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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Spirit’s Fruit: Peace Like Jesus

06/11 The Spirit’s Fruit: Peace Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170611_peace-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking at the fruit of the Holy Spirit; the character that the Spirit brings about in the life of a believer in Jesus. Today we will look at peace. Before we get into that, I want to look at something Jesus said about fruitfulness. Jesus told a story in Mark 4 about a sower and seed falling on different kinds of soil. Some fell along the path and was devoured by birds, some fell on rocky ground and was scorched and withered, some fell among thorns and was choked, and some fell on good soil and produced fruit. The seed is the word. From some the enemy snatches the word away before it ever took root. Some sprang up quickly but withered away when persecution came, because it had no depth of root. Some were choked out by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things.

The good soil produces fruit. The are differing proportions of fruitfulness; some 30, some 60, some 100 fold. But the seed consistently produces good fruit when it is in good soil.

We cannot change the nature of a seed. We cannot control the sun or the rain. But there are things we can do to prepare our soil to receive the word. We can cultivate the soil. With God’s help we can work toward a heart condition that is ready to receive his word. We ask God to give us attentiveness to his word and guard us against the enemy. We can invite God to till our hearts to break up hardness. We can clear ground to provide room for roots to go deep. We can be on guard against those things that choke the word and root them out.

We can cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our lives, but we cannot produce fruit. Only God, by the work of his Spirit, through Jesus Christ, produces this fruit in our lives.

What Peace Is and Is Not

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. Love is willing, costly self-giving for the good of others. Joy is a weighty delight in God that is unaffected by outward circumstances. Peace. What is peace? Where do we find peace? How does peace grow in us? What does peace look like?

We talk about having peace and preserving peace making peace and being at peace. When we are not at war, we say we have peace. When we say we have made peace, we mean that we have healed a damaged relationship. We say we are at peace when we have resigned ourselves to accept a difficult circumstance. All of this is helpful as far as it goes.

It may be helpful to clear the ground from what peace is not. We might define peace negatively as the absence of war, but peace is more than that. Peace is more than the absence of something. Peace is positive. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. We might say that we have peace when everything is going well, going our way. But as we saw with joy, that is not the kind of peace that is the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit produces peace that is unaffected by outward circumstances. And to say that we are at peace with an adverse circumstance, meaning that I am resigned to accept the inevitable is inadequate. The fruit of the Spirit is whole. All aspects come together. Love and joy must accompany peace. To say I am merely resigned to the fact but am not joyful is not the peace that the Spirit brings. Jesus talks about a peace that is different than the world’s peace.

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

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

The Foundation of Peace (Romans 5)

We find peace throughout the Bible. Most of the New Testament letters begin with a greeting something like ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Grace is always first, because real peace is created by God’s undeserved grace. We cannot experience true peace unless we first experience God’s unmerited grace. Romans 5 spells out the foundation of our peace.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

No peace matters if we do not have peace with God. We can have peace in our world, we can make peace with our in-laws, we can be at peace with our cancer, but unless we have peace with God, we have no real, no lasting peace. What do we mean when we talk about peace with God? If you look down to Romans 5:10, we see that this peace is the reconciling of enemies. Romans 5 describes us as weak, ungodly, sinners, enemies. It speaks of being saved from the the wrath of God. We were at war with God. We rebelled against God. We were opposed to all that God is and stands for; we were ungodly. We deserved his wrath. But God is the best enemy we could ever have. When King David was given a choice between famine and invasion judgment of the Lord, he said “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (1Chr.21:13; 2Sam.24:14). God is the enemy who fights to win us not to defeat us. God is the only enemy who fights with the weapon of love. God fights his enemies by willingly giving of himself for their good. Here it is:

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Being justified – having been cleared of all charges because Jesus paid our penalty in full; having been justified by faith – in utter dependence believing, receiving the gift we have been offered; we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our enemy through love has conquered our resistance and made us his friends. Through Jesus we now have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We only stand in his presence in grace – an unearned gift.

This peace with God, reconciliation with God is the foundation of our joy in the midst of sufferings. That is what Romans 5:3-5 tell us, verses we looked at last week when we looked at joy. Joy and peace are inseparable. Joy and peace are grounded in justification; we have peace with God because we have been declared righteous as a gift by a holy God based solely on the finished work of Jesus.

The Practice of Peace (Philippians 4; 1 Peter 5)

As believers in Jesus we have this peace with God as an objective present reality. But we may not be enjoying this peace. How do we experience this peace and enjoy this peace? For this we can turn to Philippians 4. Philippians 4 also connects joy with peace.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

First, to enjoy this peace, our joy must be in the Lord. Fear and anxiety come when what we rejoice in is threatened. If our joy is in our possessions, we will have anxiety over losing them. If our joy is in our health, a new bump or lump will create fear. If our joy is in our family, any threat will cause us to lose our peace. If our joy is contingent on financial security, or job, or image, or relationship, we will be filled with anxiety.

Remember Jesus’ parable? The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things choke out his word and it becomes unfruitful. We lose our peace.

Anxiety can be a helpful warning light to identify the idols of our heart. What we are anxious about is what we treasure, what we take joy in. And if our joy is in the Lord, well, nothing can shake that!

Isaiah 26 says:

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord is at hand. He is not far off. He is not distant and aloof. He promises never to leave us. So if our joy is first and primarily in the Lord, then there is no reason to be anxious about anything. Is that really possible? To not be anxious about anything? Is there something you are worrying about? Stop it! That doesn’t work. This text is practical. We have a tendency toward anxiety. This doesn’t just tell us to stop it; instead it tells us what to do with our anxiety. Take it to the Lord. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Don’t be anxious about anything; take everything to Jesus. Make your requests known to God. He already knows about them, but when you take them to him, it is a way for you to leave them with him. Allow him to carry them. ‘Lord, I’m not sure what is going to happen. I have this fear. I think things might turn out in a way that ruins me and steals my joy. I am afraid that I won’t have what I need. But you promise that you cause all things to work together for my good; even the things I consider bad. Thank you. Thank you that you supply all my needs according to your riches in glory. Thank you that all I really need is you. If I have you, that is enough, and you will never leave. You will never fail.’ Take your worries to God. Ask with thanksgiving. That is very different from asking with whining or complaining or bargaining. ‘Lord, I need, gimme, gimme, gimme!’ We can only be thankful in our asking when we are confident that God is for us and will do what we would ask for if we knew all the possible outcomes. We can be confident that God is for us and will do what is best because we believe the gospel.

Romans 8:32 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?

When we keep God first in our joy, and bring the things that threaten our joy to him in prayer with thanksgiving, then

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is more than peace with God. This is the peace of God. God’s own quiet confidence that all is well and everything will work out for his best will be ours! This is a peace that can exist in the most troubling circumstances. This is peace that is beyond understanding. This is a peace that protects heart and mind from debilitating anxiety and fear.

He goes on,

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

What is true? 2+2=4? Does that give you peace? What is honorable? What is just, pure, lovely, commendable? Who is excellent or worthy of praise? This is another way of saying ‘fix your eyes on Jesus.’ Think about Jesus! Jesus is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of all praise. These are attributes of God. Think about who God is, think about theology. If we are looking at Jesus, delighting in Jesus more than anything else, we will have peace.

What have you learned and received and heard and seen in Paul? What is it that Paul proclaims? The Gospel! Jesus Christ and him crucified! The good news that God is for us. Practice these things. Live the doctrine, live the teaching, live the gospel. Rehearse the gospel. Enjoy the gospel. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice in the Lord, give him your anxious thoughts with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will protect you; meditate on who he is and the God of peace will be with you. The peace of God will protect you and the God of peace will be with you!

Understand this will not be easy. This will be a fight. A battle. You must wage war for peace. You must fight for peace. The flesh will not willingly comply. You must fight to rejoice in the Lord. You must fight to turn your anxieties over to him with thanksgiving. You must battle and discipline yourself to look longer at Jesus than you look at your troubles. You must fight for peace.

Look over to 1 Peter 5. Peter gives us more practical help in pursuing peace. He says

1 Peter 5:5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Humility. Pursue peace with humility. God gives grace to the humble. In humility cast all your cares on him. We tend to be proud. I can handle this. I don’t need help with this. I can carry this. Pride says ‘I can carry my own burden.’ Humility says ‘I am weak. I need help. I am anxious. I am afraid.’ Guard yourself against pride. Throw down your pride. In humility cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. He cares for you! He cares for you!

The Peace of Jesus (Mark 4)

Jesus says

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

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

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gives us peace, even in the middle of tribulation, because our peace is not in our circumstances; our peace is in him.

Jesus told another story about seed and fruit in Mark 4.

Mark 4:26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This is an interesting parable, and it comes shortly after the parable of the sower and the different soils. This parable is about the farmer who sows his seed and then goes to sleep. He is not lazy. He sows, he gets up every day and does his work. When the time comes he reaps. But he doesn’t worry. There’s a lot about the science of farming he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand seed germination and pollination and photosynthesis. He just scatters seed and goes to sleep. He doesn’t spend night after anxious night fretting about what is happening with his seed. He trusts. He rests. There is a lot that is out of his control, out of his hands. He is responsible with what is in his hands. But with the rest, he is at peace. He goes to sleep.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Look down a little further in Mark 4.

Mark 4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. …

Jesus had been teaching multitudes, and spending time privately with his disciples. He was exhausted. They took him ‘just as he was.’ He fell asleep. There was a great storm. The waves were crashing over the boat, filling the boat. Jesus was asleep. Even in the middle of a great storm, he was at peace.

Mark 4:38 …And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Where is your faith? Jesus was sound asleep, fully confident, resting in his Father’s good control. What has captured your attention? The storm that rages around you, or the one who is in your boat with you?

Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago. He and his wife Anna had five children. In 1871 their 2 year old son died of pneumonia, and in the same year they lost much of their business in the great Chicago fire. In 1873 his wife and four daughters were aboard a ship crossing theAtlantic. Mr. Spafford was delayed with business and planned to join the family later. Four days into the journey, their ship collided with another ship and went down, and his four daughters were lost. His wife was found floating on a piece of wreckage and brought to Europe. From there she wired her husband ‘Saved alone, what shall I do?’ Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship, and about 4 days into the journey, near the place where the ship went down, he penned these words:

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

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

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus

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

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

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

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

Joy Defined

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

What Joy is Not

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

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

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

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

Joy that Coexists with Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Untouched by Circumstances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy in Trials

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

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

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

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

C.H. Spurgeon commented about trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Linked to Love

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

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

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

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

Fight for Joy with Joy

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

Joy in the Giver above the Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 20; The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God

01/29 Leviticus 20; The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170129_leviticus-20.mp3

After a bit of a break, we are going to jump back in to the book of Leviticus. We are in chapter 20. Before we jump right in, we need to locate ourselves in the book to understand what we are looking at in its context.

We are in the second major half of Leviticus. Leviticus 16 is the centerpiece of Leviticus; and the book of Leviticus is the centerpiece of the Torah or Pentateuch; the five books of Moses.

Leviticus 1-7 outline the sacrificial system; Leviticus 8-10 describe the priests, those responsible for officiating the sacrifices; chapters 11-15 describe various sources of uncleanness that require sacrifice; and chapter 16 explains the great Day of Atonement; how uncleanness is cleansed so God can dwell with man. To use a New Testament theological term, Leviticus 16 deals with justification. We are told:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

No work was to be done by the people on that day; rather work was done for the people by the priest. The people were to be completely cleansed by the work of their high priest.

Leviticus 17-27 is known as the holiness code; how does a person live after being made right with God through the work of the high priest? In New Testament terms, we would use the word sanctification. Now that I have been justified, now that I have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of a substitute, what does life in relationship with a holy God look like?

The basis of these demands for holiness are rooted in our relationship with the LORD. God says in chapters 18-20 almost 50 times “I am the LORD your God.” The foundation for these regulations is relationship. Because I am your God and I have taken you to be my people, this is how you must live.

Leviticus 19 is one of Jesus’ favorite chapters in the Bible. In 19:2 we find the oft repeated phrase “you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy”; which forms the basis of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:48 that “you …must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Leviticus 19 spells out in very diverse real life ways what holiness looks like in daily life and relationships. 19:18 is what Jesus quotes when he says “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Mt.5:43; 19:19; 22:39); then in 19:34 this is expanded to include the stranger who sojourns with you; “you shall love him as yourself”; this is the basis for Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 on loving you enemy, and the foundation of his teaching in Luke 10 on the good Samaritan and who was a neighbor to the man in need.

Chapter 19 is sandwiched between chapters 18 and 20. These two chapters cover much of the same ground, and if you remember back, chapter 18 was one of the most uncomfortable messages I have ever had to give. It deals with holiness and human sexuality, because holiness extends to every area of life.

We could ask, ‘Why so much repetition? Why cover the same ground twice?’ One reason is that this is important and we are often slow to hear. This information matters to God enough for him to say it twice. If God recorded it for us twice in the space of three chapters, we ought to take notice and heed his instruction. Another reason is that chapters 18 and 20 are coming at the same subject from two different angles. Chapter 18 is addressed to the individual Israelite, telling him ‘do not do these things; they are highly displeasing to the LORD who bought you.’ The goal is found in 18:4-5

Leviticus 18:4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

Do these things and you will enjoy life in relationship with me. Life and obedience are linked together.

Chapter 20 is not addressed to the individual but to the holy community. If someone who is living as part of the community does any of these forbidden things and sins against the LORD, this is how the community is to respond. Nine times we find the phrase ‘shall surely be put to death’; 6 times ‘their blood is upon them’; 5 times ‘cut off from among their people’; 3 times ‘I will set my face against that man’; 3 times ‘shall bear their iniquity’ or ‘sin’; 2 times ‘shall be childless’; 2 times shall stone him with stones’; once ‘shall be burned with fire’. Chapter 18 holds out life in following God’s rules; chapter 20 commands death and separation as the consequence of refusing to follow God’s ways. The wages of sin is death.

Structure

This passage has three main sections of judgment pronounced on disobedience, separated by two sections of exhortation to holy living.

20:1-6 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]

–20:7-8 exhortation to holiness

—-20:9-21 sins against family [protecting human relationships]

–20:22-26 exhortation to holiness [promise of holiness]

20:27 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]

We see in this passage a connection between spiritual unfaithfulness and sexual degeneracy; the same connection we see in Romans 1.

Consequences for Spiritual Unfaithfulness

Leviticus 20:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech. 6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

This issue was briefly mentioned in Leviticus 18:21

Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

Offering children to Molech was one of the reasons God told his people to exterminate entire civilizations. All the way back in Genesis, God told Abram that his descendants

Genesis 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Now that time has come; the Lord detests their practices and the land will vomit out its inhabitants. One of these detestable practices was child sacrifice.

David’s son, king Solomon, married many foreign women who turned away his heart after other gods. We are told in 1 Kings 11

1 Kings 11:7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah prophesies against Judah, because

Jeremiah 7:31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

Jeremiah says

Jeremiah 19:4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind—

Jeremiah says they have filled Topheth, the Valley of Hinnom with the blood of the innocents, and he calls these offerings ‘whole bunrt offerings’. He says in chapter 32

Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

In Ezekiel 16, God accuses Jerusalem of being an unfaithful bride.

Ezekiel 16:20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

When we visited Gezer, a once important Canaanite city on a major trade intersection west of Jerusalem, we looked at an excavation report that listed the skeleton of a child, and a number of jar buried infants, probably less than a week old, some of which had been burned.

God insisted that anyone in the land found guilty of offering a child to a false god must be stoned to death by the community. Even if the people chose to look the other way, or ‘closed their eyes to that man,’ God himself would enact the punishment. God took this personally. He says three times ‘I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people’ (v.3, 5, 6). He calls this ‘whoring after’, likening idolatry to marital unfaithfulness.

In the United States, the number of legal abortions performed since the 1973 decision Roe vs. Wade is approaching 60 million children.

There were an estimated 906,000 legal abortions in 2015 in the U.S. The State of Florida records reason for each abortion; of the over 71 thousand abortions in florida in 2015, less than 1% of abortions were reported to terminate a pregnancy related to incestuous relationships, rape, endagering the life of the mother, or a threat to physical or psychological health of mother; a little over half a percent was due to a serious fetal abnormality; about 6 and a quarter percent was for social or economic reasons; over 92% the procedures were elective; there was no reason. We have filled our land with the blood of the innocents.

The wages of sin is death. This passage begins and ends with spiritual unfaithfulness. We are not to turn to those who deal with spirits or deal with the deceased. God alone is the source of all truth.

Leviticus 20:27 “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”

Exhortation to Holiness and the Source of Holiness

Leviticus 20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

The ground for the commands is our relationship with God. Set yourselves apart and be set apart, for I am the LORD your God. Keep and do my commands; I am the LORD who sets you apart. We are to be holy, be set apart because the LORD is our God. We are to be holy because the LORD makes us holy. We cannot be holy on our own, of our own initiative. We do take initiative. We set ourselves apart, we choose to live lives of holiness; but we can only do so because God sets us apart; God sanctifies us. Be holy because I am the LORD who makes you holy.

Consequences for Sins against the Family

The next section is intended to protect the family. It begins by requiring children to respect the God-given authority of father and mother, and continues by forbidding sexual deviancy.

Leviticus 20:9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him. 10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 17 “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity. 18 If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or of your father’s sister, for that is to make naked one’s relative; they shall bear their iniquity. 20 If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness; they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21 If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

The family unit is to be preserved. Adultery, incest, homosexuality, polygamy, bestiality are forbidden. They are called perversion, an abomination, depravity, a disgrace, impurity. These are strong words. God created us for a good purpose, to leave father and mother and cleave to one wife, and become one flesh. Romans 1 traces a similar spiritual decline that moves from idolatry to sexual distortions. Suppressing truth about God and failure to honor him as God leads to foolish idolatry and then to the pursuit of dishonorable passions. Paul concludes “…they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die…” (Rom.1:32).

Exhortation to Holiness and Promise of Holiness

Leviticus 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. 26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

This passage is a warning. The nations I am driving out did all these things, and therefore I detested them. Do not do as they did, or the land will vomit you out as well. God is just. The wages of sin is death. Israel failed to heed God’s warning, and although he is patient, he is just, and the land vomited them out; they went into captivity.

God says you shall therefore keep all my statues and all my rules and do them. …You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess. …I am the LORD your God who has separated you from the peoples. …You shall be holy to me …for I have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine. These are precious promises, and they are freely given. They are not earned. We do not become holy by our own efforts. God is the one who calls us out us from among the peoples, who freely gives us an inheritance, who sets us apart as holy to him, that we should belong to him. God is the one, according to Ezekiel 36 who says:

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

There is a spiritual decline in Romans 1 that moves from failure to worship God as he is, to idolatry, to dishonorable passions. But this is why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel:

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

To who?

…to everyone who believes…

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation. To you, if you will believe.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What we earned is death. We all have sinned and fallen short. But in Jesus God offers us a free gift. He offers the powerful gift of life to all who will believe. It is a free gift to be received by faith. By believing. This is a powerful transforming gift. This is a gift that changes you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Have you believed? Have you experienced the desire-transforming power of God’s Spirit in you, as he calls you ‘mine’ and begins to make you holy?

***

We have a message of good news. For those who have had an abortion, we have good news of healing and forgiveness in Jesus. For those considering aborting, we have a message of hope in Jesus. There is another way, the way of life. For the sexually immoral, for the sexually deviant, for idolaters who worship their own desires above the Lord God, there is hope. Let’s bring the good news that a holy God freely gives his Spirit to the broken, to the hurting, to transform them by his magnificent grace!

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

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Glorify God

01/22 How to Glorify God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170122_how-to-glorify-god.mp3

Last week we looked at the primary purpose of the church and of each of us as followers of Jesus. We exist, according to Ephesians 1, to the praise of his glorious grace, to the praise of his glory, to the praise of his glory (Eph.1:6, 12, 14). As the Westminster Shorter Catechism begins “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (1647). Romans 15 tells us that we are ‘to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,’ so

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Angelic beings in Isaiah 6 declare

Isaiah 6:3 … “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Psalmist declares

Psalm 86:12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

In Psalm 106 as in Romans 1, sinners are condemned because:

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

Philippians tells us that one day

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Peter tells us to so use our gifts, in dependence on God,

1 Peter 4:11 …—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Cornithians tells us

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Jesus tells us to

Matthew 5:16 …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We exist for the glory of God. We are meant to glorify God. The glory of God is to be our chief aim, our primary purpose. If this is true then some questions must follow. What is the glory of God? And how do I glorify God?

The Glory of God and Spiritual Blindness

First, what is the glory of God? If my primary purpose is to glorify God, then I need to understand what I am aiming for. If we don’t have a grasp of a biblical definition of God’s glory, then we won’t have a clue how to live for the glory of God. We must perceive the glory of God in order to live for the glory of God. And this is spiritual work that requires supernatural help. We are told in 2 Corinthians 4 that

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

So there is a spiritual blindness upon unbelievers to prevent them from seeing God’s glory in Christ. This blindness requires a sovereign act of God to overcome.

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

Sovereign God, open our eyes that we may behold your glory in the face of Jesus!

The Glory of God; Light and Weight

I see in scripture, mainly two aspects to the glory of God; light and weight. This passage in 2 Corinthians speaks of the light of the good news of the glory of Christ; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. The book of Revelation tells us that

Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

God’s glory is compared to light, radiance, brightness, shining, brilliance, display. God’s glory is the shining forth of who he is, the brilliant display of his character and nature, the radiant brightness of his being. It is an outward appearance or making known of his invisible being and personality.

In the Old Testament, we see another aspect of God’s glory. The Hebrew word for glory is ‘kabod’, and it literally means heaviness or weightiness. Remember back to Leviticus 9, when the tabernacle was complete, the priests were set apart, the people were gathered, and Aaron the first high priest was to offer the first sacrifices to God in the holy tabernacle. At the end of chapter 9, Aaron had offered the sacrifices,

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

And then we read in chapter 10, that in the midst of this awesome moment, two of Aaron’s sons did something God had not commanded and offered strange fire before the Lord. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them.

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

God is to be taken seriously. God is not to be trifled with. God is sanctified, holy, set apart, in a class by himself, utterly unique and unparalleled. The weightiness of God’s character must be revered.

In the Exodus, Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh of Egypt declaring ‘thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go…’ (Ex.5:1),

Exodus 5:2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Back in Exodus 3, from the burning bush, God had told Moses,

Exodus 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.

After God wrecked Egypt, after the Pharaoh had commanded them to leave, but before they crossed the Red Sea, God gave Moses instruction and said:

Exodus 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” … (also 14:17,18)

‘Who is YHWH, that I shold obey his voice?’ ‘I will get glory over Pharaoh… all shall know that I am the LORD.” God will be taken seriously. God will be seen as significant. He will be feared and respected, seen as weighty. He will be glorified in all the earth.

Glory is light and weight; God’s glory is the brilliant display of the weightiness of his character.

How We Glorify God; Drink and Do

So if we are meant to glorify God, and glory is the brilliant display of the weightiness of his awesome being, how do we glorify God? How do we promote and advance the glory of God? How do we live lives that glorify him? We understand what we are to be about, both as individuals and as the church. How do we go about it?
I’m going to give you a simple, easy to remember way to glorify God in your life. Drink and Do. It’s that simple. Drink and Do. What do I mean by that?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” in his book Desiring God, John Piper points out that we glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Think of a pristine mountain spring, high in the alps, untouched, perfect. Its water is clear and cool. It bubbles up of its own and will never run dry. How do you glorify the spring? By taking your ten cent grocery store bottle of water you carried on the hike and pouring what is left of it into the spring, to contribute to it? Or do you glorify the spring by getting down on your knees beside the spring, putting your parched lips to the water and drinking deeply? Do you glorify the spring by laying down in the grass and listening to the melody of its babbling? To glorify the spring is to enjoy the spring. Allow the spring to satisfy your thirst. Be envigorated by the cool water. Regain strength to hike back down the mountain and tell others what a treasure you discovered. To glorify God is to enjoy God, to drink deeply of God, to allow him to satisfy your deepest longings, to receive strength from him for the journey, to tell others about the pleasure you receive from him.

Listen to the prophet Isaiah

Isaiah 12:1 You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. 2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORDGOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Glorify God in thanksgiving. Glorify God that because of Jesus, his anger is turned away. Glorify God by depending on him, trusting in him, allowing him to free you from all fear. Draw sustenance with joy from his limitless supply of salvation. Glorify God by calling on his name for help in times of trouble. Make his name known. Sing his praises. Shout! Sing! Publish abroad his all satisfying greatness.

Listen to the Psalms:

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

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

There is a warning here. If you are filled up with other things, you won’t enjoy the life giving water. When my kids aren’t hungry for the home-cooked meal on the table, we begin to diagnose the cause. When did you last eat? What did you eat? When they have been snacking all afternoon on chips and candy and soda, they are not going to be hungry for real food. We cram our lives full of activity and media and amusement and general busyness and stuff, and we wonder why we don’t have an appetite for spiritual things. We can stuff our souls so full of things that don’t fulfill us, that there is no room for the only one who can satisfy.

Listen to Jesus:

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

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

Glorifying God means drinking deeply of God, going to him with your thirst, with your longings, finding enough, more than enough to satisfy in him. Glorifying God means to drink from him with joy.

Doing and Not Doing

I said glorifying God means drinking and doing. Let me clarify what I mean by ‘do’ and what I do not mean by ‘do’.

Allow me to switch analogies. The vacuum cleaner salesman comes to your door. He’s selling the latest model of Kirby, and he is out to convince you that it is the best vacuum ever made. If you were able to go to his house, you had better find two things. First, you’d better find a clean carpet, and second, you’d better find a Kirby in his closed. If you found a Hoover, you’d call him a hypocrite. That’s the first point. Don’t try to sell a product you haven’t tried or don’t believe in. Drink first.

But this is to clarify the second point, what I don’t mean by ‘do’. If the vacuum salesman comes to your door with his Kirby, and he shows you how great it is, but then he begins to tell you that he has actually made some modifications to his vacuum, that he has shortened the hose to increase the suction, that he has replaced the motor with a more powerful and longer lasting one, and that he took a grinder to the metal casing to make it lighter, you would not say he is glorifying the vacuum by his improvements and modifications. Instead he is pointing out the flaws in the design and trying to fix them.

Or back to the mountain spring. You do not glorify the spring by taking pilgrimages carrying gallons of tap water on your back to contribute to the spring. That is not what I mean by ‘do’. We cannot contribute anything to God except our need, and an opportunity for him to show himself strong.

What I do mean by ‘do’ is this. If you are not thirsty you will not enjoy the refreshing water. You must come thirsty, come needy, come desperate. The depth of your appreciation for the fountain will be directly proportionate to your awareness of your own need. Many of us need to do. Do something. Go on a hike. Get thirsty. Many of us need to do. Try to live a holy life. Try to love your neighbor as yourself. Try to put the needs of others ahead of your own. Try to convince others of their need for Christ. As you do, you will become acutely aware of your desperate need, your inability, and it will drive you back to the only source of life giving water, and you will drink more deeply.

Prayer, Bible, Sermons

Let me connect this to prayer. Prayer is an expression of need and dependence on God. If you are not aware of your need, you will not pray. Desperate people pray. Even those who say they do not believe in God will pray when they sense the sheer hopelessness of their situation. Many Christians seek to improve their prayer life. Instead, attempt to raise children that want to love and follow Jesus. Seek to be content with what you have. Pursue unity with someone you disagree with. Attempt to proclaim God’s word every week. Live with character and integrity. Give biblical counsel to someone who is struggling. Love your wife like Christ loved the church. Refrain from speaking poorly of others. Seek to be a blessing to a person in need. Be a good employee and don’t grumble or complain. Have your neighbor over for dinner. Walk on water. As you do, you will begin to perceive more acutely your desperate need for God. You can’t do it on your own. “Apart from me you can do nothing” Jesus said (Jn.15:5). Begin to do, and it will drive you to drink deeply of the limitless resources in God.

We can connect this to listening to sermons and bible reading. If there is a lecture offered on the relationship of diet to the growth of cancer cells you may be curious and listen. You may have a general sense of the importance of healthy eating, and you may not have anything better to do at that time. You may enjoy the delivery of the presenter, or be mildly annoyed by his accent, or think that his visual aids are not very well done. You may lose interest and begin to think about what’s for dinner and wonder if it will give you cancer, and wonder if this will make you late for it. Would it be rude to get up and leave before it is over? But if your child has been diagnosed with cancer, you will be listening in a whole new way. Your desperation will create in you an attentiveness that nothing else can. As we become aware of the devastating disease of our spiritual need, our spiritual helplessness and hopelessness, our ears will be eager to hear from God.

Expect Great Things; Attempt Great Things

William Carey, a missionary to India, known as the father of modern missions, preached a sermon in Nottingham England in 1792, encouraging involvement in foreign missions. His points were “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.” God is glorified when we expect him to do great things, because we see that he is great, and believe that he is able to do great things. God is glorified when we come to him as the all satisfying source and expect him to be more than enough to slake our own thirst and give us the strength to carry water down the mountain for others. God is glorified when we attempt great things for him, things that are beyond us, things that require him to show up in awesome and glorious ways so that it is evident to all that he alone deserves the praise for the great thing he has done.

Attempt great things for God. In the attempt, you will see acutely your need. Develop a spiritual appetite – by doing. Drink, and do, and drink some more.

Allow your need, your thirst, your lack to demonstrate and display the weightiness of God, the rock solid substantial-ness of God; let God be glorified as you drink deeply from him and attempt great things for him.

1 Peter 4:11 …—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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

January 23, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Corinthians 8:9

12/04 The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Cor.8:9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161204_poverty-grace-christ.mp3

Last week we looked at a great Christmas/Thanksgiving verse at the end of 2 Corinthians 9.

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

This week I want to turn back a chapter to 2 Corinthians 8, where we find another wonderful Christmas text.

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.

Remember, the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is Paul reminding and encouraging the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints that he is taking to Jerusalem. He mentioned this in his first letter to this church (1 Cor.16:1-4) and he also mentions it in Romans 15:25-28, writing from Corinth in AD 57. Here in 2 Corinthians he takes two chapters to exhort the Corinthians toward generosity to their Jewish brothers and sisters who are in need. Paul begins this section in chapter 8 by encouraging them with the example of the churches in Macedonia.

God’s Grace Given

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Paul uses the word ‘grace’ to describe this gift. He uses the word ‘grace’ 18 times in 2 Corinthians. 10 of those times are concentrated in these two chapters on giving. Paul sees generosity and giving as an act of grace, rooted in the grace of God toward us and blossoming into a full display of grace that extends out from us who have experienced God’s grace in acts of grace toward others. Grace, remember, by definition is an undeserved kindness, a gift, unmerited, unearned, freely given. He describes what happened in Macedonia as ‘the grace of God that has been given among the churches.’ The generosity of the believers in the region of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea Paul recognizes as the grace of God. The fact that they gave, and the way that they gave, was evidence that demonstrated that they were recipients of God’s grace. Later in this chapter Paul refers to their giving to this special project as ‘this act of grace.’ But here, he is talking about God’s grace extended undeservedly to the Macedonian churches that resulted in their wealth of generosity. Remember, we love because he first loved us. We give because to us God has abundantly given. The Macedonians gave because they were first recipients of God’s abundant grace.

Grace Under Pressure

First Paul describes their circumstances. He says they were ‘in a severe test of affliction.’ They were undergoing persecution. They were in the middle of a trial. On Paul’s first visit to Macedonia (Acts 16-17), he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi and then asked to leave. In Thessalonica, the jealous Jews incited a mob and set the city in an uproar. Not finding Paul, they dragged Jason and some other local believers before the city authorities, accusing them of treason against Caesar, and proclaiming another king, Jesus. Paul and Silas were sent off by night to Berea, but the Jews from Thessalonica followed them there and agitated and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia. Although what kind of persecution they were now suffering is not specified, it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty.’ We are told in Acts that ‘when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go’ (Acts 17:9). Whatever their specific circumstances, they were ‘in a severe test of affliction’ and they were in the depths of poverty.

Unquenchable Joy

But their circumstances did not define their attitudes or their actions. Do you let your circumstances determine how you respond? How you act? Your attitude? Are your emotions controlled by how others treat you? The Macedonians, in the middle of severe affliction, had a superabundance of joy. This is not natural; this is supernatural joy, joy that is not dampened by any outside influence. This is the joy Jesus promised to bring to his followers.

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

Begging for the Grace of Giving

The Macedonians had unquenchable joy in Jesus. And under severe pressure their joy combined with their extreme poverty like vinegar and baking soda to overflow in a wealth of generosity. Do you want that kind of joy? Would you like that kind of single purposed sincerity and bountiful liberality to come out when you are under pressure? When you are pressed and stretched? Verse 3 tells us that

2 Corinthians 8:3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

They gave more than they could afford. They gave voluntarily. Willingly. Their abundance of joy had to find an outlet; it had to express itself. They begged for the privilege of giving. Literally, ‘after much urgent request they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints’. They considered the privilege of giving beyond their means an undeserved favor from God. It was grace, and it was fellowship. Partnering with God in his care for his own, and partnering with the suffering saints in Jerusalem, sharing in their sorrows and spreading joy. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 8:5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

This generosity from suffering saints was beyond what they had hoped. They didn’t only give of their finances. They gave of themselves. They didn’t just write a check. They were personally invested. Their gave themselves first to the Lord. They recognized that they had been bought with a price. They understood that they belonged to Jesus. And so they delightfully offfered their very selves to God and to the service of the saints. What an example from the Macedonian churches!

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul now encourages the church in Corinth also to abound in this grace. He is careful to make it clear that this gift is voluntary. There is no obligation. This is not a command. It is an invitation; an opportunity. As the Macedonians begged to be involved, you also abound in this act of grace. And then he holds up Jesus as the reason.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

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.

You know. This is not something new. You already know about the grace of our Lord Jesus. Paul reminds us of the good news we already know. He turns our attention back once more to Jesus. He is encouraging an act of free grace toward those who desperately need the help but didn’t earn it or do anything to deserve it. He reminds us that we can only give like that because we have already been on the receiving end of that kind of gift. Jesus freely extended his favor to those who did nothing to earn it, but desperately need it. Before you can ever hope to extend grace to others, you must first experience the grace that comes from Jesus.

Riches to Poverty for You

This is what that grace looks like. ‘that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.’ What does it mean that Jesus was rich? Jesus prayed to his Father in John 17

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus had glory in the presence of his Father before the world existed. He was eager to return to that glory. Jesus said in John 6:

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

Jesus came down from heaven. He left his glory to come down and do the will of his Father. He goes on to say:

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Jesus claims to be the only one who is from God, the only one who has seen the Father. In John 8 he sets himself apart as the only one who is from above, who is not from this world.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

This is Christmas. Jesus left his glory and came down to this earth. John began his gospel this way:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Word was glorious in the presence of his Father. He is distinct from his Father, in relationship with his Father, and equal to his Father. He possesses all the characteristics of his Father. He is the Creator of all that is. He was rich.

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 became poor. He became flesh. He became what he was not. He became one of us. As the only Son from the Father he pitched his tent among us. He became poor. This is grace!

Why? Although he was rich, yet he became poor. Why? It was for your sake. For your benefit. For you!

Philippians 2 spells this out.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being rich, existing eternally in the form of God, equal with his Father, became poor. He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men, in human form. Being rich, he became poor. He humbled himself even to death, even death on a cross. Because Christmas is really all about Good Friday. Jesus became poor for your sake. He became human for your sake, so as a human he could take your place on the cross.

Bringing You Riches by His Poverty

But it doesn’t stop there!

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.

By his poverty you become rich. This is undeserved grace! How do we become rich by his poverty? The riches may not be what we would think. Jesus, addressing the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 says:

Revelation 3:15 [to Laodicea] “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Their opinion of themselves was that they were rich and in need of nothing, but God’s perspective says that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. But to the church in Smyrna he says:

Revelation 2:9 [to Smyrna] “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) …

Like the churches in Macedonia, you may be in desperate poverty and undergoing persecution, but you are abundantly rich in joy. True riches come from Jesus.

Ephesians 1 says:

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,

If we are in Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing! Paul prays:

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Our eyes must be opened to know the riches of his glorious inheritance! The benefits purchased for us by Christ are immeasurably great. Ephesians 2 says:

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— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Grace immeasurable! Grace rich and free. Resurrecting life transforming grace! Peter says:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

New birth. Born into an inheritance. All the riches of Christ belong to 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.

Christmas is about grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus, who was rich in glory in the presence of his Father, who emptied himself by taking human form; who became poor, humbled even to the point of being executed as a criminal. He did this for me! Christmas is about the greatest gift. God the Son was born in Bethlehem so that he could be crucified outside Jerusalem so that I could experience unshakeable joy in the riches of his grace.

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

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

December 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 9; Enjoying The Presence

07/17 Leviticus 9; Enjoying The Presence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160717_leviticus-9.mp3

Climax of the Torah

In chapter 9 of Leviticus we come to the climax of the narrative of the Torah, the five books of Moses. God has gotten glory over Pharaoh and rescued his people from out of slavery in Egypt. He has brought his people to Mount Sinai and revealed to them his glory. He invited Moses up into the glory cloud and delivered the terms of his covenant to his people. While Moses was in the glory cloud, Aaron made a bull calf out of gold and sacrificed to it, indulging the people in idolatrous covenant treason. Moses prayed, and God forgave, and God promised that his presence would go with them in spite of their rebellion and sinfulness. God gave instructions for a tabernacle, a portable worship center, a tent where he would dwell in the midst of his people. The tent was constructed according to his plans, and at the end of Exodus, his glory inhabited the tabernacle. Then, in Leviticus 1-7, he gave instructions on what sacrifices are to be offered in his tent. In Leviticus 8, the priests are set apart with a seven day ceremony, and dedicated to his service by sacrifice. Now the tabernacle is ready to begin its function in bringing forgiveness and allowing sinners be cleansed and enjoy the presence of God with them.

The Presence of the LORD

The presence of the Lord is the focus of this passage. In verse 4, the people are told to bring sacrifices,

Leviticus 9:4 … for today the LORD will appear to you.’”

In verse 6,

Leviticus 9:6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”

Then in verse 23, after offering the appropriate sacrifices,

Leviticus 9:23 … the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.

In Genesis, God made Adam and Eve to reflect his glory and enjoy his fellowship. But they rebelled against his good commands. “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen.3:8).

The presence of God with his people that was forfeited in Genesis is the goal of the Exodus, of the tabernacle, of the priests, of the sacrifices. Exodus 29 God describes:

Exodus 29:42 …the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Today we see the fulfillment of these promises. We see God making his presence known in the midst of his people.

The Bull Calf

Leviticus 9:1 On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, 2 and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. 3 And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, 4 and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.’” 5 And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD.

After 7 days of sacrifice setting apart Aaron and his sons, where they could not leave the Lord’s courtyard, now, on day 8 there is instruction for more sacrifice. Aaron is to take a bull calf for a sin offering. This particular word ‘calf’ appears in Leviticus only here in chapter 9. It appears 3 times in this chapter, referring to the victim of the sin offering Aaron and the people are to offer. This word appeared 6 times in Exodus 32, when Aaron fashioned a golden calf for the people to worship. It appears twice in Deuteronomy 9, referring back to the golden calf incident. This wording would be a vivid reminder of the kind of sin that Aaron and the people were guilty of. This would be an amazing reminder that God was not unaware of their sin, but that he had provided a sacrifice for their sin. A bull calf was not to be worshiped as an image of God; rather a bull calf was to be offered in worship to the invisible God.

Offering for the Priest

Aaron was to offer a bull calf for a sin offering for himself, and a ram for a burnt offering for himself. The people were to bring a male goat for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb for burnt offerings, an ox and a ram for peace offerings, and a grain offering mixed with oil.

Leviticus 9:6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” 7 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.” 8 So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. 9 And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. 10 But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp. 12 Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

This is the first offering that Aaron, the newly ordained High Priest offers. Up to this point, Moses was officiating the offerings. Now Moses continues to convey God’s instructions to the priest, but Aaron is now officiating. And the first offerings Aaron offers are for himself. Keep in mind, Aaron and his sons have just undergone 7 days of offerings in the courtyard of the LORD, where sacrifices have been continually offered to set he and his sons apart and to purify them. They have been anointed with oil. A bull for a sin offering, a ram for a burnt offering, and another ram for an ordination offering have been sacrificed. Blood had been applied to his ear, thumb, and toe to set him apart to hear God’s words, to do God’s will, to follow God’s way. And yet on the eighth day, the first thing Aaron must do is make an offering for his own sin. Even living seven days in God’s presence does not make one immune from sin. The eighth day is a new day, and another sin offering must be offered, because ‘all we like sheep have gone astray’. Another whole burnt offering must be offered, offering self completely to God.

Offering for the People

Now that Aaron has offered sacrifices for himself to cover his own sin, he is fit to offer the sacrifices of the people.

Leviticus 9:15 Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. 16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. 17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning. 18 Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 19 But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver— 20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded.

This is the first offering made by Aaron on behalf of the people. He is following the procedure laid out in chapters 1-7. But here we see the sequence of these offerings. First the sin offering, because our sin must be covered. Then the whole burnt offering, because the whole self must be offered to God on the altar. Then the grain offering, the work of our hands becomes acceptable to God. Finally, the peace offering, where our innermost affections are offered to God, and the worshiper can now enjoy intimate fellowship with God. Notice, the blood of the sin offering must be poured out before fellowship with God can be enjoyed.

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus reconciled us to God, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross’ (Col.1:20)

Blessing the People

Leviticus 9:22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.

After the appropriate sacrifice has been made, God’s blessing can be enjoyed. Numbers 6 tells us the content of this blessing.

Numbers 6:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

The Lord make you happy. The Lord preserve you. The Lord look toward you with undeserved grace. The Lord turn his face toward you in peace. The high priest would pronounce this blessing, but God is the one who blesses his people. “I will bless them.” Aaron declared the blessing, but God extended his grace and peace to his people.

Leviticus 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, …

Having made atonement for sins through the blood sacrifices, Moses and Aaron entered the holy place to enjoy the presence of God. When they came out… don’t miss that fact. They came out. They were not consumed by the presence of the Holy One. When Isaiah found himself in the presence of God, he cried out ‘Woe is me! For I am undone’ (Is.6:5 KJV). Moses and Aaron, both great sinners, came out from the presence of the LORD and blessed the people. They blessed because they had been blessed.

Psalm 16:11 …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.

They had been in the presence of the Most High God. Their hearts overflowed with joy in God, and so they poured out spontaneous blessing on the people. This was a momentous day!

The All-Consuming Glory Fire

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

As God had promised, the glory of the LORD appeared to the people. When God is obeyed and approached in the way that he requires, his presence can be enjoyed according to his promises. The tabernacle was constructed according to God’s instructions. The priests were ordained according to his instructions. The sacrifices were made according to his instructions. And his presence was enjoyed in fulfillment of his promise. God’s fiery glory cloud which engulfed the top of Mount Sinai, which came down to inhabit the tabernacle, now burst out of the inner sanctuary and incinerated all that was left on the altar. This was a visible demonstration that the sacrifices were acceptable. God affirmed that he had accepted their offering by consuming with holy fire that which remained on the altar.

The people responded with awe filled joyful worship. Remember, when God’s glory cloud first appeared on the top of Mount Sinai?

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

The presence of a holy God among sinful people brought terror and distance. But now the people, having approached God as he commanded through sacrifice, and seeing that the sacrifice offered was accepted, they respond with joy. They shouted. This word is almost always an expression of worshipful joy.

Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 71:23 My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.

Psalm 132:9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy. …16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.

Zechariah 2:10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD.

The people responded to the glory of God by shouting for joy and falling on their faces. This is an expression of humble worshipful awe and fear. To fall on your face is to get very low in the presence of a great King. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; cf. Prov.3:34). Notice the change in sequence. With sins un-atoned, there was fear and then distance. Now with sins covered, there is joy and then an expression of fearful awe. God is awesome and terrible, he is greatly to be feared. But we can shout for joy in his presence because our sins are taken away.

Jesus our Great High Priest

As we close, we need to look away from the shadow and toward the reality. Hebrews tells us that

Hebrews 10:1 …the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities… (cf. Heb. 8:5; Col.2:17)

Jesus is the substance that the shadows of the law point us toward. Jesus is the good things to come! Hebrews 7 says

Hebrews 7:18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. …22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Jesus is our Great High Priest, our better Priest. Aaron was a sinner. He had to offer sacrifices first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. Jesus had no sins of his own. The law made provision for the weakness of men. The law provided a way for sinful priests to be cleansed. Jesus was himself sinless, holy, innocent, unstained, but he offered himself up as a sacrifice for all sins once for all. We draw near to God through Jesus. Jesus saves us completely. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1Jn.1:7). In this we have confidence because God raised him from the dead (Rom.1:4; Acts17:31).

John 16:22 …I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

In Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and unshakable joy!

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

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 3; The Peace Offering

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

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

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

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

Occasions for the Peace Offering

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

Structure

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

1-5 offering from the herd

6-11 offering from the flock

12-16a offering from the goats

16b-17 concluding general instructions

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

The Peace Offering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Order of the Offerings

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

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

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

Food Offering

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

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

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

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

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

Fat and Entrails, Kidneys and Liver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*ESV footnote: Hebrew with the kidney fat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such is the peace offering of the Old Testament.

Application

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

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

Peace is an objective reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus gives us peace, his peace.

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

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

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

‘The God of peace’

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

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

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

Jesus says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glorious Blessed Perfection

03/06 Glorious Blessed Perfection; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160306_glorious-blessed-perfection.mp3

We have been studying our God, the character and nature of God, what he says to us about himself, how he reveals himself to us in his Word. Today we will look at the glorious blessed perfection of God. To say that God is perfect is to say that there is no imperfection, no inadequacy, no lack in his character. Another way to say this is that God is all that he ought to be. He fully comes up to the ideal. He falls short in no area.

Even in our understanding of this we tend to be man-centered. We hear this and automatically think of our conception of who God ought to be, and we are glad to hear that God fully meets our expectations of what we feel he ought to be. This is arrogance; this is idolatry, to elevate our opinions above God and demand that he submit to our ideas of what is best and right. No, to say that God is perfect is to say that God fully meets his own idea of what it means to be God. There is no standard outside of God that God must live up to. God is his own standard.

If I were to ask you that question; ‘Are you all that you ought to be?’ I wonder how you would answer. Some might say ‘I’ve never even thought about a question like that. I’ve never stopped to think about what I ought to be.’ Others may answer ‘Of course I’m not perfect, but I think I am doing well. I contribute to society, try not to hurt others, and live a happy life.’ Many of us would probably answer something like this: ‘No, there are so many areas where I fall short of my own standards, I know my flaws, I am acutely aware of my shortcomings. I wish I could change this or fix that area of my life. I am striving, growing, moving forward, but I am not all that I ought to be.’ If we all examine ourselves carefully, we can all identify areas of potential improvement. But think of this. God is all that he ought to be. There are no areas in which he could do better, no areas of potential improvement. He is perfect. He is perfectly satisfied with his own character. He never looks back on an interchange and says ‘I wish I had responded differently than I did.’

Some people read things God has done or said, and they wish he were different than he was. They arrogantly presume that they could improve on his character. But to wish he were different than he is is to wish he were less than he is. He is absolute perfection, and any change from what he is would be to introduce a flaw, an imperfection.

Perfect, Lacking Nothing

James tells us that trials produce character with the end that we ‘may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing’ (1:4). When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus pointed him to the commandments.

Matthew 19:20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The man was aware of a lack, something in which he did not measure up. Trials produce steadfast character and mature or complete or perfect us. To be perfect means to have no lack, no shortcoming, no flaw, to fully live up to what we were meant to be. This helps us understand what Jesus meant when he said:

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

This does not mean that we must become gods as our heavenly Father is God. That would contradict the very nature of God, that there is and can be only one true God. But God is perfect, he has no lack. God is fully what he ought to be as God. We as humans are to be perfect, complete, mature, fully what we were made to be as humans, fully reflecting the image and glory of God, living wholeheartedly to love God and bring him glory.

Ezekiel 28, speaking of Lucifer’s fall, says:

Ezekiel 28:12 …Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; …On the day that you were created they were prepared. …14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.

This anointed cherub was perfect. His perfection was to perfectly be what he was created to be, to cry out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ to bring praise and glory and praise to Almighty God. He did not become perfect, he was created perfect, but he abandoned his perfection; we are told: ‘unrighteousness was found in you.’ Verse 2 said “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god”. Isaiah 14 tells us he said in his heart “I will ascend to heaven… I will set my throne on high… I will make myself like the Most High.”

To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is to be fully what we were created to be, just as God is perfectly what he ought to be as God. It is not, like Lucifer, to lift oneself up and strive to become equal with God in power and glory. That would be to deviate in the most loathsome way from what we ought to be.

Perfection of All His Attributes

God is perfect. He lacks nothing. He is all that he ought to be.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

God is perfect in every way. His way is perfect. His works are perfect. God is perfect in his being, in his essence. God is perfectly self-existent, he is not dependent on anything outside himself. God is unchanging; he cannot improve, and he will not decrease in his perfections. God had no beginning and will have no end; he is perfectly eternal. God is spirit, completely present everywhere. God is tri-une, three persons yet one God, perfect in relationship. God is perfect in power, perfect in freedom, perfect in wisdom and knowledge. God is perfectly set apart. He is perfect in goodness, perfect in mercy, perfect in grace, perfectly compassionate, perfect in steadfast covenant keeping love, perfectly just, perfectly faithful, perfectly true. God is perfect in all his character, all his attributes. And in the perfection of his attributes and being, he is not a composite or conglomerate of differing attributes; he is one. He is. He is who he is, he is God. He is not made up of parts, pasted together, some parts in tension with others. No, he is perfectly one.

Glory

The perfection of God is a glorious perfection. The Bible talks much about the glory of God. We were created for the glory of God (Is.43:7). We are to glorify God in our bodies (1Cor.6:20). We are to do everything we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31). We are to ‘live in harmony with one another’…

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We are to ‘glorify God for his mercy’ (Rom.15:9). We believe, and we speak,

2 Corinthians 4:15 …so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Financial gifts are given ‘for the glory of the Lord himself’ (2Cor.8:19). The conversion of a persecutor led the leaders of the church ‘to glorify God because of me’ (Gal.1:24). In Ephesians 1, the eternal purposes of God for salvation are ‘to the praise of his glory’ (v.6, 12, 14). God is ‘the Father of Glory’ (Eph.1:17); He strengthens us to comprehend his love ‘according to the riches of his glory’ (Eph.3:16). Our ‘fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ is to the glory and praise of God’ (Phil.1:11). One day ‘at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth …to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil.2:10-11). The eternal punishment of 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 is to be ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.’ The blessed hope of the believer is ‘the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ’ (Titus2:13). When our faith is proved genuine by fire it ‘results in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. (1Pet.1:7). Our conduct and good deeds bring glory to God (1Pet.2:12). When we utilize our gifts to serve one another by the strength that God supplies, it is ‘in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen’ (1Pet.4:11). When we suffer for being a Christian, we are to ‘glorify God in that name’ (1Pet.4:16). God’s glory is primary throughout Scripture. That is why the Westminster shorter catechism begins with the statement on our main purpose, ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ The Bible is peppered with doxology; ascribing glory to God.

Romans 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jude 1:25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Revelation 5:12 … “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Revelation 7:12 … “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

What is Glory?

So what is the glory of God? What is glory? From the passage in Exodus 33-34 that we have been studying, when Moses requests to see the glory of God, and God’s glory passes by while Moses is covered in the cleft of the rock, God declares his name, his character to Moses.

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The glory of God is the perfection of his being and attributes. Isaiah 42 says:

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

God’s glory is parallel with his praise. In Isaiah 66:19, God’s glory is parallel to his fame declared among the nations. God’s glory is the full perfection of who God is, his fame, his praise, his renown. In 1 Corinthians 15, the word glory is used to describe varying brightness of stars. The glory of God is said to give light in Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21. 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 compare the radiance of Moses’ face when he served under the law with the glory that comes with the Spirit.

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

And in 2 Corinthians 4 he says:

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

The light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Glory is the radiant brilliance of who God is blazing forth in splendor. Notice, the knowledge of the glory of God comes in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus communicated to us most clearly the character and nature of 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. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Hebrews 1 tells us Jesus:

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

The radiance of the glory of God is the brilliant display of the manifold perfections of the nature and character of God.

Blessed Perfection

The glorious perfection of God is a blessed perfection. When God answers Daniel’s prayers, Daniel blesses God and says:

Daniel 2:20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.

And he goes on to extol the great power and worth of God. In Psalm 72, Solomon blesses God as he prays for the Messianic king.

Psalm 72:17 ​May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! 18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. 19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!

This Psalm is a prayer that the Messianic king reflect the character of God, and bring good to all who are under his rule. What does it mean to be blessed? For those who are under the Messiah’s rule, it means good will come to them. They will find justice, righteousness, prosperity, deliverance, protection, peace; they will flourish. It was promised to Abraham that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Good would come to them through him. Psalm 21 connects the blessings of the king with joy and gladness.

Psalm 21:2 You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. — Selah 3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head. …6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

In the beatitudes, Jesus contrasted the blessedness of the poor, the hungry, those who weep and are hated and persecuted with woe to those who are rich and full, who laugh and are well spoken of (Luke 6:20-26). Good things, great joy, will come to those who are blessed. But there will be terrible woe, pain and misery on those who experience their good only in this life. If for us to be blessed means to experience good and great joy, primarily and ultimately the joy of God’s presence, then what does it mean for God to be blessed? When we bless God, we ask that good and great joy come to him. But where does blessing come to God from? Does it originate in us? Of course, we can do what we were made for and give glory to God, and this brings him great pleasure. In Luke 15 Jesus tells us there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. But ultimately even this does not originate with us.

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Even in Romans 1, where the wrath of God is revealed against truth suppressors who exchange the glory of God for images, who exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, even there God is declared to be ‘blessed forever! Amen (Rom.1:25). God is blessed forever in spite of the rebellion of his creation. God is full of great joy. Where does this come from? If our blessedness is ultimately found in the joy of God’s presence, where do you think God’s greatest joy comes from? God’s joy is not ultimately dependent on his creation, whether rebel or repentant. God’s greatest joy is the unshakable joy of his own presence. To say that God’s perfection is a blessed perfection is to say that God is delighted with his own perfect character and nature. God’s glorious name is blessed forever, and this was true before he brought anything into existence. God’s ultimate happiness is not dependent on his creation, or on anything outside of himself.

In 1 Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to defend the sound doctrine that is:

1 Timothy 1:11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

The good news is good news of the glory of God. The radiant brilliance of God’s nature and character as seen in our Lord Jesus Christ is good news. Sound doctrine is according to the good news of the glory of the blessed God. It is good news that God is blessed, that good comes to God, that he is filled with great joy, primarily the joy of his own presence, the eternal satisfaction and delight within the persons of the one triune God. God is fully pleased with the perfections of his own glorious nature and this is very good news for us.

Proverbs 18:10 ​The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

We will close with the doxology from 1 Timothy 6 that praises God who is happy, delighted to be who he is, filled with joy at the glory of his own infinite perfections; the blessed and only sovereign.

1 Timothy 6:13 …of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, …15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

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

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Freedom; Galatians 5:1-6; Matthew 11:28-30

1/24 For Freedom! ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160124_freedom.mp3

The last two messages I gave were on two of the most important spiritual disciplines; meditation on the Word of God and prayer. If we want to be fruitful, effective in the ministry God has called us to (and we are all called to minister), then we must be listening to God and enjoying our relationship with him. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said in John 15 that we must abide in him. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him, he promises that we will bear much fruit. It is vital that we as followers of Jesus evaluate and re-evaluate what we are doing to grow in our walk with the Lord, and discipline ourselves to reinforce good habits and form new ones that will enrich our relationship with God. Daily Bible study and constant prayer are essential to the health of the believer, and consequently to the health of the church body.

I want to balance this teaching on the spiritual disciplines with some teaching on Christian freedom, because it is possible to misunderstand Bible meditation and prayer in such a way as to view them as a duty by which we earn favor with God. This would be a terrible misuse of good gifts God has given.

Two Extremes

There are two dangerous extremes to avoid. I’ll tell you my own experience to help illustrate what I mean. When I was very young, I had a well meaning Bible camp counselor give me a little tract on having daily devotions. I think it was titled ‘7 minutes with God’ and I was told how important it was to read my Bible and pray every day. I can still remember what the tract looked like, the big ominous red number 7, and the picture of the hourglass with the sand slipping away. There was probably nothing wrong with the tract itself. I’m sure had some helpful suggestions on how to get started in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. But I felt the weight of the obligation. I needed to pick a special place to have my quiet time. It was strongly suggested, if not explicitly mandated that this be the first thing you do each and every day. It had clear instructions on how to structure and spend your 7 minutes. I acknowledged how important this was to do, and I committed myself to doing it. I did great… for a day or two. Then I would wake up late and have to cut the 7 minutes down to 1 or 2 or skip it altogether so I wouldn’t be late for school, and I would feel like a failure. Sometimes I would try to make it up in the evening, but I wasn’t sure if that really counted, because really spiritual people do it in the morning. Guilt. Shame. You can’t even faithfully give God 7 minutes of your day? God gave his only Son for you! Surely you can afford to give him 7 measly minutes? Did you know that there are 1,440 minutes in each day? 7 minutes is less than half a percent of your day. I just can’t measure up. This thing called the Christian life, I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. Even when I worked really hard and disciplined myself to sit down and dig in, often my 4 minutes of Bible reading landed me in some endless genealogy of the Old Testament, and somehow I’m supposed to feel closer to God by trudging through a long list of names I can’t even pronounce? Or reading about skin diseases and what to do if the hair in a wound turned white or black? I’m clearly not very spiritual, because as I read, I just wasn’t sensing God’s presence (it actually kind of grossed me out). And then, in the 2 ½ minutes of prayer, my mind would wander incessantly. What am I supposed to say? Did you know that you can see little floating specks on the insides of your eyelids when you have your eyes closed for 2 ½ minutes? Do you know how disheartening it is when you open your eyes after what seems an eternity to peek at the clock and only 45 seconds have elapsed? After dutifully plodding along checking off the boxes for a short while, I gave up. I just couldn’t do what was expected of me.

When God got a hold on my heart, I wanted to spend time with him. I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before. I set my alarm early so I would have time to spend with God, and I enjoyed sweet communion with him, listening to his voice in his Word, pouring out my heart to him in worship and thanksgiving. I was hungry for truth. I would meet with other believers my age and we would sing worship songs together, and we would go out on the streets of the city to tell people about Jesus, just out of a natural overflow of joy in Jesus. Those were some of the sweetest moments of my life.

Then a well-meaning college professor told our first year Bible class that we didn’t need to have quiet times. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to ‘do our devotions’ or to ‘have a quiet time each day with God’. After all, most believers throughout history didn’t even have daily access to a Bible. And I was in Bible college, so all my studies were in the Bible. My reading load for classes was heavy enough. And we are under grace. Some daily religious ritual doesn’t earn you any points with God. So I ditched my habit. Looking back, although I got a lot out of Bible college, my spiritual life suffered. I got distracted. I began to justify sin.

Galatians 5 – For Freedom!

Galatians is a letter written to believers who were in danger of abandoning the gospel by heading back to a form of law-righteousness. Paul warns that by doing this they are deserting Christ. Justification, our right standing before God is not earned by us. That is what it means to believe – we depend on Jesus who substituted himself for us, kept perfectly the law that we could not keep, and died the death that we deserved to die.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

The issues today are different, but the principle is the same. I don’t know of anyone today pushing circumcision as a means of gaining a right standing before God. But there are a lot of people pushing a lot of different things, even good things, as a means of gaining favor with God. Today’s issues range from whether you smoke or drink to how you vote or where you stand on particular issues, or what you wear or don’t wear or what movies you watch or what kind of music you listen to or what you do on Saturdays or Sundays or with your spare time or how often and how long you read your Bible and pray.

I’m not saying that none of these are important questions. A lot depends on how they are asked. If we are investigating to see if someone makes the grade, passes the test, lives up to a standard, there is a problem. Paul contrasts freedom in Christ and a yoke of slavery; the advantage of Christ and obligation to the law. Like oil and water, these two cannot be mixed. The danger of the Galatians, and the danger for us, is that we understand justification by faith alone through the finished work of Christ alone. We understand that we cannot pay the price for our sins, and that Christ alone paid our debt in full. Where we go awry is when we begin look at the Christian life as the obligations of slavery rather than the freedom of sons. He says back in:

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Here is another contrast, between the Holy Spirit and our flesh, between how we began and how we finish. How do we live the Christian life? It is clear that we ‘must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt.5:48) and there is ‘holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Heb.12:14). The question is how do we come to be righteous? There is the imputed righteousness of Christ which is credited to our account when we believe. But there is also the practical righteousness of a a daily walk of sinning less and loving God more. Of course, we are counted righteous in Christ when we let go of our own efforts toward righteousness and depend on the perfect righteousness of Christ alone. But how do we daily fight the battle with sin and deepen in our affection for God? This is where discipline and structure and clear boundaries and focused effort will help, right? Be careful, you who received the Spirit by hearing with faith, lest you now seek to be perfected by the flesh. To begin by the Spirit and then seek to be perfected by the flesh means submitting to a yoke of slavery, where you are obligated to keep the whole law, where Christ is of no advantage to you, it means falling from grace, being severed from Christ. This is serious stuff! In 4:9, he warns against turning back to weak and worthless elementary principles of the world. He lists the observation of religious rituals – the observation of days and months and seasons and years. He calls this slavery! Knowing God, being known by God, relationship with God, this is freedom! In Colossians 2 Paul uses this same word ‘the elementary principles of the world’ and draws a contrast between captivity to human tradition, to human regulations and self-made religion and asceticism, and on the other hand, walking in Christ.

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

…20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Man-made religious laws like ‘do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’ sound good. They have the ‘appearance of wisdom’, but they are slavery. As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. Having begun by the Spirit, having received the Spirit by hearing with faith, do not seek to be perfected in the flesh, by observing law.

Paul says in Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free” and he exhorts us to stand firm and not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Christ set us free to be free, to live in freedom.

Yoked Together with Christ

You understand what a yoke is. If you have two oxen and you are going to plow your field, you connect the two oxen together with a wooden beam, a yoke, so that together they can pull the plow. A yoke in the Old Testament was an image of slavery. When God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, he said:

Leviticus 26:13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

In Numbers 25, when God’s people indulged in immorality and idolatry, God describes it this way:

Numbers 25:1 … the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

In the early church, in Acts 15, there was debate over the relation of the Old Testament law to non Jewish believers in Jesus. Must they subject themselves to the laws in order to follow Jesus?

Acts 15:7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

[James concluded] …19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

Notice the argument? God cleanses the hearts of Jew and Gentile alike by faith. The law is a yoke that neither Jew nor Gentile could bear. Both Jew and Gentile alike are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus. The decision was not to trouble the believers with unnecessary rules or regulations. Simply recognize that following Jesus is inconsistent with idolatry, immorality, or giving unnecessary offense to Jewish brothers. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Jesus says something very interesting about a yoke in Matthew 11.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus invites us to come to him if we are weary of work, not to work, but to receive rest. And then he invites us to take his yoke on us in order to find that rest! This seems contradictory. Find rest from labor by being yoked with Jesus. How can this be? This picture is powerful. Think of the yoke that has made us weary, labored and heavy ladened? The law was ‘a yoke that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear’. We have been yoked to tablets of stone, and we have been attempting unsuccessfully to drag them around. Jesus invites us to leave the yoke of the law, and join him in his yoke. If I am in a yoke with Jesus, guess who is pulling the weight? Not me! I’m along for the ride, so to speak. Jesus is saying the same thing when he commands us to abide in him.

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.

We can’t pull any weight on our own. But when we are yoked together with Jesus, he pulls all the weight, and we get to walk beside him. In fact the yoke keeps us close to him, in step with him. He works, we rest, we walk by his side, we enjoy his company. And at the end of the day, we receive the reward that he earned, simply because we were in the yoke with him!

Jesus says this at the end of Matthew 11. Halfway through Matthew 11, Jesus says that he came eating and drinking and he is being accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (11:19). Right after this teaching, in chapter 12, Jesus’ disciples are plucking heads of grain and eating them, something the religious people said was not lawful to do on the Sabbath. Jesus declares himself Lord of the Sabbath. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Application to Spiritual Disciplines

Let’s bring this back around to where we started and make some application to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. We started with the two extremes of being crushed under the obligation of performing religious duties, and on the other end of neglecting good things that are beneficial to our growth in grace.

Let’s look at the issue of prayer. We are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2 and Romans 12:12 to pray without ceasing, to continue steadfastly in prayer, to be constant in prayer. What does this mean? Does this mean conscious articulate prayer 24/7? Does this mean that we are incessantly verbalizing either audibly or at least mentally our prayers to God? Do you know anyone who is always talking and never shuts up? That is annoying. By saying we should pray without ceasing, does it really mean that we need to run our mouths to God non-stop? Aside from being annoying, it would be difficult to ever read the Bible and really pay attention and listen to what God is saying if we are talking over him the whole time. It would be virtually impossible to do anything at all. I don’t believe this is what it means, and I don’t believe we need to live under the weight of bondage to some religious performance. As believers, we are yoked together with Jesus. He will never leave us or forsake us. Live with a constant awareness of his nearness, of his intimate involvement in all things, knowing that the line of communication is always open. I think that is what it means to pray without ceasing. Live in his presence.

Think of it this way. God is the giver of all good gifts. If I buy my son a bicycle and give it to him as a gift, how should he respond? I hope he would express his gratitude. But do I expect that he stand in front of me saying ‘thank you thank you thank you, you’re the best dad ever. Let me sing you a song – you are the best dad, you gave me a bike, you are so awesome, I’m going to tell all my friends about you, you must be really rich and really smart and really strong, you are the greatest dad ever! I just want to sit in your lap and stare into your awesome face forever and ever and ever’ and all the while, his new bicycle sits in the corner, untouched? Go! Ride the bike! Enjoy the gift! The giver finds pleasure when you take pleasure in his gift. Don’t use the bike to hurt yourself or others or use it to ride off into evil. Later in Galatians 5 Paul says ‘do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (5:13). But enjoy the good gifts that he gives. Know that he is with you always, enjoy his presence, and enjoy his gifts in his presence.

We could compare prayer and Bible intake to breathing and eating – stop breathing and you will die. Stop eating and you will die. Eat poorly and your health will suffer. Breathing and eating are necessities for life; not obligations. Breathing we often don’t even consciously think about – we just naturally do it. We don’t view it as a duty. If you focus too much attention on your breathing, you will probably hyperventilate. But if we are deprived of air, if we are underwater, we quickly become aware of the urgent necessity of breathing; we become desperate for air. Eating is different. Sometimes we skip a meal. Often we don’t eat as healthy as we should. Sometimes we pay more careful attention to what we eat. But we still don’t view eating as a chore. Normally, we take pleasure in eating. We enjoy a good meal. We get hungry and crave certain things.

We wouldn’t think of being underwater without access to air as freedom. We wouldn’t view being out in the desert without water or food as freedom. Develop good habits where you eat and drink and enjoy God’s presence with you always. Don’t get ritualistic or legalistic about it. Live in freedom! If you are a work weary pilgrim, come to Jesus, abide in Jesus, be yoked together with Jesus, allow him to pull your weight, and enjoy waking side by side in constant fellowship with him.

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

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

January 26, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Be Happy (Psalm 1)

01/03 How to Be Happy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160103_be-happy.mp3

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

The Pursuit of Happiness

It is not just an American thing to pursue happiness. We all want to be happy. We all endeavor to pursue our own happiness. That is part of what it is to be human. We bought Satan’s lie and bit the fruit in the first place because we saw that it ‘was good for food, …a delight to the eyes, , and …to be desired to make one wise’ (Gen.3:6). We want to be happy. We eat lots of sweets because we want to be happy. We try to eat healthier because we want to be happy. We lounge around and watch TV because we are seeking happiness. We decide to exercise more because we want to be happy. We indulge in great pleasures, we make great sacrifices, all in pursuit of our own happiness.

I thought it would be fitting, at the beginning of this new year, to preach on how to be happy. It is not wrong for us to desire happiness. We are wired for pleasure. God designed eyes with the ability to perceive color and texture and depth and beauty. God created taste buds capable of savoring all varieties and complexities of flavors from salt to sweet to bitter to sour. He created ears that could delight in beautiful melodies. He gave us a nose that can appreciate savory aromas. God saturated our skin with nerve endings that respond to touch and warmth and sensation. God made us with the capacity to experience a rich complexity of emotions. God placed mankind in a garden of delights and he blessed them and said be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, exercise good authority, enjoy. God holds out to us the prospect of happiness. He invites us to pursue happiness. The book of Psalms begin with the word ‘happy’, and the word ‘happy’ occurs 25 more times throughout the Psalms. Most English translations render it ‘blessed’, although there is another Hebrew word that more properly means ‘blessed’.

What we are talking about is a happiness that is substantial. This is not empty frivolity, but settled joy; happy in the richest, deepest, most lasting sense. Happiness that satisfies the longings of our soul at the deepest level.

So what does the Bible say about how to be happy? How should we pursue our happiness in such a way that we taste it and enjoy it and it lasts? How do we pursue happiness in a way that it is not continually just out of reach, that it does not, as so often happens, slip through our fingers?

Look with me at Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Three Paths to Death

This Psalm starts in the negative; telling us three things that do not bring happiness. That which is morally wrong does not bring happiness. That which is offensive to God does not bring happiness. Happiness is not found in pride, scorning, mocking, or looking down at others. Getting advice from those who are morally bankrupt will never bring the happiness we desire. Fixing yourself in the path of resistance to God will never satisfy. Proud looking down at others will never bring true joy.

We say, ‘of course, who would embrace a wicked, sinful, prideful lifestyle as a means to happiness?’ The reason this Psalm lays out these three things as paths that do not lead to genuine happiness is because these are three places we naturally seek happiness in. Is there not something within us, when we see the ‘no admittance, danger keep out, do not touch’ sign, that thinks that pleasure is found in that which is forbidden? This was the first seed of doubt planted by the snake in the garden; ‘Did God really withhold a pleasure from you?’ Or do we not look around and ask ourselves ‘why do the wicked prosper’ (Ps.73:3)? You can’t really make it in the world without bending the rules, stretching the truth, cutting some corners. Do we not, in our minds, or among our friends, criticize others, point out their flaws, their shortcomings, and think that we are just a bit better than they? The Psalm warns us because these are paths we often take. That which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which inflates self, these are not paths to the joy we seek.

The Path to Life

The Psalm warns against three paths that do not lead to happiness, but only one that brings true joy. That is the law of the Lord; the Torah, the instruction, the direction of the Lord. This is inclusive of all God has said to us, all God’s instruction, all his Word. What we know as the Bible is the collection of all God’s instruction to us. The counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers all lead to ruin, but the instruction of the Lord leads to lasting happiness.

Notice our response to God’s word determines our eternal happiness. The one who is happy delights in God’s instruction. John Calvin wrote “that forced or servile obedience is not at all acceptable to God, and that those only are worthy students of the law who come to it with a cheerful mind, and are so delighted with its instructions, as to account nothing more desirable or delicious than to make progress therein …all who are truly actuated by love to the law must feel pleasure in the diligent study of it.” Grudging or obligatory attention to God’s word is empty. We may take medicine because we are supposed to, and we hope that it will be good for us, but it tastes terrible. We plug our nose and swallow the pill. It is distasteful, but good for us. God’s truth is not like that.

Psalm 19 describes God’s word as “pure, reviving the soul; …sure, making wise the simple; …right, rejoicing the heart; …pure, enlightening the eyes; …clean, enduring forever; …true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. … in keeping them there is great reward.” (v.7-11)

Psalm 119 says:

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

Psalm 34 says:

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

Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

God’s word is precious, good, sweet, rewarding, valuable, more to be desired, reviving, rejoicing, enlightening. The one who finds true happiness finds God’s word as a treasure, as a pleasure, as delicious, as a delight. The one who is happy views God’s instruction with delight.

Notice also, the one who would be truly happy meditates on the words of God. Taste, take time to enjoy, savor, pay attention to, focus on, study, speak it, mutter it, muse on it, memorize it, turn it over and over and over.

My kids eat candy as if it were a race. Like a pack of insatiable piranhas they are attracted by the scent of sweets. They descend ravenously on the bag of M&M’s that was just opened, and sometimes when its over, I wonder if some of the wrapper got consumed in the frenzy. I don’t think they taste it at all. It seems the goal is to ingest as much sugar as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. I wish they attacked their chores like that! Don’t read God’s word like that. I want to warn you, that is a danger with Bible reading plans. Reading plans are good, they are helpful, and I would encourage you to read intentionally, with a plan. But the danger lies in it becoming a chore, a box to check off, a task to accomplish, something to get through and finish, something you feel bad about if you get behind, or you feel good about yourself if you keep up, a conquest. Don’t read God’s word merely to get through it. Slow down. Savor. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Enjoy him!

Spurgeon said “The inward meditation is the thing that makes the soul rich towards God. This is the godly man’s occupation. Put the spice into the mortar by reading, beat it with the pestle of meditation—so shall the sweet perfume be exhaled.” [Spurgeon, Ps1:1-3, # 3270]

Meditation is a process that cannot be hurried or rushed through. Eliminate distractions. Focus your attention. Think. Ponder. Muse. Prayerfully consider. Savor. Take time to enjoy. Delight yourself in the instruction of the Lord. Meditate on it day and night.

A Tree Planted

The Psalm compares the person who delights in and meditates on God’s word with a tree planted.

Psalm 1

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

He is compared to a tree, not a vegetable or a grain or a shrub. This is one who stands the test of time, one who has staying power, one who lasts. This is a tree planted. It is not a wild tree, an unplanned tree, a volunteer. This is a cultivated tree, carefully selected, intentionally placed by a wise gardener. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:13 …“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

This is a tree planted by streams of water. Not in a desert. Not by a stagnant pool, not by a wadi or wash that fills with water during a rain and is dry the rest of the time. This speaks of intentional consistent irrigation. This is a tree that yields its fruit in season. This is not a decorative tree, or a shade tree. This is a fruit bearing tree. It is a cultivated tree, intended to be productive. Fruit trees are beautiful and good for shade, but their main purpose is to bear fruit. Jesus said:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. …8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Fruit bearing is directly proportional to abiding, delighting, meditating. The fruitful tree is nourished by the word. A tree without adequate water supply will wither. The one who day and night drinks in the word will not wither.

This is the happiness that comes from a purpose realized. In all that he does he prospers. He advances, makes progress, is profitable. This is not the empty happiness of fleeting pleasures. This is the enduring happiness of a purpose fulfilled, the enjoyment that comes from knowing what you were made for, being who you were created to be, doing what you were meant to do. This is the substantial satisfaction of being fruitful.

The Wicked are Not So

The contrast is drawn between the happy one who delights in and meditates on the truth of God’s word and the wicked. Notice, by the way, there is no third category. There is no category for nominal, complacent, comfortable, non-abiding, non-fruitful trees. There are those who treasure God’s word, and the wicked.

Psalm 1

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

After grain is harvested, it is beaten and winnowed out to separate the kernel of grain from the chaff. Chaff is the useless husk that surrounds the grain. The contrast could not be more stark. On the one hand, a firmly planted well nourished fruitful tree, and on the other hand, the empty husk of grain blown by the wind. There is the one with purpose, rooted, alive, thriving, growing, productive, and there is the lifeless empty shell. What a description of a life with no purpose, with no joy. A mere empty husk blown away by the wind.

The Way of the Righteous

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The one who is rooted in God’s word, nourished and satisfied, the one who delights in the Lord, knows that there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:10, 23). But the righteousness of God has been manifested, not a righteousness that comes from keeping the commandments, but a righteousness the entire scriptures point to, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom.3:21-22), the righteousness of Christ that is counted to us, credited to us as a gift (Rom.4). By the obedience of Christ we are made righteous (Rom.5:18-19). The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The only path to a righteousness that pleases God is the sinner humbly trusting God to credit us with a righteousness not our own, the righteousness of Christ.

There are 25 other places in the Psalms where we are declared to be happy. Those who are truly happy are:

those who delight in the instruction of the Lord (1:1 cf. Prov.3:13; 8:32, 34; 29:18)

those who trust in the Lord (2:12; 34:8; 40:4; 84:12; cf. Prov.16:20)

those whose God is the Lord (33:12; 144:15 (x2); 146:5)

those who enjoy the presence of the Lord (65:4; 89:15)

those whose strength is the Lord (84:5)

those who fear the Lord (112:1; 128:1-2; cf. Prov.28:14)

those who are forgiven (32:1-2)

those who are disciplined by the Lord (94:12)

those who do righteousness (106:3; 119:1-2; cf. Prov.20:7)

those who consider the poor (41:1; cf. Prov.14:21)

those who enjoy their children (127:5)

those who execute God’s judgment (137:8-9)

Known By the Lord

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. Those who are justified, declared righteous, credited with the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus, are known by the Lord. The Lord know those who are his (2Tim.2:19). Those whose delight is in the word of God, who meditate on it day and night, are characterized by an intimacy with God. They are known by God.

Would you find real happiness? Do not seek it in that which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which looks down at others in pride. Do not listen to the counsel of unbelievers or follow their ways. Seek the righteousness that comes by faith in the finished work of Christ. Delight yourself in the Lord, in his word, treasure it, savor it, meditate on it, draw from it your nourishment day and night.

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

January 3, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment