PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus: Marriage Covenant

07/05 Marriage Covenant– Building Blocks of Society; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200705_marriage.mp3

Our society is broken. Our culture is not what it ought to be. And this is an opportunity for us as the people of God to let our lights shine brightly. As we follow the Lord Jesus we are to let our light shine in such a way that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. We looked last time at the issue of fathers; that God is our Father and he loves to reward those who seek above all to please him. God is a Father who loves us as we are, but he is not satisfied to leave us as we are; he will apply loving discipline to shape us into who we ought to be, to form in us Christlike character. We as earthly fathers are called to pattern our parenting in the home after our Father in heaven. We are to be eager to reward our children when they seek to please us, and we are to apply loving discipline when appropriate, to teach our children to respect the authority established by God. This is an area where we can shine in a culture that has lost all respect for authority.
Marriage and Divorce

Today I want to take a step back from this and look at a relationship that is even more foundational to all society, and that is the marriage relationship. I want to see what Jesus has to say about marriage, and to look at what it points to. We are going to start out in Mark 10.

Mark 10:2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

The Pharisees are referring to a law in Deuteronomy 24. Deuteronomy 24 says that when a man takes a wife and then divorces her, if she remarries and the second husband dies or divorces her, the first husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again as his wife. This is not authorizing divorce, any more than the laws regulating polygamy are authorizing polygamy. The laws were regulating a common practice for the protection of women. The Pharisees were taking this as the law’s stamp of approval on what they wanted to do.

The reason Deuteronomy gives is ‘if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her’ (Deut.24:1). Matthew 19:3 records their question ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ Two school of rabbis disputed what this meant. Shammai interpreted ‘some indecency’ to mean that divorce was only allowed for a sexual immorality; Hillel allowed divorce for any reason whatever; any act on her part which displeased him entitled him to give her a bill of divorce, even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal. It was, by the way, that more lenient and liberal school of Hillel that prevailed. [Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 90a; http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5238-divorce ]

Mark 10:5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

Did you know some of the laws in the Old Testament were given to regulate sinful behavior? That’s what Jesus is saying here. Divorce is not God’s ideal for marriage, but because of your hardness of heart, he regulated the practice to protect vulnerable people. Which means that now in the New Covenant, where believers in Jesus have the Holy Spirit of God living inside, that hardness of heart has been overcome. Jesus calls us to a higher standard. Jesus holds up the ideal of marriage.

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

God designed marriage. God created mankind as male and female and he meant for them to leave and cleave. Hold fast. Notice, guys, the primary instruction is to us. The man is told to hold fast to his wife. Proverbs 18:22 says

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

If you are married you found your good thing. The one thing in all of God’s good creation that was not good was that the man was alone. We need help! Guys, if you find your good thing, hold fast to her. Now guys, I know I need to clarify. That doesn’t mean you put her in a headlock and physically restrain her.

The word ‘hold fast’ is literally ‘to glue’. We have some amazing glues. A good wood glue creates a bond that is much stronger than the wood itself. What that means is that once you glue two pieces of wood together, if you then force them apart, the wood will splinter and break but the bond will hold. You can tear it apart, but in doing so you destroy the wood. That’s an appropriate picture of marriage. Remember, Jesus says that the two become one flesh and it is God who joins them together. We have a lot of broken splintered people walking around because something that was never meant to come apart was forced apart and it left deep scars.

Lust and Porn

I want to come back to that, but first, look with me at something else Jesus says about marriage. In Matthew 5 he quotes the seventh commandment.

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The marriage relationship is a covenant commitment. There is nothing more destructive to the marriage than unfaithfulness to the covenant commitment. What Jesus says here couldn’t be more relevant. There is probably nothing more damaging, more prevalent, and more readily accessible than internet porn. Jesus takes the seventh commandment to the heart level and says if you look with lust you have committed adultery in your heart. This is gnawing away at so many marriages. This is destroying so many people who are not yet married. This is poison for your soul. And Jesus tells us to take severe and radical steps to root it out.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

You can’t entertain lust in your heart without the cancer spreading. ‘Is it really that big a deal? It’s not hurting anyone.’ That is a lie from the pit of hell, and according to Jesus it will send you there if you don’t get free from it. If you need help, ask. Get it out into the light.

How To Hold Fast

Mark 10:5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

We are to hold fast, but how? How are we to hold fast? Ephesians gives us some clear instructions

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

Ephesians 5 starts with ‘therefore’. Live in such a way because. Because of what? We go back to Ephesians 4, and it also starts with therefore. Because of all that is true of you in Christ Jesus that was unpacked in the first three chapters, because you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, because you have been chosen for holiness, predestined for adoption, redeemed by his blood, because you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, because the risen and exalted Christ has been given as head over all things to the church, because you have been made alive with Christ, saved by God’s rich mercy and great grace, created for good works, brought near by the blood of Christ, granted access to the Father through the Spirit, because you are strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, filled with all the fullness of God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that you ask or think according to the power at work with in you, because of all this, therefore, walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. …25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

That is what it means to cleave, to hold fast. Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Pursue the purity, the splendor of your bride. Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. You nourish and cherish you wife. Love your wife as your own body. Love your wife as you love yourself.

‘But that’s hard!’ Yes it is. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to hang on that cross and bear in his sinless body all the punishment for your sins?

‘But you don’t know what she’s like!’ Yes I do, because I know what I’m like. ‘Filthy, vile and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was he.’ I was dead in my trespasses and sins, following Satan, pursuing my own passions, by nature a child of wrath when God came after me.

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

‘But, I just don’t think I can.’ You are right. You can’t. I can’t. I need all three chapters in the front half of Ephesians to tell me who I am in Christ, to tell me who is living inside of me, and to tell me that it is not by my strength or my wisdom or my power or my love that I can do any of this. But if the resurrected Christ, who died on that cross for me is now living inside me, then I am empowered love with his love.

It’s not just about me and my happiness. Marriage is bigger than that. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.

Are there any reasons where divorce is an option? There may be situations where that is appropriate, but recognize, that is the Pharisee’s question. Jesus holds up the original intent, the ideal, the way God meant it to be. We shouldn’t aim for the exception, we should work hard with all the grace of God that he supplies to us to to hold up that picture of Christ loving and pursuing and laying down his life for his church.

Our culture is broke and bankrupt. We have an opportunity to be different than the world, to show by our examples that there is a different way, a better way, we are to shine brightly in such a way that they see our marriages and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.

***

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

July 12, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Discipline (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12; Matthew 18)

06/28 Loving Discipline (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12; Matthew 18); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200628_discipline.mp3

Last time we saw that Jesus teaches us to pray to God as our Father, that he is a good Father who is eager to see us walking in his image, resembling his character, carrying his DNA, and ultimately bringing glory to him. Jesus instructs us to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, and that he is eager to reward us.

The Revelation and Discipline of Jesus Christ

Today I want to look at the flip side of this. If you are familiar with the book of Revelation, you know above all else it is a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 1:5 …To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Jesus has given to us a high and holy calling. And Jesus is coming back for us. Revelation begins with a vision of Jesus among his churches;

Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

Jesus in all his awesome glory walking among the lampstands, his churches, and he addresses seven of these churches each with a letter. He tells them each something about himself, and he praises them for the things that he sees that please him, and he gives a word of warning and correction to those things that are not as they ought to be; he invites them to listen to what he says, and he promises his reward to those who respond to him. Addressing some problems he sees in the church in Laodicea, he says

Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Discipline probably isn’t what we want to hear. Discipline may sound unpleasant, and it is. But understand, discipline is rooted in love. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.’ ‘Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood’ says ‘those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’ Discipline is an expression of God’s love.

Wisdom Warns

Wisdom cries out:

Proverbs 1:22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.

Wisdom warns the fool, scoffers who hate knowledge, who ignore wise counsel, who despise reproof. They will get what they wanted; they will ‘eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.’ There are natural consequences for rejecting discipline and correction.

Bad Examples

In the Old Testament we find some epic examples of fathers who failed to discipline their sons and the tragic consequences. The two sons of Eli were priests of the Lord at Shiloh.

1 Samuel 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. …17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt. …22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.

It seems Eli had failed to train his sons, and they refused to listen to correction and reproof.

A man of God came to Eli with the word of the Lord:

1 Samuel 2:29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’

The sin of Eli was to honor his sons above the Lord God. How many people today elevate their children above the Lord? How many of us treat our children as kings and queens, princes and princesses? ‘You scorn my sacrifices …and honor your sons above me.’

Here’s what the ancient wisdom book says:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

The word of the Lord came to young Samuel about Eli:

1 Samuel 3:13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.

God is holding the father responsible because he knew what his sons were doing, and he failed to restrain them.

In 1 Samuel 4, the two sons of Eli died in battle, the ark of the Lord was captured, and when Eli was given the news, he fell over backward, broke his neck and died.

Withholding discipline when discipline is deserved is hatred not love, and it ends in disaster and death. This is one large contributing factor to what is wrong and broken in our society and in our culture.

Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. 14 If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Can this be abused and wrongfully applied out of anger and convenience, not out of love? Yes. Should we forsake the clear teaching of God’s word because some use it wrongly? No, we ought to check ourselves and our motives, seek godly counsel and get help.

The wise father says:

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Jesus says ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’ Loving discipline is an expression of love.

Illegitimate Children

Look with me at Hebrews 12. Hebrews 12 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus who for joy endured the cross; it tells us to lay aside the sin that trips us up and to run the race with endurance.

Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

That, my friends, is what is called a rhetorical question. You can probably answer with a long list of names. There’s Johnny and Joey and Bobby and Billy and Betsy and Sue. They are obviously undisciplined. ‘What son is there whom his father does not discipline?’ This is a rhetorical question and the answer is meant to be ‘there is no son whom his father does not discipline!’ Fathers are to love their children, and one of the expressions of a father’s love is loving discipline. Our society is so far out of Biblical bounds that we can’t even recognize this as a rhetorical question and answer it rightly.

Hebrews 12:7 …For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

Your earthly father may have failed you. You may not have had an earthly father who disciplined you out of love for your good. You may not have had an earthly father in your life. The point of this is a contrast. The best of earthly fathers are at best imperfect and inconsistent, flawed and faulted. As I preach this, I am acutely aware of my own failures and shortcomings as a father. I am preaching as much to me as I am to you. But the point is that if we have respect for our imperfect earthly fathers, how much more should we gladly submit ourselves to the perfect Father whose discipline is always perfect, perfectly applied and always for our good?

Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Part of being a son is being disciplined. We don’t like discipline; it is painful, not pleasant. But if the Lord does not discipline us, we might rightly question if we are truly his sons at all. The gospel calls us to come just as we are, but the good Lord will not leave us as we are. He intends for us to reflect his own character. ‘I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!’ (Gal.4:19). The Lord disciplines us ‘for our good, that we may share his holiness.’

Some of the most terrifying words in all of Scripture are those words in Romans 1, that ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’ in that ‘God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts’ (Rom.1:18,24,26,28). God gave them up to do what they wanted to do. God turned them over to the sin they chose. He gave them over; this is not loving discipline but judicial release to run unrestrained into the consequences of their own desires. This is not how God treats his children. If you are sinning and seemingly getting away with it, be terrified that you may be under his wrath. Ask him to adopt you into his family and to apply his loving discipline to you for your good. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’

Restorative Discipline in the Church

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells his followers that we need to turn and become like children in order to enter his kingdom, and he warns against those who would cause ‘one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.’ He tells us to deal severely with our own sin, and he shares the heart of the Father in leaving the ninety-nine to go out in search of the one sheep who goes astray. And then he says:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Jesus teaches his followers that we are to have the heart of his Father in going after those who go astray, in order to bring them back to safety.

It starts with ‘If your brother sins against you.’ If your brother sins against you, go and tell somebody about it. Go tell lots of people about it, go look for sympathy, go put it on social media. Go ask for prayer. Go tell the church leaders about it. No, no, no. Now you are sinning against your brother who sinned against you. You are a gossip, a slanderer, a backbiter, a busybody, and that is sin.

If your brother sins against somebody you know, stand up for them and go tell him his fault. No, Jesus says ‘If your brother sins against you, you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

And the goal is to heap on the guilt and really make him feel bad about what he did to you, to shame him, to make him pay. No, the goal is that he would listen, and you gain back your brother. The goal is reconciliation in sibling relationships. In love, in private, you and him alone, for restoration. And this passage goes on to command us to keep no record of wrong and forgive our brother who sins against us not seven times but seventy times seven.

Only if he does not respond to your private loving correction do you involve others. And then only one or two others. Keep the circle as small as possible. The goal is to go after the straying sheep, to gain back your brother or sister. The motive must be love and the goal must be safe return and restoration to the safety and care of the Good Shepherd.

Remember, just as in the immediate family so in the church family, discipline and correction is loving. To withhold correction and discipline when it is appropriate is to hate. When necessary, give it that way, and receive it as such.

Did you know that is what the Bible is for?

2 Timothy 3:15 …from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Scripture is given for reproof, correction, training. The goal is godly maturity and usefulness in Christ. It is for your good. You must acquaint your children with it. You must acquaint yourself with the Scriptures. And you should put them to use in your own family and in the family of God.

Three Applications:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Eph.6:2-3).

‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph.6:4). Fathers and mothers, do not neglect loving discipline of your children in your home for their good.

Brothers and sisters, when a brother or sister reproves, rebukes, exhorts you, when you receive discipline from the Lord, rejoice, it is an expression of love. He is treating you as his own children. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’

***

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

June 29, 2020 Posted by | church, discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Love Others

05/24 Obey Jesus: Love God, Love Neighbor, Love Enemy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200524_love-others.mp3

We are called to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded; so what does he command us as his disciples?

In the past weeks we have looked at what we love. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, spouse, son or daughter. Giving to him our primary allegiance may prove very costly, even alienating the closest of earthly relationships. But our allegiance to him must run deeper than blood.

We saw that he warns us to beware what we treasure, because some loves are treacherous and will seek to displace him as our primary affection. We cannot serve both God and money. He commands us to drop our baggage, the things that hold us back from following him wholeheartedly, and come, follow him.

Today we are going to look at another command of Jesus regarding what we love. Let’s start with the greatest command according to Jesus.

The Great and First Commandment

In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked a question by a religious expert to test him.

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.

Which is the great commandment in the Law? The question suggests that we ought to go to God’s top ten list, the Ten Commandments, and pick one to hold up above the others. But Jesus doesn’t even go to the big ten. He goes to Deuteronomy 6, the ‘Shema’; a regularly recited passage well known to every Jew. Love God with your whole being. The law is not so much about keeping commandments, following rules, prioritizing which rule to put above others. It is really about affections. It is about what you love. And you must love God above all. Your primary allegiance must be for God alone. All your emotional energy, all your mental capacity, your whole inner being must be fully engaged in loving God. This is the great and first commandment. Love for God is foundational. Above any commandment keeping must stand our treasuring of God, our love for God.

The Second is Like It

But Jesus makes this a two-for-one deal. He was asked which is the great commandment, and Jesus gives him two. The second that he pairs with the first comes from Leviticus 19:18, 34.

Matthew 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The second is like it. We must love neighbor as we love ourselves. We are commanded to expend the same mental and emotional energy, the same impulse to self-preservation, the same commitment to the good of others that we naturally give to ourselves.

All The Law and the Prophets

Jesus pairs loving God with loving neighbor, and says that on these two together hang all the Law and the Prophets. These two sum up the entirety of what the Old Testament Scriptures taught.

God created man to be in loving relationship with himself, and to care for his creation under him. But we rebelled and loved the things he created more than himself. Our lust for power and possessions spiraled so low,

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…

He chose one man and called him out of his idolatry to follow him, and promised that through his descendant he would bless the nations. He gave his chosen people his commandments, but they continuously went astray. He sent prophets to call them back to himself, to love for God and neighbor, to be blessed in relationship with himself, and to be a blessing to others.

Love God and love neighbor. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Every other command is expansion, clarification, application of these. As Paul says in Romans 13,

Romans 13:9 …and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And in Galatians 5,

Galatians 5:13 …use your freedom … through love [to] serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

All the commandments are summed up in this one word. The whole law is fulfilled in one word.

John, in his first short letter to the churches, says

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

It is easy to say you love God, but that is difficult to prove or disprove. But how you treat your brother is easily seen. And John says, if you claim to love God but hate your brother, you’re a liar.

Who Is My Neighbor?

In Luke 10, Jesus is being put to the test by another religious expert. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(10:25). Jesus pointed him to the Law and asked him how he understood it. This man replied with the same summary Jesus gave: to love God with heart and soul and strength and mind, and neighbor as self.

Luke 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Who is my neighbor. He wanted to justify himself; he wanted to feel that he was doing well. He wanted to limit the scope of God’s command to make it doable. Define who it is I’m to love, and I’ll work hard to do it. If my neighbors are the two people who live on either side of me, it will be hard, but I can suck it up and tough is out and show love and kindness to them, if that’s what it takes to gain eternal life.

To answer his question, ‘who is my neighbor, Jesus paints a picture of a man in desperate need, and a priest and Levite come across his path, both interested in pleasing God through ritual purity, but not willing to compromise their purity to help a man in need. The shocking hero to Jesus’ story is a Samaritan low life half-breed good-for-nothing, scorned and despised by the Jews. Samaria was the northern neighbor to Judea, who after Israel had been conquered by Assyria in 722BC had intermarried with pagans and integrated their pagan worship practices (2Ki.17). The Samaritan in Jesus’ story is the one who had compassion and went far out of his way to put the needs of this man above his own. Jesus concludes:

Luke 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Your question should not be ‘Who is my neighbor?’ The question must not be one of limiting the scope to justify yourself. That is wrong-hearted. The question is ‘Do I prove to be a neighbor to those around me, those in need? Do I seek to show mercy or do I steer clear?’

The way Jesus framed his story using a despised Samaritan as the hero stirred up all kinds of resentment and animosity and show them their hearts and how they really felt about their neighbors.

Notice how this man answered. The three characters in Jesus’ story were a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. But this religious expert couldn’t even answer Jesus’ question by uttering the name ‘Samaritan.’

Luke 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. Be a neighbor to those in need. You, show mercy to others, even if they are different from you, even if they are your enemies.

Love Your Enemies

Jesus takes this up a notch in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

Jesus says,

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.

Love, do good to, bless, pray for. When Jesus says ‘love’, he doesn’t have in mind a mere emotion. That is part of it, but it is more. The good Samaritan saw the need, he had compassion, and his compassion led to action, he invested time and energy and his own resources. Loving involves doing good, praying for, and seeking to bless others.

Jesus commands that this kind of love be extended even to our enemies, those who hate and persecute and curse and abuse you. Seek to bless them, to do them good, pray for them.

Actions have consequences. Evil actions will be punished. So Jesus is not saying that when it is in our power to escape from or stop the evil action, we allow an abuser or persecutor to continue. That’s not loving. Jesus is saying that we do good to them, we pray for them. This means that our prayer ultimately is that they would turn from their evil deeds and find forgiveness and freedom and new life in Jesus.

Impossible Love

Luke 6:29 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. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Matthew 5 has:

Matthew 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. …48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

You must be perfect. Love your enemies. Be kind, even to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful to the just and the unjust.

If you are honest with yourself, you know this is impossible. But as we have seen throughout this study, that’s what Jesus’ commands are. Impossible. It is impossible to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. It is impossible to love neighbor as self. It is impossible to love, do good to, pray for and seek to bless our enemies. That is humanly impossible. This requires the work of the Spirit of the living God inside of us.

Corrie ten Boom

I want to end with a story from Corrie ten Boom, who was arrested for hiding Dutch Jews from the Nazis, who survived the horrors of a concentration camp (although her sister Betsie did not). She went on to share God’s love and forgiveness with many. She writes

It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. …

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5 says:

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. …8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …10 …while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…

***

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

May 30, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Primary Allegiance (Matthew 10:24-39)

05/10 Obey Jesus: Primary Allegiance; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200510_primary-allegiance.mp3

We are looking at what it means to obey Jesus. Jesus instructed us to make disciples who make disciples who obey Jesus in everything. So What did Jesus command? We’ve been looking at some of the commands of Jesus, to know what he expects of us his followers, and to equip us to better disciple those who become his followers. He commands that we come to him and believe in him, that we believe what he says about himself, that he is the I AM come down from heaven to give life to the world. We are to find him in all of Scripture, because he said the whole of the Scriptures point to him. We are to meet with him there in his word. We are to abide in him, stay connected to him in relationship, pray to him and pray in his name so that we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God.

A Servant Not Above His Master (Matthew 10)

Today I want to look at what Jesus says about our primary allegiances. In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his followers for what it is going to be like for them in this world. He said:

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

If we are following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to be treated better than he was treated. If he was slandered and maligned, we should not be surprised if we experience the same.

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus talks to us about our fears. He knows our tendency to be afraid, and he reminds us who to fear. What anyone says about us falsely will be brought into the light, so we don’t have to lose sleep over it.

They may kill the body. Many of Jesus’ followers have been killed because of their faith in him. But he reminds us not to fear those who have the power to kill only the body but cannot touch our soul. He reminds us that God alone is to be feared. We possess an invincible hope, that even death cannot quench!

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Two sparrows were sold for one small coin. Luke 12:6 has five sparrows sold for two of these coins; they were of so little worth that if you buy four you got one thrown in for free. And yet not one insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from the sovereign will of their omnipotent Creator. He has numbered the hairs on your head, and he has numbered your days on this earth. You are of more value than many sparrows. So fear not.

Primary Allegiance

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Our allegiance to Jesus matters. To be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge him before people is to say that what they think is more important, more weighty than what God thinks. It is evidence that we don’t really believe in him. Jesus continues:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus is the great divide [this is fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 7:5-6]. Jesus polarizes people. You are either with him or against him. He tolerates no lukewarm opinions about himself. Jesus divides.

I know some of you know personally the cost of following Jesus, and have experienced exactly what Jesus says here.

Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

For Jesus to say that we are to love him above father and mother is to affirm the value of those relationships; family love and natural allegiance run deep. But he is to take precedence over even the highest of natural affections, the deepest of natural allegiances.

This is strong language. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, son or daughter, more than our own skin. He picks our closest ties, our deepest allegiances and demands that we are committed to him above all.

It is worth noting here that this demand would be audacious and unthinkable if Jesus were not God. To demand our unqualified allegiance is a clear claim to be the only one worthy of that kind of allegiance. Jesus is demanding that our love for God (and thus for him because he is God) must supersede every other affection and devotion

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his own skin more than me is not worthy of me.

Not worthy of me; not worthy not in the sense of not having earned or achieved the right, but rather not fit, not equal to the task. Those who are not willing to put God above all other loves are not willing to be Jesus’ disciples. They are not believing that the Lord is worthy of our highest love, not believing that in order to love others rightly, they must be loved in their proper place under God; the Lord must be loved first and above all.

In Luke 14, he says:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is not justifying hatred toward family members. But some of our actions and decisions may be perceived that way, because of our overriding allegiance to him. When we put Jesus first, everyone else comes in second, and nobody likes to be second. This is not dislike or disdain, but a supreme loyalty.

What This Does Not Look Like

Jesus affirms that we ought to honor father and mother. He even rebuked the Pharisees who created a legal loophole so that children could get out of the responsibility of taking care of their parents. What they were doing, it seems was taking the resources that they should have used to support their parents, and declaring them as dedicated to God, to be given to the Lord at some future date. This was a hypocritical way to say they were putting God first, while really they were avoiding responsibility to their parents and keeping it all for themselves. Jesus

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mk.7:9-13)

Jesus affirms that it is commanded by God to honor father and mother, but we must honor them under the Lord. Our loyalty must be to Jesus above all.

Government Submission

We can extend this to civil authorities, to states and empires. Peter tells us we are to

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Timothy tells us that we are to pray for those who are in authority over us;

1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And keep in mind that the context of these letters would have been the evil emperor Nero who was no friend of the cause of Christ.

Jesus answered a question about paying taxes:

Matthew 22:21 …Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Their coins had the image of the emperor on them. We bear God’s image. We are to give the government its due, but we must give God that which bears his image.

But when it comes to it, when the two are in conflict, our allegiance is to Jesus above all earthly allegiances. When the Jewish leaders rebuked the disciples

Acts 5:28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We are to pray for our leaders and be subject to our earthly governments as far as possible, but when the demands of these two collide, we must submit to the higher authority. We must obey God rather than men.

Gospel Community

In Mark 10, when Jesus pointed to the difficulty people have with following him, with giving him their undivided allegiance,

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands that we put him higher than every other love. Although the cost of following Jesus may be great, the reward will be far greater. Because Jesus demands our highest allegiance, this will mean that we seek to honor him above all. For some, this may actually mean walking away from a close relationship with an unbeliever, although in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul clarifies that it will be the unbeliever who wants out; so far as it depends on us we are to seek to live peaceably will all (Rom.12:18). But according to Jesus, whoever leaves family for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this life, brothers and sisters and mothers and children. What does he mean by this? Although in some cases blood relatives may want nothing to do with a believer, as believers we are adopted into the family of God. Although these relationships man never replace a lost relationship, we become part of a much larger family with a depth of unity through our common allegiance to Jesus. We become family. It is a beautiful thing to meet a believer from another place, maybe another country and a different culture, and discover that depth of connection we have in Jesus.

Invited In

In Mark 3, there was such a crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. The religious leaders were saying he was possessed by a demon, and his family came to get him, thinking he was out of his mind.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is not negating the importance of family. But he is inviting us in to his own family. My disciples, those who obey me, those who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. That’s the depth, that’s the intimacy, that’s the loyalty Jesus invites us in to. He takes the closest relationships we experience and says that is the kind of relationship I want with you.

What about you? Jesus invites you in. He wants that kind of depth, that kind of closeness with you. He is inviting you in. But he wants you to count the cost. It is costly to follow Jesus. He demands your highest devotion, your undivided loyalty, your absolute allegiance. He requires that you take him for who he is, to acknowledge him as God, with absolute rights over you. He commands that you devote yourself to him above every other affection. Will you take up your cross and follow him and not look back? Will you follow him wherever he leads? Will you obey everything he commands? Will you be his disciple?

***

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

May 11, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2020 Vision; Healthy Church – Colossians 3

01/12 Vision – healthy individuals make a healthy church (Colossians 3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200112_healthy-church.mp3

Last time we looked at Jesus’ vision for the church; seeing clearly who we are, who we are meant to be will shape what we do. We saw from Matthew 16 that the church is a gathering of Jesus followers. The church belongs to Jesus. The church is built on the identity of Jesus as the only Son of God. The church is created by the Holy Spirit through the miracle of new birth. The church carries Jesus’ own unstoppable authority and is meant to be on the offensive, moving forward to take ground from the enemy. But the church is built on the offense of the cross; we follow a crucified King; Jesus came to lay down his life for others. So the way we advance is by that same love which works itself out in self-sacrificial service toward one another and toward a hurting world. This is Jesus’ own vision for his church.

We can embrace and affirm Jesus’ vision for his church. We can read Matthew 16 and agree, ‘yes, this is what the church is, I agree,’ but how do we move from saying to doing? How do we move from merely affirming to actually being, living it out?

Not a Building

Today I’d like to look at what it means to be the church by looking at what the church is composed of. Remember, the church is a gathering of Jesus followers. We tend to think in terms of place and structure. How do I get to the church? Where is it on the map? What does the building look like?

Across the world, church buildings have been burned or bombed. On 15 April 2019, the 850 year old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was significantly damaged from a fire, and for the first time in 200 years did not hold Christmas services. January 9 of 2018 the Golden Lampstand church in the Shanxi Province of China, where 50,000 Christians worshiped, was demolished by Chinese police using heavy machinery and dynamite.

But if the church is really a gathering of Jesus followers, then the destruction of a church building does not destroy the church. If the church is a local gathering of Jesus followers, It doesn’t really matter where we meet. It’s not about the building.

Healthy Believers Healthy Church

Today I want to ask the question ‘What makes a healthy church?’ If a church is composed of Jesus followers, then a healthy church is made up of healthy Jesus followers. That means that if I am concerned about the health of this church, then the biggest thing I can do is to make sure that I am a healthy Christian. And a healthy Christian is one who lives a life characterized by following Jesus. And a life characterized by following Jesus is the composite of individual days and moments of following Jesus. What does that look like?

Colossians

There’s a lot of places in God’s word we could go to answer this question, but today I want to look at Paul’s letter to the Colossians. This is a church that Paul didn’t directly start. It seems that when he was in Ephesus (Acts 19:10), Ephaphras, a Colossian, was visiting Ephesus, heard the preaching of Paul and believed, and brought the good news back to his own city and a church was birthed. Now a few years later, visiting Paul in prison in Rome, he shares concerns over threats to this church, and brings Paul’s letter back to them.

The Miracle of New Birth

Paul starts (1:3-14) by thanking God for their faith, that when they heard the gospel, God’s grace had been poured out on them and they believed; remember, the new birth is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God. Paul reminds them of God’s rescue, God’s forgiveness, and that is is God who ultimately makes them fruitful.

The Bedrock Identity of Jesus and the Offense of the Cross

Then (1:15-23) Paul points them to the priority, the preeminence, the first place of Jesus in everything. Remember, the church is built on the bedrock foundation of the identity of Jesus. The eternal Son of God, the very image of God, the one who created and sustains all things, is the head of the church. It is the offense of the death of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, the cross of Jesus that secures our peace with God.

Paul preaches Jesus (1:24-2:5) and struggles and strives for their maturity in Christ. He exhorts them to stay firm in their faith in Christ, and warns them against being led astray.

He tells them (2:6-7) that as they received Christ Jesus the Lord in simple faith, entrusting themselves to him, depending on him alone, with thanksgiving that they should continue to live their lives by that same simple faith with thanksgiving.

He warns them (2:6-15) not to get taken captive by philosophies or traditions apart from Christ. Christ is everything. Jesus is God in the flesh. We died with Christ and have been raised up and given new life.

He warns them not to get tangled up in legalistic observance of days or dietary restrictions (2:16-23), We must hold fast to Christ the head, who nourishes and connects his body and causes its growth.

Indicative/Imperative

The church is established on the identity of Christ, is given new life in Christ, and lives in communion with Christ. Paul lays this foundation of truth that we must hold on to in the first two chapters, and then in the last two chapters, he gives practical instructions for how to live in light of this truth. That’s what I want to focus on for the rest of our time. If then. If this is true, if we are the church, built on the foundation of Christ, transformed by the good news of Christ crucified, following in the footsteps of Christ, living in communion with Christ, what should this look like?

Mind Set on Things Above

The first thing we are told, because we have been raised with Christ, we are to make a habit of seeking things above, and setting our minds on things above, not on earthly things. Jesus invited us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Mt.6:33). This doesn’t come naturally.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, talking about marriage and singleness says:

1 Corinthians 7:32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. … 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Paul holds up the main benefit of singleness as single-mindedness. The single person is free to focus solely on things above, on pleasing the Lord. So many single people waste their singleness with their minds set on earthly things. We are to seek in all things above all to please the Lord. Because we have been raised with Christ, we can seek the things above, we can seek to be satisfied in God. Martha was anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary’ (Lk.10:41-42). To sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him.

Are you fixing your thinking on things above?

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

The Crucified Life

The next thing Paul tells us is to live the crucified life. He moves from resurrection to crucifixion. As soon as we try to fix our minds on things above, all the things of the world elbow their way in and compete for our attention. Paul is not gentle with these competing affections.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices

The follower of Jesus is to embrace the offense of the cross and walk in the way of the crucified life. Some things can’t be coddled. They need to be crucified. We tend to deal gently, even affectionately with our sins. We need to take hammer and drive the nail straight through.

The Peace of Christ

Paul goes on to describe in practical rubber meets the road terms life in the body of Christ.

Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Our new self is not perfect. It is being renewed, day by day. And that means others in the body of Christ are being renewed; they are not yet perfect either. But in Christ there is unity in spite of deep differences. We are being renewed whenever someone is difficult to be around, whenever someone disappoints us or wrongs us or sins against us. We are to be characterized by compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love. We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts in the one body of the church family. Oh, and by the way, be thankful. When you have an opportunity to forgive, be thankful. When you have an opportunity to bear with one another, be thankful. When you have a complaint against another, be thankful.

The Word of Christ

We might ask ‘how in the world do you expect me to set my mind on things above, to crucify my competing affections, to let the peace of Christ rule in my relationships with irritating, annoying, disappointing, difficult people?

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. What is in you will come out. What are you primarily feeding on? What is the main substance of your diet? There are a lot of different diet plans out there, and on occasion we have filled our fridge and our pantry with all kinds of odd things and measured and calculated and read the ingredients with the utmost care. How much attention do we give to what we feed on mentally and spiritually? What we feed on will inevitably shape our attitudes, our emotions, our thinking, how we see the world. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, the Word made flesh come to dwell among us (Jn.1). Jesus’ words are spirit and life (Jn.6:63), and he means for his words are to take up residence in us. We are to be washed in the water of the word (Eph.5:26).

Not just feed on the word, but let it dwell in you. Not just dwell in you, but dwell in you richly. Don’t be sparing or stingy. Don’t measure it carefully. Glut yourself on God’s word.

What goes in must come out, and if we are consistently feeding on the word of Christ, then we can ‘teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.’ Without a stable diet of God’s word, we will be spewing earthly human so called wisdom.

Notice the one another here. There is to be one another teaching and admonishing. Disciples are to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded us. ‘And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also’ (2Tim.2:2). If you are feeding on the word, you have something to say that is worth saying.

One another ministry is essential for a healthy church. First we are to forgive one another, and then we are to teach and admonish one another. Don’t attempt to admonish without first forgiving. Don’t attempt to admonish without the word of Christ dwelling in you richly.

And notice, when the word of Christ dwells in you richly, you sing. With thankfulness in your hearts to God. The word dwelling in you richly overflows in worship. Churches sing together. There is something unique about singing together the mighty truths of the gospel, expressing our praise and thanksgiving out loud together in song. Healthy Christians sing with thankfulness in their hearts to God.

Continue Steadfastly in Prayer

Paul gives some specific instruction to wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves, and then he gives us these instructions:

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Prayer. Steadfast continued prayer. Watchful prayer. Prayer with thanksgiving. Prayer for the advance of the word, for the proclamation of the gospel. Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Healthy Christians pray.

A healthy church is made up of healthy followers of Jesus, who pray and sing together with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, who teach and exhort one another, who are saturated in the word of Christ, who allow the peace of Christ to rule in relationships permeated with forgiveness and love, who put to death earthly affections and fix their thinking on the things of God.

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

January 13, 2020 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion

11/24_2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191124_2cor9_13-14.mp3

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

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.

The question we have is ‘How do we glorify God? What does it mean to glorify God? What does that look like in practical daily life?’ This passage in 2 Corinthians 9 gives us one clear way we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God.

Glorify God by Loving God and Neighbor

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous (single-hearted) in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you for all simplicity, for abounding in every good work. When we use what God has freely given us to extend his grace to bless others, it does more than just meeting that need. It produces thanksgiving to God.

We want to live for the glory of God. We long for the Lord alone to be glorified. We want him to get the thanks he deserves. Paul tells us in these verses how to produce thanksgiving to God. He tells us that our unmixed devotion and love for the Lord will produce thanksgiving to God. For the Corinthians, this was specifically in the context of the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Our context will be different, but the results can be the same. This will look different for each of us. There are myriads of ways we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God in daily life. Whenever we in simplicity love God and love neighbor, we glorify God.

Approval and Authenticity

Paul goes on in the next verses to tell us how this works. How does our love for God and practical expression of love for neighbor bring glory to God? He says of the saints in Jerusalem:

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity (simplicity) of your contribution (fellowship) for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

By the approval (δοκιμή) of this service they will glorify God. It is through their approval of this service or ministry. The service of cheerful giving is proved or tested and approved by them. Paul used a related word to this word ‘approval’ in 8:8.

2 Corinthians 8:7 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 (δοκιμάζω) by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Prove that your love is genuine. Proving demonstrates the genuineness of a thing. A thing is approved when it is proved to be what it claims to be. It is by the approval of this service that they glorify God. There is such a thing as service that is not really service, ministry that is not really ministry. It appears to be, but it is not genuine. The outward thing might look identical, but it is intrinsically different. Fools gold might appear to be gold, but in the furnace it is proved to be a different thing altogether. In this context, cheerful giving is the service. There might be two givers who give, and the amount might be identical. The outward act is the same. But what is the heart and attitude behind the gifts? The one might be out of a simple affection for Jesus and a desire to honor him with what he has given. The other might be mixed with a desire to be noticed, to be perceived as generous, to gain the status and respect of a generous giver. It might be out of a sense of pressure or obligation, or out of a desire to repay a debt. It might be a way to relieve guilt. Both gifts might meet the need, but as we’ve seen throughout these chapters, the heart of the giver is most important. One is proved genuine, the other proves to be fools gold.

Which is it? Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. What is the ultimate result? Who gets glory? Jesus said:

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

Let your light shine before men. Do good works. But do them in such a way that God gets the glory. The giver gets the glory. If the giver is God and it is clear that I am merely a conduit or channel through which God’s good gifts flow, then God gets the glory. If I attempt to share his glory, to claim credit for myself, I obscure where the gift comes from, and I attempt to steal glory for myself, glory that rightly belongs to God alone.

Remember Annanias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5)? Many of the believers were selling their possessions and sharing what they had. They sold a piece of land, and presented part of the sale price as a gift, but secretly withheld part for themselves. It was not wrong to keep some of the proceeds. It would not have been wrong to keep the entire amount. The apostles make this clear. What they were accused of was lying to God. They were not genuine. They were trying to deceive, trying to be perceived as something they were not. Their hearts were wrong. They were seeking to impress others, to be perceived as generous, to gain status and approval. Instead they were exposed for what they were, and they dropped dead on the spot. Our hearts matter greatly to God.

People may be deceived. People may misread motives, but God knows our hearts.

Gentile Submission to the Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.

This word ‘submission’ is used in contexts of submission to authority, submission of children to parents, of a wife to her husband, of slaves to their masters, of citizens to their governing authorities. It is used of the submission of Jesus to his Father. It is used of the submission of demons to Jesus, and ultimately of all things under God. This is an interesting use of this word here in this context. What is ‘the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ’?

This word submission seems to have a large overlap with another word, often translated ‘obedience’. Both are used for submission to or obedience to parents, to masters, of demons to Jesus. The obedience word has more to do with hearing and obeying; as the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ voice. This submission word has more to do with being subject to authority. The obedience word is used several times in the context of obeying the gospel, as almost synonymous with believing. To hear his voice and respond to him is to believe. This is the only place that this submission word seems to be connected with the gospel. But it is not just submission to the gospel, but the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ.

This idea of submission points to something bigger. There are some verses that use this submission word to speak in a cosmic context of all authorities and powers and everything being put under the authority of Jesus, and ultimately of his Father. Here’s just one example:

Ephesians 1:19 …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, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things [in subjection] under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

This points to a time when the whole universe will be under the dominion of Jesus. That there are non-Jewish people who are trusting in the Jewish Messiah, that there is a church of Jesus followers in Corinth and in Philippi and in Ephraim Utah is a big deal! This is a foretaste of everything in the universe being in subjection under King Jesus! For the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to see that there were genuine followers of Jesus from every tribe and nation was a big deal.

Confessing The Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

The submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ. What does it mean to confess to the gospel of Christ? Gospel means good news. To confess is the compound word ὁμολογία from homo – the same and logia or logos – word or reasoning. Literally it is to say the same thing. We confess or profess the gospel when we say the same thing. What the gospel says is what I say. If the good news is that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned but has eternal life (Jn.3:36) then I say the same thing. I trust in Jesus so I am no longer under condemnation but I have eternal life. If the good news is that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph.2:8), then I say the same thing. There is nothing I can do to rescue myself. I am depending on Jesus, I receive his free and undeserved gift. I confess the gospel. What the gospel says, what God says is true, I say is true.

The good news is Christ. The good news is a person. In confessing the gospel of Christ I am submitting to a person. I surrender. I place myself under his good authority. I trust him and entrust myself to him.

Communion and Community

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They give praise and honor to God because you are believing the gospel. You are confessing the gospel of Christ. You are placing yourself under the rule and authority of Jesus.

And they glorify God because of the generosity (literally simplicity or sincerity, openness) of your fellowship. When they see your single hearted love for God and neighbor, they see the genuineness of your faith, and they glorify God.

The gospel creates communion, fellowship, something in common. People who had nothing at all in common, when they belong to Jesus, now they have a common bond, a connection, something in common. The most important thing in common. People of different language and culture and ethnic background, when they belong to Jesus, have the most important thing in common. And this creates a bond, a connection. Have you experienced this? You meet a total stranger, someone you have nothing in common with, and you discover that they too are a lover of Jesus, and you suddenly have this unity, this connection, you can enjoy communion. The opposite is true. You might have so many shared interests, so much shared life experience, you might have so much in common, but if the other person is not a believer, you can’t have true fellowship, true communion. Not at the deepest, most important level. They see the simplicity of your communion to them and to all. There is a connection with every other believer, and that brings glory to God.

Passion and Prayer

This communion is reciprocal. What this looks like is described in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Have you ever had someone tell you that they have been praying for you? Maybe someone you’re not really all that close to? Yet they are invested in you enough to take you into the very presence of God and speak to him about you. That is humbling and amazing. They long for you and pray for you. Their affections are involved. They care about you. They care enough to pray for you. They are bringing you into the presence of God as a praise. They are thanking God for you, for the work God has done in you. You are loving God and loving neighbor, and maybe you don’t even feel like you’re really doing that much. But they recognize the grace of God on you, that you are a trophy of God’s unmerited grace. And they glorify God because of you. That is a humbling, encouraging experience. That creates a connection. That is communion.

Surpassing Grace

And this brings us full circle. Your ministry, your simplicity of service to others is evidence of the tested genuineness of the submission of your confession of the gospel of Christ. This is evidence of the surpassing grace of God on you. Paul started this section encouraging simplicity and generosity by pointing to the grace of God,

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

The grace of God had been given, and it overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted simplicity, love first for God and then for neighbor. Now he comes full circle. He began with the grace of God given to them, and he ends with the surpassing grace of God on you, recognized by others.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

This generosity, this love, this openness and simplicity, this ability to increase thanksgivings and glorify God is all of grace from beginning to end.

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving

11/17_2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191117_2cor9_11-12.mp3

What are you thankful for? What should we be thankful for that we may not be? Is your heart characterized by gratitude? How is thankfulness developed? What can we do to grow our gratitude? Here’s another question: Is there anything that we can do to affect the thankfulness of someone else?

In Paul’s instructions on generosity and cheerful giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9 he gives some important insight into thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Paul says that there is a way to produce thanksgiving to God. He says that what we do can overflow in many thanksgivings to God. If we want God to be glorified through our lives, then we should be very interested in what he has to say here.

Paul is talking about giving. He builds everything he says on God’s grace, God’s undeserved gift to us in Jesus. He looks to God as the ultimate giver, the source of every good thing. Anything we give to others is actually a re-gifting of what God has first given to us, and that is what he intends for us to do.

Simpleness or Generosity

He says in 2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” This word translated ‘generous’ is a word we saw before in 8:2. Some interpretation has to happen in translation, and most English translations use the word ‘generosity’ because the context is clearly one of financial giving. But the word itself means simplicity, singleness or sincerity; free from pretense or hypocrisy; not self-seeking; an openness of heart. In Ephesians 6 and in Colossians 3 it is used in the context of a servant’s obedience to his master.

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

It is with an undivided heart, as to the Lord, not only while they are watching, but at all times eager to please the Lord. There is to be openness, integrity. Paul used this word to point to his own integrity in 2 Corinthians 1:12

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity…

Simplicity, transparent openness and integrity.

The first translation of the Bible into English, the Wycliffe Bible in 1382 translates like this: “that in all things ye made rich wax plenteous into all simpleness”

A more modern literal translation might read something like this: ‘in all enriched to all simplicity, which works through us thanksgiving to God.’ That doesn’t make great sense in English, so a good translation will put the words in an order that makes sense in the target language, and will pick up clues from the context as to how a word is being used. Paul is talking about an undivided heart, single or simple, seeking in all things to please the Lord, loving the Lord with a whole heart, and your neighbor as yourself. This includes generosity, but it is bigger than generosity.

Enriched to Simplicity

‘In all things enriched to all simplicity.’ You will be enriched in every way to be single-hearted in every way. What does it mean that we will be enriched in everything or in every way? This is defined by the context.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

God will supply everything needed so that we can abound in every good work. He will give us what we need to live a righteously, to distribute freely and give to the poor; he will supply and multiply our seed for sowing and increase our harvest of righteousness. We will be enriched in every way for a simple whole-hearted love for God and neighbor.

What About Poor Christians?

Do you believe this? Do you believe that God will supply all your needs? Does this mean that no Christian will ever be poor? Paul himself said he knew how to be content in plenty and in want. At times he went hungry. The Macedonian believers were in the depths of poverty. The collection was for the poor saints in Jerusalem, because they were poor. Our brothers and sisters are beaten and imprisoned and even killed because of their love for God. How do we account for this?

God doesn’t here promise exemption from poverty. He doesn’t say that as long as you’re following him, you will have enough money for your own needs and extra to give away. Apparently the Macedonians didn’t have enough for their own needs, but they gave anyway. If we view this as a financial formula, we will have to turn a blind eye to all of church history right up through our present day, or we will have to write them all off as not having enough faith.

But if we understand that God will give you all his grace so that you can stand firm in your faith and continue to love God and neighbor even in the worst of circumstances, then this is realistic and reliable encouragement for us.

Bigger Than Humanitarian

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God gives us everything we need so that in every circumstance we can love God and neighbor which will produce thanksgiving to God. Do you believe this? Do you believe that you can live to the glory of God regardless of your circumstances? Do you believe that you can stay faithful to God and serve others even if you have nothing? This is the word of God! This is the promise of God to us. Do we live this way? Do we step out in love and serve, trusting that God will be enough?

Paul says that through us this will produce thanksgiving to God. Paul was involved in the transaction. He was orchestrating the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. He understood that God would use him and his companions to deliver this gift, to be the connecting link between Jew and Gentile churches. He believed that this would produce thanksgiving to God. Paul’s goal was bigger than a humanitarian mission. He was all for alleviating suffering where possible, but his purpose was bigger than that. Paul’s ultimate goal in everything was to bring glory to God. And he shows us how this humanitarian collection will produce thanksgiving to God in verse 12.

2 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ministry of this service not only does this, but also does that. Not only does it supply what is lacking in the saints; it does that, as he said back in 8:14 that your abundance will supply their need. It does meet a real need, but it is bigger than that. It is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Service and Worship

How does it do this? Paul uses an interesting word to describe this ministry. He uses two different words that have a large area of overlap to describe the collection. Both words could be translated ‘ministry’ or ‘service’. It is ‘the ministry of this ministry’ or ‘the service of this service’. The first word has a more a sense of administration or stewardship. It is where we get the word ‘deacon’. It is ministering or administering practical service or help.

The second word is less common, and it comes from the context of the Old Testament priest. John the Baptist’s father Zechariah was a priest, and we are told in Luke 1

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And then it says:

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

That’s our word; his time of priestly service. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word shows up often in connection with the tabernacle and then the temple. It has to do with approaching God in worship. It is where we get our English word liturgy.

Paul describes giving to the poor out of a single heart a service or ministry of priestly worship. Paul refers to this collection as a priestly service in Romans 15.

Romans 15:25 …I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

Giving is an act of worship. Paul describes his own ministry in these terms.

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

His language pictures himself in terms of a priest at the altar, presenting a holy sacrifice pleasing to God, only his service is not at the temple, but in the gospel; and his offering is not an animal sacrifice or a grain offering, but people, Gentile people made holy by the Spirit of God.

He uses similar priestly imagery in Philippians 2

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

Here he describes his own life as the offering being poured out on the sacrifice and priestly service of their faith.

Paul has told the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 …that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? …

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are the temple. We are the place of meeting with God. Peter fleshes out this imagery when he says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

You are the temple. You are a holy priesthood. You are to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You get to proclaim the excellencies of him! This is worship. To proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Paul tells the Romans

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Our bodies are the sacrifice, made holy by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for us. He goes on to tell us more specifically how:

Romans 12:5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity (or simplicity); the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Use your gifts to the glory of God. Through love serve one another.

The book of Hebrews, which focuses on Jesus as our greater High Priest, also exhorts us:

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

A sacrifice of praise; lips that acknowledge his name. Do good and share what you have. In single simplicity love God with all your heart and love and serve your neighbor as yourself.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ultimate motive is always God centered. We are always to pursue the glory of God in all things. God the giver deserves to receive the overflow of gratitude for the gifts he has given. When we love and serve others in the strength that he supplies, he gets the glory; we produce thanksgiving; many will overflow in thanksgiving to God.

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

November 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver

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

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

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

Proverbs 22:8-9 [LXX]

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

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

Then in verse 11 it says:

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

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

A Single Eye

Proverbs 22:8-9 in the ESV reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said the most important thing is:

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

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

A Cheerful Giver

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

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

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

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

Upon Blessings

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

God’s Unconditional Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consequences of Not Giving Cheerfully

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Is a Cheerful Giver

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

Look to God the cheerful giver!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

It was his joy to give himself up for us.

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire

09/22_2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190922_2cor8_16-17.mp3

Grace

This passage is about giving, and it is about grace; ultimately it is about the grace of God freely given. The word ‘grace’ appears 10 times in these two chapters, and it centers around the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:9 [lit trans] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that on account of you became poor, being rich; in order that you by that poverty might become rich

Grace is God’s freely given kindness. Verse 9 reminds us of the fountain of all grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became sin for us, who gave himself up for us.

8:1 talks about grace as the enabling grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, that overflowed in their simplicity of heart toward God and joyful eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. There in verse 4, grace is the extending of grace received from God out horizontally to others. It is a freely given gift of God to be able to give to others. Verses 6 and 7 exhort the Corinthians also to participate in this grace; the gift of freely extending what they had received out to others in need. Verse 19 also points to this grace, the gift of giving. Then in 9:8 and 9:14, he uses ‘grace’ again to point to the enabling grace of God which gives freely to us so that we can overflow in freely giving to others.

Here in 8:16, as in 9:15, he uses the word ‘grace’ in the sense of thanksgiving, grace received from God now reflected back toward God in the form of thanksgiving, recognition of his grace freely given. Grace to God; gratitude to God.

Grace comes down from God to us in the person of our Lord Jesus to make us rich in him. Grace comes down from God to enable and ignite us to freely extend the grace we have received to others, and we become a conduit through which his grace flows through us out horizontally to others. And finally, grace is reflected back up to God in the form of gratitude for all that he has given.

God’s Gift

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

Here we see Paul giving thanks for God’s gift given to Titus. This is the fourth time the word ‘give’ shows up in this chapter on giving. In verse 1 the grace of God was given; in verse 5 in response the Macedonians gave themselves to the Lord. In verse 10 Paul gives his advice on what would benefit them, and here in 16 God ‘puts’ or literally gives the same earnestness for you in the heart of Titus.

Earnestness is another word we have seen several times in this letter. In 7:11-12, Paul is encouraged that the Corinthians responded to his tearful letter with a renewed earnestness for him. In 8:7-8 he praises their excelling in earnestness and uses the earnestness of others to prove their own genuineness.

This word means an eagerness, willingness, diligence, or earnest commitment in discharge of an obligation [BDAG, 939]. Titus had a willing eagerness in his heart for the good of the Corinthians, and we are told that God put it there. God gave him his earnestness for them. Just as the source of the Macedonians’ abundance of joy in the midst of their deep poverty was God’s grace given, which then overflowed in a richness of single-heartedness, and an insistence on the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. Now God is the Author of the eager willingness in the heart of Titus on behalf of the Corinthians.

For Their Good

It was on behalf of the Corinthians. It was for their good. They needed him. They needed his help. This was not a vacation. ‘Titus do you want to travel? Oh yeah, I love to travel, see new sites, explore new places, meet new people, all the sights and sounds and tastes and smells.’ No, travel meant hardship and danger. As Paul describes later in this letter:

2 Corinthians 11:26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

That’s what Titus was signing up for. And he was going to a church that was difficult. To people who were difficult. He had just returned from carrying a severe letter to this volatile church, and now Paul was asking him to retrace his steps with another letter asking them to give generously. This was no easy task. This was no pleasure cruise. This was self-sacrificial service for their good, for their benefit. But part of the difficulty was to convince them that it really was for their benefit, because they didn’t know what was good for them.

Desires

God gave Titus an earnestness for them. We have seen in this section the importance of right desires. Paul seeks to demonstrate the genuineness of their love. He commends their desiring even above the doing of this act of grace. He wants the doing to match their desires. He is glad that they wanted the right things, and now wants them to do what they wanted to do. He highlights not only the depth of sacrifice on the part of the Macedonians, but especially their joy and single-hearted simplicity, their giving of themselves to the Lord. Paul said back in chapter 1

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

We work with you for your joy. What brings you joy matters. Desires matter. What we are eager for matters. What we want matters. And here we learn that God gives earnestness. He is to be thanked, because he is the giver. He gave it in the heart of Titus.

Encouragement

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put earnestness in the heart of Titus. But we also see that Paul encouraged Titus toward this, and Titus received his encouragement. Just in verse 6 he said:

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.

Paul urged or encouraged Titus. It was not a command, but it was an encouragement. Paul urged him to go, to bring to completion what he had started. ‘He accepted our appeal.’ Paul and Titus were close. And Paul urged Titus. This would be significant pressure. He was not obligated. He was not coerced. But he was encouraged. There was human encouragement.

Paul said back at the end of 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

With Apollos there was strong urging from the apostle, but it was not his will to come. He felt the urging, and he was free to choose not to go. Titus was similarly urged and encouraged, and he also had the freedom to choose to go or not to go. Paul encouraged him, but he left it up to him. Titus accepted the encouragement to go. He responded to the external human encouragement.

Freedom

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus, and Paul encouraged Titus, and yet Titus had his own earnestness and is going of his own accord. He was free to do what he wanted to do. He was eager of his own accord. He chose. He was willing. He was free.

God’s Grace Creates Freedom

God put it in the heart of Titus. Paul encouraged Titus, and Titus accepted our encouragement. Titus was himself very earnest; he is going of his own free will. These verses put all these different factors together. Paul encouraged it. Titus freely chose to do it. But God put it in his heart to desire it.

These different factors do not appear as cross-purposes in tension in these verses, fighting to see which one will win out. Rather they are seen in unison, in tandem, working together to bring about the desired end. Very naturally and practically, God used Titus’ prior experience in Corinth to help shape his desires.

Back in chapter 7, when Paul was finally reunited with Titus, he spoke of the comfort he received from Titus, and the comfort Titus received from the Corinthians, and the exceeding joy he had over the right desires of the Corinthians. Titus’ spirit was refreshed and he rejoiced.

2 Corinthians 7:15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.

God used the experience he had in Corinth to shape his affections and his desire to return. God also used the encouragement of the apostle in the heart of Titus to solidify his resolve to go. But God put the earnestness in his heart.

We saw the same thing with the Macedonians. It was willingly, freely, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. But that was evidence of the grace of God given. God gave his grace; he put it in their hearts. God’s grace was the underlying motive for their joyful eagerness. God’s grace was the underlying motive for Titus’ willing earnestness.

We could say that God’s grace created the freedom. God’s grace created the freedom to give joyfully beyond their means out of deep poverty. God’s grace created the freedom to want to go back to a difficult circumstance to serve difficult people and encourage them to give generously.

I was a guy who grew up in Minnesota and chased the love of my life out to Washington State, and I loved it there. I had no desire to live anywhere else. I didn’t even want to visit Utah. Some friends of ours moved from Washington to Utah, and we thought they were crazy. Later, I had a co-worker who invited me to come with him to mountain bike in Utah, and I had no desire. I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t want to go. It just wasn’t in me. Almost like my wife can’t want to hold a snake. It’s not in her. She has no freedom to want to hold a snake. We had no freedom to want to move to Utah, until God by his grace put it in our hearts. God created in us that freedom. Then we were free to stay and continue to live and serve in Washington, and we were free to move to Utah to live and serve here. And we wanted to come. There were external factors; there were people and circumstances that God used to encourage us toward Utah, but God put it in our hearts. And we were eager to come.

The Grace of God [Philippians 2]

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

This is God’s grace that he puts in our hearts. This is rooted in God’s grace as expressed in verse 9

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

Jesus freely stooped to serve others sacrificially for their good, and he invites us into fellowship with him in extending his grace to others. We see almost the exact same sequence in Philippians 2 that we see here.

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. …

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.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything— …see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this …to prove …that your love also is genuine.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do, because God is working in you. He is creating both the willing, the desire, and the working, the energy to do it.

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 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus. God gave grace to the Macedonians. God created the desire.

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

God entered into our poverty in Jesus, he took our nature, he died our death and gives us his life. He invites us to join him in extending his grace to others. To enter in, to share in the sufferings of others, to show people Jesus.

Response

This eagerness; this freedom to want to sacrificially serve is a gift, it is grace. Ask God freely to put this desire in your heart. Receive his gift so that you can be freed to give.

Thank God who gives this desire. Give God the credit and thank him when you see this earnestness in others. Thank God when he begins to create this desire in you.

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

September 22, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:13-15; Abundance, Need and Equity

09/15_2 Corinthians 8:13-15; Abundance, Need and Equity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190915_2cor8_13-15.mp3

Grace. The grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

2 Corinthians 8:7 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. 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. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

Paul holds up the joyful eagerness of the Macedonians for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints as an illustration of God’s grace in action. He encourages the Corinthians to excel in this act of grace also. He points to the grace of our Lord Jesus, who, being rich became poor so that we might through his poverty become rich. He encourages them that it will be to their advantage to do what they wanted to do, to follow through on their desire and bring to completion what they had started. Not out of what they don’t have, not beyond their means, not waiting until they have more, but out of what they do have.

Abundance and Need

In verses 13-14 he continues to clarify what he means in order to eliminate any possibility for misunderstanding, and in verse 15 he quotes a passage from God’s provision for his people in the Exodus to support his point. He is giving us more practical instructions for generosity, principles of equity, God’s purposes in blessing, what to do with our abundance.

2 Corinthians 8:13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

Paul is giving the Corinthians an opportunity to demonstrate the genuineness of their love. He is inviting them to participate in this act of grace, freely serving the saints out of their abundance. In Romans 15 Paul says that he is

Romans 15:25 …going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia [that’s Corinth; he’s writing Romans from Corinth] have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem

This contribution is for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. But Paul wants to make it clear, the goal is not to alleviate their suffering by causing undue hardship for the Corinthians. “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened.”

The words he uses here, eased and burdened, are words he has used already in this letter. In 2:13 and 7:5 he mentions that neither body nor spirit found rest or was eased, because he could not find his brother Titus. In 1:8 he mentions his affliction in Asia, and in 2:4 he says he wrote the previous letter out of much affliction. He mentions in 8:2 the severe test of affliction that the Macedonians were experiencing. He is not asking them to imitate the Macedonians, who out of their extreme poverty gave beyond their means. This was a special grace that God gave the Macedonians, that he may not have given the Corinthians.

The goal, Paul says, is not to impoverish them to relieve others. Rather the goal is fairness or equality. There was a current imbalance of abundance and lack. Your abundance should supply their lack. The implication is that the Corinthians had an abundance and the poor saints in Jerusalem were experiencing lack. In Mark 8, this word for abundance is used to describe the seven baskets full of left over bread after the four thousand ate and were satisfied. It was abundance, it was left over after they all ate and were satisfied.

Abundance and Contentment

This brings up the question of what abundance is, how much is enough? Our standard of living tends to expand to absorb any increase. Contentment seems to be a foreign word in our culture, even a bad word. Marketing seeks to destroy our contentment and awaken desires for things we never knew we needed. Paul’s instructions run contrary to this. He says to Timothy:

2 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. What a simple life! When is the last time you said something like that? If I have something to eat and something to wear, that is enough. Abundance is anything beyond meeting your most basic needs. When we think in those terms, we have exceeding abundance, super-abounding abundance! We have been given abundance so that we can supply it to those who lack so that there can be equality.

The Old Testament and the Rule of Love

So that there can be equality, fairness. What is Paul getting at here? Is he teaching some kind of communism? Some Robin Hood socialism that steals from the rich and gives to the poor? Remember, this is voluntary, it is what we want to do. This is not a command. This is the rule of love. Even in the Old Testament this was expected.

Deuteronomy 15:7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Notice the emphasis on the attitude of the heart. Do not harden your heart. Your heart shall not be grudging when you give. Open wide your hand. God cares about our attitude, our heart. And he gives us more than enough so that we can give to those who have less than enough.

Back in 1 Corinthians 4:8 Paul said to the Corinthians “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!”

James tells his readers that their prayers may not be answered “because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

We want the better job, to make more, so that we can have more and spend more. That is natural. But Paul is calling us to something higher, something supernatural, something Spirit wrought.

What is the Jerusalem Abundance?

2 Corinthians 8:13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

Notice something in these verses. He says that your abundance should supply their need at the present time, so that their abundance may supply your need. This is no one direction transaction. This is not you are rich and you are the givers; they are poor and they are the receivers, and they become indebted to you. No, this goes in both directions. Many who read this assume that he is thinking of a potential future time when the tables turn and the Jerusalem church is materially wealthy and the Gentile churches are struggling and they can pay them back. They assume that ‘at the present time’ goes with the first side, and that there is an implied ‘so that at some hypothetical future date’ that is understood with the other side. I don’t believe this is what Paul is saying. Could it be that at the present time the Jerusalem church has an abundance and the Corinthian church has a lack? Clearly there is a material prosperity in Corinth that can serve the material struggles of Jerusalem. But is there also a present lack in Corinth that the Jerusalem saints could supply out of their present abundance? Could it be that although the Corinthians were materially prosperous, that they were missing something? Could this be why Jesus said to the rich young ruler

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

Could it be that the value the Corinthians put on their status and wealth was preventing them from valuing most that which truly matters? Could it be that in the very act of giving to the poor, they would be gaining a treasure that could not be taken away?

Again in Romans, Paul said this about the collection:

Romans 15:27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings

The Gentile churches have come to share in the spiritual blessings of Israel, and so they ought to share their material blessings. We see this principle again in Galatians 6

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

There is to be equality, but this does not mean sameness. We don’t have the same gifts, and we are not in the same circumstances. In whatever way God has caused us to abound, we are to share with those who lack, and we are also to receive from others in the ways that we lack.

Miracle Manna

Paul quotes Exodus 16 to support his pursuit of equality through love.

2 Corinthians 8:15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

Here’s the story from Exodus. The people grumbled because they had nothing to eat, and God promised bread from heaven.

Exodus 16:15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’”

God provided bread to eat. They were to gather an omer, about two quarts for the daily need of each person they were responsible for.

Exodus 16:17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.

We don’t know exactly what happened here. It sounds like a miraculous leveling of what was gathered, that one gathered more and another gathered less, but when they measured it each had exactly the same amount. Or it could be that the ones who gathered more gathered for those in their family who were not able to gather themselves, or they shared their excess with those who had not gathered enough. Whatever the case, there was equality. One thing we learn from reading the Exodus story, this was a test.

Exodus 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

God was testing them. This may be another reason Paul chose this passage as an illustration; if you remember back to verse 8 he said

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

He was proving or testing the genuineness of their love. In Exodus 16, shortly after leaving Egypt, and before arriving at Mt. Sinai, God was testing his people, to see if they would walk in his ways, the ways of love. If we keep reading in Exodus, we see one way this worked.

Exodus 16:19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.

Leave none of it over until the morning (except in preparation for the Sabbath, they were required to gather double and save half). This was a test, and they failed. If we connect this test with the limit of collecting only what you need, an omer each, then those who tried out of their lack of faith to save some for the next day must have refrained from eating their whole omer and gone hungry. That backfired, as what they tried to save was full of maggots the next day. It may be that the same thing happened in the gathering, that those who worked hard to gather extra to hoard it for themselves found, when they measured it, that they had exactly the same amount as those who only gathered what they were told to gather. God equaled the amounts. God intended any abundance to supply the lack of others. Remember, it is all a gift; it is all grace.

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

God’s gracious provision, when abundant, is meant to supply the needs of others. When we understand this Exodus background, it sheds light on the Lord’s prayer.

Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread,

Jesus meant it quite literally. Give us what we need for today, no more, no less. If we have food and clothing, with that we will be content. If you give us more, loved demands that we share it with those who don’t have enough.

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

September 15, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment