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2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation

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

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

Paul Commends Himself (Again!)

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

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

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

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

In Romans 16, he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are Our Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Letter From Christ

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

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

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

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

Ink / Spirit

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

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

Heart of Stone / Flesh

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

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

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

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says:

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

And again in Ezekiel 36:26

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

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

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

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

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

New Covenant Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 2:5-9; Church Discipline for Your Joy

03/04_2 Corinthians 2:5-9; Church Discipline for Your Joy ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180304_2cor2_5-9.mp3

I had a few people ask me what I would be preaching on this Sunday, and when I told them that the title of the sermon was going to be ‘church discipline for your joy,’ you can imagine some of the responses I got. But this is God’s word, and this is where we’re at in God’s word. We take God’s word seriously. We take Jesus seriously. We take his church seriously. We take sin seriously. And we take joy seriously.

We’re in 2 Corinthians 2:5-9. We’ve seen at the end of chapter 1 (v.24) that Paul is working together with the Corinthians for their joy. We saw that both joy and sorrow are shared experiences in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffersall suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

There is community joy, community sorrow. What we do as members of the body affects everyone in the body. It has been a strained relationship between Paul and this church. He wrote them a letter which they misunderstood; he received news of some serious problems in the church, and he received some questions that he responded to with a letter delivered by a co-worker. The church it seems did not heed his letter, so he made an emergency visit to try to sort things out. That didn’t go well, so he wrote another painful letter, and sent another co-worker. He is anxious as he writes again to hear how that correspondence was received, and is on his way for another visit.

He didn’t visit them as planned, because he wanted to spare them. He wanted to give them time to repent.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul was pursuing their joy, at his own emotional expense. His desire, his heart was to see this church thriving, enjoying Jesus, happy in God. He wrote to communicate his abundant love for them. Paul mentions his own affliction, his own anguish of heart and his many tears in verse 4. But in verse 5 he moves them to think about the damage it was causing to the church.

Church Discipline for your Joy

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

It seems that Paul’s painful letter must have demanded the confrontation of someone in the church, and it was to test their obedience to him. Up to this point, they had not listened or responded well to his letters. Whatever the offense was, Paul says it was not only toward him, but toward the whole church.

1 Corinthians 5

We don’t know what the offense was. There is much scholarly speculation over who the offending party was and what he had done. But the text doesn’t tell us. Through most of church history it has been assumed that this was the man addressed in 1 Corinthians 5 who was in an incestuous relationship with his mother-in-law. In that passage Paul called for his expulsion from the church. That identification of the offender has been challenged, although it is still a defensible explanation [see Kruse, p.41-45; P. Hughes, p.59-65; Garland, p121]. Whether the offender was this man from 1 Corinthians 5 or some unknown offender, it is useful to look at that passage, because there are some clear connections with the subject matter that will help us understand what is going on here.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Paul says ‘Let him who has done this be removed from among you.’

Cleanse out the old leaven’ do ‘not …associate with sexually immoral people;’ do ‘not even eat with such a one.’ ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’ Paul is calling for the assembled church to exclude the immoral believer. What would warrant such a drastic response? This is the passage that tells us that Paul had written a previous letter which they had misunderstood. They thought he meant not to associate with any sinners, including unbelievers. He clarifies in 1 Corinthians that he meant not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother. When we put this together with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18, we understand that this is not the initial knee jerk reaction when we find out someone is struggling with sin; this is the final last resort stage of a process of confrontation that is meant for the good of the one rebuked. Even in this passage Paul tells them to ‘deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’ It is for this man’s ultimate good. It is ‘so that his spirit may be saved.’ This is along the lines of Jesus’ teaching in:

Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Jesus says that it is better. Better to tear out your eye. It is to your eternal advantage. Better to tear out your eye than to be thrown into the hell of fire. Both Jesus and Paul teach that sin is serious, and it has eternal consequences. Both are pursuing our good, our eternal joy.

Discipline an Expression of Love

You see, discipline is actually an expression of love.

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.

We see this theme many places in the Bible. We see it repeatedly in the Psalms, Proverbs, in Hebrews 12. Jesus even says to a church in:

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

Discipline is an expression of love.

Church Discipline According to Jesus

It will be helpful to look at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline in Matthew 18. His go-to teaching on church discipline is found in verses 15-17, but in order to do justice to his teaching, we can’t only look at these verses. To really get the heart of what he’s saying, we need to listen to the context of Matthew 18.

Jesus’ teaching on church discipline is in the context of a discussion among his disciples about who is the greatest. Jesus tells them they need to turn back and humble themselves and become like little children. And then he talks about receiving children.

Matthew 18:5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

This sounds harsh, but Jesus is passionate about the little ones who believe in him, not just children in age, but those who are young in the faith, young believers. He goes on:

Matthew 18:8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

He starts with a strong warning against being the one to bring temptation, and then he gives instruction on the seriousness of sin, and encourages us to deal severely with the sin in ourselves. Habitual sin in our own hearts must be dealt with severely. Then he tells a story about the Father’s shepherd heart for those who go astray.

Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 11 — 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

It is in this context, a context of not stumbling young believers, of dealing severely with your own sin, of the Father’s heart, the Father’s protection, the Father’s pursuit of his stray sheep, that Jesus 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. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

The Father’s heart is to pursue his lost sheep, and he has joy when they are brought back. This is the frame for a brother sinning against you. Go, tell him his fault, in a spirit of humility, not despising, as if somehow you are better than them, with the Father’s heart of loving pursuit, for their good. Go privately first. Don’t gossip. Go straight to the source. Care for his reputation. Treat him as you would want to be treated. Only if he refuses to listen do you bring others, others with wisdom, with love, others who have a heart for his good, a heart to seek the lost. Only if he refuses to listen to them does it become a full church issue. And still, the heart must be in humility seeking restoration, seeking his good. The purpose for bringing it before the whole church is not to shame, not to dispose of him and be done with the situation, but to bring the positive pressure of the full community of believers to lovingly urge and exhort and plead toward healing and restoration. Only after this stage is resisted, is the step taken to remove that one from fellowship. And even there, we are to treat outsiders not with condemnation and judgment, but with love and the truth of the gospel, seeking to win them to Christ.

Confrontation Presupposes Forgiveness

Peter is listening, processing what Jesus is teaching, and he has a question.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Notice, Peter does not say ‘if my brother listens, how often should I forgive him?’ No, he says ‘how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him?’ The response of the person is nowhere in view. This is unilateral forgiveness. The process of confronting someone for their good presupposes forgiveness. If you sin against me and I am bitter, holding a grudge, I am not seeking your good, I am seeking to be vindicated, I am seeking payment. You hurt me and you owe me. But if I have already forgiven you in my heart, if I have released you from your debt, then I can come to you for your good, for your joy.

He actually asks how often his brother will sin against him. What is the outer limit? I must always respond to those who sin against me with forgiveness. But to what extent? Jesus answers that this is going to happen a lot. And notice that this is a brother, not someone outside. Don’t be surprised when your brothers and sisters sin against you over and over and over again. You are to forgive. Cultivate a forgiving heart, so that you can work together with your brothers and sisters for their joy.

Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Then Jesus tells a parable about a servant whose master forgave him an incomprehensible debt, who then went out and began to strangle a fellow servant who owed him pocket change; warning those who refuse to forgive others that they have failed to understand, failed to truly receive the forgiveness that is extended to them in Jesus. One who has received God’s merciful and undeserved forgiveness will be overflowing with amazed gratitude and be eager to extend mercy and forgive as he has been forgiven.

Forgive, Comfort, Confirm Love

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

Whatever the offense, it seems it had escalated into a personal offense against Paul, undermining his authority and character, and the church did not stand with Paul. Paul says the offense caused grief to the whole body. Whoever this offender was, it seems the church finally took the matter seriously and expelled him. The church finally was obedient to the instructions of their apostle to deal with the sin. And now Paul warns them not to take it too far. It seems the failure of the Corinthians in church discipline (and the same danger is there for us as well) is knowing when to start and knowing when to stop. The goal is always restoration, and when there is confession of sin (which simply means to agree with God that sin is sin), where there is sorrow over sin, where there is repentance (which means a turning to go a different direction), it is enough. The goal, as Jesus stated it, is that he listens. And then you have gained or won your brother.

Paul tells them they ought to now to forgive. They ought to comfort. They ought to confirm their love for him. They had never stopped loving the offender. But their love had to take the form of discipline. Now that he had responded, they were to reaffirm, to express their love.

Our relationships with one another are to display God’s character, God’s grace. He is for us. He is working with us for our joy. He was willing to bear in himself the cost of our rebellious treason, and forgive. We must work with each other for our joy, willing to confront when necessary, willing to absorb the cost, eager to forgive as we have been freely and graciously forgiven.

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

March 6, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-Like Leadership for Your Joy

02/11_2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-like Leadership for your Joy ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180211_2cor1_23-24.mp3

We are going to be looking at 2 Corinthians 1:23-24 to see what godly leadership ought to look like, to see the purpose and posture of godly leadership, the overarching goal of Christlike leadership to serve others for their joy.

Paul’s Changing Travel Plans

There is a backstory to this book we know as 2 Corinthians. Paul came to the city of Corinth, proclaimed the gospel, and spent over a year and a half establishing a church there. He continued on across the Agean Sea to the city of Ephesus, and then on to Jerusalem. He returned by land through Asia to Ephesus, where he spent over 2 years.

Piecing the details together, we find that during his time in Ephesus, he received word that all was not well in in the church in Corinth. He wrote a letter to Corinth that was misunderstood, and then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians, addressing problems in the church, answering questions, and clarifying issues. His plan, as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel up through Asia and then down through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some significant time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem. We could call this ‘plan A’.

But Timothy sent word to Paul that the Corinthians did not respond well to his letter, so Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth to address the problems face to face. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’. Paul returned to Ephesus, having been personally attacked, his authority rejected. This was an unplanned emergency visit.

He then planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth for a brief visit, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection. He may have communicated these plans to them during his painful visit. We’ll call this ‘plan B’.

Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter.’ Paul then traveled north to Troas, hoping to meet Titus there with word of how they responded to his letter, but not finding Titus, he continued on by land over into Macedonia, where he connected with Titus. It is from Macedonia that he writes the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. We could call this ‘plan C,’ which was in substance a return to ‘plan A’.

Paul’s Defense of His Changing Plans

In this letter, there is an undercurrent of 4-5 years worth of relational turmoil and tension with this church. They are questioning his authority, his credibility, his character. They are not following his instructions. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is communicating his heart, and why his plans changed:

In verses 8-11 he wants them to know that he experienced a deadly peril in Asia that disrupted some of his plans. In 12-14 he boasts in the testimony of his clear conscience; he always only operated with simplicity and godly sincerity; he based his decisions on the grace of God and not fleshly wisdom. In verses 15-17 he communicates that his desire to visit them twice was to give them a double opportunity to participate in the grace of giving. In 18-22 he takes an oath on the faithfulness of God; God’s promises are always Yes & Amen in Jesus, and Paul’s own heart is always Yes toward them.

But the Yes in God’s actions is not always transparent. Often God’s Yes is hidden in a No. God said No to his Son Jesus so that he could say Yes to us. God’s promise of rescue came to us in the form of the crucifixion of God the Son. So too, Paul’s Yes is sometimes concealed in what seems to be a No. His painful visit and painful letter may have seemed to them to be a No, that he is against them, but in fact, it was a Yes, that he loves them, he is all in, and he is for them.

Here in verse 23, Paul begins to hit head on the issue of his travel plans, and why they changed. In 1:23-2:2 he calls God as his witness; he did not come as he had planned in order to spare the Corinthians another painful visit. Instead he sent a painful letter by the hand of Titus. In chapter 2:3-4 he lets them know that this painful letter was to demonstrate his abundant love for them. In 2:5-11 he says that the painful letter was to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their obedience. In 2:12-13 he lets them know that he even walked away from an open door for the gospel out of a troubled spirit and deep concern for them.

Then from 2:14-7:4 he takes over 4 chapters to lay out the characteristics of cross-shaped gospel ministry, before he picks back up this thread of his travel plans and communicates in 7:5-16 that he indeed met Titus in Macedonia and received word that they had responded favorably to his painful letter.

God Is My Witness

With this background in mind, let’s look at some profound truths in his answer in 1:23-24.

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul is under attack. It is as if he were standing trial, with the Corinthians as the prosecuting attorney. He has communicated his tumultuous circumstances, he has produced the testimony of his own conscience, he has communicated that his motive was to do them good and not harm, and that as surely as God is faithful to his promises, so Paul is consistently for them. It was through Paul’s preaching that Christ came to live among them through the gospel. He is with them being established by God in Christ through the Spirit. Here in verse 23, he calls God himself to take the witness stand. I call God to witness against my soul. He can appeal to no higher authority to establish his integrity.

It Was To Spare You

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.

What does Paul mean ‘it was to spare you’? If we look back to 1 Corinthians, he warned

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

As an Apostle of the Lord Christ, Paul carries God’s power and authority. Paul bears the burden of parenting the churches that he planted, and part of the responsibility of a parent is to discipline his children. This church was out of line, and he has the authority to come with a rod. But as a good parent, he doesn’t want to come at them with discipline. He wants to win their hearts. He says at the end of this letter,

2 Corinthians 13:2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

He refrained from coming again to Corinth to spare them. But he will come again, and then if they are still unrepentant, he will not spare them. He goes on:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Paul was accused of being weak. Paul here says that it makes him happy to be able to be weak among them. His heart is not to be heavy-handed, but he prays for their restoration. His heart and his authority is to build up and not to tear down.

When It Is Better Not To Confront

We can learn something from Paul’s approach. Sometimes it is better not to come. Sometimes it is better to stay away, to change plans, to postpone a visit.

Now Jesus is clear,

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.

We are to keep sins private. We are never to gossip or slander. “You know, I’m really concerned about Bill. I think he might be slipping back into sin. Would you pray for him with me?” No, Jesus says go, between you and him alone. And the goal is always restoration. To win your brother back.

But Paul shows some fatherly wisdom here. Kids are different. They respond differently to different approaches. A wise father is sensitive to that, and if his goal is to win the hearts of his children, he will approach his children differently. Paul had written two letters. They didn’t respond well. So he showed up. An emergency visit to deal with the problems head on, face to face. It was a painful confrontation. It didn’t go well. They didn’t respond well. So he backs off. He gives them space. He writes them another letter through his tears. He is brokenhearted, and he is on his knees. He sends someone else.

Kids are different, and relationships are messy. We would like for it to be clean cut. I followed the steps. Step one, step two, step three, you’re out! But relationships are not like that. Embrace the messiness. Enter in with your whole heart. Allow God’s pattern of grace to determine how best to move forward. Remember, in verse 12, Paul says ‘I make my plans, I behave in the world …by the grace of God.’ How does God’s grace come to you? What does God’s grace look like in this situation? How can I extend God’s undeserved grace toward you? How can I demonstrate love to you, to communicate that I am for you? How can I win your heart?

You think I didn’t come because I don’t care about you. But it was to spare you that I didn’t come, to give you space. God is my witness, I didn’t come because I love you.

Not Lording Over You

Now this is open to some misunderstanding. This might come across as heavy-handed; ‘it was to spare you that I didn’t come.’ My sole purpose is to keep you in line. And if you don’t listen up, watch out! So Paul clarifies:

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

Paul gives us huge insight into godly leadership. This is built on Jesus’ teaching on leadership.

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

This is the same word as in 2 Corinthians 1:24; exercise lordship over. The disciples wanted to know who was top dog. Who is in authority. Who gets to have it his way. Who gets to call the shots. Who gets to dominate everyone else. Who gets titles of honor and respect. Jesus says this is how Gentile leadership looks,

Luke 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus turns leadership upside down. Jesus says that true greatness is serving others, not being served. Jesus says:

Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

True leadership is sacrificial service for the good of others. Peter exhorts elders as a fellow elder,

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Shepherd willingly, eagerly, as an example, not as an overlord. Peter says:

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…

Shepherd. Not to be served, but to serve the needs of the sheep. Willingly, eagerly, clothed with humility.

By Faith you Stand Firm

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

Those in authority are not to domineer over anyone’s faith, because, well, they can’t. It is by faith you stand firm. Calvin (p.145) observes that this is a curious phrase; that “he argues from contraries. …the nature and effect of faith [is] such that we lean, in order that we may stand”. Faith is by definition dependence upon another; we stand firm by our leaning on or trusting in another. And that another is not any church leader. If our faith is to stand, it must be on the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Paul is eager to say that he is not the Lord in whom anyone ought to trust. He together with the Corinthians is trusting in Jesus. God is establishing them both in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter stated it clearly during the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, discussing how the Gentiles would be saved:

Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Peter the Apostle stands alongside every Gentile believer as one saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and not by works of the Law.

No man can stand over another man’s faith. There is one Lord in whom we must believe and that is Jesus Christ (1Cor.8:6).

Fellow-Workers for your Joy

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

Paul had an exclusive list of co-workers that included Priscilla, Aquila (Rom.16:3); Urbanus (Rom.16:9); Timothy (Rom.16:21, 1Thes.3:2); Apollos (1Cor.3:9); Titus (2Cor.8:23); Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25); Clement (Phil.4:3); Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus (Col.4:11); Philemon (1:1); Demas, Luke (Phlm.1:24). This would have been something (if you were looking for status) to be able to say ‘I made the list; I am a fellow-worker of the Apostle Paul.’ Here he says ‘I am your fellow-worker.’ Paul and the other apostles come alongside me, labor together with me? He puts himself under and alongside us.

What is the aim? What are we working toward? What is it that Paul and the other Apostles come up under and alongside each one of us to accomplish? I could think of some great fill in the blanks; we are working together with you to bring the gospel to the whole world; We are working together with you for your holiness and sanctification. To establish churches in every city. To accomplish the great commission, to make disciples of all nations. To advance the glory of God and his kingdom in all the earth. Those would all be great biblical ways to finish the sentence, but that’s not how Paul finishes the sentence. He says ‘we are co-workers with you for your joy.’ For your joy! Joy! Paul is working together with us for our joy! Even in the painful hard things, even in discipline, he is working with us for our joy. For your joy. Godly leadership is not domineering; godly leadership serves. Godly leadership works under and alongside you for your joy. For your joy! Oh I want to get into this, but it’s going to have to wait until next week.

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

February 14, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fruit and Abiding in Jesus; John 15:1-17

09/10 Fruit and Abiding in Jesus; John 15:1-17 Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170910_fruit-abiding-in-jesus.mp3

We’ve taken the summer to look at the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the believer. We saw that love love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Joy is unaffected by circumstances, overwhelms suffering, rejoices in trials. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. Patience bears a long time with others and graciously forgives the wrongs of others. Kindness is palatable, functional, fitting; not severe, biting, harsh or chafing. It is redemptive. Goodness is the generous outward expression and overflow of a kind heart, especially to the undeserving. Faithfulness is doing what the Master commands when he commands, in utter dependence on him, taking risks in service to others. Gentleness or meekness is an awareness of deep personal need, my own spiritual poverty, and in helplessness seeking help from God alone. Self Control is Spirit supplied inner strength over lesser desires.

We have seen that this is not nine things; this is one thing; fruit. It is whole Christian character. In Isaiah 40:26 God brings out the starry hosts ‘by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.’ Spirit produced character will be comprehensive; the whole fruit will be growing.

Last week we looked at 2 Corinthians 3 and saw that this spiritual transformation comes through looking. Looking to Jesus.

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

Today I want to look at Jesus’ teaching on fruitfulness in John 15. Jesus talked a bit about fruit. He said that a healthy tree bears good fruit, and that a tree is known by its fruit; you will be able to recognize a false teacher by the fruit they bear (Mt.7, 12; Lk.6). He told a parable about fruitful and unfruitful soils (Mt.13; Mk.4; Lk.8). He told a story about efforts to get an unfruitful fig tree to produce fruit (Lk.13), and he even cursed a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit (Mt.21; Mk.11). He told a story about a vineyard that the master developed and rented out to tenant farmers, and when he returned to receive his share of the fruit, they refused (Mt.21; Mk.12; Lk.20).

Jesus talked about fruit as evidence of the nature of a tree, and warned about some of the things that prevent fruitfulness. But in John 15, he tells us how to be fruitful, how to bear much fruit. In the gospel of John, the word ‘fruit’ appears 10 times, and 8 of those are in John 15:1-16. Jesus is instructing us how to bear much fruit.

In John 13 Jesus says:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The fruit of love is evidence of a relationship with Jesus. He repeats this new commandment to love in 15:12 and 17. We are to have Jesus’ own love in us. He says in John 14

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

Jesus gives us his own peace. Then in John 15:11 he says

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

Jesus gives us his own joy. Love as I have loved you, my joy in you, my peace I give to you. Jesus’ love, Jesus’ joy, Jesus’ peace in us. Oh, and Jesus talks much about the promised Holy Spirit in John 14-16. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ own love, joy, peace in us.

The False Vine and the True

Look with me at John 15 to see how this fruit is produced in us.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Fruit is the issue of this passage. The vine is meant to bear fruit. In using a vine as an illustration, Jesus is not making something up. He is picking up an Old Testament illustration that would be familiar to his hearers. Many times in the Old Testament, Israel is compared to a vine. Isaiah 5 is one place we could look.

Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Sound familiar? This is almost the same story Jesus tells after he cleansed the temple, when his authority was challenged. The master of the vineyard is looking for fruit. Isaiah 5:7 says:

Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

Israel was a false vine that yielded wild grapes, that refused to give the master the fruit that was his due. Jesus is contrasting himself with unfaithful Israel. I am the true vine. I will produce good fruit for my Father in the proper season. Notice, Jesus says ‘I am the true vine’ and he says someone is caring for the vineyard. Someone is cultivating and tending the vineyard to ensure maximum fruitfulness. My Father is the farmer. Look at Isaiah 27.

Isaiah 27:2 In that day, “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! 3 I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day; 4 I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would march against them, I would burn them up together. 5 Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” 6 In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.

Jesus is the true fruitful vine. His Father is the vinedresser. Fruitful branches are tended to maximize fruitfulness; dead wood is cleared away to allow room for healthy growth.

Pruning and Cleansing

John 15:2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

He prunes fruitful branches to maximize fruitfulness. Anyone familiar with this? Anyone have any experience with this? There is a play on words here in the original. Takes away is [αἴρει] and prunes is [καθαίρει]. They sound similar. And then in verse 3, clean is [καθαροί].

These two words are related. In fact, verse 2 might be translated ‘every branch that bears fruit he cleanses that it bear more fruit. Already you are clean.’ We find this exact phrase ‘you are clean’ [ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε] if we turn back two chapters to John 13, where Jesus laid aside his outer garments and washed his disciples’ feet. When Peter objected, Jesus answered him

John 13:8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean [ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε], but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Judas was a picture of the dead branch that was taken away. Peter was completely clean. He had had a bath. But he needed his feet washed. Two chapters later, in John 15, Jesus clarifies.

John 15:2 …every branch that does bear fruit he [cleanses], that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Peter was completely clean because of the word Jesus spoke. Peter was cleansed with a word. But Peter who was completely clean needed his feet washed. Fruitful branches are branches that are already clean because of Jesus’ word. But fruitful branches need to be cleansed, that they may bear more fruit.

Ephesians 4 picks this up; cleansed by the washing of the water with the word.

Ephesians 5:25 …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.

We see the tension here between the already and the not yet. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. You are completely clean. You are justified. By the blood of Jesus you have been once for all cleansed of all your sin. But there is an ongoing tending of the vine, washing of the feet, cleansing, pruning, in order to maximize fruitfulness. The Father is the vinedresser. The Father is faithful to cleanse those who are are already clean. The Father is actively tending his vineyard.

Abiding and Independent Inability

Notice, we have not yet been given the identity of the branches. So far, we have Jesus the true vine, and his Father, the vinedresser.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 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.

Abide. The branch is incapable of bearing fruit apart from the vine. Here we finally get the identity of the branches. Jesus is the true vine, we are the branches. Not until we are told that we are incapable of bearing fruit apart from the vine are we told that we are the branches.

I grew up with a grapevine in our backyard. It is almost impossible to tell where the vine ends and the branches begin. They are one. That is Jesus’ point. The branch is in the vine, and the vine is in the branch. They are one. They are virtually indistinguishable. There is a vital connection. Abide in me and I in you. Jesus is in me, and I am abiding in Jesus. I am totally dependent on Jesus. I can bear no fruit without being connected with Jesus. This is why there are good works that are called dead works that are not the fruit of the Spirit. There are a lot of kind, generous, loving, patient, self-controlled people in the world who don’t know Jesus. They may be loving, but it is not Jesus’ love. It is not Jesus’ sap running through their veins that produces supernatural self-sacrificial love. And it may look great. But it is worth nothing if it is apart from Jesus. Only fruit that is produced as an outworking of Jesus in me is worth anything at all.

Don’t forget the connection here with pruning and cleansing. We could look to Hebrews and see that ‘the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives’ (Heb.12:6).

Hebrews 12:10 …he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 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.

Pruning, cleansing, discipline is painful. But it is ‘that we bear more fruit’ that ‘later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.’ As the Father is faithful to prune and cleanse, we are to push in to Jesus and draw our everything from Jesus. It is for our good. The Father is the vinedresser, and he is at work for our good. We can trust his good design even in the painful process of pruning.

Practical Help for Abiding

So Jesus is the true vine, the Father is the vinedresser, we are clean and connected to Jesus through his life-giving word, and as we are being pruned for maximum fruitfulness we are to press into Jesus as Jesus lives his life in us and through us.

Jesus Word in Us, Pursuing God’s Glory, Asking in Dependence

Practically what does it mean to abide? What does this abiding look like? Day to day? Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing.

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

What does it mean to abide in Jesus and have Jesus abide in us? To have Jesus abide in us is to have his words abide in us. Remember, we are clean because of his word spoken to us. He says to dead things ‘LIVE!’ and there is life. And he sustains that life by his word. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and he abides in us as his words are the life in our veins. Get Jesus’ words into you! Meditate on his words for they are your life! Listen to him! Hide his word in your heart! Let his heart capture your heart. What is Jesus’ heartbeat? What is Jesus’ passion? ‘By this is my Father glorified.’ Jesus lives to glorify his Father. Let his heart be your heart. Let this be your supreme want. I want in all things to glorify the Father. I want in all things to have Jesus’ character shine through my life, for this glorifies the Father. And ask! Ask God to work his fruit in you. Ask Jesus to put his love in you, his joy in you, his peace in you for the glory of the Father. Ask whatever you wish as you pursue more than anything else the Father’s glory. Ask the Father through his pruning in your life to put Jesus on display for all the world to see!

Get Jesus’ words into you. Let Jesus’ words permeate your thinking. Pursue the glory of God above all else, and ask whatever you wish! This is what it looks like for Jesus to abide in you. Meditating on his word, pursuing his glory, coming to him needy, acknowledging your dependence and inability and asking.

Receiving Jesus’ Love and Joyfully Loving

What does it look like to abide in Jesus?

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

What does it look like to abide in Jesus? Abide in my love. Let my love wash over you and saturate you. Place yourself under the Niagara Falls of my love until it permeates every pore of your being and defines you. Do you have any idea how much the Father loves his only begotten Son? Jesus’ love for us is that love; the overflow of the Father’s love for him! The Father delights in every perfection of his only Son. Jesus takes perfect pleasure in you! As the Father delights in Jesus, Jesus delights in you! To abide in his love is to receive. To feel his pleasure. To enjoy.

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

Do not misunderstand. This obedience, the Son’s obedience to the Father is not in order to earn his love. The Son is forever secure in the Father’s love. The obedience of the Son is not tedious and burdensome. The obedience of the Son to his Father is the joyful response and overflow of love received. It is the joy of the Son to pursue what pleases his Father.

What is the command we are to keep out of the joyful overflow of being securely loved?

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

The joyful overflow of abiding in Jesus’ love is loving others with the love with which he loved us. This is not burdensome obedience; it is joyful obedience. It is not slavish obedience, blindly doing what I am told without understanding why. No, Jesus has called us friend! Jesus invites us to knowingly join him in his ultimate pursuit of glorifying his Father. Abiding in his love and advancing the Father’s fame by loving others with the love with which he loved us.

Confident Certainty

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, 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.

Jesus is the true vine. This is all Jesus’ doing. We are selected by Jesus, cleansed by Jesus, appointed by Jesus to abide in him as he abides in us, to bear fruit in him, and that our fruit should abide. This is the certainty we have. This fruit, this love is not temporary or intermittent. This is abiding, lasting. It can only be lasting because it is not my love. This is Spirit produced Spirit sustained supernatural love. It is Jesus’ love in me, flowing through me to others. Jesus’ words abiding in us, abiding in Jesus’ love for us, joyfully pursuing God’s glory by loving others, in prayerful dependence on his strength and his abundant supply.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

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

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit: Peace Like Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

What Peace Is and Is Not

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

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

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

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

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

The Foundation of Peace (Romans 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 26 says:

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

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

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

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

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

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

He goes on,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Peace of Jesus (Mark 4)

Jesus says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look down a little further in Mark 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

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

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

The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus

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

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

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

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

Joy Defined

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

What Joy is Not

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

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

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

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

Joy that Coexists with Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Untouched by Circumstances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy in Trials

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

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

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

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

C.H. Spurgeon commented about trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Linked to Love

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

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

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

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

Fight for Joy with Joy

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

Joy in the Giver above the Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spirit’s Fruit; Love Like Jesus

05/28 The Spirit’s Fruit: Love Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170528_love-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking at the fruit of the Spirit. Or, we could say, this is a study on holiness, on Christian character, on godliness. The fruit of the Spirit is the character that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer. This is not something I can work hard to produce in my life; this is something that I am completely dependent on God the Spirit to produce in me. I can do things to cooperate with the Spirit in his work in me, and I can do things to frustrate and delay his work in me, but the fruit of the Spirit is in contrast to the works of the flesh. I cannot produce the Spirit’s fruit with my own effort. I must depend on him, trust him, rely on him to make this happen in my life. It is fruit that the Holy Spirit of God alone can produce.

Fruit Different than Gifts

The fruit of the Spirit is contrasted against the works of the flesh. It is also contrasted with the gifts of the Spirit. Gifts are optional, fruit is mandatory. Every believer is given gifts by the Spirit, but no gift is mandatory. You don’t have to have the gift of tongues or teaching or prophecy to be a genuine believer. No believer has all the gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us that ‘the Spirit apportions [the gifts] to each one individually as he wills.’ But you do have to have the fruit. In the middle of Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, at the end of chapter 12 he says ‘And I will show you a still more excellent way.’ And then in chapter 13 he says that gifts without character are worthless, empty and count for nothing. Chapter 13 is the famous ‘love chapter’ where he encourages us to pursue love as the ‘more excellent way’ than gifts. Then in chapter 14 he continues with specific instructions on the gifts of the Spirit, that they must be used out of the Christian character of love. We will come back around to 1 Corinthians 13 in a few minutes.

Gifts are outward; manifestations of the Spirit, actions. Fruit is inward; character. The actions can be manufactured or counterfeited. Fruit grows out of a relationship with Jesus. In talking about fruit and works, Jesus said:

Matthew 7:20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So according to Jesus, someone can be manifesting the gifts of the Spirit and not have a genuine relationship with Jesus. But fruit will grow out of that relationship.

Fruit Different than Personality

And notice carefully, gifts are plural, fruit is singular. You may have two or three or five gifts of the Spirit, and your gifts will probably be a different combination than mine. But we don’t look at the fruit that way. We don’t say, out of the nine things listed here in Galatians 5, I only have these three fruits. I have some of the fruits, and you have some of the other fruits, and so as a body of believers we’ve got them all covered. No. That is how the gifts work, but that is not how the fruit works. It is fruit. Singular. It is one symmetrical fruit. Listed in this passage are nine characteristics of this one fruit, but it is one fruit. Either all nine characteristics are true of you (at least in some beginning degree), or the Spirit is not producing his fruit in you. The whole fruit of the Spirit is evidence that you are a genuine believer. This sets the fruit of the Spirit apart from human personality.

You know some people that are just bubbly and happy-go-lucky and are a boost to be around. They might not know Jesus, but that’s just who they are. But they may not have much self-control, or they’re a bit short on faithfulness. Then there are others, who are very patient and gentle, but they just seem a bit down, often depressed. Or others who are very self-disciplined, self-controlled, faithful to the Lord, they know what needs to be done and they get it done, but they may not be very gentle or kind in the process. Don’t get in their way. That’s not the fruit of the Spirit.

You may read the nine traits of Spirit produced character and you may feel that you’re just naturally one or two or five of them, but that’s not what we are talking about. This fruit is not natural. This is supernatural fruit; Holy Spirit produced fruit. And the Spirit produces character, balanced whole character in believers.

Fruit Grows

We could think of this many faceted character as a diamond. It is one diamond, but it has many sides, many facets. Or as light through a prism; it is one thing, light, but if we put it through a prism, we see the spectrum of individual colors that make up the light. But Paul chooses to illustrate this as fruit, because fruit is organic. It grows. And it takes time. Fruit isn’t produced overnight. A fruit tree has a dormant season. It appears dead. But it is growing. Even in the winter, it is getting strong, going deep. Fruit is produced slowly, gradually, imperceptibly. But it is growing. And it produces after its kind. An apple tree will inevitably produce apples. That’s what it is and that’s what it does. The Spirit produces this kind of Christian character. Inevitably. If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, he will bring about this fruit in your life. Slowly, often imperceptibly. With long quiet seasons of dormancy. But unfailingly.

Love Commanded

Today we are looking at the first facet of the Spirit’s fruit; love. Love is not randomly chosen to head the list. Love is central. When Jesus was asked about the most important 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Paul said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

James says:

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

When Paul exalts fruit as more essential than gifts, he points us to love. He says:

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. …

Love Defined

What is love? Paul’s description is helpful; it tells us some things love is (some of them we find in this description of the fruit of the Spirit); it is patient and kind, it rejoices with the truth; it bears all, believes, all, hopes all, endures all. And he tells us some things it’s not. Love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing. It never stops.

Not Hunger Love

Tim Keller was very helpful in my thinking on this. He lays out two things love is not that help protect us from our culturally conditioned ideas of love. He says that love is not need love or hunger love; and love is not tolerance [Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, April 26, 1998; The Fruit of the Spirit- the Character of Christ; John 13:1-21; Logos]

He says “In the world, there is something people call love that is really hunger. Hunger says, ‘I love you,’ which means, ‘You make me feel good about myself. You fill me up. You make me feel like I’m significant. I want to own you. I want to have you. I want you to make me feel like a real individual. I want you to help me become myself.’ That’s hunger. Think about this. If you go up to a beautiful fruit tree and you’re absolutely full, how do you enjoy it? You say, ‘Look at it. It’s beautiful.’ You might take some cobwebs off, or an old, dead leaf, anything that detracts from its beauty. How are you appreciating it? For what it is in itself. But if you come in front of a beautiful fruit tree and you are ravenously hungry, … you are very attracted to the fruit tree in a completely different way. You don’t care. ‘Oh, I love that fruit tree. I’ll strip it. I’ll rip it. I’ll break it. I don’t care.’ You see, I don’t love it for itself; I love it as a commodity. I love it for what it’s going to do for me.” This is not the kind of love that is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit comes from fullness, not from hunger and need.

Not Tolerance

He also says that true biblical love is not tolerance. “’If I see somebody hurting themselves and I don’t love them that much, I don’t know them that much, I’m tolerant.’ Think about this. The less I love somebody, the more tolerant I am if I see them doing things that seem to be hurting themselves. But the more I love somebody, the less tolerant I am. …’I want to shake them. I want to say, ‘can’t you see? Don’t you know what you’re doing to yourself? You’re becoming less and less yourself every time I see you.’ I’m not angry because I hate them; I’m angry because I love them. If I didn’t love them, I’d walk away. Real love stands against deception. Real love stands against lies that destroy.”

Biblical Love

So what is this love that is fruit produce by the Holy Spirit in us? How do we define it? We need to look to God’s love to see what love truly is. God’s love is self-giving.

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

God’s love is love that gives sacrificially for the good of the other. Jesus says to his followers in John 13:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

And then again in John 15:

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

So Jesus holds himself up as the standard of the love that he commands in his followers. Jesus himself is to define love. And then he says:

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Self-sacrificial self-giving love, costly love. Jesus love is not need love or hunger love. He does not love us for what he can get from us. He does not love us because there is something appealing or attractive about us. His love sees our ugliness, our sin, our filth, and loves us. Neither is Jesus’ love a tolerant love. Jesus does not look at us in our sin and say ‘I love you and I am content to leave you just the way you are.’ No. Jesus intends to change us. To wash us, to cleanse us, to forgive us, to set us free, to transform us, to make us new, to create something beautiful in us. Jesus’ love is a purging purifying sanctifying cleansing transforming love. Listen to Ephesians:

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

Love is a willing self-sacrificial love.

Ephesians 5:25 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.

Love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Even joyfully self sacrificial (as we’ll see next week).

How the Fruit of Love Grows In Us

If that is what this kind of love is, and I look at myself and see that there’s not much of that there, then what do I do? Maybe I thought of myself as a loving person, but mine is really a selfish self-serving needy love. Maybe it’s a tolerant anything goes love. How can I see God’s self-giving love grow in my life? Remember, it is fruit. Fruit produced by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The fruit is produced when it’s not me but Christ living in me. But how does that happen? This kind of life is lived by faith. By dependence. By believing. I begin to love like this when I look with faith to Jesus and see how he loved me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Is it really that simple? Look to Jesus? Yes! When you look to Jesus in faith, and make it personal, it changes everything!

Love Displayed

Jesus, the Son of God, God the Son, loved me? Why? What is there in me to love? What in me is praiseworthy? What do I have to offer? What need does he have that I can satisfy? He loved me not because I could meet some need of his, but because he wants to meet all my needs? He knew me, he knows everything about me, and yet he loves me? He sees my heart, he sees my failures, he knows my flaws, and yet he loves me?

This love that he has for me, what did it cost him to love me? He loved me and gave himself for me. He loved me and laid down his life for me. He took all my sin on himself and paid the ultimate price. He took all my guilt and shame. He was betrayed by a friend because he loved me. He was silent before his accusers because of his love for me. He patiently endured the mocking the spitting, the beating, the ridicule because he loved me. He stretched out his arms and opened his hands to the nails because of his great love for me. He forgave his executioners because he loved me. He endured the wrath of his Father against my sin because he loved me. He loved me at infinite cost, all for my good.

His love is determined. He is determined to deal with my sin. He is determined to make me a new creation. And he pursued me when I was uninterested. While I was his sworn enemy, hostile toward him, he loved me. He loves me and refuses to give up on me. Even though I continue to stray, continue to blunder and fail, he refuses to give up on me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Look to him. Receive his love for you. Believe it. Treasure his love. Know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Eph.3:19). Allow his love for you to fill all the empty neediness in your heart to overflowing. Then step out in the bold confidence of one who is unfailingly unquenchingly securely loved and love others. Love those who are unlovable. Love those who are unresponsive. Love those who will not reciprocate. Love those who have offended you. Love those from whom you have nothing to gain. Love sacrificially. Open yourself to being hurt. Give of yourself in love for the good of others.

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

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience

04/30 Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170430_leviticus-26_14-39.mp3

Leviticus is a covenant document between God and his people. Leviticus 26 gives the terms of the covenant agreement. Verses 1-2 are a reminder of the central demand of the covenant, that by entering into this covenant, Israel is promising to have no other gods but the one LORD. They are to trust him by honoring his time and his place. God’s instructions are to be kept and his presence is to be feared. Verses 3-13 list the blessings that accompany obedience; blessings of produce and peace and progeny and most importantly the gift of God’s presence with his people.

But the blessings of the covenant are conditional:

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you …

Verses 14-39 are the consequences of a refusal to follow the terms of the agreement.

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you:

Notice in both cases, it is God himself who is active in fulfilling the terms of the covenant. If you do what I command, I will give you… If you will not listen to me and do… then I will do this to you. God takes his covenant seriously, and will personally bring about either blessings or the curses.

Notice the blatant disobedience that is warned against in these verses; “if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant” A refusal to listen to God’s instructions, a refusal to do what he commands, is followed by an emotional reaction against God’s truth; ‘if your spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules’. This revulsion at God’s commands results in a refusal to obey, and a violation of the covenant contract.

This chapter is essential for understanding the rest of the Bible. This passage provides essential context for the rest of the Bible. It gives the covenant context for the history of God’s judgment on Israel. What happened under Joshua, and then in Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ and ‘the LORD gave them into the hand of’ their enemies, and ‘they cried out to the LORD and he sent’ a deliverer; what happened under the kings who disobeyed and under those who tried to turn the people back to the LORD, what was spoken by the prophets who were sent to confront idolatry and turn the hearts of the people back to the LORD, what happened in the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests and captivities, what was said in the prayers of the captives like Daniel and Nehemiah, even what we today enjoy as New Covenant believers, all find their root in the terms of this covenant agreement between God and his people.

This section of consequences for covenant treason is structured in 5 cycles of escalating discipline. Each section begins with ‘if you will not listen; then I will…’

14-17 general curses – illness, famine, defeat

18-20 Drought and bad harvest

21-22 Wild animals

23-26 War, leading to plague and famine

27-39 War, leading to cannibalism, devastation and deportation

First Stage

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.

God promises to visit the covenant breaker with panic, disease and fever, with stolen productivity, with defeat and oppression, with paranoid fear. God says ‘I will visit you …I will set my face against you.’ God is not absent in the sense that he has merely withdrawn his hand of protection and is allowing bad things to happen; no, he promises to be actively engaged in bringing about these consequences. Hell is not the absence of God; God is everywhere present. Hell will be the presence of God in righteous anger and punishment against those who have rejected him.

Second Stage

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

God here promises to escalate the punishment for continued disobedience. Notice, ‘If in spite of this you will not listen to me.’ There is a hope held out here. At any stage in this discipline, if his people will turn to him and listen to him, the discipline does not have to go any further.

Discipline

This is discipline; discipline is meant to teach, to train, to correct. Discipline is meant to confront, to protect, to restore, to bless. God is saying ‘I want to bless you, but I cannot bless your disobedience, so I promise to do whatever is necessary to bring you around and create in you a heart attitude that I can bless.’ Remember, God loved Israel. God chose Israel. Not because of anything in her, but rather because he loved her (Deut.7:6-8; 9:6). Proverbs reminds us:

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.

Discipline is rooted in love. Moses tells the generation about to enter the land that God:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled you …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. …5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

Psalm 94 tells us:

Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law,

Blessed, happy, is the one you discipline; because discipline is for our greatest good. Hebrews 12 lays this all out.

Hebrews 12:5 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? 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. 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.

Discipline is not pleasant, but it is for our good. The things in this chapter are horrific, but that is intended to teach us that there is something worse. A slap on the child’s wrist is painful, but it is nothing compared to the pain of the emergency room visit that it is intended to prevent. The things in this chapter; disease and death and cannibalism and captivity are nothing compared to what they are meant to keep you from; an eternity separated from a good God who loves you.

Greater Accountability

Notice, the discipline of this chapter is promised to God’s covenant people, not to the nations. God has a special relationship with his own people, and these are the consequences for treating carelessly that relationship. Those who have experienced grace; those who have seen the truth and rejected it are judged much more severely than those who have not; Peter warns:

2 Peter 2:21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Because those who have been offered grace will be held more accountable, God relentlessly pursues us with his discipline in order to bring us back.

Pride

In this second section, to those who have refused to respond to the first stage of discipline, God promises to ‘discipline you again sevenfold for your sins’. This is an escalation of discipline toward those who refuse to listen. God says ‘I will break the pride of your power’. He will prevent the land from producing. So often our hardness toward God is a result of pride. The prayerless person is a proud person. I will not cry out to God for help, because I can handle this without him! God did not create us to be independent, but dependent. We are not to stand on our own; we are to rely on him, to depend on him, to lean into him, to trust him. We are not self-sufficient; he alone is self-sufficient. We are to lean on his all-sufficiency. Repeatedly we hear the warning, when things go well for you, do not thing it is because of your own greatness, but because God has blessed you. Do not become proud, but recognize that every good thing is a gift from God.

O Lord, whatever it takes, break our foolish pride!

Third Stage

Leviticus 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

The third stage is an escalating progression in disipline. If you will listen, I will use the least severe means of discipline available. If you choose to harden your heart, I will be required to use more severe forms of discipline. ‘Then,’ after the first two stages, ‘if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me.’ I will let loose the wild beasts against you’ bereave you of your children. This is opposite of the blessing in verse 6 ‘I will remove harmful beasts from your land’.

‘Wild beasts which shall bereave you of your children’ seems severe, but remember, this is the third stage of rebellion, having refused to listen to the first two rounds of discipline.

Fourth Stage

Leviticus 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

Here the goal of all this is clearly stated; ‘if by this discipline you are not turned to me.’ Hear God’s heart in all of this. His heart is toward you, not against you. He knows that there is no good apart from himself. So he intends to turn your heart back to him, whatever it takes.

This is a response to active disobedience. ‘If you walk contrary to me, the I also will walk contrary to you. I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.’ ‘I will …execute vengeance for the covenant’. This is a breach of a covenant that they agreed to. Going after false gods is both foolish and treasonous. God must defend the honor of his glorious name. He will execute vengeance for the covenant. Sword, pestilence, famine. Ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven. It seems polygamy is a curse, not a blessing. You shall eat and not be satisfied. True satisfaction comes only through walking with God, enjoying the good of his presence. Seeking satisfaction anywhere else will leave us eating without ever experiencing satisfaction.

Fifth Stage

Leviticus 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

‘If in spite of this,’ having hardened your hearts through the first four stages of discipline ‘you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.’ This is escalating discipline due to the callousness of the people’s hearts. It takes severe consequences to rip the callouses off and expose their hard hearts to the gravity of their situation. Cannibalism. When Syrian king Ben-Hadad beseiged Samaria and caused a great famine,

2 Kings 6:26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” … 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body—

This is a heart-wrenching story, and the king tore his clothes. Tearing clothes is a sign of repentance and mourning. But even this horrific event did not turn the kings heart back to the LORD. Instead he sent messengers to kill the LORD’s prophet Elisha, who had been calling Israel to repentance.

God says ‘I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.’ The way to desecrate a place of worship was to scatter it with bones. This is an ironic promise that God will desecrate the false worship of his people with the corpses of those who trusted in these false gods. And he says ‘my soul will abhor you’. We often hear it said that ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner.’ But here God himself says to the one who persistently violates the terms of the covenant and refuses to repent after extended discipline ‘my soul will abhor you’.

All this sounds horrific, but remember, the punishment fits the crime. The level of horror we have at these punishments, should alert us to the gravity of disregarding the word of the LORD, and turning away from God, spurning his patience and discipline that is meant to bring us to repentance.

Sabbath Rest and Hope

Leviticus 26:34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

God promised that the land would enjoy its Sabbaths while his people are in captivity. God’s people ought to have enjoyed the Sabbath rest God provided for them. Instead the land would enjoy that rest without them. We read in 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

…20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

But even in this there is hope. There is an end in sight. The prophet Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 54:7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Law and Gospel

God’s heart is to turn the hearts of his people back to himself. In the Old Testament this was rare. Except for a small remnant, the people persisted in their disobedience, hardened their hearts, and refused to respond to his loving discipline. Although there were amazing blessings promised, the law brought a curse. We read in Galatians 3:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

The law is based on performance, perfect performance, and because no one can ever keep the law perfectly, we are all under the curse. Everything written in this chapter addressed to covenant breakers belongs to us, because we are covenant breakers. None of the promises belong to us, because we have failed to walk in obedience. But once we feel the weight of this, there is amazingly good news here for us!

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

On the cross, Jesus experienced the curses of Leviticus 26 for us. God executed vengeance for the broken covenant on Jesus; The Father turned in abhorrence from the one who had been made sin for us. Why? So that all the promised blessings might come to us who believe in Jesus!

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

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Equipping the Saints; Ephesians 4:11-16

01//08 The Church and The Equipping of the Saints [Ephesians 4:11-16]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170108_equip-the-saints.mp3

Last week we began to look at who we are as the church, what we are to be about. We saw from Ephesians chpaters 1-3 that to understand what is our purpose as the church, we must begin by understanding who we are as the church, our identity in Christ. We are called saints, faithful, blessed, chosen, loved, predestined, adopted, purchased, forgiven, destined for inheritance, we are sealed, made alive, saved. This is our identity in Christ, not because we earned it, not because we did something to deserve it, but only because of the sheer unmerited grace of a good God. We heard the good news of God’s grace, and we responded by depending on the only one who can rescue us.

As a group of saints, the root and foundation of everything we are and do grows out of and is built upon knowing together the manifold love of Christ toward us that surpasses knowledge. There is a corporate aspect of knowing; Paul prays in 3:17

Ephesians 3:17 …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to comprehend together with all the saints the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Of course, we should be individually pursuing an understanding of the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, but this ought to fuel the fire of corporate worship, as we come together to know together the incomprehensible love of Christ. This worshipful comprehending of the love of Christ together is a primary purpose of the church.

In Chapter 4, Paul begins to tells us how to live in light of our identity in Christ. The first thing he points us to is our gospel unity

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

We are to be diligent to guard our unity in the gospel. We have unity; we were made one in Christ, we have peace with God and with one another through Jesus; we are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. We as a church are to be passionate about defending and maintaining our gospel unity.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 4:7-16 to talk about the grace-gifts that have been given to each of us to build up the body. The gifts are given to grow us up in Christ, and to they are to be used in love.

Then in 4:17-6:9 he talks about what the Christian life is to look like. Our lives are to relfect our new identity in Christ.

He concludes in 6:10-20 with the full spiritual armor of gospel realities that belong to us in Christ, to be permeated by prayer.

So we have learned so far from Ephesians that we as the church are to know together our identity in Christ, that we are to diligently defend our unity in Christ, that we are to use our gifts in love to build up one another, that we are to live lives that reflect our new identity in Christ, and that we are to arm ourselves with gospel realities in prayer, so that we can stand our ground as the church against the schemes of the enemy.

Equipping the Saints

This week I want to dig deeper into into the text in Ephesians 4:11

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

I take this as a clear purpose statement for the leadership of the church. To equip the saints. What does it mean to equip the saints? Our English translation sounds like ‘to equip’ is a verb. But it is actually a noun; ‘to the equipping’, to the compelte furnishing. This word can mean to mend, repair, or complete; to fit out, equip, or prepare; to strengthen, perfect, or complete. This and the following verses list 5 things that the saints are to be equipped for or toward, and then some things they are to be prepared against.

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The saints are to be fitted to work of ministry; to building the body of Christ, to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a manture man, to a measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. These are the things the saints are to be equipped for.

Work of Service

The saints are to be equipped for work of ministry or work of service. Notice, this is every saint; all the saints are to be equipped for ministry. Every believer is a minister. The word ‘diakonia’ is where we get our word deacon. It simply means service. Every saint is to be prepared for service. What that service looks like will be as unique and various as the individuals who make up the body of Christ. Service may be exhorting and encouraging, coming alongside others, it may be teaching and discipling others, it may be acts of mercy, binding up the brokenhearted, it may be practical service in lending a helping hand, it may be financial giving to meet the needs of others. Service takes many shapes. Service by definition is others-centered, because we are serving someone. And service is work. To serve well takes, time, effort, intentionality. There is a choice involved. I can choose to use the gifts I have been given to bless others, or I can miss the opportunity to be involved. It takes will, effort, energy to be involved. The saints are to be equipped for the work of service. This verse echoes back to 2:8-10, where we are saved…

Ephesians 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are not saved by our works, but we are created new in Christ for good works. These works are prepared ahead of time by God. He intends that we walk in the works he foreordained for us. Here we see that the church plays a role in preparing and strengthening the saints for the work of service.

Building The Body

The saints are to be equipped for building the body of Christ. In a building there is structure, architecture, a plan, a foundation. We each play a role in the structure. This echoes back to 2:19-22.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

You are a part of the building. You are to be built on the one cornerstone of Christ Jesus. You are to be joined together with other believers into a temple, a dwelling place for God. For a stone to be part of the building, it needs to be on the foundation. A stone not on the foundation is not part of the building. The church plays a role in fitting the saints to be built up on the one foundation, to be joined together with one another, to be holy, to enjoy together the presence of God in us.

Unity of the Faith and Knowledge of the Son

Verse 13 tells us the saints are to be equipped for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. As we are built together, serving one another, we are to experience the unity of the faith. This is a oneness that comes from dependence on the same person. The unity of the faith is not merely the unity of having a common set of beliefs. It is that. We must believe in the one God who is Father, Son and Spirit. We must believe that the Son became human, born of a virgin, to die in our place, that he rose from the dead and returned to the right hand of his Father. We must believe that we are set free from our sin by the free act of a sovereign God, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, ultimately for the glory of God alone. There is concrete content to our faith, but our trust and dependence is not ultimately in a set of facts, but in a person. We are united by a common dependence on the person of the Son of God. We are one because we know the same person. We have a common friend. Have you ever met a stranger only to find out you have a common friend. You may not have met each other, but there is a connection when there is a common bond to the same person. As believers, we have that in Jesus. We have a unity with every other believer because of our common dependence on and relationship with the Son of God. Paul prayed back in 1:17,

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

We need to be given spiritual wisdom and revelation to know Jesus. The church plays a role in repairing and strengthening this unity in the knowledge of Jesus.

Maturity

The saints are to be equipped toward maturity. To a mature man. This echoes back to 2:15

Ephesians 2:15 … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

This one new man, no longer Jew and Gentile, no longer two but one, the church, the united body of Christ.

This one new man is to be a mature man. To completeness, to mental and moral maturity, to fully developed character. There is a goal we are aiming at, a purpose we are pursuing, an end we are moving toward. Some of us just need to grow up. None of us have arrived yet. We all must be patient with one another, because we are all moving toward a goal, and we are all in various stages of growth. God is at work in us to develop character in us. Character is most often developed through trials, so we need extra grace and patience for one another, as navigating a trial is often a messy ordeal. God intends that on the other side we will come out as pure gold, but in the process, all our filth floats up to the surface for all to see. Have you ever been in the room when another parent is disciplining their child? It can be awkward and uncomfortable to observe the process, but it is essential for the child’s growth to maturity. In the body of Christ, we need to understand that we are all under the good hand of the refiner, who will bring us through whatever fires are necessary to purify us; we are all under the gracious hand of the Father, who will be faithful to discipline the children he loves, to develop mature character in us. The church family plays a role in mending and perfecting the saints toward maturity.

The Measure of the Fullness of Christ

The saints are to be equipped toward the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In 1:23 the church is the fullness of Christ. In 3:19, Paul prays that we would know the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to be fitted for the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The measure of our maturity is Jesus. We are not to be foolish, measuring ourselves against each other; wishing we were as advanced as so-and-so; thankful we are not as immature as what’s-his-name. Our standard is Christ. We as the church are to be filled with Christ. We are to live Jesus to each other. We are to live Jesus to our community. We are to put Jesus on display in every area of our lives. We are to be filled to overflowing with Jesus. The character of Jesus is to permeate our attitudes, our emotions, our thinking, our choices. The church plays a role in perfecting and completing the saints in this Christlike fullness of maturity.

Equipped Against

There is a negative aspect to the equipping. Paul lists these 5 things we are to be equipped for; for the work of ministry; for building the body of Christ, for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, for a manture man, for the measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. In verse 14 he moves into the negative; what we are to be equipped against.

Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children,

tossed to and fro by the waves

and carried about by every wind of doctrine,

by human cunning,

by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The equipping of the saints is an equipping toward maturity and away from immaturity. We are no longer to be children. Children are characterized by variability. One moment I want that; the next moment I don’t want it any more. One minute I’m throwing a tantrum to get my way, and halfway through I’ve forgotten what I was tantruming about. Truth changes based on whose voice is loudest or most persuasive on the playground. We are no longer to be children fluctuating and carried around by the waves. We are not to be carried about by every wind of teaching. We are to be anchored in sound teaching. We are to have roots that go down deep into the gospel truth of Christ crucified. We are to be enamored by the latest author or speaker. There are lots of doctrinal winds blowing. Everyone has opinions about truth. There is wisdom in reading outside our century. There is wisdom in reading from the 200’s and the 1200’s and the 1600’s. When we see the continuity of the gospel message throughout church history, the foundations of the faith that believers held dear throughout the ages, we are protected from the gimmics of our age that try to sell us something that sounds like the gospel, but is really a plastic immitation. There are those who would deceive us. There are those who would cheat us out of the truth for personal gain. The church is to have a role preparing and strengthening the saints to stand firm in the faith once-for-all delivered.

Grow Up in Truth and Love

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up

in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together

by every joint with which it is equipped,

when each part is working properly, makes the body grow

so that it builds itself up in love.

Truth without love is cruel. Love without truth is empty. The church is to be equipped to speak, to live and declare truth. The church is to be equipped to speak truth in love, with a genuine desire to do good to others. The church is to grow up. We are to grow up in every way. Grow up in all things. Grow up into Christ, our head. The head is the one from whom we receive the organization and unity that holds the whole body together. The energy of each part comes from the head. The proper working of each part is directed by the head. The head causes the growth. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus causes the body to build itself up in love. The church is meant:

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The church is to guard against false doctrine. The church is to speak truth in love. To be submitted to Christ our only head. To function properly as unique and varied members of one body. To buld up the body in love.

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

January 11, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation

11/20 Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161120_leviticus-19_19-37.mp3

Leviticus 19 is about holiness. This chapter commands “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” We are to be holy because God is holy. God is holy, but holiness is one of those words that is a bit elusive. Holiness a difficult concept to define. We need something tangible to understand what holiness means. This chapter gives us a very practical description of what holiness looks like. And holiness touches every area of life. The first 10 verses covers subjects like authority, time, idolatry, worship, and giving. The next 8 verses deal with respect for others, respect for personal property, respect for God’s name, respect for neighbor, for employee, for the disabled, respect for the legal system, respect for those who have personally wronged you.

The final sections deal with topics ranging from agricultural practices, to sexual harassment, the occult, prostitution, holy days, holy places, respect for the elderly, care for immigrants and foreigners, and fair commerce. Holiness is comprehensive. It deals with all of life.

Verses 1-10 fall into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD your God.” Verses 11-18 also divides into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD.” The final section, verses 19-37 is bracketed by the phrase at the beginning of verse 19 “You shall keep my statutes” which is repeated and expanded in verse 37 “And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them“. This sections uses the prases “I am the LORD your God” and “I am the LORD” 4 times each in an alternating ‘abba’ then ‘baab’ pattern.

We are to be holy because the LORD our God is holy. But what holiness looks like for us will differ in many ways from what holiness looks like for God. We are to be holy because God is holy. But our holiness will be the holiness of a creature, where God’s holiness is the holiness of the Creator. We cannot be holy in the ulitmate sense of the word, totally unique, distinct, separate, other; absolutely unique and unparalleled. God’s holiness means that there is no one like God. But we are to be separate, distinct, set apart from sin, from the world.

Leviticus 19 is addressed to the nation of Israel after they had been delivered from Egypt and before they entered the promised land. This chapter gives instructions for what holiness was to look like for them then. What holiness looks like for us will be different in some ways from what holiness looked like for ancient Israel, and in some ways it will be very much the same.

Holiness then as now was never a way to gain favor with God, but rather it is a response to God’s unilateral forgiveness toward sinners, who has made a way for us to enjoy relationship with him. ‘If you love me you will keep my commands’ Jesus said. And we only love because he first loved us. Holiness is a response to God’s grace and love.

Holy Mixture

Leviticus 19:19 “You shall keep my statutes.

You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind.

You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed,

nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

There is no reason given in the text for these commands. This echoes back to the creation where God made plants and animals to bear fruit and reproduce each after its kind [different Hebrew word “miyn”; here “kil’ayim”]. We may get a hint of why in a parallel passage in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 22:9 “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited [lit. become holy] , the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.

The word translated ‘forfeited’ [qadash] is literally ‘become holy,’ or set apart, dedicated to the LORD. Mixtures of different kinds were set apart to the LORD. We know from Exodus 30 that the specific blend of aromatic spices that made up the holy incense was not to be made for common use. We know from Exodus 28 that the holy garments to set apart the priesthood were to be made of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and and fine twined linen. We also learn from Ezekiel’s description in chapters 1 and 10 of the cherubim around God’s throne that they were composite beings, each with the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. So it is possible that these laws were meant to guard the holiness of God’s sanctuary.

Sexual Assault

Leviticus 19:20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the LORD, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.

This is an interesting case. In the very next chapter (Lev.20:10) the consequence for adultery is that both the man and woman are to e put to death. Deuteronomy 22 addresses adultery the same way, then goes on to the case of a man who has relations with a betrothed woman. If it is in the city, where she could have cried for help but didn’t, they are both killed. But if it was in the country only the male is killed because it is assumed that she cried for help but there was no one to rescue her. In the case of a man who has relations with a woman who is not betrothed, he is required to marry her, and to give her father the full bride price. In this chapter, at issue is a slave woman. She has no consequences, because she is not free, and may not have felt she could resist. He is held accountable to the LORD for his actions. He has sinned against the LORD, and must bring a guilt offering Sexual assault against someone who is vulnerable is a sin against the LORD, and the wages of sin is death. In this case, God mercifully accepts the sacrifice of a substitute.

Horticulture and Firstfruits

Leviticus 19:23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God.

Notice this is a law specific to entrance into the land of promise. Literally this says ‘you shall regard its fruit as uncircumcised. A common practice in orchards is to pinch off the buds of young trees for the first years to strengthen them so that they produce more later. The fruit of the fourth year is a specific type of firstfruits offering, a setting apart all the fruit for the Lord, a recognition that every good thing belongs to the Lord and comes from the Lord. It is given back as an offering of praise to the LORD

The Occult

Leviticus 19:26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it.

You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.

27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.

These laws specifically forbid occult practices. Eating blood, interpreting omens, telling fortunes, cutting the edges of the hair or self mutilation were connected to worship of false gods. We have a graphic illustration of this in 1 Kings 18 with the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

God’s people are not to engage in occult practices of any kind, self harm or self mutilation.

Prostitution, Holy Times, Holy Places

Leviticus 19:29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.

30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

Prostitution was often connected with false worship. Greed is a manifestation of false worship. It is demonic for a parent to offer a daughter as a prostitute for the sake of money. Even in desperate poverty, we are to look to the LORD to provide for our needs, and to walk in obedience. God reminds his people of proper worship; keep my Sabbaths. Reverence my sanctuary.

The Occult

Leviticus 19:31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.

We have an example of this in 1 Samuel 28, when Saul was afraid and ‘enquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him’ (v.6), so he turned to a medium to conjure up Samuel from the grave. Attempts to seek information about the future are inappropriate outside of biblical revelation. God is the one who holds the future, and it is his to reveal or conceal what will take place. It is ours to trust him. When we don’t know what will happen, we are to walk in faith filled obedience to what he has told us to do.

Honor the Aged

Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Verse 3 told us we are to fear mother and father. Here we are taught to honor and respect the elderly and fear God. In a culture that questions the value of the elderly and dismisses them as irrelevant we would do well to listen to this instruction. In a culture that considers disrespect as funny and cool, we need to regain a proper fear of the LORD, who tells us to rise before the gray head, and honor the face of the old man.

Love the Stranger

Leviticus 19:33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

This is the counterpart to verses 17 and 18; to the brother or neighbor who wrongs you, love him as yourself. Now we are told; do not wrong a foreigner, but treat him as a native, and love him as yourself. The motive? You know what it is like to be a foreigner and to be mistreated. Love, actively seeking the good of the other, even when it costs us, is to characterize our relationships, especially with those we would tend not to love. We are to love those who have wronged us. We are to love those that are different from us and potentially vulnerable in society. We are not to take advantage of them. Rather we are to treat them as we would want to be treated.

Fair Commerce

Leviticus 19:35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity.

36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

If you’re selling something, describe it accurately. Deal honestly. Do not seek to increase profits by deceit. Why? Because the LORD is God. He is our deliverer, our rescuer, we bear his name, so he can define how we are to conduct ourselves as his representatives.

Live Different

Leviticus 19:37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the LORD.”

God cares how we act. Holiness matters. We are his ambassadors. His representatives. In everything we do. In every area of life. All the time. We are to be men and women of character, of integrity, of love. We are to live in a way that is different than the world.

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

You know how the world works. But it shall not be so among you. Serve others, because Jesus came to serve you. Love others, because Jesus first loved you. Give your life for others, because Jesus gave his life for you.

Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Rather work so you can give. Honor your parents. Honor the elderly. Treat the poor the disabled and the vulnerable with digninty and resepect. Don’t take advantage of anyone. Love your enemies. Love them as you love yourself. Show hospitality to strangers. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Be holy in all your conduct.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You belong to God, so glorify God in your body. In everything you do.

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

Holiness touches all of life. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

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

November 22, 2016 Posted by | podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment