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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 1:1-8; Train Up Your Children

05/09_Daniel 01:1-8; Train Up Your Children; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210509_dan01_1-8.mp3

Today is mother’s day, and we are in Daniel chapter 1, where we are introduced to four teens who have been ripped from their homes and transplanted into a society where they will be re-programmed to live and think as citizens of a country who is opposed to God and his ways. We are not told who Daniel’s parents were. We don’t know what kind of upbringing he had. But we can look at what the Bible does say about the essential nature of parenting, and I think we can safely infer some things about the upbringing of these four that we are introduced to here in the first chapter of Daniel.

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. 8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. …

Preparing Your Children to Live as Exiles

How do you prepare your children for captivity and exile? How do you get them ready to live as strangers and aliens in a land full of false gods and deceptive temptations? Let’s say that we could predict the future and could see that America and its leadership will continue to decline, and in five years, a foreign military will march in our streets, destroy our infrastructure, take our children captive, haul them away to re-education camps where they will be taught that it is absurd and naive to believe in the existence of God. How would you parent in such a way as to prepare them to live in a society whose very moral and spiritual fiber is opposed to everything you believe and hold dear?

Or if that seems too far-fetched, lets say that in five years America continues on unchanged, and your child goes off to high school or college, where they will be taught that it is absurd and naive to believe in the existence of God. How are you preparing them to live as strangers and aliens in a land full of false gods and deceptive temptations?

Remind Them Of Their Identity

First, lets look at their identity. Verse 6 gives us their names; ‘Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.’ If you are familiar with Hebrew names, you will hear the names of God; ‘El’ and ‘Yah’ in those names.

Daniel “God is my judge”

Hananiah “Yahweh is gracious”

Mishael “who is what God is?”

Azariah “Yahweh has helped” or “will help.”

We don’t put as much significance in a name, but these boys were given an identity. Every time they were called, they would be reminded of the nature and character of God. God is the ultimate and only judge, before whom we all will stand to give account. Yahweh is gracious; he is generous and gives good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. God is holy, unique, in a class by himself; who is what God is? There is no one like our God; he is most high over all. Yahweh will help; whenever we face difficulties or are in need, it is to him we must look. He is our only unfailing source of help.

Daily they were reminded of their identity, that they belong to God, that God is sovereign over all, that God is to be honored, that God is holy, unique, that Yahweh is gracious and that he will help all who call on him. Do you see how their parents were daily involved in reminding them of the character of God, and who they are in relation to this God?

In Babylon, their identity was stripped away. They were given new names, a new identity that replaced the names of the one true God of Israel with the gods of Babylon, Bel, Aku and Nebo. God is my Judge is renamed ‘Bel-belteshazzar’; Bel, protect his life! Yahweh is Gracious is renamed ‘Shadrach’; command of Aku the moon god. Who is what God Is is renamed ‘Meshach’; who is what Aku is? Yahweh will help is renamed ‘Abednego’; servant of Nebo or Nabu.

Parents Train Up Your Children

But these new names couldn’t erase the faithful training of faithful parents who faithfully taught them who God is, and their identity in relationship with that one true God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Parents, we are to know and love the Lord our God with heart and soul and mind and strength. We are to walk in his ways, and to non-stop train our children. Whenever you’re at home, talk about the Lord. Whenever you’re out and about, talk about the Lord. When you go to bed, when you get up in the morning, love him and keep his word in your heart and in front of your eyes.

The theological training of your children can’t wait until Bible college; that may be too late. And it can’t be handed over to the church; the church doesn’t tuck your kids into bed at night and drag them out of bed in the morning. The church isn’t often in your homes or on your vacations. The church simply cannot do in one hour on Sundays and maybe an hour midweek what it is your job as parents to do day in and day out.

Remember, training is not just passing on information. Your kids will learn from how you live, the choices they see you make, your attitude, the way you respond to circumstances. They will learn from what you do much more than from what you say.

Prepared for Sacrifice

Daniel 1:3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

The requirement of the king was among other things, that these youths must be without blemish. This is a term that is most frequently used in the requirements that both priests and sacrificial animals must be without blemish to be acceptable to God (Lev.21-22). What we offer to God must be our first and our best. What Nebuchadnezzar demanded was young men without physical defect, but this language connects us back to the sacrificial system. A lamb without blemish or spot is fit for sacrifice.

Parents, think about this. Are you preparing your children for sacrifice? Romans 12 uses this kind of imagery.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Are you teaching your children that they should expect the best in this life, an easy life, that they are entitled to blessings? Or are you teaching them that it is often costly to follow Jesus, but that it is worth it?

Circumstances for these families went as bad as could have been imagined. They lived under the reign of kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jerusalem was given into the hand of the enemy. The temple was plundered. Their children were carried off into captivity; although we don’t know for sure, they may have been castrated in literal fulfillment of Isaiah 39:5-7. The hope of any grandchildren was lost. We aren’t told what happened to the parents, but it is likely they never saw one another again. Would this fiery trial come to them as a complete shock and surprise, as if something strange were happening to them (1Pet.4:12)? Would it cause them to doubt their faith and question the reality, the goodness, the power of their God?

Jesus promised us who follow him that ‘In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world’ (Jn.16:33), and he promises us his peace in the midst of adverse circumstances.

What are your expectations for your children? Is your heart set on the American dream, or are you preparing them to present themselves to God as living sacrifices? To endure suffering for the sake of his name?

Show Them Where True Joy Is Found

Sacrifice is difficult, so we must prepare them for suffering, but pleasures often prove more lethal than persecution. Don’t neglect to teach your children where true joy is found.

Daniel and his friends would face great temptations where it was expected they would indulge their flesh. ‘The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.’ This was the best available. They were far away from home, out of reach of all accountability. This would appeal to all their senses. And it seems no one else was resisting. How could they possibly stand up to this kind of temptation?

The best way to inoculate our children against temptation is to expose them to greater pleasures. Psalm 16:11 says

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

Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore are found in the presence of God. Moses, in similar circumstances,

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

The pleasures of sin are real, but they are fleeting. Worldly treasures are real, but they pale in comparison to the eternal reward, against which ‘all the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom.8:18).

The king of Babylon showed them what they had to gain by allegiance to him. He invited them to feast on the abundance of his house and to drink of his own wine. But listen to Psalm 36

Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Is the Lord’s steadfast love precious to you? Savor the preciousness of God’s grace to you in the gospel daily, and it will put your mouth out of taste for the sweets of this world.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! …

You have got to taste for yourself the sweetness of God. Our kids must see us drinking deeply of the river of his delights. And we must give them the opportunity to taste and see for themselves.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Teach them not to trust their deceitful desires (Eph.4:22); teach them where every truly good gift comes from.

The Wisdom of Humility and a Biblical Worldview

It seems that Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel were equipped with a comprehensive view of God’s sovereignty over all things, even the worst imaginable circumstances, and they trusted that he is judge, he is gracious, he is above all other gods, and he is the source of their help. They must have had a taste of something better, so they were able to resist the temptations that appealed to their deceitful desires.

But they had been selected because they were ‘skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace.’ This was greatly flattering. They were to be taught ‘the literature and language of the Chaldeans.’

… They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.

This was a huge boost to the ego, and an incentive to forget their pain and plunge themselves into learning and literature.

But all literature, every story, every song is leading somewhere, engaging the emotions, teaching something. Stories shape our world view. Can these four be immersed in the world view of the Babylonians without losing their own?

In verse 17 we read ‘God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom.’ God gave them the wisdom to learn what was taught, to discern what is true, and to hold fast to him.

They had been given the humility to know that what they knew was a gift from God.

Know, Love and Serve Jesus

Parents, teach your kids humility. Show them where true joy is found. Prepare them for suffering and sacrifice. Remind them of their true identity. Remind them whose they are. Prepare your children to live as sojourners, as exiles. This world is not their home. Entrust them to a faithful God who loves them more than you do and who is able to keep them.

More than anything else, here’s what I want for my kids. I want you to know and love and serve Jesus.

Know him, get to know him, enjoy being with him, be in constant communion, in communication, in relationship with him.

Love him; affections inflamed, not motivated by duty but by delight. Look! Look at the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ for you (Eph.3:18). We love because he first loved us (1Jn.4:19).

Serve him; spend your life to bring him glory and praise, to bring others into the joy of knowing him.

The order matters. I want your life and service to flow out of relationship and love, not out of obligation and duty. You have to know him and love him before you can offer any acceptable service to him.

***

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

May 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision

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

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

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

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

Not a Burden

Then he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking Relationship

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

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

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

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

Saving, Spending, and Being Spent

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

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

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

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

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

He said something similar to the church in Philippi:

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

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

Hedonistic Spending

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

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

Love Lacking

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

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

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

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

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

And again in chapter 7:

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

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

Parental Betrothal

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

Paul the Crafty Deceiver

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

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

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

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

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

Here he asks:

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

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

Walk in the Spirit

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

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

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

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Our Response to Trials

02/21_2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Our Response to Trials; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210221_2cor12_7-10.mp3

2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

Paul shares his own experience in the third person, distancing himself from this amazing event and bringing it down to our level; it happened to a Christian; to a man in Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Paul reminds us that supernatural experiences don’t validate ministry. The life and teaching of the minister are what must be looked at to authenticate ministry. And gospel ministry, ministry in the footsteps of Jesus will be ministry that mirrors Jesus. It will be characterized by weaknesses, by sacrificial suffering for the good of others. Paul resolves to boast only in his weaknesses.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to pummel him. This was a gift; it was God’s good gift to him, to keep him from being lifted up with pride, because pride is deadly and dangerous, more dangerous to us than demons.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

Paul didn’t want the thorn, didn’t like the thorn. He didn’t ask for the thorn. In fact he asked for it to be removed. Three times he asked, just as Jesus asked three times of his Father that if there were any other way, for the cup of God’s almighty wrath toward my sins to pass from him (Mt.26:39,42,44).

Jesus is a sympathetic High Priest who understands our trials. He has experienced and endured the same kinds of trials, yet without sin (Heb.4:15). So Paul petitioned Jesus that the thorn, the satanic messenger be taken from him.

God always answers the prayers of his children, but not always the way we would expect or hope that he would. Jesus wanted to be spared from suffering as the sin-bearing Lamb. But more than he wanted to be spared from suffering, he wanted his Father’s will to be done, for his Father to be glorified.

Joyful Endurance?

So Jesus joyfully endured the cross for us. Hebrews tells us “For the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb.12:2). How do you endure trials, suffering, adversity? Reluctantly? Avoid at all cost? Grudgingly? With grumbling and complaining? Paul’s authentication for ministry was not only that he endured trials for the sake of the Name, but how he endured those trials.

Jesus’ Answer

Listen to Jesus’ answer to Paul’s petition. This is the word of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” …

Sufficient Grace

Sufficient to you is my grace. It is adequate. My grace is enough. In John 6, Jesus tested Philip, asking him were they could buy bread to feed the crowd that numbered 5,000 men, plus women and children. Philip answered him (v.7), “Two hundred denarii (days wages) worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” No one would be satisfied. It would not suffice. There would just not be enough to go around. You know the story. Andrew found a young boy who had brought his lunch. Jesus gave thanks, and after everyone had eaten their fill, as much as they wanted, they gathered 12 baskets full of the leftovers. It didn’t look like it was enough, but in the hands of Jesus it proved to be more than enough. It was sufficient.

This word ‘sufficient’ comes first in the original for emphasis. Christ’s grace is fully sufficient, completely satisfying, abundantly enough.

Jesus says ‘you can be satisfied with my grace.’ You can be content with my grace. It is enough to carry you through adversity, through opposition, through trials. It is sufficient to allow you to withstand the onslaughts of hell. It won’t run out. It won’t come up short or leave you unsatisfied. Sufficient to you is my grace.

Grace. Grace is God’s unearned, undeserved favor and kindness. Grace is the opposite of wages. Wages are payment for services rendered (Rom.4:4-5). The wages we earned by our sin is death. We earned God’s just wrath. We deserve hell. But instead we are freely given a gift we didn’t earn, we don’t deserve. God smiles on us. God’s favor is extended to us (Eph.2:8-9). You may have heard the acronym for Grace: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Jesus paid the price in full, purchasing for us a gift we don’t deserve and could never pay for ourselves. Jesus says that his grace is enough.

Jesus says that his grace is sufficient, for power is made perfect in weakness. Jesus parallels power and grace, as if they are almost synonymous. Christ’s grace is powerful. Grace answers my ill desert. His power answers my weakness, my sickness, infirmity, disability. His grace is divine enablement to endure the pressure.

Power to Endure

Paul asked for the trial to be removed. But God answered by pointing Paul to his all sufficient divine enablement. Paul encouraged in 1 Corinthians 10:13

1 Corinthians 10:13 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.

God is faithful. He will provide a way of escape, but the way of escape may be that he gives the strength to bear up under it, to endure the pressure without collapsing. He may give the grace needed to see you through.

The Purpose of Power

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” His power is made perfect. It finds its fulfillment, it comes to its intended purpose or end, it is completed. Power is intended to answer weakness. Power is not meant to lie dormant; it is meant to be engaged. Power is expressed and finds fulfillment when it overcomes weakness. Our weakness is the playground where God’s power can show off.

So Paul says ‘bring it!’ If my weakness is the place where God’s power and grace is glorified, then I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.

With Great Pleasure

Do you hear how Paul responds to his own weaknesses?

2 Corinthians 12:9 …Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

He is not grudging or grumpy. He is glad. This word that he puts up front for emphasis is ‘with great pleasure’, from the adjective ‘sweetly’; its root is where we get our word hedonism, indulging in pleasure and sensual delight (Lk.8:14). With great pleasure therefore, I will to a greater degree boast in my weaknesses. Paul didn’t stoically endure the thorn; he came to take delight in it. Not in the thorn in and of itself; he wanted to be rid of it. But understanding that his weaknesses, his thorn, the satanic angel sent to crush his pride provided a platform to put the powerful grace of Jesus on display brought him great pleasure. It became sweet to him.

He took pleasure not only in its pride demolishing effect, but also in its God glorifying, grace exalting, power displaying purpose. If my weakness is the way God is most glorified in me, and if I understand that the ultimate all satisfying purpose for my existence is to glorify God, then I exult in my weaknesses, because Christ is seen to be powerful more through my weaknesses than through my strengths.

Christ’s Power Encamping

2 Corinthians 12:9 …Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul gladly boasts in his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. This word ‘rest upon’ carries a beautiful picture. The word is a compound of ‘upon’ and ‘to tent or encamp’. This connects us back to God’s tent, the tabernacle in the wilderness, where “I will dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8-9). This connects to the Word in John 1, who was with God and who was God,

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

He dwelt, he tabernacled, he pitched his tent among us. Paul is saying that it is in his weakness that the power of Christ encamps upon him, sets up his tent over him. He finds great pleasure in his weaknesses, because it is in his weaknesses that he enjoys intimacy with Jesus.

Well Pleased

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Here again Paul uses a pleasure word. He is content. This is the word the Father used of the Son at his baptism and again at the transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Paul is well pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in calamities. Two of these words he used as credentials for authentic ministry back in 2 Corinthians 6:4;

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

Paul now delights in those hardships and calamities for the sake of Christ, because they display the glory of Jesus more vividly.

Strength In Weakness

Paul concludes “When I am weak, then I am strong.” He does not say that trials and weakness produce strength (he says suffering produces endurance in Rom.5, also James 1). He does not say that strength comes after weakness. He says that the strength is actually in the weakness. He is at the same time weak and strong. When he is weak in himself, weak in his circumstances, it is at that time that he is more transparent and the power of Christ is more evident in him.

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

Our Response

How do you respond to trials, to oppression, to difficult circumstances? Do you grumble and complain? Do you become resentful and bitter? Or is it sweet to you because the presence of Christ dwells on you and the power of Christ is displayed through you? For the believer who has been justified as an undeserved gift by grace, every bitter thing can be made sweet.

Paul exults in Romans 8

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

***

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

February 27, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

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

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

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

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

How To Wait

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

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

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

John 14; Jesus is the Way

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

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

And then Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abide and Bear Fruit

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

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

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

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

The Word

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said back in verse 3:

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

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

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

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

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

Full Joy

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

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

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

Love One Another

His command?

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

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

Friends

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

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

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

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

Ask and Receive

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

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

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

And in chapter 14:

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

And again in John 16, he says:

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

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

The Spirit in You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver

10/27_2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191027_2cor9_7.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

God loves a cheerful giver. What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? What does this imply about those who don’t give cheerfully (or at all)? Why does God love a cheerful giver?

Proverbs 22:8-9 [LXX]

Paul takes his ideas from Proverbs 22:8-9. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, Proverbs 22 reads like this:

Proverbs 22:8 (lit. trans.) The one who sows worthlessness/evil reaps bad, but will fully complete the punishment of his works. A cheerful man and a giver God will bless, but will fully complete the futility of his works, 9 The one who is merciful to the poor, he will himself be maintained, for his own bread he has given to the poor

Then in verse 11 it says:

Proverbs 22:11 (LXXE) The Lord loves holy hearts, and all blameless persons are acceptable with him:…

A cheerful man, even a giver God will bless. The Lord loves purity in heart, the one who is merciful to the poor, who gives his own bread to the poor. God loves a cheerful giver. God will bless a cheerful giver.

A Single Eye

Proverbs 22:8-9 in the ESV reads:

Proverbs 22:8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. 9 Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

He who has a bountiful eye; literally a good eye. What does that mean? Jesus picks up this idea about eyes and money in Matthew 6

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy [ἁπλοῦς], your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Jesus says literally ‘if your eye is single’ or ‘simple’. Paul used the noun form of this word to describe the generosity, or literally the simplicity of the Macedonians back in 2 Corinthians 8:

2 Corinthians 8:2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity [ἁπλότητα] on their part.

As we have seen, this word translated ‘generosity’ is literally the word for simplicity or single-hearted devotion to the Lord. Paul uses this word again in 9:11 and 13 to describe the heart from which they give. It is simple or single. It is not divided or double minded. Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 6:

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus said the most important thing is:

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

A cheerful giver gives out of simplicity, eager to please one Master. There is no duplicity or double mindedness. The cheerful giver gives out of single-hearted devotion to Christ.

A Cheerful Giver

What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? We can learn something of what it looks like to give cheerfully, out of a single heart by looking at what Paul describes as the wrong motives. He said in verse 5 that it would be willing and not as an exaction, literally not as greed or covetousness. A greedy or covetous heart is not a cheerful heart.

He says in verse 6 that we should not sow sparingly or stingily, looking at the loss we might incur. That is not cheerful giving.

Verse 7 says that we are not to be reluctant or under compulsion; not out of grief or sorrow, not under pressure or necessity. That is not cheerful giving.

What he says positively is that it should be ‘as he has determined in his heart’ (9:7); out of an abundance of joy, riches of simplicity (8:2), giving themselves first to the Lord (8:5), begging for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints (8:4); a genuine love (8:8); a will and advance desire (8:10-12); out of abundance (8:14); for the glory of the Lord himself (8:19) a predisposed desire and zeal (9:2). They were making preparation (9:2-3), It was a promised blessing (9:5); it was to be upon blessings (9:6)

Upon Blessings

What does he mean in verse 6 to sow bountifully, literally ‘upon blessings’? ‘The one who sows upon blessings, upon blessings also will reap.’ He says in verse 5 that he is sending the brothers to prepare in advance their promised in advance blessing, so that it is ready as a blessing. To bless is to speak or pronounce God’s grace to others. To sow upon blessings is to sow out of a heart that has received God’s blessings; a heart overflowing with God’s blessings. When we have richly received and experienced God’s grace, we can widely scatter God’s amazing grace to others. A cheerful giver is one who liberally scatters blessings because he has lavishly experienced God’s blessings.

God’s Unconditional Love

God loves a cheerful giver. But what does that imply about those who are not cheerful givers? Or not givers at all? Does God not love those who are not cheerful givers? Doesn’t John 3:16 say that God so loved the world? Doesn’t God love everyone?

Let me put this another way. If we say that God loves the world, everyone, and cheerful givers are one subset of everyone, therefore God loves them, it makes this statement meaningless. It would be equally true to say that God loves the grudging givers, and those who give nothing at all. They are also subsets of the everyone whom God loves. Saying that God loves the cheerful giver must be saying something different than that God loves the sinful world or even than God loves all who trust in him.

You may have heard it said ‘there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more than he does right now, and there’s nothing you could ever do that would make God love you less.’ God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is based on his own character, not on your performance. You didn’t do anything to earn his love, and you can’t do anything that would turn his love away from you. This is good news. This is grace. That God loves us not because of anything we have done or ever will do.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— …8 …this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In this there is profound freedom; freedom from striving, freedom from performance, freedom from attempting to impress God.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

We must understand grace. Before we can give we must receive. Grace upon grace. And all our giving must flow out of these multiplied blessings poured out on us.

Consequences of Not Giving Cheerfully

But the Bible also talks like this: God loves a cheerful giver.

Jude 1:21 keep yourselves in the love of God…

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. There is an ‘if’; if we keep his commandments, then we will abide in his love. God loves a cheerful giver.

This implies that there is a way to abide and a way to not abide in his love. That he loves a cheerful giver and is grieved when his people give sparingly or grudgingly or not at all.

The puritan pastor John Owen gives us categories to help us make sense of this. He draws a distinction between union and communion. We are united with Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Nothing we can do or fail to do will change our union with Christ. We belong to him. But how we respond to him can and does affect our communion with him, our day to day fellowship with him, our enjoyment of our union with him.

Think of the marriage relationship. We took wedding vows before God and in the presence of witnesses ‘to love, cherish and serve, in sickness and health, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, ’til death do us part.’ I might act rudely toward my wife, and that won’t change her commitment to her vows before God, but it will affect the level of intimacy we enjoy in our relationship. It doesn’t change our union, but it will affect our communion.

Notice Jesus exhorts us to abide in his love for our joy, that our joy may be full. We will enjoy our relationship with God more if we walk in his ways, if we follow his commands, if our hearts are overflowing with gladness in him. We ought to pursue cheerful generosity, because cheerfulness is more enjoyable than being grudging or greedy or stingy.

God Is a Cheerful Giver

But there is a deeper, a more important reason that God loves a cheerful giver. It is simply this: God loves a cheerful giver because God is a cheerful giver. God created us in his own image, and he loves to see his own character reflected in his people.

Look to God the cheerful giver!

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Every good gift is from God. God is the giver of every good. God himself is the greatest good.

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

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

God is our greatest good. And he does not withhold good from us.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

He graciously gave us his own Son. He will with him pour out every spiritual blessing on us.

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

God is the giver. God gave his only Son, and Jesus gladly gave himself.

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

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

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Hebrews 12:2 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.

It was his joy to give himself up for us.

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

Why does our motive and attitude matter to God? Why does our cheerfulness in giving matter? Because we image him, and when we don’t give cheerfully, we lie about him, we misrepresent him. God is not a stingy giver, he is not reluctant, not a grudging giver, he does not give out of compulsion or obligation, he does not sow sparingly. We could say God is lavish, excessive, prodigal. over the top, extravagant. God love a cheerful giver because God is a cheerful giver.

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

October 27, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Grace-Giving and Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Benefits You

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

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

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

Bring it to Completion

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

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

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

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

In 1 Corinthians 16 he said:

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

Do What You Want

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

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

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

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

But Psalm 34:9-10 says:

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

And Psalm 84:11 assures us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Will and To Work

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said in Luke 6:

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

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

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

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

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

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

Excuses Eliminated

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

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

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

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

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

Acceptable Priestly Offerings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 7:11-16; Gospel Confidence and Gospel Boasting

07/21_2 Corinthians 7:11-16; Gospel Confidence and Gospel Boasting ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190721_2cor7_11-16.mp3

The Results of Grief According to God

2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

Paul rejoices at the report of the Corinthian’s grief, not because they were grieved, but because their grief was according to God, it produced a repentance that leads to salvation. Paul was not eager to crush them; he ‘worked with them for their joy’ (1:24).

Their grief according to God produced the appropriate results. Paul draws their attention in verse 11 to what it worked in them; see what urgency or earnestness, also what defense or clearing of yourselves, also what indignation or repulsion over your sins, also what fear recognizing God’s just judgment on wrongdoers, also what desire or earnest longing for reconciliation and to do what is right, also what zeal or fervency as opposed to a lack of care or concern, also what punishment or vindication, a commitment to what is right and just.

At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” We are not certain what the matter was that he was referring to, but they knew. He refers back in chapter 2 to an issue that had caused pain. He said:

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

We don’t know exactly what the issue was, nor are we intended to. He leaves it ambiguous, so that what he says can be applied to many specific situations. Possibly it was the immoral man addressed in 1 Corinthians 5; possibly someone who was defiant in the church, who had undermined and opposed Paul’s authority, someone who gained a following. Whatever the sin issue, they had responded with appropriate earnestness, clearing, indignation, fear, desire, fervency, vindication. They had demonstrated their purity.

Why Paul Wrote; To Show Them Their Own Earnestness

He said in 2:3

2 Corinthians 2:3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

His purpose for writing was to communicate his abundant love for them.

He said in 2:9

2 Corinthians 2:9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

Now here in 7:12 he says

2 Corinthians 7:12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

He wrote what he did not (primarily) for the sake of the wrongdoer, nor (primarily) for the sake of the one who was wronged. Rather, he says, it was in order to show to you your eagerness for us before God.

Do you see what he is doing here? He wrote a stern letter through his tears, and sent it with Titus, not primarily to correct the wrongdoer, nor primarily to clear the one wronged (which, if the offender was the one who attacked his character, the one wronged was Paul himself). Rather, his purpose was as he said in chapter 2 ‘to test or prove you’. Here he elaborates that it was to demonstrate to you your eagerness for us.

What does this mean? What does it matter? Why would his primary aim be to reveal to them their eagerness for the apostle Paul? Isn’t that a bit self-promoting? Paul has written in 2 Corinthians defending his apostolic ministry and teaching them what authentic ministry looks like because authentic Christian ministry is shaped by the gospel and it is shaped like the gospel. Authentic ministry is self-sacrificial service for the ultimate good of others. In pursuing their eagerness for him, he is pursuing their eagerness for the genuine gospel, and ultimately their eagerness to follow Jesus. His desire is that they see their eagerness for their apostle who proclaimed to them the gospel message and lived out the gospel before them.

How does this work? Paul visits them, attempts to correct them, and it doesn’t go well. He leaves, writes them a tearful letter, sends it with Titus, and prays that their eagerness for him will be revealed to them in the presence of God. Titus comes, delivers the letter. They experience grief according to God that leads them to repentance, and it reveals to them their love for the gospel, and for the one who brought them the gospel.

They see this in the presence of God. Paul by his openness has commended himself to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (4:2). Later in chapter 12 he says that ‘in the sight of God he speaks in Christ for your upbuilding’. They come to the realization of their love for Paul and the gospel in the presence of God. This is God at work in them.

Reciprocal Refreshment and Joy

2 Corinthians 7:13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

When Paul arrived in Troas, he said (2:13) “my spirit was not at rest.” When he entered Macedonia in search of Titus, he says (7:5) “our bodies had no rest.” Now he says that he is comforted and rejoiced because Titus’ spirit had been refreshed by you. Here again we see this reciprocal comfort, this reciprocal refreshment, this reciprocal joy in the body of Christ. We need each other. We are meant to encourage each other. Paul began the letter saying that he was a fellow-worker with the Corinthians for their joy (1:24), that the Corinthians were meant to bring him joy, and

2 Corinthians 2:3 …I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

Paul’s joy at over the Corinthians would be their joy. Even his severe letter that grieved them was meant ultimately for their joy. When they repented with a grief brought about by God, this brought Titus refreshment of spirit, and that brought Paul comfort and joy. There will be difficult times being part of the church. But even the difficult things are meant to encourage and bring joy. Have you brought joy and refreshment to anyone this past week?

Gospel Boasting and Gospel Confidence

2 Corinthians 7:14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

This is stunning, staggering, startling. Paul had been boasting about the Corinthians to Titus. This is startling on multiple levels. For one, Paul had told the Galatians

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

He said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men.

But here Paul seems to be violating his own instruction and boasting about this church. This is even more startling when you look at what we know about the church in Corinth. From 1 Corinthians we learn that they were divided with quarreling, jealousy and strife (1Cor.1:10-11; 3:3). They were embracing sexual immorality of a kind that was not even tolerated among the pagans (5:1). They were bringing lawsuits against each other (6:1). They were confused on marriage and morality (7). They were participating in idol feasts (8-10). They were disordered in their gatherings, and when they came together to eat the Lord’s supper, the rich would get drunk and the poor would go hungry (11:21). He said that it would be better if they did not meet at all (11:17). They were abusing spiritual gifts to promote themselves and impress others (12-14). They were even beginning to doubt the resurrection (15)! They didn’t respond well to his letter, or to his visit, so he had to write a severe letter and send it with someone else. And even though they responded well to that letter, there were still serious problems that he addresses in 2 Corinthians; they misunderstood Christian leadership, they were in danger of being deceived like Eve in the garden, being led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

This church was and still is a mess at the time of his writing. And in the middle of the mess, when he sent Titus with the severe letter, he boasted to Titus about them. What could this boasting possibly consist of? Surely it was misplaced!

Boasting in God or Boasting in Men?

We get a glimpse of what Paul means when he said he boasted in them if we look back to the thanksgiving at the beginning of 1 Corinthians. Before addressing all the problems that were going on in the church, he started by saying:

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, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Where we might see nothing at all to be thankful for, he thanks God continually for them. What does he see? He sees the grace of God given freely to them. It is clear they don’t deserve it; it is sheer grace! He thanks God that the testimony of Christ was confirmed among them; that they believed the gospel! This foolish message of the cross was demonstrated to be the power of God for salvation in them when they believed. They now are waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. And notice, it is this Jesus who will sustain you to the end guiltless. He reiterates; God is faithful. God called you into the fellowship of his Son. God did it. God is doing it. God will finish it. Notice where Paul’s confidence lies? Not in them; they were flakes. His confidence was squarely on God and the power of the gospel. His confidence was not in the faithfulness of the Corinthians; it was in the faithfulness of God to make good on his promises. This reminds me of Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God began the good work. God will finish what he started. I am sure of this. Are you sure of that? When you look around the room this morning, do you see a bunch of messes? That’s accurate; but do you see the gospel at work transforming those messes into something beautiful? Are you sure of this? Are you confident in God’s power at work in the gospel? When I look at you, do I see God’s grace? Man! You don’t deserve it! That’s grace, it’s all grace! And we need God’s grace! God’s grace was given to us in Christ Jesus, and Jesus will sustain us to the end guiltless, and God who called us into the fellowship of his Son, he is faithful!

This is gospel confidence and gospel boasting, and it is perfectly compatible with boasting only in the cross. It fits perfectly with what Paul says later in 2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

He went out on a limb and boasted to Titus about the Corinthians, not because he thought the Corinthians were basically pretty good people and they wouldn’t let him down, but because he knew that although they were worse at heart than he dared imagine, God’s transforming power through the gospel is more potent and will surely not fail to bring about his promises. His boasting in the Corinthians was boasting because they had believed the gospel. That good gospel seed with time will bust up their concrete hearts and produce good fruit. They were believing, trusting, depending on another. And that another is more than capable to bring about what he promised. Paul was confident that they hadn’t believed in vain; that they were being saved day by day by the gospel.

Imagine the conversation between Paul and Titus. “Titus, I know this church is a mess, and I don’t know how they are going to respond to you. They didn’t respond well to my letters or my visit. But when I went the first time and proclaimed the good news, they genuinely believed it. God opened their blind eyes to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God’s power began to change them. And he promises to finish what he started. I am praying that God would use this strong letter and your unique gifts and personality to bring about the godly grief and repentance that we both know would glorify God. I want you to go, confident that God has shown them grace, and although they will never deserve it, God is able to sustain them to the end, guiltless, because they are believing in Jesus. God called them and God is faithful. He will surely do it!”

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 7:14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

Everything we said to you was true. We proclaimed the true gospel to you, the good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Our boasting has in the same way proved true, because our boasting was rooted in the gospel. The gospel works! It is true and it works! God works through it! It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. We shouldn’t be surprised when we see the gospel working, transforming hopeless desperate lives. That is what God does. The more desperate and dark the situation, the greater the platform on which to display his glory. We can bank on it. We can boast in it.

Is there a situation today that you need to have gospel confidence in? Is there a person or situation that looks hopeless that you need to look at through the gospel lens and thank God for his grace to those who don’t deserve it? To thank him for his sustaining power? To thank him for calling us into the fellowship of his Son, to thank him for being always faithful, mighty to save? To thank him that he is a God who breathes life into dead things, who sets prisoners free, who brings hope to the hopeless, and overcomes darkness with his marvelous light?

***

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

July 21, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers

06/23_2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190623_2cor7_5-7.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7. At this point in the letter Paul picks up a thread of narrative that he left hanging back in chapter 2. If we look back to the beginning of this letter, he explained why he changed his plans and delayed his visit to them, instead sending Titus with a painful letter. He didn’t want to make another painful visit to them (2:1); which means that he had already made one painful visit. He also did not want them to be unaware of the affliction that he experienced in Asia; that he and his co-workers were so utterly burdened beyond their strength that he despaired of life (1:8). Then he said:

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

And he left us hanging for over 4 chapters, wondering what happened in Macedonia, if he met Titus there, how the emotional state of the apostle was.

2:14-7:4; Authentic Ministry

He left off his narrative to give us four chapters of theology, four chapters unpacking what authentic Christian ministry looks like, feels like, smells like. To summarize, authentic ministry is ministry following in the footsteps of Jesus; the Christian life is a life shaped by the cross. This church was looking for something eloquent, something powerful, something outwardly impressive. Instead Paul teaches that following Jesus looks weak and shameful, it looks like brokenness and suffering. It is characterized by humility. It looks like laying down your life in sacrificial service for others. Paul leaves us hanging for four chapters, wondering at the weakness and vulnerability of the apostle, wondering why he would abandon an opportunity for fruitful ministry, wondering about his troubled spirit, to drive home this point and reshape our expectations for authentic Christian ministry, ministry “which enters into the suffering of Christ for the sake of the church” (Guthrie, BECNT p.368).

Resolution with Depression

Listen to how the narrative reads if we jump from 2:13 to 7:5

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

We might expect the tense suspense to be resolved completely. But instead he points to his continued affliction. In chapter 2, his spirit found no rest; in chapter 7 his flesh finds no rest. No break, no pause, no relief. Both spirit and body under constant pressure. Both in Troas, and now in Macedonia, no rest.

He says ‘we were afflicted at every turn;’ literally ‘in all affliction.’ In the previous verse he said that we had ‘super-abounding joy in all our affliction.’ Now he describes some of that affliction; conflicts outside, fears inside. This is real. This is transparent. There was quarreling, conflict, strife. This word is not used to describe fighting with fist or sword; this word describes fighting with words, with looks and responses of the heart. We learn from the next chapter (8:2) that the churches of Macedonia, Phillippi and Thessalonica and Berea, were experiencing ‘extreme poverty; a severe test of affliction.’ Those were the external circumstances.

Paul’s Inner Anxiety

But inside, in his own heart, there were fears. Paul, the apostle, was afraid. In 1 Corinthians, when Paul said he had ‘decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,’ he says:

1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

We know from Acts 18:9 that ‘the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you.” Paul was so fearful that the Lord personally encouraged him.

We learn from his letters that Paul was afraid that his churches might be led away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2Cor.11:3). He feared visiting and finding them not as they ought to be (2Cor.12:20). He was afraid he might have labored over them in vain (Gal.4:11). He says in:

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

Paul had anxiety. Paul was fearful. His spirit was troubled. In the next verse, he says he was downcast. That word can be translated humble (as in Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5), and it can refer to the lowly, the despised, those of low standing outwardly in contrast to the rich or exalted, and it can refer to those who are low or downcast inwardly. That is the focus here. We would probably say Paul is depressed.

Brothers and sisters, you who are weary, you who are downcast, you who feel low and depressed and trampled, take heart! A Spirit-filled apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who knows the word (who actually was used to write the word!) can be downcast, depressed, fearful, and not know what to do. He might walk away from and open door of opportunity for ministry because of his inner unrest. Take heart! Paul is being real and transparent with us for our encouragement and instruction. It is not unspiritual or abnormal to experience depression and deep discouragement in ministry. Ministry is hard. Serving others often hurts. Others, even brothers and sisters, often hurt us. Following Jesus, laying down our rights in service to others, is hard. Crucifying the flesh with its passions and pride is painful. Paul gives us hope from the midst of his own affliction and heartache and troubled soul.

But …God

But God. Isn’t this where all hope enters our desperate situations? But God! We

Ephesians 2:3 …were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Romans 5:7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—… 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But God. God can enter into a desperate situation, a hopeless situation, even a dead situation. God is the God who breathes life and hope and healing and reconciliation.

Paul actually stretches the but …God phrase in this verse out for emphasis. The original word order reads like this: “But the one who encourages the downcast encouraged us – the God – in the coming of Titus.”

The God of All Comfort

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:8 back in 6:2 urging his readers that ‘now the day of God’s grace and salvation,’ and now he alludes again to Isaiah 49:13, pointing to the restoration of all that is desolate.

Isaiah 49:13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

The Greek translation of Isaiah that Paul would have used has some of the exact words that Paul uses here; ‘God … the downcast …has comforted.’

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

Paul began this letter pointing us to

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

God is the God of all comfort. He is the one who comforts us in all our affliction. Remember, we learned the word comfort is not a soft word like a cozy bed spread, but a strong word com-fort; like ‘fortress’ or ‘fortitude’. It could be translated ‘to encourage’ or ‘to infuse with courage;’ ‘to embolden another in belief or course of action’ [BDAG, 766] In the Greek it is literally ‘to call alongside’; a beautiful picture of God who is strong, calling us weak and tattered ones to his side, where he imparts to us his strength, his courage, his fortitude.

Mediated Comfort

God is the God who comforts the downcast. That is who he is. He comforted us by the coming of Titus. Notice that God is the one who does the comforting. He is the God of all comfort, and he comforts us in all our affliction, but he uses means to bring about comfort. He uses people. In Paul’s life, he used Titus. He left Troas distraught and discouraged, because Titus didn’t meet him there as planned. He faced both inner and outer turmoil when he arrived in Macedonia, yet God comforted him through the coming of Titus. He was able to connect with a friend and trusted co-laborer. God comforts, but often he doesn’t comfort us directly; his comfort is mediated to us through people.

In your discouragement don’t overlook or underestimate God’s work through other people. Don’t disconnect from the body. Don’t insulate and isolate yourself from others. ‘God, why aren’t you answering my prayer?’ We could imagine God answering ‘I intended to encourage your heart as you gathered as a local church with my people, but you chose to stay home and wallow.’ Don’t neglect God’s means of comfort through the local church, through friendships with brothers and sisters whom you’ve entrusted with permission to speak into your life. Paul recognized God at work bringing encouragement to him through the coming of his beloved Titus.

Reciprocal Comfort; Reciprocal Joy

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

Notice also that this comfort came to Paul through the coming of his friend, but a key part of that comfort was reciprocal. Titus had received encouragement, and that was an encouragement to Paul. This is one way God works within his body of believers. I am in need of encouragement, and you are in need of encouragement, and when I see your heart encouraged, it encourages my heart.

This is how he began his letter, speaking of God who comforts us so we are able to comfort others with the comfort we received from him. We are comforted for your comfort.

Why is this true? I am depressed, but I spend time with you and you have been encouraged, and your encouragement begins to lift my spirits. Why? I believe it is rooted in the truth that we are one body in Christ. Paul says in:

1 Corinthians 12:25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

When you smash your thumb with a hammer, it is your thumb that is injured, but the thumb does not experience its pain in isolation from the body. Because we are really and truly connected, when you are hurting, I hurt; when you are honored, I rejoice. When you are comforted, encouraged, emboldened, I experience comfort and courage. We are connected to one another in Christ.

Paul said in:

2 Corinthians 2:3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

When you are not following Jesus, it causes me pain. You are intended to bring me joy. And Paul is confident that his joy spills over to them; that his joy will be their joy, and in 1:24 he said that he is a fellow-worker with them for their joy. Paul is pursuing their joy by pursuing his own joy by pursuing their repentance. You see how this works? The Corinthians are turning away from Christ, and that causes Paul sorrow. He is doing everything he can to turn them back to a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. When they turn back to following Jesus, this brings joy to his heart. And when he rejoices in them, they see his joy in them, and it brings them joy. So Paul can say in 7:4 “I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” and he can say in 7:7 “so that I rejoiced still more.” Even in the middle of an experience of affliction, even when circumstances are still against him, he can be filled with comfort and super-abounding in joy, and he can rejoice even more, because he is connected to the greater body of Christ.

***

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

June 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:4; Super-Abounding On All Affliction

06/02_2 Corinthians 7:4; Superabounding Joy In All Affliction Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190602_2cor7_4.mp3

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

I just want to take this verse and listen to it, to turn it over and look at it, to savor its truth, to cherish it and ask if we might be able to apply its truth in helpful ways to today, to every day.

What I’m doing today is really not that profound. This is something we all can do. To take a verse and meditate, contemplate, ruminate and reflect on it, to chew on it, to think it over and allow it to change our thinking, to consider and take it to heart. This is what we should all be doing with God’s word, daily.

Background / Context

Paul is exhorting his readers to holiness. Holiness means cutting off inappropriate ties with false teachers and their practices, unfruitful partnerships with unbelievers. He applies various passages in the Old Testament to point them to the promises, to the truth of who they are in Christ, to say that because of who you now are, you need to act like who you are. Identity shapes behavior. Behavior doesn’t shape identity.

You have a king’s kid, the heir to the throne. And you have the son of a pauper, a peasant. The peasant can try to dress like the king’s kid, he can try to behave like the king’s kid (and he may often be better behaved than the king’s kid) but his behavior doesn’t change his identity. On the other hand, the king’s kid doesn’t often act like the king’s kid, he doesn’t like to dress like the king’s kid, but he is. It is his identity. He is heir to the throne. We hope and pray that over time he rises to the office, and grows into the position that is his, that he would learn to love and serve and rule well, we want his identity to shape his behavior, but his identity is not changed by his behavior.

Paul is saying, because of who you are, because of who you have become in Christ, this should motivate you to rise to the office, to step up and pursue holiness, to be who you are in Christ. God lives in you and walks among you, he is our God and has taken us to be his own people; he welcomes us and is a Father to us; he adopts us as his own sons and daughters. Because of who we are in Christ, “since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Allow your identity to shape your behavior.

Having given them a strong exhortation to holiness, he re-affirms his love for them, and invites them to open their affections to him in return. Because we are united with Christ in death, so we are united in his resurrection life. Because of our union with Christ, we have love for one another; we die together and we live together.

Boldness

And then he launches yet another staccato series of statements: much my boldness toward you, much my boasting on behalf of you, filled with comfort, super-abounding in joy on all our affliction.

Much my boldness toward you. Paul has been open, outspoken, blunt, frank with them. And he makes it clear, this is because his heart is open wide to them; he loves them. He has them in his heart. He is united with them. So he can be direct with them; when there is a problem, a concern, when their conduct is not in step with the gospel, he can address the issue. He uses tact, he applies wisdom, he is not rude. But he is clear. He speaks plainly to them. He used this word ‘boldness’ back in chapter 3:12 where he was contrasting his apostolic ministry with the veiled ministry of Moses. He said:

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,

And that applies here. Since we have this hope, these promises, because of our shared identity, who we are in Christ, we can be very bold. There is great confidence;

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

The Corinthians are God’s work. And he will bring it to completion. And one of the instruments in his hands to bring that work in them to completion is Paul. So Paul can be bold with them because he knows ultimately it is God’s work and he will without fail complete what he started in them. This is blood-bought gospel boldness, gospel confidence.

Boasting

Much boldness toward you; much boasting on behalf of you. Paul wants them to know that they are not his problem child. We read the Corinthian correspondence and we might get the impression from all his boldness addressing all the problems there that they are a constant source of grief to him. They might get the impression that he talks negatively about them wherever he goes. After all, he likely left Ephesus to make an emergency visit to them, and that didn’t go well. Then on this trip, he decided not to make another painful visit to them first, but instead send Titus to hopefully patch things up. But in Troas he left an open door for gospel ministry because of his inner turmoil over them. We could easily hear him saying ‘yeah, I’d really like to stay and serve you, but I’ve got this problem church down in Achaia, and I’ve got to go deal with them… again. But that is not his heart, and that is not how he talks about them. Here he affirms that when he talks to others about them, it is ‘much boasting’. And we see him display this in the Corinthian letters. He said in 1 Corinthians 1 that

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, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

In 1 Corinthians 15:31 he swears and oath by his pride in them. Later in this chapter (7:14) he relays that he had been boasting about them to Titus, and his boasting had proved true. In 8:24 he says that he has been boasting about them to the other churches. He is bold toward them, but he is like a proud parent boasting about them to others. There are issues, and he doesn’t brush over them; he is bold toward them. But he is proud of them. He takes pride in them; ultimately in the work of God he sees in them. God is at work. And he is confident in the ability of God to complete what he has begun.

Comfort

Much boldness, much boasting, I am filled with comfort. Different forms of this word ‘comfort’ show up 10 times in 1:3-7

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

God is the God of all comfort. He comforts us so that we can comfort others. If you remember all the way back to chapter 1, we learned there that this word comfort is not a soft word; it is a strong word. Com-fort has ‘fort’ as its root, as in fortress or fortitude. This is a strengthening word. The Greek is παρακλήσει which literally means to call alongside. Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit in John 14 as the παράκλητος ‘the Comforter’ (Jn.14:16,26;15:26;16:7;cf.1Jn.2:1) or the Helper; the one who calls us to his side. In our afflictions, God calls us to his side; he is with us in our sufferings, he implores, he exhorts, he gives us strength. In the coming verses he talks about the comfort he received at the coming of Titus. Here he says he is cram full of comfort. He is filled up. He was downcast, but God comforted him. He has no lack, his cup is not empty. Filled up with comfort.

Notice where this strengthening comfort comes from. It is the God of all comfort who comforts us; we are comforted by God. It is God who comforts the downcast, who comforted us. And notice where this strengthening comfort comes to us, it comes in all our affliction. It comes to those in any affliction. We experience abundant comfort as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings. You experience comfort when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Comfort isn’t escape from the pain; comfort comes to us in the middle of our pain.

Super-Abounding in Joy on All Our Affliction

This last phrase in this series is so interesting; super-abounding in joy on all our affliction. It seems Paul coined this word here. He takes a more common word superabound, to have more abundance, to be in excess, to have more than enough, which shows up a dozen times in the gospels; once in Acts, and 26 times in Paul’s letters, and he adds a prefix to compound and amplify it; super-super-abound. His cup is not just filled up full, it is not just overflowing, it is super-overflowing.

He uses this word here as he writes to Corinth from Macedonia, and again a few months later when he writes to the Romans from Corinth.

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Grace super-super abounded; Grace hyper-over-flowed.

Here, he is hyper-over-flowing with joy. This is unexpected. I think of the Corinthian letters as filled with concern and correction, not overflowing with joy. But here it is. Joy confronts us in unexpected places. Joy. In 1:24 he refused to lord it over them, but he works with them for their joy. In 2:3 he refers to his previous painful letter and expressed his confidence that his joy would be the joy of all. In 6:10 he describe the paradox of ministry as ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing’. Four times in this chapter (7:7,9,13,16) he speaks of his rejoicing. In 7:13 he rejoices over the joy of Titus. In 8:2 he talks about the abundance of joy of the Macedonians. In 13:9 he finds joy in his own weakness in pursuit of their restoration, and then in 13:11 he says ‘ Finally, brothers, rejoice.’

We tend to think, ‘how can he talk so much about joy and rejoicing all through a letter that is addressing such serious issues?’ And how can he talk about joy when he is experiencing such overwhelming suffering. But this is the thing, he is showing them what it looks like to have joy above your circumstance, joy not conditioned on your circumstances. Literally he says joy on top of all our affliction.

He won’t leave alone the theme of affliction. In chapter 1 it was comfort in all our affliction. He writes of ‘the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (1:8). In 2:4 he “wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears.” In 4:17 “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” In 6:4 he commends himself as a legitimate servant of God “by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities.” In 8:2 he speaks of the Macedonian’s “abundance of joy” “in a severe test of affliction” which “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”

Joy not only can survive, but can thrive in the middle of adverse circumstances. This joy is piled right on the top of all our affliction.

Application

Are you looking for a change in your circumstances? Are you looking for a break? Is your happiness contingent on your circumstances? That’s not the kind of joy Paul holds out to us. Is your joy hyper-over-flowing even in the midst of adverse circumstances? Are you filled up with comfort? Where does this come from? He doesn’t leave us wondering. It comes from God; it comes to us in the gospel. It comes to us in the middle of the mess. God doesn’t often change our circumstances, but he does want to transform us in the midst of the circumstances. He wants to heap inexplicable joy right on top of our painful reality.

Paul is not ignoring his circumstances; he is not in denial. But neither is he self-focused. He is looking to others. He is looking to how God is using him in the lives of others. He has much boldness toward them. And he is looking at God’s hand evidenced in the lives of others. He has much boasting on behalf of them. He sees God at work, even though that work is not finished yet. And that helps. It helps to see that God is at work in others. Sometimes we are too close to see him at work in us. But we can see him at work in others. And that can give us confidence that he is indeed at work in me.

He is not going to people to fill his cup. He is filled up with comfort; the comfort of the Holy Ghost. The comfort that the God of all comfort pours out into those whose hearts have been emptied through suffering. Are you seeking to avoid any suffering? That is where God meets us with his comfort and his overflowing joy.

***

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

June 3, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isaiah 25:6-9; Death Swallowed Up Forever

04/01_Resurrection Sunday; Isaiah 25:6-9; Death Swallowed Up Forever; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180401_resurrection-sunday.mp3

It is Resurrection Sunday; the day we celebrate the triumph of our Lord Jesus over sin and death and hell.

The Wine and The Cup

Last week, Palm Sunday, we looked at Isaiah 24; God made everything very good, but because of our rebellion, sin and guilt:

Isaiah 24:4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. 5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. 7 The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. 8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. 9 No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. 11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. 12 Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. 13 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

All joy has grown dark, the gladness of the earth is banished. Every worldly pleasure will leave us empty, longing for something more, something satisfying.

And we looked at Jesus in John 2, where at a wedding in Cana that ran out of wine, he performed the premier of his mighty works which displayed his glory; he turned over 100 gallons of water into the finest aged wine for the celebration. Jesus is saying that when the wine runs out and all joy has grown dark, it is right to look to him. Jesus is the one we must look to for true enduring satisfaction and fulfillment.

But Jesus it seems was looking past this wedding to something else, something sobering. He said to his mother ‘what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come’ (Jn.2:4). His hour was the hour of suffering that he had come to this earth to face, the cup of God’s wrath against the sins of mankind, a cup that he must drink.

Mark 14:34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

This was a cup and an hour that he asked the Father in the garden if there was any way possible for it to pass from him.

Matthew 26:42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Jesus was horrified staring into his hour and the cup of the wine of the fury of the wrath of Almighty God against the sins of the world (Rev.16:19). And yet, if he must drink it, he will.

Luke 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.

God’s answer was to send and strengthen him for what he was about to face, so that he was able to resolutely say some brief moments later:

John 18:11 …“Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus had come to drink the bitter cup. It was for this reason he had come to this hour (Jn.12:27).

Hope in the Midst of Judgment

It is against the dark backdrop of Isaiah 24, where:

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt…

Isaiah 24:11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken.

But even in the midst of this scene of global judgment against sin we see rays of hope shining through.

Isaiah 24:16 From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One. …

Isaiah 24:23 …for the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders.

And then Isaiah 25 breaks out in a word of hope.

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

What are these wonderful things he has done, these plans formed of old? Where does this hope come from, faithful and sure? I believe we get a hint if we keep reading in Isaiah 25.

Death Swallowed Up

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Salvation comes from the Lord. He saves us. He will take away our reproach. He will wipe away our tears. He will swallow up death forever. He will make a feast of rich food and well aged wine. And Jesus, in the first of his signs in which he displayed his glory, made more than 100 gallons of well aged wine for a feast.

It will be said on that day ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him; this his the LORD; we have waited for him.’ When ‘there is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine,’ when ‘all joy has grown dark,’ when ‘ the gladness of the earth is banished,’ enter Jesus, the true Master of the feast. Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.

How does Jesus provide this feast? It says he will swallow up the covering, the veil, he will swallow up death forever. We know from Romans 6 that death is ‘the wages of sin’. God created the world very good, but he warned that in the day we disobey his good command, ‘you shall surely die’ (Gen.2:17). Romans 5 tells us that ‘sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.’ Death was not a part of God’s good creation; death was a consequence of our rebellion. Death is a part of the curse that hangs over all creation like a veil. And Isaiah 25 tells us that the coming one, God, the LORD will save us by swallowing up death forever.

The Gospel

How does Jesus swallow up death? 2 Timothy 1 says

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Our Savior Christ Jesus abolished death. 2 Timothy says he abolished death through the free gift of God’s purpose and grace, through his ‘plans formed of old,’ through the gospel.

If we go to the great gospel chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, which lays out plainly the simple message of good news, a reminder of ‘the gospel I preached to you;’

1 Corinthians 15:3 …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

1 Corinthians 15 is a great place to go if you are ever confused on the content of the gospel message. This is the gospel by which we are saved; that Christ (the promised Messiah) died (was crucified) for our sins (he didn’t deserve to die, we did; he died in our place) in accordance with the Scriptures (it was prophesied; the whole Old Testament points to this sacrifice of the Son of God). That he was buried (as evidence that he was really and truly dead), that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (thus undoing death and the curse), and that he appeared (giving verifiable evidence that he was really and truly alive).

The gospel, the good news, is that Jesus paid in full for our sins by his death on the cross, and that he conquered death by rising again. 1 Corinthians 15 links Jesus’ resurrection with ours. It looks forward to the day when:

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a combination of quotes from Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13. ‘He will swallow up death forever.’ The sting of death is sin, and that sting of sin was buried in Jesus’ body on the tree. The power of sin is the law, and Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly, and he writes his law now on our transformed hearts, so we are eager to love as he has loved us. God gives us the victory over the law and sin and death through our Lord Jesus.

Death Swallowed Up from the Inside

Jesus said in John 10

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. …17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The good news is that Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. And he lays down his own life in order that he may take it up again. The authority to take up his life again comes through the command of the Father, through his freely laying down his life.

In the next chapter, at a friend’s funeral, he tells a grieving sister:

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus is the resurrection. He gives eternal life to all who believe in him. He can do this because he lays down his life freely for others. The curse of sin must be broken. The wages of sin must be paid out, either by the offending party, or by a willing substitute.

Hebrews 2 points to Jesus in his incarnation,

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God the Son became human so that he might taste death for you. This is grace, the undeserved kindness of God. I deserve death, but he who is life itself tasted death in my place, so that he could absorb the sting of death, abolish and swallow up death forever, and give eternal life to all who believe in him.

How did he swallow up death forever? Jesus swallowed up death by being swallowed up by death. He conquered death from inside death, by himself dying. He paid a debt he did not owe, and through his death he broke the power of death and the curse.

Hebrews goes on to say:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Jesus became human so that he could conquer death by dying. Through his own death, he robbed death of its power, he stripped Satan of his power, he set us free from our slavery to the fear of death. Through his death, Jesus removed the sting of death and swallowed up death forever.

Joy and the Feast

Jesus told his disciples

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. …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.

Their sorrow over his death was transformed into joy when they saw him again alive and understood what his death meant, what his death accomplished. Their sorrow turned into joy. And so our hearts rejoice. And no one, no one can take our joy from us now!

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Jesus our Lord and our God has conquered sin and swallowed up death by dying, and he rose victorious from the grave. The LORD has spoken. This is his wonderful plan, formed of old, faithful and sure. He will wipe away every tear, making the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us (Rom.8:18). All our reproaches have fallen on him (Ps.69:9) and he has taken them away. We have waited for him that he might save us. Jesus, the Lord of the feast, now invites every tribe and tongue and people and nation to his feast. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation!

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

April 3, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment