixes hearing with seeing. We behold the glory of the Lord when by the Spirit we turn to see Jesus in his word. Beholding we are being transformed. This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in The Lord The Spirit

07/01_2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in the LORD the Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180701_2cor3_17.mp3

Paul is talking about boldness and confidence in ministry; where does his competency come from? Who is sufficient to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere, which among those being saved is the aroma of life to life, but among the perishing is the aroma of death to death? ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2:16)

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 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. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul is competent, not in himself, but God has made him sufficient to be a minister of the New Covenant, a minister of the Spirit. He contrasts his ministry with the glorious ministry of Moses

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

Paul has in mind Exodus 34, where Moses came down from the mountain from talking with God, his face shining or glorious.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Paul’s apostolic ministry is not like Moses’ ministry; it is an unveiled ministry; he is bold, open, plain-speaking. The Old Testament still today remains veiled to those who do not turn to Jesus. Their minds are hardened. A veil lies over their hearts.

Only in Christ is that veil rendered ineffective, abolished, brought to nothing. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is lifted.

Exodus 34 and the New Covenant

Paul takes Exodus 34:34 and applies it to his New Covenant ministry. Exodus 34:34 reads:

Exodus 34:34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, …

Paul continues to contrast the Old Covenant ministry of Moses with Apostolic New Covenant ministry. Notice how he adapts the Exodus wording in 2 Corinthians 3:16 and applies it to the New Covenant:

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Where Exodus 34 has ‘Moses,’ 2 Corinthians has ‘one’ The reference to Moses is generalized and left open. Under the Old Covenant, only Moses had access to the presence of the Lord. Now anyone. Anyone can turn and enter the presence of the Lord.

The verb ‘went in’ is changed to ‘turns’ The implication is that one turns away from something else and turns toward the Lord. This word is used for the conversion of the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:9

1 Thessalonians 1:9 … how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

In the New Covenant there is a turning; a turning away from something, and a turning toward the Lord. What are we to turn away from? We will come back to this question in a minute.

The voice of the verb ‘remove’ is changed from middle; something Moses did to himself, to passive; something that is done to the one turning by someone else. Moses removed his own veil. The unbeliever is not able to remove the veil that lies over his own heart and mind. It must be removed for him by another. Only through Christ is it taken away.

And a conditional element is added; ‘if’. If or when one turns, the veil is removed.

If; Our Righteousness and God’s

Why ‘if’? And if anyone can now turn to the Lord, why don’t more turn? Why is the New Covenant access rejected by so many, especially so many of God’s chosen people? After he came to the city of Corinth:

Acts 18:5 …Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Why do so many of the Jews refuse to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah? This may have been one of the questions raised by those who were critical of Paul’s ministry. If he is really a genuine apostle, why isn’t he more effective, especially among his own people?

Paul’s own testimony gives us a personal illustration of what he is talking about and helps us understand why so many reject the message.

He says in Philippians 3 that he has reason for confidence in the flesh, and he catalogs his resume.

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

Paul had a righteousness that was under the law. He claimed to be blameless. He had reason for confidence in the flesh. Yet he traded it all in.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,

Rubbish? A blameless righteousness under the law? A total loss? Why?

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—

He traded in his own righteousness, law righteousness, for the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. He traded his self-righteousness in for a relationship with Jesus. This is why so many who have the law fail to receive the gift of God. They have confidence in the flesh. They have a righteousness under the law, and are unwilling to let go of what they have worked so hard to attain to receive freely what someone else has earned. In Romans 10 Paul talks about his fellow Israelites:

Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

So in turning to the Lord, what must we turn away from? From confidence in the flesh; from our own self-righteousness. One must turn away from self, from self-confidence, from self-reliance and turn to the Lord. Paul claimed to be blameless according to righteousness under the law, yet he considered that rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!

Paul calls it ignorance in Romans 10. He calls it blindness in 2 Corinthians. There is a veil that lies over their hearts. So many are blind and don’t even know it. The veil must be removed. They can’t remove their own blindness; they don’t even know it is there. The veil must be removed through Christ.

The Lord The Spirit Is

He says ‘if one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.’ In Exodus 34, ‘Lord’ is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH, God’s covenant name. In the Septuagint (LXX) this is translated into the Greek as Kurios. In Philippians 3:8, a verse we already looked at, Paul refers to ‘ Christ Jesus my Lord,’ connecting Jesus with YHWH of the Old Testament. In Romans 10 this is even more clear. He says in

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

…12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Christian confession is ‘Jesus is Lord’ or Jesus is YHWH. He backs this up from a quotation of Joel 2:32 that whoever calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus, when asked who he was (Jn.1:23) cited Isaiah 40:3 ‘Make straight the way of YHWH, the Lord’. Clearly in the New Testament Jesus is identified as YHWH of the Old Testament.

But in all of Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament, ‘Lord’ refers to God generally, not specifically to any one member of the Trinity. Here in verse 17 he clarifies. YHWH, Lord, in Exodus 34:34 is the Spirit.

Paul has been talking about the ministry of the Spirit in contrast to the ministry of death, of condemnation, of the letter, that which is being done away with. When Moses took off the veil and entered the presence of YHWH, he was in the presence of the Lord, the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who makes alive, who justifies and makes righteous, who remains. It is the Spirit who writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts, hearts that have been made flesh by the regenerating New Covenant work of the Spirit. Spirit in the Hebrew is breath or wind. It is the voice of God that makes God known.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The Spirit is the one who reveals the things of God to us. The Spirit is the Spirit who is God, and he is the Spirit of God. There is identification with distinction. Jesus is YHWH; the Father is YHWH; the Spirit is YHWH. But the Spirit is the Spirit of (indicating possession) God. He is God’s Spirit, the Spirit who belongs to God. The Spirit is YHWH, and he is also the Spirit of YHWH; the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is… Freedom!

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! This is an exclamation! Where the Spirit of the Lord is …Freedom! What is the freedom he is talking about? This implies there is no freedom outside the Spirit of the Lord. Humankind not free; we need to be set free by his Spirit. We are naturally in bondage. Oh, we do have freedom; we can do whatever we want, and we do, and it does not go well for us. We are in a hole, with a shovel, and we can do whatever we want with our shovel. And that gets us deeper and deeper in the hole.

What is the freedom Paul is talking about here? The context in verse 18 is freedom to enter the presence of the Lord unveiled. In verse 14-15 it is freedom from hardened minds and veiled hearts. It is freedom to see Jesus in the Old Testament. In verse 3 it is the freedom that comes from having stony hearts turned to flesh. In verse 6 it is freedom from death, the freedom of being made alive. In verse 9 it is freedom from condemnation; the freedom of righteousness. In verse 11 it is the freedom of that which is permanent; freedom from that which is doomed to pass away. Freedom is parallel to the confidence of verse 4 and the open-faced boldness of verse 12.

The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. But not the freedom you might think This is freedom from blindness, the freedom of an imputed righteousness, freedom of access to enter the presence of the Lord, freedom of unhindered boldness, freedom from false pretense, transparency to be who you have been called to be, freedom of integrity. One author writes this freedom is ‘a liberation from a heart turned in on itself’ [Seifrid, p.177 PNTC]

Paul is referring back to Exodus. In that context freedom was freedom from bondage to an oppressive and cruel taskmaster. It was freedom from slavery. But it was also freedom for something. It was freedom to serve the Lord, freedom to obey and follow the Lord; freedom be in the presence of the Lord as the people of the Lord. It was freedom from, but it was also freedom for.

Paul says in Galatians 5

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

…13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The freedom we are called to is freedom of access, freedom to be in the presence of the Lord, freedom of relationship. We are set free to respond to God’s goodness. We are set free to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and that will naturally spill over into love and service to others, love for neighbor, even love for enemy.

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! Enjoy your blood-bought freedom. You have been set free by the Holy Spirit to see Jesus for who he is and receive from him life and righteousness, access to the Father. Enjoy freedom of relationship with God. Enjoy your freedom to love God, freedom to love and serve others, openly and plainly share truth with others, freedom to minister to others.

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

July 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills, The Spirit Makes Alive

05/20_2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills; The Spirit Makes Alive ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180520_2cor3_6.mp3

What we want to be about, what we must be about as followers of Jesus, is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. We have seen in 2 Corinthians 3 that the sufficiency, the competence for this kind of ministry comes through Christ and toward or in the presence of God. We must recognize we are not competent in ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. Anything. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ But then Paul says we are competent, because of God,

2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

This raises some questions. What does it mean to be a minister? What is the new covenant? How do we minister not by the letter, but by the Spirit? What is the role of the letter and the role of the Spirit?

Ministers

As we saw last time, a minister is simply a servant. One who serves others for their good. If we are all called to be ministers of a new covenant, we need to know what this means.

Covenant

Paul introduces this concept of a new covenant here. He says that he has been made sufficient to be a minister of a new covenant. What is the new covenant? We began to look at this when we were exploring the contrast between letters on tablets of stone with letters written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of fleshly hearts.

A covenant is a binding contract, an agreement between two parties. God made a covenant with his people at Mount Sinai, after he freed them out of slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

Deuteronomy says:

Deuteronomy 4:13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.

God gave Israel his covenant, his commands, his requirements. This was a binding agreement written on stone. He says in Leviticus:

Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

If a person does them, by them he shall live. Obedience equals life. Jesus affirmed this. When he was asked by a lawyer ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus responds ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it? The lawyer summarized the law by the two great commands; love God and love neighbor as yourself. Jesus said:

Luke 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Do this and you will live. The lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked ‘and who is my neighbor?’ He wanted to check off a box to show that he was good enough. Jesus gave him the parable of the good Samaritan. Everyone you come in contact with is your neighbor. Keep the law and you will live. Obedience to the law equals life.

The Letter Kills

The flip side of that, of course, is disobedience equals death. And that’s what we see if we look back to the giving of the law. Exodus 19-31 record the giving of the law to Moses. It is interesting to look back and see the difference before and after the giving of the law.

-In Exodus 14:6-14, at the Red Sea, before Sinai, Israel cried out to the Lord and complained that they would die in the wilderness; God parted the sea and rescued them. In Numbers 11:1-3, immediately after leaving Sinai, the people complained about misfortunes and the fire of the Lord burned among them. In Numbers 16:41-50 the people grumbled against their leaders, and 14,700 died in plague. In Numbers 21:4-9 the people become impatient and discontent; and the LORD sent fiery serpents to kill many.

-In Exodus 15:22-27, before the law, the people grumbled because the water was bitter; and the bitter water was made sweet. In Exodus 17:1-7 people grumbled and quarreled because they had no water; God instructed Moses to strike the rock and water came out from the rock for the people. But in Numbers 20:2-13, after the law was given, when there was no water and people quarreled, God instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, he disobeyed and struck the rock. Water came out, but because of their disobedience, Moses and Aaron would die in the wilderness and not enter the land.

-In Exodus 16:1-18, before the law, the people grumbled because of hunger; God provides manna and quail for them to eat. But in Numbers 11, after the law came, the people grumble about no meat, and God sent quail until it came out their nostrils, and he sent a very great plague to destroy them.

– In Exodus 16:19-30, before the law, the people are instructed to rest and not go out looking for manna on the Sabbath, but they disobey. Nothing happens. But in Numbers 15:32-36, a person caught gathering sticks on the sabbath is stoned to death for breaking the law.

– In Exodus 17:8-14, before Sinai, God defeats Amalek before Israel. In Numbers 14:39-45, after Sinai, Israel is defeated before the Amalekites and Canaanites.

Some of the very same things that had no consequences before the law, after the law brought death. The history of Israel after the giving of the law is a chronicle of disobedience and death. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the letter kills. This is very literally true.

Romans and the Law/Letter

Paul gives us more systematic teaching on the role and purpose of the law in the book of Romans. It will serve us well to look there to fill out our understanding of what he means when he says that ‘the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.’

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

The Jews prided themselves on having the law. But as we have seen, unless the law is obeyed, it brings death.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law was given to shut every mouth and hold all people accountable to God. The law shows us our sin; it does not make us righteous. This is made even more clear in chapter 4.

Romans 4:15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

The law brings wrath. We see this graphically displayed in the history of Israel after Sinai. Romans 5 tells us

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass…

The law did not create righteousness; it actually did the opposite; it served to increase trespass. Romans 7 tells us how.

Romans 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

The law actually stirred up our sinful passions. Paul gives a personal example:

Romans 7:7 … if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

He is describing what he said in 3:20 that ‘through the law comes the knowledge of sin.’ The commandment that promised life; the law says ‘do this and you shall live’ proved in his own experience to deliver death.

If the law produces death, does this mean that the law is bad? Paul answers:

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 … It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

The law is holy, righteous, good, even spiritual. But the law puts on display the sinfulness of sin. The law’s good purpose is to show us our sin, to stop our mouths, to hold us accountable to God, and to put us to death. I said that is the law’s good purpose. How is that good? Good is not determined by what is good for me. It’s not all about me! Good is what is good absolutely. It is good and right for God to display his justice and to punish sin. But this is good for me. It is good for the law to show me my sin, because only sinners who confess their sin can be forgiven. It is good for the law to put me to death, because only those who are dead can be raised to newness of life. Only those who are shown their desperate need will cry out to God for rescue. Jesus said

Mark 2:17 …“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The law plays a vital role in showing us God’s justice and our need. This is what makes the good news so very very good! The law brings us to the end of ourselves, and that is very good. The letter kills but the Spirit makes alive.

A New Covenant

This is where the new covenant promises come in. As we looked a few weeks ago, God promises in Jeremiah and Ezekiel to make a new covenant with his people, a covenant different from the covenant he made with the fathers, not like the covenant that they broke.

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

This is the contrast Paul draws in 2 Corinthians; They old covenant was written on tablets of stone, and the result was disobedience and death. The new covenant of which he is a minster, is a heart agreement. No longer is it an external standard, which we may even agree is good, but our competing desires and inclination to disobedience thwart our best efforts to keep it. Now in the new covenant God writes his instruction on our hearts. It is part of us. It is internalized. It is who we are. It now defines us.

forgiveness

A critical component of this new covenant that God works in us is that he says ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more. This is powerful. This is so powerful for obedience. If we feel like a failure, if we feel like we have already disappointed him, we feel defeated. The guilt and shame are disabling. It’s like an overwhelming record of debt that stands against us. When you’re in debt and really see no way out, it’s easy to just give up and spend even more, run the credit card again, dig the hole deeper, We feel crippled to ever be good enough, to ever measure up. But in the context of forgiveness; this is so beautiful, so powerful, let this sink in an saturate your soul and transform everything; God says he remembers your sin no more. If you are in Christ, you always, always have a clean slate. You are always accepted. You are always good enough. You can’t sin fast enough to make the record stick. Do you see how powerful this is? Try to fight when you are all tied up and ensnared and weighed down. You can hardly even move. But God cuts the cords and sets you free and keeps you free so that you can fight.

This is so powerful, and I pray it shapes the way we relate to each other, to our spouse, to our children. Shame and guilt can be a motivating factor, but it is disabling. Forgiveness is so much more powerful.

they shall all know me

Notice another key aspect of this new covenant in Jeremiah 31. it says ‘they shall all know me.’ Paul is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. The new covenant is built on relationship. Intimacy. This is not second-hand knowledge. I know God and I have to tell you, God says what you’re doing is wrong. Someone stands between. You’re not hearing it first hand. It’s not direct. Someone is in between. That’s exactly the way it was at Sinai with the law. The people said ‘don’t let God speak to us directly. Moses, you go listen to God and then come tell us what he said.’ When I send one of my kids to pass along instruction to one of their siblings (and this happens a lot in our house) it doesn’t carry much weight. They say ‘hey, you need to do this’ and it’s easy to ignore. They might even say ‘hey, dad said you should do this’ and that carries a little more weight, but it’s still easy to ignore. Sometimes something gets lost in the delivery. The messenger got sidetracked and never delivered my message. Something got lost in the communication and something different than what I asked gets done. Is it the messenger who failed or the one who was supposed to receive the message who didn’t listen? It’s easy to shift blame. But when I show up personally, that’s completely different. It’s no longer someone passing along second hand information about what I said. Now it’s me, in relationship, really present, it’s direct. That’s what the new covenant does. It brings each of us into direct relationship with God. It’s no longer someone else telling you what you ought to be doing. It’s no longer mediated. It’s God himself communicating directly.

And it’s within the context of loving relationship. It can try to tell someone else’s kids what to do, but if the relationship isn’t there, if the accountability and love and respect in relationship hasn’t been established, it isn’t very effective. They run to mom or dad and say ‘that weird guy just told me what to do.’ In the new covenant, God brings us into relationship with himself. They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

a new heart and God’s Spirit

Another piece of this transforming power of the new covenant we see in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

God gives us a heart transplant. Our hard rebellious heart needs to be removed, and replaced by a soft, tender heart, a heart capable of love, a heart receptive to the Lord. But he doesn’t stop there. In the New covenant he puts his Holy Spirit in us. This is the aspect that Paul highlights in 2 Corinthians. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. O hear this! Let the truth of this sink in! The Holy Spirit of the living God; God the Holy Spirit, comes in, takes up residence in us. He lives in us and makes us alive. He transforms us from the inside. He will never leave!

Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are released from the law to serve in the new way of the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This is the message we are called to minister! This is the good news of the gospel! Through the cross there is forgiveness, no matter what you have done. You can know God yourself, you can enjoy relationship. God the Spirit comes to live inside and make you alive, truly alive, eternally alive! So walk in the Spirit and spread the knowledge of Jesus everywhere!

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

May 23, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation

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

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

Paul Commends Himself (Again!)

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

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

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

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

In Romans 16, he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are Our Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Letter From Christ

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

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

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

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

Ink / Spirit

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

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

Heart of Stone / Flesh

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

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

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

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says:

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

And again in Ezekiel 36:26

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

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

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

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

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

New Covenant Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

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

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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

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

2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Established by God in Christ through the Spirit

02/04 _2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Established by God in Christ through the Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180204_2cor1_21-22.mp3

Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:1-20

We are in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. We have taken a break for a while, so let’s look back over the first verses to get our bearings.

(1-2) Paul introduces himself with his divine authority, but he makes it clear he is not alone. He mentions his unity with his co-workers. He addresses this new community with a new identity; the church of God; saints. He identifies their new relationship; peace with God that only comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus.

(3-7) He omits his usual thanksgiving for his readers, instead inviting them to bless God with him. God is worthy to be worshiped because he is merciful when we get ourselves into trouble. He gives strength in the middle of adversity; and he gives purpose to our affliction, so that we can comfort others. He identifies the normal Christian life as a cross shaped life of suffering for the good of others, sharing the sufferings of Christ.

(8-10) He lets them in on his own trials, his own sense of despair. He points to the purpose of that despair, to wean from self-confidence so that their confidence would be in God alone, the God who raises the dead. They can have confidence in future rescue because God has always been faithful.

(11) Instead of thanking God for his readers, Paul invites the Corinthians to help him by their prayers, in order that thanksgiving will be multiplied when the many who prayed see God’s blessings in response to their prayers.

(12-14) Paul boasts in the grace of God and not his own wisdom or effort as the driving principle of his life; and he points forward to the final day when both he and his church will boast in each other in the very presence of Jesus.

(15-16) In these verses, Paul begins to explain his change in travel plans, as this seems to have created tension in the relationship. His desire, his heart was to afford them a second experience of grace; a double opportunity to financially support his missionary activity as they sent him on his way. He made his plans for their ultimate good.

(17-20) And then he grounds his decision making in the nature and character of God. God is faithful. God is for us in the gospel. God says Yes to us in Jesus. As many promises as God made, all those promises find their fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, came to be in them, came to live among them through their preaching. This church exists to bring God glory; he makes his decisions to bring God glory. It is all about God’s glory, and it is through Jesus that we get to say the Amen to God for his glory.

In verse 3 he blesses God; in verse 11 he multiplies thanksgiving to God; in verse 14 they will mutually boast in the grace of God; in verse 20 it is through Jesus we can together say the Amen to God for his glory. In fact, in Revelation 3:14 Jesus is called ‘the Amen’.

Amen = Established

This word Amen is actually a Hebrew word brought over into the Greek of the New Testament; it means ‘firm, trustworthy, surely; let it be confirmed, let it be established, so be it.’

He picks this thought up in verse 21 with a Greek word that means ‘to make firm, steadfast, to confirm.’ We can say ‘Amen,’ or ‘let it be established’ to the glory of God, because God is the one who establishes us with you in Christ. All the promises of God are made firm and confirmed for us in Jesus. God is the one who establishes us in Christ through the gift of his Spirit. To God be the glory; we stand firm because of the establishing work of the triune God. We say ‘establish it God!’ because God is establishing us.

Paul used this same word at the beginning of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, … 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

7…our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(that word ‘confirmed’ in 1 Cor.1:6 and ‘will sustain’ in 1:8 is the same word as ‘establishes’ in 2 Cor.1:21) The testimony of Christ was confirmed, established, made sure in you, and our Lord Jesus Christ will confirm, establish, make you sure to the end. That is the past and the future aspect of God’s establishing work. He established the testimony of Christ, he will establish you irreproachable, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. And here in 2 Corinthians, he is looking at the ongoing present work of establishing.

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.

Us With You

Notice the together aspect of God’s establishing work. God establishes us with you. This is not ‘I’m on my own over here and God is establishing me, and you’re over there on your own being established by God’ as if it were a private personal thing. This is a together with thing. So much of the bible is a together with thing. Yes, of course God works in us each individually, personally. But our culture is one of independence and isolation. We need to pay attention to the ‘us together with you.’ God works in relationship. It is often in the together with relationships that God does his sanctifiying work. We all want to be established in Christ, don’t we? But often we unknowingly resist his work in our lives.

There is 8 years between me and my nearest sibling, so much of my growing up years I was like an only child. I enjoyed a great deal of independence, and I didn’t really have to learn to get along with others.

After I began to walk with Jesus, I could honestly look at myself and think I was doing pretty well. I was so even-tempered, that some of my high school friends would actually do things to see if they could get me angry. It rarely worked.

Then I got married… My wife is an amazing person, and I know most of you won’t believe me, but she is a sinner. And I am a sinner. I’m not saying that she brought out the worst in me, but that relationship, a close intimate relationship with another person stirred up some of the junk that was clogging up my heart. Some of that sin and selfishness and pride that was in there all along became more visible. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. If I don’t know it’s there, I can’t deal with it. I can’t ask God to deal with it in me. I can have all this junk just sitting there clogging up the arteries of my heart and I don’t even know it. I can even become prideful, thinking I’m better than others, which is the worst sin of all.

Many see this happen and want out of the relationship; she brings out the worst in me. He just makes me so mad. That is by design! That’s the point, it was in you, and it needed to be brought out into the open so it could get addressed. Work out healthy patterns of confession and forgiveness and reconciliation.

And then we had kids… God works in us through relationships. Especially through the junk in relationships, the hurt, the offense, the misunderstanding, the pain. Celebrate that. Don’t go around hurting people on purpose. But when you are hurt, celebrate that God loves you and he is at work showing you you so that he can make you the you he intends you to be.

God is establishing us with you. It is a together with thing, that God does in and through relationships with others.

Ongoing Establish-ing

Notice also the ongoing activity of God in this establishing work. This is a present action founded on past completed actions. Establishes is present. It is founded on past complete actions. Has anointed, has sealed, has given his Spirit are all past tense. But establishes is present. It is continuous. It is ongoing. It is not done yet. God is continually at work in us together with you establishing us, confirming us, making us steadfast. This is a process. We often refer to it as sanctification.

Note that Paul the apostle puts himself and his ministry partners right in there with the Corinthians. He doesn’t say ‘I have been established, and now God is establishing you.’ No, God establishes us with you. The Apostle Paul is a work in progress! And he needs the Corinthians and their messy relationship for God to do his work in him.

God Establishes

Notice also who is doing the establishing. God gets the glory; ‘Amen, establish us Lord;’ because God is the one who does the establishing. ‘Us with you’ are the recipients of God’s establishing work. I can’t make myself firm, sure, steadfast. I can’t confirm myself. This is God’s work. The triune God is the one who does this. See that in the text? God, in Christ, by giving us his Spirit. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit conspiring together to confirm and establish us. That’s powerful!

Anointed

Let’s look at how he does this. He lists three things, all past actions, all connected with the work of the Holy Spirit. Each one of these is worthy of its own sermon, but we’ll just go through them quickly.

God anointed us. There’s a play on words here that we miss in the English. In the Greek it reads ‘εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ χρίσας’; because the title ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed one.’ We could translate it ‘God establishes us with you in the Anointed one, and has anointed us’ or ‘God establishes us with you in Christ, and has christened us’.

In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil as a way to set them apart for their specific office of service. Jesus, our great Prophet, Priest and King was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Lk.4:18; Act.10:38). Jesus the Christ is the Anointed one, and this text links us closely with him. I believe this is the only verse that tells us that God has anointed us. 1 John 2 talks about the anointing we have received (v.20, 27). Anointing gives divine enablement for service.

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Jesus says in Luke 4:18

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

God has anointed us, like Jesus, with the Holy Spirit for service to others.

Sealed

And God has sealed us. Sealing was a mark of ownership, protection, authenticity and authority. A king or someone with authority had the seal, a ring or cylinder on a cord that could be pressed into hot wax or soft clay to leave an official mark or impression. This is a seal of queen Jezebel, who we know from 1 Kings 21:8 used her husband Ahab’s seal to order the execution of Naboth. The other is an example of a cylinder seal of Xerxes, and its impression in clay, depicting queen Esther. We read in Esther of sealing official documents with the king’s signet ring.

Matthew 27 talks about the tomb of Jesus being sealed to make it secure under the authority of Pilate. Revelation 5 talks about a scroll with seven seals which had to be broken to read the contents. Revelation 7 talks about the servants of God receiving a seal on their foreheads marking them as belonging to God and securing their protection (Rev.9:4).

Ephesians 1 talks about God blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He chose us for holiness, he predestined us for adoption, he redeemed and forgave us, he predestined us for an inheritance,

Ephesians 1:12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In this verse we see that the Holy Spirit is both the seal and the guarantee of our inheritance. When we heard the good news and believed in Jesus we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. We were marked out as belonging to God. That’s our part; we hear the gospel and we believe, trust, rely, depend on Jesus.

Ephesians 4:30 tells us by what we say, by what comes out of our mouths,

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption. We are protected and preserved by him; we bear his mark of authenticity.

Given the Deposit of His Spirit

God is establishing us, he has anointed us, he has sealed us, and he has given us the guarantee of the Spirit in our hearts. A guarantee was a down payment or earnest given. This is different from a pledge, like we see in Genesis 38 in the story of Judah and Tamar; he gave her his signet, cord and staff as a pledge that he would send payment, and he expected to get those things back when he sent the promised payment. An earnest or downpayment is the first part of the payment that guarantees that the full payment will be made, but the earnest money is part of that payment, and is not returned when payment is made.

God has given us his Spirit in our hearts as downpayment. Later, in 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about our resurrection bodies, when ‘what is mortal may be swallowed up by life,’

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

This gives us confidence even in the face of discouragement and adversity.

We already looked at Ephesians 1, which uses both the sealing and the guarantee.

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

The Holy Spirit is the seal of our inheritance, marking authenticity and ownership, protecting and preserving us for it. The Holy Spirit is also the earnest or downpayment of our inheritance, the first installment of what we will receive. The Holy Spirit in our hearts is not temporary, to be replaced later by something else, he is ours for eternity!

God the Holy Spirit anointing us for service, sealing us as his, living inside of us as the guarantee of an eternity with him! O treasure the gift of the Holy Spirit in your heart!

God is doing his establishing work in us. This is a gift. Don’t try to earn; freely receive. Trust him, lean in, embrace what he is doing. He began the work; he will complete it. He guaranteed it by putting his own Spirit in our hearts.

Respond with a hearty Amen! Glory to the triune God, who establishes us with you, makes firm, makes steadfast, confirms us. Establish us O Lord!

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

February 5, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 5-6)

01/21 Re-Oreinet; Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180121_prayer-unity.mp3

2 weeks ago we looked at prayer as intimacy; enjoying our blood-bought fellowship with God, listening to his word, talking with him, enjoying his presence.

Today I want to look at Ephesians 5 and 6, being filled with the Spirit and spiritual warfare and prayer in the Spirit.

Being Filled with the Spirit

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? We tend to import into the passage ideas about some supernatural religious experience, some ecstatic feeling. We might think of casting out demons and prophesying and doing mighty works, forgetting that Jesus said that some who did these things in his name had no relationship with him, and therefore were not filled with the Spirit (Mt.7:21-23). Instead of importing ideas from outside, we ought to start with what the passage itself actually says.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

…15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This passage contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk with wine. When you are drunk, enough of the alcohol has gotten into your bloodstream that it begins to affect the way you think and the way you act. Being filled with the Spirit must mean that enough of the Spirit has gotten into us that our actions and our thinking begins to be affected by the Spirit.

In the immediate context of this passage, being filled with the Spirit is walking in wisdom, making the best use of the time, knowing the will of the Lord. Being filled with the Spirit has to do with how we address one another, and how we address the Lord. Is there a song in your heart? Is there a nautral overflow of joy that just must express itself? Are you thankful? Always and for everything? Being filled with the Spirit will be seen in our interaction with other people. This passage goes on to give instructions to wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. How we interact with the people in our lives will show if we are filled with the Spirit.

John’s letters make this really clear. His language for a Spirit controlled life is ‘walking in the light’. You can’t claim to be a Spirit filled person walking in the light if you hate your brother (1Jn.2:9,11).

In Galatians 5 Paul tells us to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (5:16) and be ‘led by the Spirit’ (5:18) and contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5, walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit look like not gratifying fleshly desires, but instead walking in love and the other things that are characteristic of the Spirit. This life of love and joy and peace, this walking by and being led by the Spirit in Galatians 5 must at least overlap with what Paul says in Ephesians 5 about being filled with the Spirit.

Spiritual Warfare

We have these instructions in Ephesians 5-6 on the relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, and then this passage on spiritual warfare. Again, we are inclined to import into this passage a bunch of what we think spiritual warfare is. We tend to think it has to do with demonic activity and a sense of spiritual oppression and doing battle with the enemy. We may tend to romanticize it and imagine ourselves dressed in armor, sword in hand, skillfully swinging and dismembering the demonic hordes. It may be all that, and the text does invite us into the imagery, but we tend to divorce it from its context. This passage is a reminder that ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood’ (6:12). Connected with the context, that means that your wife is not the enemy. Your husband is not the enemy. Your children or your parents are not the enemy. Your employer or your employees are not the enemy. The other people in church are not the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our flesh and blood relationships are not the enemy. In our relationships, especially in the midst of relational conflict and tension (and by the way, it is normal to have conflict in relationships), we need to be reminded who the real enemy is, and that the enemy seeks to control how you respond to all these people in your life.

Instead, we must be Spirit controlled in all these relationships. We need to stand firm in gospel truth, in our blood bought righteousness, in gospel readiness to be at peace, forgiving as we have been forgiven, in believing Jesus and not believing the lies of the enemy, in in our salvation that is undeserved, all of grace, fighting the lies with the truth of the Word of God.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Praying in The Spirit

But the passage doesn’t end there. In fact there is another part of the weaponry that is essential. Or maybe this is what all the armaments are for, this is the field on which the battle is fought. This is the battle. All the armor is equipment to get ready for this battle. Take up the armor that you may withstand and stand firm. Stand therefore …praying.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Through all prayer and petition, we are to pray at all times in the Spirit. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Again, we could import our own ideas of what this means, that it is some super-spiritual supernatural state. But the text says that we are to pray in all times in the Spirit. So this can’t be some special state state of prayer that wouldn’t be safe to do while we were driving our chariot to work in the moring. This text indicates that our every prayer is to be an ‘in the Spirit’ prayer.

Access through Jesus in the Spirit to the Father

So what does it mean to pray in the Spirit in Ephesians? First, we must remember that all the practical exhortations in the second half of Ephesians (4-6) are built on the gospel truth laid down in the first half of Ephesians (1-3). All the imperatives (or commands) are built on and grow out of the gospel indicatives (or statements of truth). So this command to pray at all times in the Spirit must be built on a foundation of gospel truth.

Ephesians 2 lays out the good news of God’s resurrecting power at work in dead sinners to make us alive as a gracious gift (2:1-9). We who were separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:12-13).

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Through Jesus, through his once for all sacrifice, through his grace, we now have access to the Father. Our access is in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit can only begin with blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. Jesus said ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6).

Into One Body In One Spirit

So praying in the Spirit means access; that through Jesus we have access to the Father in the Spirit. And praying in the Spirit connects us horizontally with other believers.

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

We are all baptized into one body in the one Spirit. And our access to the Father is in this one Spirit.

Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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.

There is a blood-bought unity of the Spirit with other believers, a unity that frees us to bear with one another in love, with all humility and gentleness, with patience. It is in this unity of the Spirit that we must come to the Father in prayer.

So praying in the Spirit is both a vertical and a horizontal thing. We have access to the Father through Jesus in the one Spirit. And we have a horizontal unity with all other believers in the one body in this one Spirit. So together, in unity with every other believer in the Spirit, because of what Jesus did, we have access to the Father.

So prayer is never a solo activity. It is never just you and God. Of course you can pray alone. You should, as Jesus said, go into your inner room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret (Mt.6:6). You can pray alone, but when you pray, you are never alone. The triune God is with you. That is the only way prayer works. You pray to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. And in the Spirit you are united with every other believer. There is a connection, in the Holy Spirit, with all believers. As Hebrews says, ‘we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Heb.12:1).

For All the Saints

So there is an aspect of praying in the Spirit that connects us with all other believers. But Ephesians 6 tells us that we are to pray ‘for all the saints.’ Praying in the Spirit is both praying with all the saints and for all the saints. Let me ask you, what believers does this leave out? Is there anyone that you shouldn’t be praying for? Is there anyone you find it difficult to pray for? Someone you disagree with? What about brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations? Maybe they believe differently than you on some secondary issues. Maybe they worship differently. Maybe they are wrong. Do you confront them or speak out against them? Are you praying for them? Maybe they don’t even recognize you as a believer. Can you still pray for them?

What about someone who has offended you or wronged you? Someone who has hurt you deeply. And they don’t even acknowledge that they did anything. Can you pray for them? And I don’t mean you should pray Psalm 35 over them:

Psalm 35:4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor… 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!

Can you sincerely ask God to bless them?

Are there people you think are doing just fine and don’t need your prayers? Paul the apostle makes it explicit in verses 19-20 ‘pray also for me.’ Paul needs their prayers. We all need prayer. We need each other. Pray for all the saints.

Always,

Note how we are to pray. It is to be full-time prayer. At all times. That means all kinds of times. When things seem to be going smoothly, pray. When things are difficult and messy and broken, when things seem hopeless, pray.

It is to be alert prayer. Attentive, Watchful. Pay attention. Pay attention to the needs of others. Be aware that the enemy is seeking to divide and to destroy. Be on guard, and pray.

It is to be persevering prayer. Don’t give up. Keep on knocking, keep on asking, keep on seeking. Don’t give up. Persevere in prayer for all the saints.

But I Can’t

You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can pray like that. There’s people I don’t think I can honestly pray for. I don’t think I can be alert and persevere in prayer. I can’t pray at all times. You are right. You can’t. There is no way you can. And that too is part of what it means to pray in the Spirit. Ephesians 6:10 says

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Be strong in the Lord. It is not your strength, not your ability, not your watchfulness, not your perseverance. It is the strength of his might that is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Phil.2:13). You can’t. But in his strength, in his Spirit, you can.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

…18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Remember, you have been invited in. You have access, blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. You are in a battle, and it is not against flesh and blood. So stand your ground. Stand firm, praying.

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

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Self-Control like Jesus

08/20 The Spirit’s Fruit; Self-Control Like Jesus Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170820_self-control-like-jesus.mp3

Self Control. The Fruit of the Spirit is self control. What is self control? Why do we need it? Do we need it? How do we get it?

What is self control? The Greek word is engkratia [ἐγκράτεια ]. It is a compound of two words [ἔν] which means ‘in’ and [κράτος ] which means power or strength. Engkratia points to an inner strength, an inner mastery, a command or control of self.

The Problem of Powerlessness

There is a negative of this word in the New Testament with the negative ‘a’ prefix [ἀκρασία] that means a lack of power or mastery, lack of self control. This opposite word shows up in places like Matthew 23:25, where Jesus says:

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Self indulgence is this word powerlessness or lack of self-control. The Pharisees looked good on the outside, but they lacked this inner strength of character.

It shows up in 1 Corinthians 7:5 warning married couples not to deprive one another of marital intimacy

1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, …so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

He says a few verses later

1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

This inner strength word often but not always refers to the power to overcome sexual temptation. In a 2016 Barna research study, nearly half of young adults said they come across porn at least once a week—even when they aren’t seeking it out. Temptation is real, and it is more available than ever before. About 27% of Christian men and 6% of Christian women said they seek out porn at least once or twice a month. 14% of pastors and 21% of youth pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn. We desperately need this inner power, this fruit of self control which is produced by the Holy Spirit.

The negative adjective [ἀκράτης] shows up in the list of evils in 2 Timothy 3 that characterize so much of our society.

2 Timothy 3:2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

This lack of inner strength, this problem of powerlessness, is part of our society, and sadly is part of the experience of too many followers of Jesus.

The Hope of Victory

The Bible is clear.

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

First, the Bible is clear that pride is precarious and no one should think of himself as exempt from or above temptation. Spiritual pride is lethal.

Second, temptation is common. Everybody experiences temptation. It is part of the human experience. This takes away one of our favorite excuses, that my struggle is extraordinary and unique. You are clearly not tempted as intensely or as frequently as I am. If you were, you would fall too. No, temptation is common to us all.

And third, God is faithful. Notice where the Apostle goes for hope in the face of temptation? He doesn’t go inside. He doesn’t say ‘You’re not that kind of person that falls like that. You shouldn’t stoop to that kind of behavior. You’re better than this – don’t let yourself give in because you’re better than that. No, in fact, that’s the kind of spiritual pride he warns against. He says everybody faces temptation, and nobody is above failure, but God is faithful. He turns us away from confidence in self and points us to the unfailing character of God. By the way, self control is not the same thing as self confidence or being self sufficient or self reliant. In another place Paul says ‘we put no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil.3:3). Don’t believe in yourself. You will fail. Put your confidence in God who will never fail.

1 Corinthians 10:13 …God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful. He will not permit testing above your ability. Are you being severely tempted? You have access to the power that can overcome that temptation. God is faithful. With the trial he will make the escape so that you have the ability to endure. The power is not within you. God is faithful. God provides the escape and the ability to endure. It is yours to resist, to stand firm, to endure, but it is God who supplies you with all the power necessary to successfully stand.

Idols and What We Treasure

Let’s understand this verse in its context; this is the conclusion of an argument, not against sexual temptation, but against idolatry. The next verse gives the conclusion:

1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Paul speaks to sexual temptation in chapters 6-7. Chapters 8-10 deal with idolatry. In Corinth the idolatry was literal pagan temples and restaurants that served meat sacrificed to the idols in these temples. There was tremendous social pressure to do what everyone else was doing, to be invited, to be included, to show up and feel part of things. We all are tempted to idolatry. Idolatry can be anything we value, anything we honor. Our idol is whatever we treasure most. The Corinthians were tempted to treasure social status, acceptance, a sense of belonging; they were tempted to value these things above Jesus. They prized their knowledge, their theological understanding more than a relationship with God. They treasured their God given freedoms more than they treasured the God who gave them these freedoms.

In Chapter 9 Paul uses himself as an example of surrendering rights, God given rights, good things, for the sake of the gospel. Paul is willing to sacrifice his rights, his freedoms.

1 Corinthians 9:12 …Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Paul understood that even rights and freedoms and good things can become idols if they are held too tightly. What Paul treasured as the one thing of surpassing worth was Jesus, knowing him, being found in him, seeing him glorified as others enter into a relationship with Jesus. In verse 22 he says:

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Then he uses an athletic metaphor to help us understand what he is getting at.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

In the Isthmian games held near Corinth, all the Greek city-states competed. There was great pressure to take home the honor of a victory for one’s city. There was a goal. There was a prize. There was one thing. And here Paul brings in this idea of self-control. Every contestant exercises self control in all things. There is inner strength. There is discipline. The one thing is rigorously maintained as the one thing, and that means denying competing desires. Athletes love ice cream and lounging around in fuzzy slippers and jammies all day as much as the next person. But the athlete has his eyes on the prize, and that means letting go of lesser desires. Winning athletes exercise amazing levels of discipline and inner strength to keep the main thing the main thing and to set aside those lesser things that would entangle and get in the way of the prize. But we look forward to hearing ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ from the King of kings. How much more should we use this inner strength to keep focus and move toward the goal? I do not run aimlessly. I keep the prize always in view. I do not waste punches. I specifically target those things that would compete with the primary desire. My body is my slave that I lead around to pursue the one thing. This is what inner strength looks like. The ability to set aside competing desires so that we can focus on the primary desire.

Then he concludes in chapter 10 by saying that we must be on guard against pride and temptation. God will supply the strength to endure. So flee idolatry.

Temptation, Opportunity and Desire

For temptation to be successful, there are three things that must come together. The temptation must combine with desire and opportunity to be effective. I have a deep love for cookies, In the middle of the night it suddenly comes to me that I need a cookie. I am tempted to sneak down to the kitchen to steal a cookie. But if I find there are no cookies in the cookie jar, the temptation is empty. There is desire and temptation but no opportunity. If the next day, there are cookies in the jar, and I walk through the kitchen and see them, the desire is still there; I love cookies, and the opportunity is there, the cookie jar is full, but I’m busy with other things and it doesn’t cross my mind to take one, I have desire and opportunity, but I am not tempted to steal a cookie. On the other hand, I might walk by the cookie jar and see the cookies and be tempted to steal one; The temptation and the opportunity is there, but if my desires have changed, I won’t steal a cookie. If last week I ate so many cookies that I threw them all up, I may no longer have a taste or desire for cookies. Temptation we have little control over. Jesus encourages us to pray ‘lead us not into temptation’ (Mat.6:13)

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

We have little control over the urge or inclination. We have little control over the opportunity. I can go around asking everyone to stop baking cookies because I have a cookie problem. But at some point the opportunity will be there and I will be tempted. I believe the key to victory is in our desires. It is true that people do what they want. People will do what they want when presented with the opportunity. If I love cookies, if I want to eat cookies, then when I have the opportunity to eat a cookie I will do what I want. If I want to sleep in, I will sleep in. If I want to not be fired or fail my classes, then I will drag myself out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed and go to school or work. What is it that I want more? That is what I will do.

Jesus taught us to go after our desires. Jesus said to the religious:

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and [without inner strength].

The focus of law is on conformity to measurable standards. But Jesus is after our hearts. The law says do not murder, but Jesus says do not be angry with your brother (Mt.5:21-22; 1Jn.3:15). The law says do not commit adultery, but Jesus attacks our desires and says do not lust in your heart (Mt.5:27-28). Jesus says

Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

If we only put locks on our phones and computers that keep us from looking at certain things, but our desire is still for those things, at some point we will be presented with the opportunity, and we will fall to temptation. People do what they want to do. We can lock up a criminal and remove his opportunity, but if his desires have not changed, when he gets out he will do what he wants.

Changing Desires

So how do desires change? How do we gain this inner strength to set aside lesser desires to pursue the one desire? The one thing must outweigh everything else. All our desires must be overshadowed by a superior desire. What is that one thing? This is where it gets dangerous. We must replace our desires with the right thing.

Lets say I have a problem with anger. I blow up, lose it, get out of control, and verbally and maybe even physically hurt the people around me. I begin to see I have a problem and I go to get counsel. The counselor tells me to identify the triggers, the things that make me angry and avoid them. Don’t put yourself in those situations where you get angry. That’s great. Remove the opportunity. But what if it’s my wife that makes me angry? ‘Get a divorce.’ What if its my kids that make me angry? Do I get rid of them? That’s bad advice. I will never be able to avoid every situation that might trigger my anger. So I go back to the counselor. She gets my wife to take a video of me the next time I get angry and lose it, and the counselor plays it back to me and says ‘look at what a fool you made of yourself. See how idiotic you are acting? And your outburst doesn’t stop the person from pushing your buttons. In fact they may be pushing your buttons intentionally just to see you blow.’ It works. I don’t want to look like a fool. I don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of pushing my buttons. So I change. I have replaced my anger with a different desire. But its the wrong desire. Now I want to have the upper hand. I don’t want anyone to control me. I don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of pushing my buttons. I want to be perceived as better. I change, I have less outbursts of anger, but I become proud, condescending, aloof, spiteful, vengeful. I don’t get mad, I get even. You see, it matters what you replace your desires with. If they are replaced with wrong desires you may go from bad to worse.

Desiring God

How do we change in a healthy way? How do we get mastery over our desires and what is the one thing that pushes out all lesser desires?

Look at Jesus. In Matthew 4, he was in the wilderness, and he had been fasting for 40 days and nights. He was literally starving.

Matthew 4:3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Jesus had the desire. He was hungry. He had the opportunity – as the Son of God he had the ability to speak anything he wanted into existence. He was tempted. Satan himself was doing the tempting. But Jesus has true inner strength. Look at what he says:

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

Do you see what he does? He has a legitimate desire. In his case he had a desperate need. He was hungry. But Jesus says “I have something better. I delight in the voice of my Father more than my taste buds delight in food. He has a greater treasure than food; a greater treasure than life itself. Jesus treasured his relationship with his Father more than life itself. He desired his Father’s glory more than his own.

When temptation, desire and opportunity combine (and they will), you must have the weapon of a superior desire sharpened and ready. Jesus is treasuring his Father. He has been spending time meditating on his Word. He has been enjoying communion with his Father in prayer. He has been tasting and seeing that the LORD is good, so that when temptation came, he was able to compare it with what he had already been enjoying and turn it down flat. God is faithful.

Hebrews 12 tells us:

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

What competing desires, what sins, what good things, are getting in the way of the one thing? Do you want the one thing enough that you are willing to lay secondary desires aside? If you don’t think you have the strength, cry out to Jesus for help. God is faithful. He will perfect your faith.

What is your one thing? If you don’t have the one thing clear, you will be aimless and make little progress. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Look to Jesus, who endured the cross, who rejoiced to obey his Father, who lived (and died) to bring him glory. Fix your eyes on Jesus, taste and see that he is good, experience that he is better, allow him to be your one desire.

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

August 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus

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

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

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

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

Joy Defined

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

What Joy is Not

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

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

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

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

Joy that Coexists with Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Untouched by Circumstances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy in Trials

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

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

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

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

C.H. Spurgeon commented about trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Linked to Love

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

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

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

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

Fight for Joy with Joy

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

Joy in the Giver above the Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

05/21 The Work of the Spirit and the War Against the Flesh [Galatians 5:13-21; 24-26]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170521_works-vs-fruit.mp3

Today we begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I believe this will be very practical and helpful, and I would invite you to be praying with me that God the Holy Spirit would be at work through his word to produce his fruit in the lives of his people for his glory.

~prayer~

Paul is in anguish over the Galatians. He is astonished that they are deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel. These Gentiles are being pressured to submit to the Jewish law. Paul is fighting to preserve the truth of the gospel, the good news that we are declared right before God not by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is not me attempting to live up to some standard, but Christ living in me, a life lived “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Paul is eager to embrace the freely given grace of God, and he understands that if righteousness could come through the law then Christ was crucified in vain.

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

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? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

The Christian life is begun by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I hear with desperate dependence the good news proclaimed that Christ was crucified for me. The Holy Spirit is at work in me so that as I hear the gospel I trust not my abilities but Christ alone. The Spirit works this in me. Having freely received the Spirit through faith, is it now up to my flesh to finish the work he began in me? Of course not! If the beginning of the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so the continuance and completion of the Christian life is all a work of the Holy Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Paul’s longing is that Christ would be formed in them. Christ – himself – formed in you. Christ – who lives in me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is no human effort. Paul’s heart is that they would live in complete daily dependence on the Spirit in them to produce the character of Christ in them.

In chapter 5 he warns not to fall away from grace, to turn from the freely given gift of God who is at work in us by his Spirit, in order to attempt to obtain righteousness by our own effort.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

We do not work, we eagerly wait. We wait for the hope of righteousness; a confident assurance of a righteousness that God will bring about in us. We trust. We depend. We believe. Through the Spirit. By faith. We wait. It is not our effort. Not what we do or don’t do that “counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” It is not me working, but faith working. Dependence on God is at work, and it expresses itself in love.

Freedom to Want

In verse 13, Paul warns against misusing this freedom we have in Christ, our freedom from the law, in a way that allows the flesh to gain traction.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are set free in Christ to fulfill the law by serving one another through love. So many misunderstand freedom as a freedom from any authority. Rather freedom in Christ is freedom from the tyranny of a cruel slave-master to be back under the good and right authority of the God who is love. It is a freedom at the heart level. We are no longer under debt and an obligation to live up to the standards of the law. Instead we are freed to do what we want. We are set free at the level of our desires. We are set free from the suicidal desires that compelled us to pursue things that destroy; we are set free at the heart level to hunger and thirst after the things that truly satisfy.

War of Desires

Paul warns:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Life by the Spirit is war. There is war outside and war within. Paul warns; if you bite and devour one another, watch out; our fleshly desires stir us up against one another. If we follow the flesh (and often we do) we will be biting and devouring each other.

But as believers in Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit of God. We still have the old nature, the flesh. And our sinful flesh will not just roll over and admit defeat. It will not go down without a fight. So we have a war on our hands; a war within. It will be long – lifelong. It will be messy – there will be casualties. But we are assured of victory – the outcome is certain. We battle a decisively defeated foe. The flesh was defeated at the cross. If we are in Christ, if we have identified with him in his death and resurrection, the victory has already been won. Jesus conquered sin and death and hell on the cross. And my flesh was crucified with him on that cross.

By flesh the Bible doesn’t mean physical bodies. Our bodies are not inherently evil. Our physical bodies will be resurrected glorified. We will enjoy a sinless existence in our physical bodies in the presence of God for eternity. God created Adam and Eve with physical bodies in the garden and he said it was all very good. Our bodies are not the problem. The flesh is the problem. By the flesh, the Bible means that fallen part of us that desires other things more than God. It is that part of us that wants to be our own master, determine our own destiny, live for our own glory, be our own god. As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit living within, and we now have competing desires. The flesh has its desires, and the Holy Spirit brings with him his desires, and these two are in conflict. The Holy Spirit desires to magnify Jesus above all.

These competing desires ‘keep you from doing the things you want to do.’ We are in a battle. But who is the you? You are either giving in to the flesh, biting and devouring one another, or you are led by the Holy Spirit, free from the law, through love serving one another. So who is the you? What is your identity? Do you embrace the flesh, with its passions and desires, or do you embrace the Spirit, and allow him to transform you? This is a big deal.

Works of the Flesh

In verse 19, he moves from talking about the desires of the flesh to the works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The flesh manifests itself. There are fifteen words that divide into four categories here. The first three words have to do with sexual sin; sexual immorality, sexual impurity, uncontrolled lust. Then there are two words dealing with religious pursuits; idolatry and sorcery. The flesh makes an idol out of just about anything; family, relationships, work, success, kids, power, reputation. Sorcery is an attempt to gain control by manipulating the spiritual realm. The next 8 are relationship words. And most of these are in the plural; they have multiple manifestations, they may take multiple forms. Enmity – hostile feelings and actions; strife- contention and discord; jealousy – an envious rivalry; fits of anger – bursts of temper; rivalries – selfish ambitions; dissensions – uprisings or controversies; divisions – creating factions; envy – ill will or spite. Most of these are inward attitudes and feelings, attitudes of the heart. The last two, drunkenness and orgies, have to do with excess; excessive drinking, excessive feasting or partying. The desires of the flesh display themselves in works of deviant and destructive sexuality, dark religious practices, self-centered and damaging relational dynamics, and excessive overindulgence.

Recognize, this is a big deal. This is a warning. Paul says ‘I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So this is a salvation issue. If you have embraced the desires of the flesh, if your life is characterized by the works of the flesh, if there is no battle between flesh and Spirit, then you may not know Jesus. But don’t be discouraged; if you are not winning the battle all the time, if you are still struggling against the same sins. The fact that there is a battle going on and you are convicted over your sins is a good sign.

We could look at Jesus’ story of the prodigal and see these fleshly desires manifesting themselves in the works of the flesh. The prodigal idolized money and freedom from all authority and sinful pleasure. He indulged in sexual immorality, excessive drinking and partying.

We could look at his unforgiving older brother and see enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.

These are the normal outworkings of the flesh. But when the Spirit comes in, then there is war.

Of course we could look at the father in the story and see the fruit of the Spirit on display; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at these characteristics in the coming weeks.

How is the Fruit of the Spirit not a list of moral virtues? (070218)

We need to understand how the lifestyle of the morally upright around us fits in to this overall picture. We acknowledge that many that don’t know Christ personally live lives that we would describe as ‘good’; they are kind, patient, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, they exercise patience, they are peace loving, they show love to others, and they seem happy. Does this mean that the Spirit is at work in their lives? Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit, and should we conclude that people who live this way must be justified believers, because Jesus says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? In fact we probably can think of people we know that do not follow Jesus that we would say have more of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives than we do. Do we have biblical categories in our minds to fit these facts into? Or does this confuse us and cause us to question and doubt?

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now that sounds pretty clear-cut. If you can see the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, then they must be O.K. with God, right? If they are loving, kind, good, gentle, patient and self-controlled, then they must be on the right track. Be careful not to jump to conclusions before you’ve read the whole passage. Let’s keep reading and see what Jesus says next:

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So, apparently there will be people who on the surface appear to have it all together; even people who sincerely feel that they have it all together, who will be very surprised on judgment day. They will say things like ‘but Jesus, we acknowledge you as Lord; we believe in you’. And Jesus says, ‘no, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. They will say ‘but we did that; we prophesied, we even cast out demons in your name; we did many mighty works in your name’. So they were doing good works. They were performing great acts of love. And not just that; there were supernatural things going on. Prophecies were being given; people were being delivered from evil spirits. Obviously the Spirit was at work in their lives. But on this ground they were not welcome in heaven. What was it that they lacked? Jesus says the critical thing is not what you do; it’s who you know. Jesus says ‘I never knew you. You may have done some amazing things. You may be the most loving, kind, generous person around, you might have even done these things in the name of Jesus, but we had no relationship. I never knew you.’ And Jesus sends them away and calls them ‘workers of lawlessness’. How can he say that when they were doing good works? In God’s eyes all their love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control were filthy rags in his sight. Their good works were valueless because they didn’t stem from a relationship with Jesus.

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

Contrast Works and Fruit

Notice the flesh is always working, striving, exerting effort to attain its unwholesome desires. The Spirit grows fruit. It is an organic thing. It is not manufactured. If the right seed is planted, the right plant sprouts up. Whatever kind of tree it is, that is the kind of fruit that will be produced. There are ways to encourage and enhance fruitfulness; preparing the soil, watering, fertilizing, pruning. But ultimately the fruit is determined by the nature of the tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in keeping with his nature.

Notice also, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, where the works of the flesh are plural. There are various and disjointed manifestations of the fleshly desires. But the Spirit produces wholeness, integration, integrity. This is one fruit. It has different sides, different aspects; but it is one. It is one multifaceted fruit.

And take encouragement here. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of the living God living within you.

Romans 8 tells us

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. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.

And he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). And he who is in you is greater than your flesh. God wins! He will be victorious in your life. If the Spirit is there, he will produce his fruit in your life. He will not fail. If God could take the one who was crushed down under the weight of the sin of the world and raise him up to life again, he is fully able to overcome your fleshly desires and produce the satisfying fruit of the Spirit. Christ will be formed in you!

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

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment