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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing

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

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

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

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

The Holy Kiss

Then he gives us another command.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All The Saints

2 Corinthians 13:13 All the saints greet you.

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

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

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

Trinitarian Blessing

Paul concludes the letter with this blessing:

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

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

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

There is Only One God

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

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

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

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

Three Persons are God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit

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

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

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

John begins his gospel:

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 6:16 …as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Numbers 6:24 YHWH bless you and keep you;

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

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

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

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision

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

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

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

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

Not a Burden

Then he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking Relationship

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

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

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

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

Saving, Spending, and Being Spent

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

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

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

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

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

He said something similar to the church in Philippi:

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

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

Hedonistic Spending

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

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

Love Lacking

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

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

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

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

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

And again in chapter 7:

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

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

Parental Betrothal

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

Paul the Crafty Deceiver

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

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

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

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

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

Here he asks:

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

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

Walk in the Spirit

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

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

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

***

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

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

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

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

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

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

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

How To Wait

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

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

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

John 14; Jesus is the Way

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

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

And then Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abide and Bear Fruit

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

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

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

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

The Word

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said back in verse 3:

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

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

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

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

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

Full Joy

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

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

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

Love One Another

His command?

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

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

Friends

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

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

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

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

Ask and Receive

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

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

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

And in chapter 14:

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

And again in John 16, he says:

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

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

The Spirit in You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 11:7-12; The Offense of Cultural Sensitivity

11/01_2 Corinthians 11:7-12; The Offense of Cultural Sensitivity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201101_2cor11_7-12.mp3

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

The Corinthians are enamored by false apostles selling a false gospel which cannot save, empowered by a different spirit, inviting them to follow another Jesus, a Jesus that promises power, prestige, position, but doesn’t require his followers to follow him by taking up their cross.

The false apostles attempted to undermine Paul’s authority in Corinth by pointing to his ‘contemptible speech’ (10:10). Paul answers maybe he doesn’t measure up to their standards of rhetorical style, but his substance is sound, by an open statement of the truth he has made the simple good news message of Christ crucified known to them.

Here in verses 7-12 he answers another objection;

2 Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

Paul is being criticized for not accepting money from them. Imagine that! In collecting money for the saints in Jerusalem, they suspect him of stealing. But in refusing payment for serving them, they object that his teaching must not be worth anything, or he must not love them. They are attempting to put him in a lose-lose corner.

The Sin of Christ-Likeness

Paul answers with a question. Was it a sin for me to humble myself? Paul had already addressed these issues in 1 Corinthians 9. There he argued that it is the right of a minister of the gospel to make his living by preaching the gospel (1Cor.9:14). He had the right to receive financial support from them for his ministry to them, but he did not make use of that right.

Here he asks, was it sinful for me to humble myself and forego my right as a minister? He wanted to put no stumbling block in the way of the gospel (1Cor.9:12). The culture of Corinth estimated the worth of a teacher by how much they charged, which put the best teachers out of reach of the poor. And those who did support the teacher financially became patrons who expected the allegiance of the teacher in return. Paul would not sell out in this way and become obligated to a few wealthy patrons, and he refused to withhold the gospel from the poor. As he said in 1 Corinthians 9:19, while remaining ‘free from all, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win more of them.’

Paul humbled himself by not making use of his right to financial support as a minister. He humbled himself in order to lift them up. He humbled himself so that he would be free to proclaim the gospel of God freely to all. He humbled himself so that in a city with no gospel presence, a church could be established in the grace of God. He was willing to go without, so that they could receive the gift of eternal life. He was willing to sacrifice, to suffer, to work with his own hands, so that the gospel would be seen as all of grace, a costly gift freely given to those who can’t earn it and don’t deserve it.

Paul humbled himself because that’s what Jesus did. Jesus, having all the rights of being himself fully God,

Philippians 2:7 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.

They criticized Paul for not receiving payment from them. He asks, did I commit a sin by humbling myself? Is it a sin to follow Jesus? Was it a sin for Jesus to humble himself in order to save us? Jesus came ‘not to be served but to serve’ (Mk.10:45). Paul once again brings them back to the central message of this letter; that authentic ministry is ministry that follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry. He clearly exposes the false teachers for calling evil good and good evil. Is Christ-likeness a sin?

Plundering Churches

Paul goes on to confront them with the harsh truth.

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If they didn’t know it before, he tells them now that he did accept support from other churches. In fact he calls it ‘plunder,’ stripping armor from the corpses of a defeated enemy. He uses graphic imagery to startle them with the costly realities of gospel ministry. Calvin saw this as ‘every thing that Paul took from the Churches that he had gained to Christ was, in a manner, the spoils of his victories, …what they contributed gratuitously was, in a manner, due by right of spiritual warfare.’ [Calvin, p.347]

Acts 18 tells us that he arrived alone in Corinth, and soon met Aquila and Priscilla, and worked with them in the menial trade of tentmaking to support himself while he preached each Sabbath, until his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia with support to free him to spend more time proclaiming Jesus.

He has already championed the churches of Macedonia who out of their extreme poverty overflowed in abundant single-hearted devotion and gave beyond their ability (2Cor.8:1-3) to the relief of the saints.

Now he lets them know that these impoverished and persecuted churches gave support to him while he was serving in the relatively affluent city of Corinth.

To one of these afflicted Macedonian churches, in the city of Philippi, he writes of their ‘partnership in the gospel from the first day until now’ (Phil.1:5). He writes:

Philippians 4:15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

This was a slap in the face to Corinth. Paul considered it less a risk to the gospel to plunder the poverty-stricken churches of Macedonia than to accept support from the affluent Corinthians.

Partnering to Pay the Gospel Forward

When Paul entered a new region, he refused support to prevent them thinking that they were paying a fee for the gospel. After a church was established, he allowed them to then partner with him in advancing the gospel on to the next area. In chapter 8 He is encouraging the Corinthians to participate in the relief of the poor Jerusalem saints, and it seems from 2 Corinthians 10:15-16 that he was willing for the Corinthians to partner with him in advancing the gospel to regions beyond them (cf. Rom.15:24, 28; 1Cor.16:5-6; 2Cor.1:15-16).

The Truth of Christ In Me

But he was insistent that he will not change his practice with them. He kept himself from being a burden to them, and he will continue to keep himself from ever burdening them.

As we learned from the Macedonians in chapter 8, when one truly understands and receives God’s grace, giving is no longer a burden but a delight. Their abundance of joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion, and they gave beyond their means, ‘begging us earnestly for the grace of taking part in the fellowship of the saints’ (2Cor.8:2-4).

Paul here takes an oath before God.

2 Corinthians 11:9 …So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.

This is an oath formula; Paul promised them he would enter into foolish boasting. Here he boasts that he has not and will not be a burden to them. He connects this boast of not being a burden to the truth of Christ in him. There may be more to this than a simple oath; ‘I swear by the truth of Christ.’ The truth of Christ is in Paul not merely in word, but also in deed. As he said back in chapter 8,

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.

Paul proclaimed the truth of Christ. But he also lived the truth of Christ. The truth of Christ lived in him. He lived among them ‘as poor, yet making many rich’ (2Cor.6:10)

He humbled himself ‘so that you might be exalted,’ preaching ‘God’s gospel to you free of charge’ (2Cor.11:7). This is not just a ministry tactic. This is Paul walking in the gospel, living out the gospel. His person, his method, his every decision was being shaped by the cross of Christ. The truth of Christ, quite literally, is in him.

Paul’s Love

Paul addresses their other accusation, that he refuses their money because he doesn’t love them. Financially investing in an individual creates a close bond, and they feel that Paul is holding them at arms length, not allowing them to get that close. From Paul’s perspective, receiving wages would oblige him to them and he would be relinquishing his freedom to offer the gospel free of charge to all.

2 Corinthians 11:11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

He doesn’t even answer this charge, but appeals to God. God knows! He has already answered it. He humbled himself to lift them up. He labored with his own hands to relieve them of the burden of providing for his needs. He plundered other churches to show them that the costly gift of grace truly comes without charge. All this was evidence of his love for them.

Paul is being offensive here, insistent on refusing their payment and plundering poor churches in order to serve them, humiliating them by making them the recipients of charity from poorer saints. But his goal is not to tear them down but to build them up. He humbles them in order to show them what grace really is, to teach them that they must be humble enough to receive something they can’t pay for and don’t deserve. Even in this offense toward them, he is preaching the gospel to them. He is showing them that he loves them enough to tear down their ‘lofty opinions of themselves that are raised up against the knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5,8). Paul offends them, but it is a loving offense.

Cutting the Ground from the False Apostles

Paul again affirms that he will not adjust his course of action with them. It seems that they were applying pressure to get him to cave and accept their payments. But he is resolute. Here in verse 12 he gives his reason.

2 Corinthians 11:12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

The pressure is coming ultimately from the false apostles. They want Paul to receive payment from the Corinthians so that they can claim to be no different than him. He refuses to take the bait. He is accusing them of peddling the word of God for money (2Cor.2:17). Paul here pulls the veil back from the false apostles. They are pressuring Paul to accept payment to justify their own money-grubbing. If Paul persists in refusing compensation, the false teachers will be unable to say that they operate on the same basis as he does, unless they are willing also to refuse payment, which is the whole reason they are there. His refusal is effectively cutting the ground out from under them.

Cultural Sensitivity

Paul is a culturally sensitive missionary. He is keenly aware of the cultural norms and nuances in the different places where he ministers. And he is aware of how the gospel will be perceived through these cultural lenses, so he is wisely strategic in the way he engages with the culture. But Paul will not adapt his message to suit the culture; in fact Paul is willing to offend the cultural sensibilities of the Corinthians for the sake of the gospel. When the truth of the gospel is at stake, he ‘would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting’ (1Cor.9:15).

He is willing to make a public scene and ‘oppose Peter to his face,’ because his ‘conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’ (Gal.2:11,14).

Paul is culturally sensitive, not so that he can slip in unnoticed and make no waves, but so that he can make the right waves, gospel waves that crash in the face of cultures of merit that say ‘you get what you pay for’ and ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. He plants his feet firmly and demonstrates that the gospel cannot be bought. The gospel is a treasure that is infinitely costly, but God gives it freely to those who don’t deserve it, to those who will humble themselves to receive.

In a culture that treasures popularity and prosperity and pleasure, who says it is a sin to surrender your rights or lay down your life for others, Paul shows us what it means to follow Jesus, who bids us take up our cross, lose our life for his sake and the gospel’s, so we can truly find it (Mt.16:24-25).

***

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

November 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Love and Obedience

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

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

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

Love – The Motive for Obedience

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

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

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

Love and Obedience in Deuteronomy

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

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

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

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

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

In Deuteronomy 7, God is described as

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Obedience to His Father

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

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

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

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

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

John 14:21

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

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

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

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

Abiding and Obeying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Abiding, and Obedience; 1 John

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Source of Love;

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

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

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

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

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

***

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

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

Obey Jesus: What Makes Jesus Mad? Do Not Hinder Them!

09/06 What Makes Jesus Mad? Do Not Hinder Them (Mark 9, 10); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200906_children-come.mp3

As followers of Jesus, we are to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples to obey Jesus and who teach others to follow and obey Jesus.
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Indignant [ἀγανακτέω]
If we claim to love and follow of Jesus, we want to do what he says. The last thing we would want to do is what we know displeases him. There is a word that shows up 7 times in the New Testament, translated ‘indignation’; ‘moved with indignation’ (ASV), ‘much displeased’ (KJV), angry (NLT, GNT) or furious (ISV). It’s a compound word ‘much – grief’, to be greatly afflicted.
Let’s look at how this word is used. The ten disciples were indignant that James and John leveraged their mom in an attempt to secure for themselves the best places in the coming kingdom (Mt.20:24; Mk.10:41). All the disciples were indignant at the woman who wasted her costly ointment on Jesus (Mt.26:8; Mk.14:4). The synagogue ruler was indignant because Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, and told the people to come on the other six days to be healed (Lk.13:14). In Matthew 21, the chief priests and scribes were indignant because the blind and lame were made whole by Jesus, and the children were crying out in the temple.
Matthew 21:15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”
These things caused them much grief because they refused to believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. They were convinced he was leading people astray, and they were indignant.
Matthew 21:16 …And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
What Makes Jesus Indignant?
There is only one place where Jesus is said to be indignant. This word is used of Jesus in Mark 10.
Mark 10:13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
The disciples were trying to protect Jesus, rebuking the parents and restricting access to him. They were hindering children from coming to Jesus. And their action caused Jesus great grief. He was much displeased. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them…”
Why was Jesus indignant? His disciples were thinking wrongly, and their false beliefs needed to be corrected.
False belief # 1: Jesus is too important to take time for children. The disciples seemed to feel that Jesus was too important to have his ministry interrupted by children. He clearly has better things to do and shouldn’t be bothered. But ‘he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them’ (Mk.10:16). Jesus pushed his disciples and their agendas aside and made time to bless the little children. He came to love and serve the least. He came down from heaven ‘not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mk.10:45).
False belief #2: Kids are in the way of ministry; they aren’t the target of ministry. Adults are the ones we need to address, and get the kids out of the way. Actually, children are welcome, and adults need to become more like children if they are to participate at all in Jesus’ kingdom.
Mark 10:15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Kids eagerly accept a free gift. Adults are skeptical, asking how much it costs, and what is the catch.
We looked earlier at Matthew 21, where the chief priests and scribes were indignant toward Jesus because he was healing. It was the children who were captured by wonder and cried out in the temple ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’. It was children that recognized him for who he really was, it was children who welcomed him and heralded his coming. The adults were the ones who were skeptical and doubting and didn’t believe. They needed to become like children, willing to freely receive.
Who is the Greatest?
Why was Jesus indignant? If we look just one chapter earlier, we see something went down that should have clued his disciples in to be more sensitive to children.
Mark 9:33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
Just take a moment to imagine how that argument among the twelve might have gone. What were they saying?
Peter: remember when he said ‘blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah… you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church?’
Andrew ‘I followed John the Baptist, and I’m the one who brought you to Jesus’
James and John ‘we’re the sons of thunder, and our mom already made a deal with him’
Thomas ‘I doubt it’
Judas: ‘He trusts me with the finances’
Nathaniel ‘I’m an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’
Philip ‘but I’m the one who introduced you to him, and you said ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth?’
John ‘I’m the disciple Jesus loves, and I can outrun you!’
When Jesus asked them what they had been discussing, ‘they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.’
Mark 9:35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Jesus shows them that true greatness is serving others, not vainly pursuing celebrity status and power.
Mark 9:36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Jesus gave them a vivid object lesson. Receive children in my name. Receive children because I receive children. My Father receives children. If you want to be great, lower yourself to serve others, serve the least, serve children.
So in Mark 9, Jesus tells them to receive children in his name, because that’s what he is like, and in Mark 10 the disciples still have a worldly gauge of greatness and are hindering children from coming to him. No wonder he is indignant.
False belief # 3: following Jesus is about status and greatness, not about humbly serving others.
Jesus is angry when we get him wrong, and we get ministry wrong. Ministry is about humbly serving others. Jesus took time to love and serve the least. He came for the lost. Kids weren’t in the way of ministry, they were a great example of how we need to receive his ministry, not trying to earn but freely receiving.
How Do We Hinder?
If Jesus is passionate about letting the little children come to him, we need to ask ourselves, ‘How are we hindering children from coming to Jesus?’ Do we individually or as a church put obstacles in the way of children coming to him?
I say individually first and church second intentionally. Because the church is made up of individuals. And we as parents have the primary obligation to train our children to know and love and follow Jesus. This may shock you, but Sunday School is not in the Bible. Sunday School began less than 250 years ago as a way to educate children of the lower classes who were forced to labor in factories the other six days of the week.
Here is what Deuteronomy 6 has to say about training children.
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
You love God and you hide his word in your heart and you teach them diligently to your own children, sitting in your house, while you travel along, when you go to sleep, and when you get up in the morning. The primary responsibility to train children to love God belongs to the parents. In fact, Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers to ‘bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’
As a church we get to supplement what you parents are doing, and we get to serve kids who are not being trained by their parents.
So what are some ways we hinder children from coming to Jesus? Here’s a few that come to mind.
Hypocrisy; when what we teach our children doesn’t match what we do, we are hypocrites. If we don’t love God and hide his word in our hearts, if we don’t put God first in our priorities, how can we honestly teach our children to? Our hypocrisy hinders children from coming to Jesus, and I believe it is a major reason why so many walk away from the faith later in life.
How we view children often hinders them from coming to Jesus. Our society in general views children as a burden not a blessing. From the terrible two’s to the terrible teens, we view them as trouble, an inconvenience to be endured not enjoyed. Our culture in general is having less and less children, well below the replacement rate for our society. And we are quick to turn our responsibility to train them over to others. And we want them to like us so we don’t do what is good for them. Kids can be difficult, so we just don’t get involved. If we struggle with our own kids, we certainly don’t want to take on someone else’s.
Why? Why don’t we ‘bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’? Why are we hindering children from coming to Jesus? I think we embrace some of the same flawed thinking that the disciples used. Jesus is too important to waste his time with children. Adults are to be the focus of our ministry; kids distract and get in the way of ministry. And following Jesus is about status and greatness, not humbly serving others. When we embrace these lies, we hinder children from coming to Jesus.
As a parent, and as part of the church family, here are some practical reasons (excuses) we use for not bringing children to Jesus. I feel ill-equipped. I don’t know how to teach kids. They might ask a question I don’t have an answer for. I’m sorry, but you used that excuse last year. What have you done to remedy it? Get equipped. Get trained. Get discipled. If you used that excuse a year ago, you don’t get to use it again. Get involved. The best way to learn and grow is to start doing it.
But I’m not gifted that way. That’s OK, but if you are a parent, you have been called to it. If you belong to Jesus, you have been called by him to serve others. It’s been said ‘God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.’ God will give you what you need to do what he has called you to do. And we are a body made up of different parts with different gifts. So we should work together, supporting one another and encouraging one another. We need each other. None of us can do it alone.
But I just don’t have time. Make time. Make it a priority. Sanctify time- set it apart. What are you doing that matters for eternity? People matter for eternity. Kids matter for eternity. So cut things out. Change things up. Prioritize and quit the things that are less important that are keeping you from doing that which is most important.
As a parent, as a part of the body of Christ, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Our kids need to know that we all are sinners saved by grace. That we need a Savior and our only hope is Jesus Christ, who died for us so that we could live. Our kids need to see our relationship with Jesus in a way that makes them want to know him too.


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

September 7, 2020 Posted by | church, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

08/02 Endure To The End (Matt.10, 13, 24; Jude); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200802_endure.mp3

Jesus calls us to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught, and who pass on everything Jesus taught. What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple?

Did you know Jesus gave us some precious and very great promises? Let’s look at one in John 16

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

Jesus promises us peace in him through his word. We love that. He declares that he has overcome the world. Amen! He also promises us that in the world we will have tribulation. Ooof! We don’t like that promise. But following Jesus is a package deal, not a smorgasbord. We don’t get to pick and choose among the teachings of our Lord. We have to take everything, obey everything he said, cling to his every word. And this is a hard word. ‘In the world you will have tribulation.’

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

Matthew 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

How’s that for a promise? You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. And here’s the command. Endure! The one who endures to the end will be saved.

This is serious. Your salvation is at stake. You are going to experience persecution. But endure. Remain steadfast. It is the one who endures the world’s hatred, tribulation, to the end, who will be saved. He said this to his 12 apostles when he sent them out. So we can say that this was specific to them, and we don’t need to worry about it, right? The problem with that is that what he says is much bigger than just the twelve on that specific mission he sent them on.

He said in verse 16 that he was sending them out ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves’. He said they would stand before courts, synagogues, governors, kings, even the Gentiles. None of that happened on this original mission. He says in verse 23 that these instructions apply until his return. So that is much bigger than the 12. He says in verse 24 ‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.’ This applies to every disciple, every follower of Jesus. He continues in verse 28:

Matthew 10:28 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. 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.

Don’t be afraid of the one who can only kill your body. Fear God who can send you to hell for eternity. Don’t be afraid of people, because God knows you intimately, and you are more valuable to God than many sparrows. They may kill you, but you will not fall to the ground apart from your Father and his good purposes for you.

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.

Stand firm. Endure to the end. Don’t deny Jesus. Acknowledge him before people. It is those who endure to the end who will be saved.

Matthew 10:38 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.

If self-preservation in this life is your god, you are not really a follower of Jesus.

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

In Matthew 24, Jesus reiterates some of these words he gave to his 12, this time in the context of his disciple’s question ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ If there is any doubt in Matthew 10, Jesus makes it clear here in Matthew 24 that he is speaking to us. He warns us to be on guard; ‘see to it that no one leads you astray.’

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

You will undergo tribulation, you will be hated, you will be put to death. Many will fall away or be led astray, but the one who endures to the end will be saved. ‘Saved’ in this context clearly means saved in the eternal salvation sense, because we are not promised rescue or deliverance from persecution or death.

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

Jesus helps us think through what it means to endure in Matthew 13, where he described four different responses to the gospel. The word of God is scattered widely. Some hear without understanding.

Matthew 13:18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path.

Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

They hear the word and do not understand it; the devil takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The gospel as it were falls on deaf ears.

The second hearers immediately receive the word with joy. We often get too excited about those in this category.

Matthew 13:20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.

There is an immediate response with joy. They endure for a while. But when faced with trouble or persecution, they fall away. They do not endure to the end, and they are not saved. There was an initial response to the gospel, a flash in the pan; but there was no root, and when it gets hard they walk away from Jesus. Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

They believe for a while, but under testing they fall away.

Tested Genuineness of Faith

Peter learned first hand about this. Peter learned the hard way. When Jesus predicted that “You will all fall away because of me this night.” (Mt.26:31)

Matthew 26:33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” …35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

That sounds great. He received the word with joy. And he was vocal about his determination to follow Jesus to the end, whatever the cost. But Peter learned the value of pressure. Pressure taught Peter that his faith was not what he thought it was (or more precisely his faith was not in who it ought to be in). And he came to thank God for trials. Listen to what he writes after Jesus’ resurrection, after Jesus restored him to faith and usefulness. And listen for the contrast from his earlier self-confident proclamation ‘I will never fall away! …I will never deny you!’ In 1 Peter 1:3 he writes:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter came to see tribulation as a blessing. Faith that has not been tested may or may not be genuine. It is better to find out now that your faith is false than to find out after it is too late; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. Persecution turned Peter’s eyes away from himself and his self-confidence to a humble dependence on God and his work.

Paul and James concur that ‘we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance’ (Rom.5:3-5). ‘Count it all joy …when you meet trials …for …the testing of your faith produces steadfastness’ (Jam.1:2-4).

2 More Responses to the Gospel; choked out or endures to the end

Back in Matthew 13 Jesus lists two more responses to the gospel in addition to hearing without understanding and an immediate receiving with joy that is proved to be false through testing.

Matthew 13:22 The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing.

This is similar to the rocky ground, but the source of the testing is different. Genuineness of faith can be tested in different ways. It can be revealed through trials or through ease, through pressure or through pleasure. In the rocky ground faith was proved false by persecution. Here in the thorny ground faith is proved false by competing affections. The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the desires for other things choke out the word. We see this in the history of Israel. Moses warned:

Deuteronomy 8:11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,

When Israel had times of pride, excess, and prosperous ease, she forgot the Lord. The cares and riches and pleasures of this life compete with and kill any short lived affections for Jesus.

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

Matthew 13:23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”

This last person hears the word and understands. And the fruit varies, but he bears fruit. Luke records:

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience [ὑπομονή].

Not only do they hear the word, they hold it fast. They endure to the end and are saved. They bear fruit with steadfastness or patience endurance.

The Steadfastness of Christ

Jesus calls us to persevere in faith, to endure affliction and persecution as well as pleasure and prosperous ease, to not fall away or to be led astray. Jesus commands us to hold fast the word in an honest and good heart, to bear fruit with steadfastness, to endure to the end.

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

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

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

The Lord is Faithful

We have the command of Christ to endure to the end, and we have the example of the steadfastness of Christ who endured the cross. But how? You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can. After all, I’m not Jesus.’ How can we endure to the end? That verse in 2 Thessalonians gives us a clue; it instructs us to direct our hearts not only to the steadfastness of Christ, but first to the love of God. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks for prayer, and then he says:

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

He doesn’t say ‘we have confidence in you’; that would be misplaced confidence. He says ‘the Lord is faithful. He will establish you. We have confidence in the Lord about you.’ Paul’s confidence for their endurance and faithfulness is in the Lord’s faithfulness.

Kept to Keep Yourselves

As we wrap up today, I want to look at the little letter by Jude, just one chapter, the second to last book in the Bible. Jude tells us in verse 21 to ‘keep yourselves in the love of God.’ How do we do that? Jude tells us, and he also frames this command with some truth we need to see. At the opening of his letter, he addresses:

Jude 1:1 …To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

He addresses us as the called, and he says that we are beloved in God the Father, and we are kept for Jesus Christ. Called, loved by God, and kept. Beloved and kept are both passive; describing something being done to us by another. God is the one loving and keeping us.

He starts by addressing us as the called, loved and kept. And then in verse 20-21 he commands us to keep ourselves.

Jude 1:20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. That is imperative. It is a command, something we are to do. Aren’t we beloved in God and kept by him? Isn’t that enough? He even starts verse 20 by reminding us that we are beloved. How do we keep ourselves in God’s love? Can we? Jude surrounds this command with three participles that tell us how; building, praying, and waiting. As the beloved of God, we keep ourselves in the love of God by building, praying and waiting. We are to build ourselves up in the most holy faith. Take positive action to dig deep, with a firm foundation of God’s word, Jesus Christ himself the cornerstone, and anchor your faith on him. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Discipline yourself to pray the Spirit inspired words of Scripture back to him. And eagerly anticipate the full realization of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Keep yourself in the love of the triune God; building up, praying, waiting in the Son, Spirit, and Father. This is how we keep ourselves in the love of God.

So which is it? Are we kept, or do we keep ourselves? Yes! God keeps us and he uses means. God keeps us by our building up, praying and waiting.

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

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

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Endure to the end. Don’t be choked out by pleasure or burned up by pressure. Keep yourselves by building yourselves up in the faith, praying and anticipating. Beloved, keep yourselves in the love of the God who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy!

***

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

August 3, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Hospitality

07/19 Hospitality (Lk.10, 19, 14, 7; Eph.2; Mt.25); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200719_hospitality.mp3

Last time we looked at the sabbath; God’s day of rest that commemorates both creation and redemption. Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest in him, and he will give us rest for our souls. He taught that we are to use his day to do good not evil, to save life, not to kill, to heal, to restore, to bless others. New Testament believers began to gather for worship on the first day of the week, resurrection day, the Lord’s day. We explored what it might look like and how we might benefit from setting aside time to worship and find rest for our souls.

Today I want to focus in on one way we could use our time to glorify God and love and serve others. I’d like to look at what Jesus taught about hospitality.

Love and Lodging for the Stranger [ξενία, ξενίζω, ξενοδοχέω, φιλονεξία, φιλόξενος]

The word group in the New Testament for hospitality is built around the word for ‘stranger, foreigner, or alien’; someone you don’t know. Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to show hospitality to strangers; Romans 12:13 tells us ‘Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.’ 1 Peter 4:8-9 tells us to keep loving one another even when we are sinned against, and to show hospitality without grumbling. 1 Timothy (3:2) and Titus (1:8) include ‘hospitable’ in the list of character qualities required of an overseer in the church. 1 Timothy (5:10) also lists ‘hospitable’ as a necessary quality of a widow eligible to be supported by the church. The words literally mean ‘to lodge or provide housing to a stranger’; ‘to receive a stranger’; or ‘to love the stranger’.

These words do not show up even once in the gospels. So did Jesus have nothing to say about hospitality? One way to answer that question would be to recognize the New Testament authors as fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples, ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt.28:20). Jesus said and did much that is not recorded for us in the four gospels (as John tells us; Jn.20:30-31; 21:25), so what we have in the non red letters of the New Testament is just as much Jesus’ teaching as the red letters.

Another way to answer this question is to look not just for the specific word but also for the concept or idea in Jesus’ teaching. And if we do that, we have plenty to work with.

Hospitality Away From Home

Jesus summarized the commandments of God by the vertical and the horizontal; love for God and love for neighbor. When pressed to define ‘neighbor’ by a religious person who was wanting to justify himself, Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk.10:33-37). The despised Samaritan was the one who proved to be a neighbor to the man in need. This traveling Samaritan was not able to bring the man into his own home, but he still extended hospitality; “when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” We tend to limit hospitality to having someone over to our home; Jesus shows us that hospitality can be practiced even when you are away from home, even if you don’t have a home.

Depending On Hospitality

When Jesus sent out his disciples, he instructed them to depend on the hospitality of others.

Luke 9:2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

Then in chapter 10, when he sent 72 ahead of him,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Jesus instructs his followers that those to whom they bring the good news are to provide for their needs through their generous hospitality. To extend hospitality was to receive a stranger into their home, to provide food and lodging, to care for his needs. For their hospitality, Jesus says, they will be blessed.

Luke 10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There was blessing for those who showed hospitality, and there were dire consequences for those who failed to show hospitality. Jesus took hospitality seriously!

Pride and Hospitality

Something we ought to note from this passage is that hospitality is a two-way street. Jesus was not talking to the people who would show hospitality; he was addressing his disciples who would be the recipients of hospitality. There is something important we need to learn here. Jesus is commanding his followers to graciously receive the hospitality that others extend to them.

In our pride, we want to be always on the giving end. It is humbling to receive hospitality from others. But Jesus instructs his followers how to be on the receiving end of hospitality.

In fact, Jesus led them in this by his own example. He told one would-be follower “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk.9:58). Luke 8 lists several women ‘who provided for them out of their means (8:2-3). Jesus graciously received hospitality from others.

Did you know that Jesus even invited himself over?

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Did you notice that Jesus invited himself over for a meal and to stay? Zacchaeus extended hospitality to him at Jesus’ request. Jesus was not only willing to associate with sinners, he was willing to receive hospitality from them. Jesus became the guest of a sinner, and was criticized for it. Notice also that his purpose was evangelistic.

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus brought good news, and his access to this house was humbling himself to receive hospitality from this house. Receiving hospitality was a way to seek and to save the lost.

Invite the Outcasts

On another occasion, when Jesus was invited to dinner by a ruler of the Pharisees,

Luke 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Our hospitality often can be an expression of pride. We attempt to impress others by the party we can throw, and the guests we invite. It is a way to show off status. Jesus tells us not to use hospitality that way. Invite the outcasts, the needy. We might say ‘I don’t want to invite them; my house is nice and they might mess it up.’ That’s pride.

On the flip side, it is often pride that keeps us from extending hospitality. Here are some common excuses we use for not showing hospitality; ‘I’m not sure I have enough’, or ‘I don’t want to invite anyone in; they will see that I don’t have it all together. I don’t have a very nice house.’ or ‘My house is a mess.’ The common root is pride; we think much of ourselves, and we want others to think much of us. But this kind of pride has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus.

The point is people. Jesus doesn’t even comment on the dinner or the environment. It was an appointment with a person he came to seek and to save. Have you ever noticed how much in the gospels happens over a meal, around a table? The Last Supper is a meal.

Pharisaic Hospitality vs. Prostitute Hospitality

Look at Luke 7. Here is another occasion where Jesus is invited over for a meal, this time to the house of Simon, a Pharisee.

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

The custom of the day was a low table in the center of the room, surrounded by mats or cushions, where guests could recline on one elbow with feet extending out away from the table. This often took place in a semi-public courtyard. What happens next is scandalous.

Luke 7:37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

This is an embarrassment to the host and his guests. This is a woman of the city, a woman with a bad reputation, a prostitute. She shouldn’t be there, and it is improper for her to approach the guests. This is a respectable dinner party. But she loses her composure, weeping at Jesus’ feet, lets down her hair and begins to massage his feet with her tears and her hair and kiss them earnestly and anoint them with her perfumed oil. This is sensual and unexpected and couldn’t be more awkward.

Luke 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Simon knows what kind of a woman this is who is attaching herself to his guest. And he begins to question his character. Simon is silently questioning to himself Jesus’ identity as a prophet. Jesus responds, ironically, by reading his thoughts and answering his unasked question with a story.

Luke 7:40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

This pharisee had shown Jesus hospitality. He had invited him for a meal. But it wasn’t because he loved Jesus. And he wasn’t looking to Jesus to meet his need. He didn’t acknowledge his own need. He didn’t think he had a debt, if anything he thought he was putting Jesus in his debt by having him over. Likely he was looking to test Jesus, to trap him, or at least to engage him in a lively theological debate. He didn’t care about Jesus. Jesus contrasts this pharisaic hospitality with prostitute hospitality.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

She came as a sinner, needy, broken, seeking forgiveness from the only one she believed could give it, and she found it. She was extending Jesus hospitality in the only way she knew how. She was honoring, she was worshiping. Rosaria Butterfield writes, “When Jesus receives the repentance of a sinner, he alone untwists that love from the bidding it has done in sin. Jesus receives her touch in purity, because he transforms what she gives.” Her love is a response to his forgiveness. The one whose greater debt was canceled loves more.

God’s Gospel Hospitality

So too with us. Our love, expressed horizontally in loving hospitality toward others, is an outflow of the welcome and hospitality which has been extended to us by God.

Ephesians 2 uses this term ‘strangers’ [ξένος] to describe us.

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

God exercised hospitality. God loved the stranger and took us in. At infinite cost to himself, he paid the price to bring us near.

Hospitality Horizontal and Vertical

Although the words for hospitality do not show up in Jesus’ teaching, the root of the ‘hospitality’ word group, the word ‘stranger’, [ξένος] does occur four times in one passage, Matthew 25, clearly in context dealing with this issue of hospitality. It is a context of final judgment, separating the righteous from the wicked.

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Hospitality is receiving or taking in or welcoming the stranger.

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus makes our horizontal hospitality, welcoming the stranger, one of the prime evidences that separates someone who knows him from someone who does not. In fact, all the things Jesus mentions here, feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned could all fall under the category of showing hospitality.

Both groups are bewildered. When did we ever do or not do these things to you? This is stunning! Our horizontal expressions of hospitality toward others our King receives as hospitality to himself. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

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

July 21, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.’

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

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