PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

03/29 Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200329_kept-in-peace.mp3

As I was contemplating God’s peace in the middle of uncertain times, a familiar verse came to mind. It goes like this:

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

This is a great verse of encouragement and hope to cling to. Just last week, someone gave me a little laminated scrap of paper with this verse written on it.
Kept in Peace

You keep him in ‘peace peace’, perfect peace. Last week we looked at the peace of Christ; Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (Jn,14:27). This is ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding;’ peace that ‘will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.4:7). This is the peace that you are to have ‘rule in your hearts …and be thankful’ (Col.3:15). God is our keeper; the keeper of peace; you will keep him in perfect peace.

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.’ In Colossians 3, we saw that this peace is for those who have believed in Jesus, who have been completely forgiven, who have been raised with Christ, who are experiencing new life in Jesus. And we believers are commanded to ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is’ (Col.3:1); we are to. ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Col.3:2). We are to steady the attention of our minds on Jesus, to set our affections on him; our hearts and thoughts are to be captured by him. So many things compete for our affections and our attention, but we are to fix our attention on him.

When we set mind and heart on Jesus, our minds are steadied,stayed on you’. This is passive; God’s word and God’s character have a steadying effect on our minds. God himself maintains and steadies us.

Because He Trusts in You

Because he trusts in you. Here is the means of being kept, being steadied. We are to trust, trust in God alone. Not trust in him and… But trust in him. Period. We are kept in peace because we trust in God. Not because of our act of trust, but because of the object in which our trust is placed. Because God is dependable. Because God is unchanging. Because God is our rock, because God is our security.

Not our health; that may fail. Not our savings; that may evaporate. Not our families; that can be stripped away. Not our jobs; there is no lasting security there. If our hope is in those things, if we are counting on, depending on, trusting in those things, they will fail us. They can all be gone in a moment.

This is what Jesus taught us;

Matthew 19:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where is your hope? Where is your heart? What are you holding on to? Where is your security?

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 LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord God is the only absolute in an uncertain and shifting world. The LordGod; in the Hebrew ‘Yah YHWH’ is an everlasting rock. The Rock of Ages. YHWH, the one who is, the self existent, the absolute, the independent I AM.

Context of Global Judgment

This is a powerful pointer to where we get real peace. This was a verse I was familiar with, and I wanted to chew on this verse and see it in its context, so I looked it up. The verse is in Isaiah 26, tucked away in chapters 24-27, which are sometimes referred to as Isaiah’s little apocalypse.

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 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 LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

This song is sung by God’s people, because, verse 5 says;

Isaiah 26:5 For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”

I was a bit surprised by the context. God’s people sing their confidence in God’s salvation as a result of God’s humbling the proud and lifted up of the world.

Isaiah warns of the downfall of Jerusalem because of their disobedience, pride and idolatry. God raised up the enemies of Israel to punish his people. But even in the midst of his discipline, there is hope. God disciplines his people for their good, and will ultimately crush their enemies.

Isaiah 24-27 put this in an end-times global perspective. These chapters give us a climactic vision of God ruling the nations in judgment and salvation. God will lay low everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of him. The lofty city is a picture of self-confidence, independence, and pride.

Look back at chapter 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. …3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

Notice it is the Lord himself who does this. Why?

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. …10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.

Why does the Lord execute judgment on the whole earth? Because of sin. Because of our rejection of God’s commands. Because we refuse to listen to him, to follow his ways. Because of our guilt. The wages of our sin is death.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. 20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

Isaiah 24 ends with the Lord punishing both angels and human rulers because of their guilt and, ‘the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders’ (Is.24:23).

Response of Worship

Listen to the response of God’s people to his just and terrible punishment of the wicked”

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

God’s people respond to his justice with worship. They sing his praise because God’s judgment on those who persist in evil and pride and refuse to turn to him is right and good. God is patient, slow to anger, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9). But God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Num.14:18). God’s justice is wonderful, worthy of praise. God’s people praise him for his justice, but it doesn’t stop there.

Isaiah 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…

Even God’s enemies will give him glory because of his absolute justice.

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

Every knee will bow and give glory to God. Some knees will never bow, except under the mighty hand of God’s justice.

Isaiah 26:9 …For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

God’s people recognize the sanctifying effect of God’s wrath, and even pray for it. There is a good end to God’s justice. Some may repent and turn to the Lord before it is too late.

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

Isaiah 26:8 In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Are you willing to wait in the path of God’s judgments? If that is where God will meet you, is he of more value to you than your own comfort and convenience? This is the true heart of a follower of Jesus. You, Lord are the desire of our soul. My soul years for you. My spirit earnestly seeks you. I want above all for your name to be honored, your will to be done. Above my need for daily bread and personal safety is my desire for you Lord to get the honor and worship that is your due. Does your heart resonate with this yearning? O Lord, make it so!

Resurrection Confidence

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 LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

Peace, Jesus’ own peace, perfect peace to the one who is stabilized by the immovable anchor of the unchanging character of God. Trust. Trust in the Lord forever. He is worthy of your trust. He will never leave you; he will not fail you. No matter what happens, you are safe.

Does this imply that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and that if bad things do happen, it is an indication of your lack of faith? No, no no! God’s perfect peace is not exemption from the storms, but peace in the middle of the storms. God’s peace is not seen in circumstances. God’s peace is deeper than that. Times of trial wean us away from temporary pleasures to that which is lasting and true.

Jesus says something that at first sounds contradictory in John 11.

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

In one breath he says that believers will die and live again, and in the next breath he says that believers will never die. Are we exempt from death, or aren’t we? It is clear from history that believers in Jesus still experience death, many in unthinkable ways. But does this contradict what Jesus says in the very next breath that believers will never die? Clearly he is talking about death and life in different ways. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he will experience death physically, yet his body will physically be raised again. And everyone who experiences inward life (or new birth) and believes in Jesus will never experience spiritual death or separation from God. For the believer, to be ‘away from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2Cor.5:8). Eternal life, Jesus taught, is knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn.17:3). He taught a similar thing in Mark 8.

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

He clarifies that he is talking about two different kinds of life when he says something similar in John 12.

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Seeking to preserve physical life in this world at the cost of a relationship with God is folly; but risking this physical life for the hope of eternal life with God is true wisdom.

The peace of Jesus is not exemption from trials or suffering (Jesus actually promised we would experience those); rather the peace of Jesus preserves us through the trials. We will experience physical death, and yet we shall truly live. We see that our ultimate hope is rooted in the resurrection right in the context of this verse in Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.

For the one who trusts in the Lord, we have a sure and steadfast hope beyond the grave. Death is not the end. Christians believe in the resurrection. This life is not all there is, to be held on to at all costs. No, if our hope is in Jesus even death can’t interrupt that! ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job13:15)

Listen to our hope in the imagery painted in Isaiah 25:

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

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him. The God who swallows up death forever, who will wipe away our every tear. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Trust in the YHWH forever, for Yah YHWH is an everlasting rock! Trust him for he is trustworthy. Let your mind be stayed on him. Let him keep you.

***

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

April 4, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Peace of Christ (Colossians 3)

03/22 The Peace of Christ (Colossians 3:14-17); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200322_peace-of-christ.mp3

The Peace of Christ

There’s a verse in Paul’s letter to the Colossians that I want to look at with you today. Colossians 3:15 says

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The peace of Christ. Peace that comes from Jesus; Jesus’ very own peace. I want the peace of Christ to rule in my heart. I want your hearts to be ruled by the peace of Christ, no matter what we face in the days ahead.

In John 14, Jesus said to his fear-filled and troubled disciples (14:1, 27), whose hearts were filled with sorrow (16:6, 22) because he had told them he was leaving them and life for them would be hard,

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

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 promised to give them his own peace. Peace in the midst of affliction. Peace in adverse circumstances. Peace when death is looming large. Peace that is able to think of others above self even while being crucified.

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.”

In the world you will have tribulation. But in me you can have peace.

Paul instructs the Philippians

Philippians 4:6 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.

The peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. We need God’s peace to replace our anxiety and guard our minds and hearts. We need the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. How does this work?

Peace Commanded

Notice, this is a command. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule’ is a command for us to obey. For you grammar geeks, it is a present active imperative. It is not something that happens automatically. We need to obey this command. We need to let the peace of Christ be our umpire, to decide, to determine, to direct and control. So how do we do that?

If Therefore; Gospel Transformation

This verse appears in Colossians chapter 3, which gives instructions for Christian living. This is the third chapter in a letter, so it’s not fair just to jump in here without following the logic of the letter. Chapter 3 begins with ‘If therefore’. ‘Therefore’ is a connection; because of everything I have already said, therefore, do this. ‘If’ assumes something is true of you. ‘If therefore you have been raised up with Christ.’

If this isn’t true of you, you can’t go any further. You can’t obey the command to let the peace of Christ rule if you haven’t been first raised up with Christ. What is this talking about?

At the opening of this letter, Colossians 1:4 says:

Colossians 1:4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

This letter is written to believers, people who have put their faith in Christ Jesus. This is written to those who have heard the gospel, the word of truth, to those who understand the grace of God, his free gift to those who couldn’t earn it and will never be worthy of it.

He says in 1:12 that the Father has made us sufficient; He

Colossians 1:12 …has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

This is written to the redeemed, those who have been forgiven of all their sins, who have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

He addresses us in 1:21

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

He addresses believers, those who are trusting in, depending on, holding fast to the good news that Jesus’ death is sufficient to reconcile sinners to God and make us blameless in his sight.

In chapter 2 he cautions against false teachers and exhorts us to remain anchored in Jesus, walking in dependence on him alone.

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

He refers to circumcision and baptism, two symbols of putting off or putting to death our old way of life:

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

The debt is canceled. We died with Christ, and we have been raised again through faith to a new kind of life.

It is to those who have embraced Jesus by faith, who have believed the good news that all our sins were legally once for all dealt with at the cross, who have died and been made alive with Christ by God’s resurrection power; it is to those that he gives his instructions in chapter 3.

So I want to invite you, if you are listening right now, and this is not true of you, right now, turn and cry out to Jesus, a sinner in need of forgiveness. Ask him to cancel your debt and make you new. Believe him. Trust him, that what he accomplished on the cross is everything necessary for you to be rescued from what you deserve. You can’t add anything. Receive his gift.

Setting Mind and Heart on Christ

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

Because of what is true of us in the gospel, because we have been raised with Christ to a new kind of life, our hearts and our minds should pursue different things. Seek the things above; seek Jesus, set your mind on Jesus. Your life is hid with Christ in God; Christ is your life. Christ is your treasure. Set your mind and your heart on him.

Remember, these are active commands. Seek the things above, set your minds on things above. What are you looking at? What are you reading? What are you thinking about? What are you listening to? This does not mean that we have our heads in the clouds and are oblivious to the things happening around us. But it does mean that our attention, in the midst of breaking news, is fixed on the one who is sovereign over life and death, on the one who is upholding all things by his powerful word, on the one in whom is our only hope in life and in death. This means that we need to keep the gospel always in front of us, to consciously set our highest affections on Christ, and to filter every headline through the gospel truth that we believe. Our hope is a gospel hope, a firm assurance that looks beyond the grave.

Put Off / Put On

Because of this hope, because of what is true of us in Christ, because we have died and been raised to a new kind of life, because our hearts and our minds are pursuing a greater affection, we should live differently than we once did. Paul says that because we have died to our sins, we should now put to death the actions that are consistent with our old dead desires. He says

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: …

And he gives a laundry list of what is earthly, the way we once walked, because of which the wrath of God was coming. He instructs us to put this kind of lifestyle to death, to put it away, to strip it off like a contaminated set of clothes. He uses this metaphor of clothing; putting off and putting on. We have been washed clean on the inside; it doesn’t make much sense after taking a shower and getting clean to then put back on the same reeking, filthy, germ ridden clothes you were wearing before bathing. We are to put on a fresh set of clothes because we are clean.

Colossians 3:9 …you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying. Don’t wear that around any more. Those things bring God’s wrath, and you are dead to that.

This is the new set of clothes that we are to wear after having been cleansed by the blood of Jesus:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

Notice, that is who we are. Chosen by God. Holy, set apart by God. Loved by God. We have been forgiven of all our trespasses through trust in Christ. We have been raised with Christ. Our life is hidden with Christ in God. That is our new identity.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

This is the context where he says:

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

The peace of Christ is now to arbitrate every response, every word, every reaction. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom.5:1). Because we are now at peace with God, peace should rule our hearts and emotions. We are no longer at war, in fear of death; rather death has lost its sting, and we are forever secure and at peace with God.

Peace and the Body of Christ

Because we are at peace with God, because the peace of Christ is arbitrating in our hearts, we can be at peace with one another. See the community here? You were called to the peace of Christ in one body. You are called not only to be at peace with one another, but to promote the peace of Christ. This is so important.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

We are to set our hearts and minds on Christ, we are to have the peace of Christ be the deciding factor in our hearts, and we are to have the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Only then are we in a position to encourage the community of believers. And that is what we are called to! Teaching one another, admonishing one another, singing with one another, giving thanks with one another. In this time, especially, that one another ministry is so vitally important!

-Set your mind and heart on Christ

-Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart

-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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March 27, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2020 Vision; Healthy Church – Colossians 3

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

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

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

Not a Building

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

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

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

Healthy Believers Healthy Church

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

Colossians

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

The Miracle of New Birth

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

The Bedrock Identity of Jesus and the Offense of the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

Indicative/Imperative

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

Mind Set on Things Above

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

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

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

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

Are you fixing your thinking on things above?

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

The Crucified Life

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

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

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

The Peace of Christ

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

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

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

The Word of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Steadfastly in Prayer

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Knowing Christ Crucified

03/24 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Knowing Christ Crucified; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130324_1cor2_1-5.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

1 Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ θεοῦ. 2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον· 3 κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς, 4 καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖ σοφίας ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως, 5 ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul is addressing the divisions in the church in Corinth. He appeals to them on the basis of everything the Lord Jesus Christ stands for, that they agree and that there be no divisions. He brings them back to the simplicity of the gospel message that they had believed as a remedy for their pride and quarreling. He was sent by Christ primarily to proclaim a message. The message he preached, he says in 1:18-25, the word of the cross, the good news of a crucified Messiah, seemed foolish, even scandalous to an educated audience. The expectation of the Messiah was one who would be victorious, conquer and rule, not one who would get arrested and executed. The message of Christ crucified seemed weak, but this very message is what proved to be the power of God for salvation to all who believed.

In 1:26-31, Paul points to the background and social status of the believers in Corinth to illustrate that God’s method was contrary to human wisdom, because for the most part, it was the lower classes, the foolish, the weak, the nobodies in society who believed. The message seemed foolish, and the ones who believed the message also seemed foolish. God is determined to shame the worldly wise and bring to nothing the things that seem strong and powerful so that no one can boast in his presence.

Here in 2:1-5, Paul holds up his own method of preaching as lowly, weak, and foolish, to show that his methods matched the nature of the gospel message. He presented the foolishness of the gospel to foolish people in a foolish way, so that God was able to take all the credit and get all the glory for the results.

He is picking up the thought that he left off in 1:17;

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

And now he continues:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Let’s look first at what Paul did not do, then at what he did do, and then why he did things that way.

Paul’s Approach – Negative

What did Paul avoid when he preached the gospel? Remember, as he mentioned back in verse 17, to preach the gospel in the wrong way is to empty the cross of Christ of its power. So what methods does Paul avoid? Paul says:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

This corresponds to what he said back in verse 17 “not with words of eloquent wisdom”; literally ‘not in wisdom of words’ [οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου]; here it is ‘not in lofty words or wisdom’ [οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας]. So far Paul has said a lot about wisdom: In 1:19 he quotes God in the Old Testament saying “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise”. He asks in 1:20 “where is the wise?” and asserts that ‘God has made foolish the wisdom of the world’. In 1:21 the wisdom of God determined that man’s wisdom would not lead to a relationship with God. In 1:22 wisdom is what Greeks seek. But in 1:24 Christ is the wisdom of God, and in 1:25 God’s foolishness is wiser than men. In 1:26-27, not many of the Corinthian believers were wise according to worldly standards; God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. In 1:30 God made Christ Jesus our wisdom.

Paul refuses to use lofty words or wisdom, or wisdom of words. Is Paul anti-intellectual? Is Paul promoting a faith that is illogical or irrational, contrary to the evidence? Paul himself made it his practice to ‘reason from the Scriptures’ and to ‘try to persuade’ (Acts 18:4). He is not encouraging us to disengage our brains. He never encourages us to believe contrary to evidence or logic. We are commanded by Jesus to love God with all our minds (Mt.22:37). We are commanded to seek understanding (2Tim.2:7), to be mature in our thinking (1Cor.14:20), to think about what is true (Phil.4:8), and to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pet.3:18). Here we are told that Jesus Christ is our wisdom.

So the wisdom that God destroys, the wisdom that Paul avoids, the wisdom that God will make foolish, is wisdom of words, lofty high sounding wisdom, wisdom of the wise, human wisdom, the wisdom of the world. This is the wisdom of crowd pleasing, ear tickling, preacher promoting, designed to impress with the talent of the messenger more than the truth of the message. Paul refuses to come with lofty speech or wisdom.

In verse 2, he says “I decided to know nothing among you except…” We will come back to what that one thing was in a minute. Here I want to point out that he resolved to know nothing else. We might expect him to say something like ‘I know a lot of things, but I resolved to preach on only one thing; I determined to speak only one thing.’ Instead he says that he decided to know nothing else. He set everything else aside. He was single-minded. Nothing else was really worth thinking about. He had one thing that captured his heart and consumed his thoughts. One thing oozed out of his every pore. Everything else was considered nothing compared to this one thing. Back to that one thing in a moment.

Verse 4 he says that his words and his preaching were not in plausible words of wisdom. Not with skillful persuasion, designed to sway with clever arguments. Paul did try to persuade everyone. But he refused to manipulate anyone. As he says in 2 Corinthians 4

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul’s Approach – Positive

The open statement of the truth. If Paul refused to manipulate people, if he refused to employ lofty sounding speech that would impress his hearers and stroke his own ego, then what was his method? Verse 1 tells us

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

This not only tells us the approach he avoided, but also the content he communicated. He came proclaiming the testimony of God or the mystery of God. He announced, declared, proclaimed the message, the truth from God. The message he announced was God’s message, not his own, so he was not at liberty to tamper with the message.

He describes the manner of his coming in verse 3.

3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

This is quite the opposite of the sophists and philosophers of his day. Who wants to listen to someone who can barely stand, whose knees knock together and whose hands shake almost uncontrollably? We don’t know for sure what Paul’s physical presence was like. A second century document describes him as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked’ [Acts of Paul and Thecla, cited by Morris, p.51]. If we put some of the background of his visit to Corinth together from the narrative in Acts, we may be able to appreciate more of what he describes here as ‘weakness, fear and much trembling’. Toward the end of his first missionary journey, there was an attempt on Paul’s life in Iconium, so he fled to Lystra. The Jews followed him there and persuaded the crowd to stone him. He was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead. On his second journey, Paul was beaten with rods and imprisoned in Philippi. After being released, they went to Thessalonica, where there was a riot, and the brothers sent them away by night to Berea. The Jews from Thessalonica came and agitated the crowds, so the brothers sent him off by sea to Athens and he was there alone. After a short and discouraging time in Athens, he came to Corinth. We can imagine the physical condition of Paul. I suspect that being stoned and left for dead would leave an impression on a person. He may have been quite a rough looking character, scarred and disfigured.

But his weakness, fear, and trembling can be explained another way. In 2 Corinthians, he describes the apostolic ministry as spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, which is a fragrance of death to those who are perishing and a fragrance of life to those who are being saved. And he asks the question ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ [2Cor.2:15-16]. The sheer weight of the responsibility of preaching Christ and the realization that for some this is the fragrance from death to death should cause anyone who takes on the task of preaching Christ to be weak in the knees with much fear and trembling. Paul must have felt the weight of his responsibility so acutely in Corinth that the Lord encouraged him one night in a vision.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul did not approach ministry in strength, self-assured, confident and capable. He had learned the secret of effective ministry, that Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness (2Cor.12:9). So he was with them in weakness and in fear and much trembling.

Verse 4 tells us that his speech and his message were in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Some have taken this to mean that there were supernatural phenomena accompanying his ministry. And in other places, Acts records signs and wonders being done at the hands of the apostles. But there is no record of any supernatural signs in Acts 18, which documents Paul’s visit to Corinth. And this would not fit well with the statement he just made that he was with them in weakness and fear and much trembling. It also would not fit well with his argument in 1:22 that Jews demand signs, if his preaching in Corinth had been accompanied by signs.

So what does he mean when he says that his speech and message were in demonstration of the Spirit and power? This fits well with his thanksgiving in 1:6, that ‘the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you’. The power of the gospel was confirmed in Corinth when in weakness and fear the preacher preached the foolish message of the cross and dead sinners were given spiritual eyes to marvel at the beauty of the gospel and believe. This is the power of the Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn.16:8). This is the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to give life to our mortal bodies so that we can now live in a way that pleases God (Rom.8:11). This is transforming grace that as we turn our attention to Christ, we are being transformed into his image by the Spirit (2Cor.3:18). The foolish message was preached in Corinth by a weak and fearful preacher, and the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1Cor.6:9-11). That was irrefutable evidence of the Spirit and of power.

Resolved to Know One Thing

How did this power come to them? This is what happens when the cross of Christ is not emptied of its power. The word of the cross is the power of God to to us who are being saved. This preaching of Christ crucified is Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. This is why Paul resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The one thing that had captured his heart and consumed his thoughts and shaped his life was Jesus. Specifically Jesus Christ crucified. This is why he doesn’t say ‘I determined not to speak about anything else or preach about anything else’. He says ‘I determined not to know anything else’, because you can speak or preach about an idea or a thing or an event, but you can only know a person. This one relationship so consumed him that he could write to the Philippians

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

This relationship, Jesus said, is the definition of eternal life.

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

He resolved, he purposed, he determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The person and work of Christ is the one thing that is at the center of the gospel. Who Jesus is; the Christ, God’s anointed Messiah, God in the flesh, the only Son of God, God from all eternity, perfectly obedient to his Father. What Jesus did; the perfect Lamb of God, our substitute, crushed for our iniquities, wounded for our transgressions, the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:5-6). ‘Crucified’ is a perfect passive participle; it is a past completed action that has results which continue. We know Jesus today as the crucified one. We can only know him because he was crucified in our place. This crucified one will remain the center of worship for all eternity.

Revelation 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, …9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Paul resolved to know one thing, and one thing only. Everything else he determined to put aside. That one thing was Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Paul resolved to preach a cross-centered message, and to present it in a cross-shaped manner.

Faith Resting on a Sure Foundation

The purpose of Paul’s method was this.

5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul knew that if he mastered their intellect with logical arguments, there would always be the chance that someone else would come along with something that sounded more persuasive and sway them in a different direction. If he manipulated their emotions with a stirring appeal, their passions might just as quickly carry them off after something else that moved them. If he persuaded them with his powerful personality, they would be his disciples and not Christ’s. Paul knew that faith resting in the wisdom of men is shaky faith built on a shaky foundation. Paul’s preaching Christ crucified, preaching in weakness and fear and trembling, made room for a demonstration of the Spirit and God’s power so that faith would rest solidly on the power of God.

If faith is rooted in the wisdom of men, faith would be a system of belief that I can pride myself in that by my faith I have made sense of the universe. But if faith is dependence on another born in humility out of conviction of my sin and need, then my faith is looking away from myself to another for rescue. That faith is as strong as the object in which it is placed. If my faith is placed in the historical and theological facts of the person and work of Jesus, then faith is crying out to Jesus to save, and faith is counting on Jesus to be faithful to his promises. Jesus is the only sure foundation for your faith to rest on. Christ crucified is the good news, the power of God and the wisdom of God, the power of God to save believers, Christ who is my righteousness and Christ who is my sanctification and Christ who is my redemption.

I pray that your faith might rest on Christ crucified, the power of God. I pray that together we would resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 

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

March 24, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gospel for Believers

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120701_gospel-for-believers.mp3

07/01 Power of God for Salvation (Rom.1:16; 1Cor.1:18)

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That he was buried. That he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. That he appeared. I am not ashamed of this good news, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

My first inclination is to think of this verse evangelistically; that the gospel is the power of God which saves unbelievers and makes them believers. That is true. And if you are here today and don’t yet have a forgiven, intimate, love relationship with the God of the universe, I pray that God’s power through the gospel would penetrate your heart today. But I’m assuming that most of you here today are believers in Jesus, so I want to talk specifically to you. Have you considered that the gospel is good news for those who are already believing in Jesus?

Consider who is addressed in the book of Romans.

Romans 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you– 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel and he is eager to preach the gospel to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints, those whose faith is being proclaimed in the world, those whose faith is capable of encouraging the apostle. Paul intends to benefit the saints, to impart some spiritual gift by preaching the gospel to believers. And then Paul writes out his most lengthy, systematic, carefully reasoned defense and explanation of the gospel to the believers there in Rome.

So I want to ask some questions this morning to help us as believers better understand and appreciate the gospel. The gospel of Christ crucified is indeed the only message by which the lost can enter into a relationship with their Creator, and we must be passionate and intentional about the work of missions and evangelism.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

But the power of the gospel doesn’t end at conversion. The power of the gospel is at work in believers, and the power of the gospel will be effective for eternity.

Why Not Ashamed?

The first question I want to ask is why would Paul say that he is not ashamed of the gospel? This would imply that some might think he has reason to be ashamed of this message. Some may have been concerned that the reason he hadn’t yet preached in the capital city of Rome was because he didn’t think his message was good enough – he was embarrassed of the gospel. Paul emphatically states that he is eager to preach the gospel also in Rome. Another reason to be ashamed may have been Paul’s prison ministry – from the inside. What kind of a message would get a person repeatedly beaten, stoned, left for dead, and locked up? It must be a weak message if it offers so little protection for the messenger. Paul says no, it is the power of God for salvation. For another potential cause for shame, we turn to 1 Corinthians 1.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

This gives us further clarification on just what exactly the gospel message consisted of. Paul here calls it ‘the word of the cross’. The good news is good news about the cross. The death of Messiah on the cross for our sins is the content of the gospel message. So the shameful objection is this: this message is folly. It is foolishness. How can it be good news that the founder of your movement got himself crucified? Jesus throughout his earthly ministry pointed to the necessity of his crucifixion. He came with the intent to die. Not only that, but he required of his followers that they also take up their own crosses. This does not sound like an attractive message. How can a crucified King inviting his subjects to follow him in crucifixion be good news? Paul is undaunted; the cross is powerful! God chooses destroy the wisdom of the wise with this shameful message.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

The apostle was not ashamed of this scandalous message, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Who Are Being Saved

Notice how he says it in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved. That is a present passive participle. The present tense points to something that is going on right now. The passive voice means that it is something that is happening to us – we are not performing the action; we are being acted upon by another. We are being saved. Is Paul pointing to those who are this moment entering into a relationship with Christ? I don’t think so, because he doesn’t say ‘to those who are being saved’ but ‘to us who are being saved’. The apostle said at the moment of writing that he was currently in the process of being saved by the power of God in the message of the cross. Do you have a category in your theology for this? Can you say that you are right now being saved by the power of God at work in you through the good news?

We often focus on the once-for-all past completed aspect of salvation, and rightly so, for that is a precious truth, but if it is to the neglect of our ongoing present salvation, then it is to our own harm. We must have our feet firmly planted on the past tense final and unchangeable foundation of our salvation.

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

We have placed our trust only and completely in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for our sins, and we have been finally and forever justified, or declared not guilty in the law-court of the most high God. Nothing can revoke that decision. The author of Hebrews points back to that past action and on to this present process.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We have been perfected for all time. Past tense. Completed. And now we are being sanctified. Present tense. Ongoing process. But we are not done being saved yet. Romans tells us:

Romans 5:9 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. (cf. Rom.8:17,30)

We who have past tense been justified and reconciled, will in the future be saved by Jesus. This points forward to the final culmination of our salvation. Our salvation is past, present, and future. We have been justified; we are being sanctified; we will one day be glorified. We, believers in Jesus, are today being saved by the power of God in the word of the cross.

The Message of Galatians

This is the message of Galatians. Paul says:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–

So the message of the gospel is not something that Christians are saved by and then move on from in their Christian life. We as believers must never turn away from the gospel. The message of the cross must remain central to the Christian life, or we would be categorized as those who are deserting God. This is such a big deal that Paul publicly confronted Peter over an issue in his life that was contrary to the gospel.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. …14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Peter’s conduct of separating himself from table fellowship with Gentile believers sent a message that was contrary to the good news that the wall of separation had been broken down by the cross, contrary to the good news that we are being saved by simple trust in Jesus alone and not works. Paul cries out in chapter 3:

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–

The gospel was preached. Jesus was publicly portrayed as crucified. The past tense salvation was by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This was a work of the Holy Spirit in you. He urges that the present tense salvation, the daily Christian walk, our sanctification is also not a result of our own efforts. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that continues by hearing the gospel with faith. The gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is the power of God for our present process of salvation.

Summary of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15

Look at Paul’s concise summary of the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15, and notice again the present value he sees in preaching the gospel to believers.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…

The good news was preached. They received it. They believed it. They are standing in it. They are presently being saved by the gospel as they hold fast to it. It is of primary importance. The gospel message we as believers are to cling to is that the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared. This is the good news that we as believers need to be reminded of. This is the message that we must stand in. The message by which we are being saved. The message of the cross, that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), this is the power of God for our present salvation.

How the Gospel Saves Believers

But how? How does the gospel save believers? In what way is the gospel the power of God for my sanctification? How do I put this into practice in my life today? Listen to what Paul says in Romans 12

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Transformation comes by the renewing your mind with gospel truth. The good news is contrary to our natural inclinations. Actions flow out of how we think and feel. So in order for our actions to be shaped in a God-glorifying way, we must have our minds renewed by constant meditation on gospel truths.

Here’s just a few examples: in order to think correctly about God and relate to him properly, I must know that the gospel is first of all good news about our awesome God. The ultimate goal and purpose of the gospel is the glory of God. If I understand the gospel, I will be moved to humble worship. In order to think correctly about myself, I must know that I was a rebel against God, unfit for his presence and incapable of any good work. God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for me, rescued me at great personal cost to himself, paid the price I could never pay, and gives me the gift of eternal life. Now I am his prized possession, a trophy of his undeserved grace. In order to relate to others in a way that is in step with the gospel, I must know and believe that all people were created in the image of God, and that God so loved them that he gave his own Son to die for them. Because God treated me with grace and mercy when I did not deserve it, I must extend grace and mercy to those around me who do not deserve it. Since I have been freely forgiven, I must extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me.

The power for a transformed life is the power of the Holy Spirit who is at work in us when we meditation on the truth of the good news.

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.

We are transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord. The transforming glory of God is seen in ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2Cor.4:4)

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

Paul closes his letter to the Romans this way:

Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, …

Brothers and Sisters, run to the cross, meditate on the cross, cling to the message of the cross, for the power of God to us who are being saved is the word of the cross, the good news of Christ crucified for sinners.

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

July 1, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 3:8-9; God Honoring Conduct: All of You

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090329_1peter3_8-9.mp3

03/29 1 Peter 3:8-9 God honoring Conduct; All of You

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Peter has given instruction in how to conduct life in a way that proclaims the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness. We display the attributes of God by submitting to authority, authority in government, authority in the workplace, authority in the home. Our conduct puts God on display even when – especially when submitting to authority that is corrupt and ungodly. Now Peter concludes his exhortation to live in such a way that unbelievers notice our conduct and are drawn to Jesus by giving us five summary attributes that we are to display; unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender heartedness, and humility of mind. He begins and ends his list with attributes of the mind or thinking. They are compound words; like-minded and humble-minded. There is a significant focus in the bible on the mind and the thinking:

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

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

Philippians 2:2, 5 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind…Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Unity of Mind [omofronev] – this is what Jesus prayed for in John:

John 17:21-23 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

What does he mean by unity of mind or unity of thinking? What’s your favorite color? That’s mine too. What’s your favorite food? That’s mine too. What do you think about the president? That’s what I think too. Does unity of mind mean that we are all cloned into robots that think the same things about everything? Or is it something deeper and richer than that? It ought to be the sincere endeavor of every believer to so saturate our minds in the scripture that on the great issues of God and salvation we joyfully embrace the same truths. There are secondary issues that are less clear, but on the things on which the bible is clear, we must submit to God’s authority and wholeheartedly embrace his revealed truth. We share a common biblical world view and we share a common aim and purpose. Let’s not leave what this is unstated. God is God and we exist to bring him praise. In Peter’s language we exist (2:9)’to proclaim the excellencies of him’; ‘that they might… glorify God’ (2:12). We glorify God as we direct attention to Jesus with our words and our conduct. Our world view must be God centered. How do we make progress toward unity in thinking? It requires saturation in the word of God both individually and corporately. It requires fellowship and communication, effort in study and a teachable spirit.

Sympathetic [sumpayeiv]– Sympathy is entering into and experiencing the feelings of others. Not only are we to be on the same page with the truths of scripture, but we are to bear one another’s burdens; grieve with those who are experiencing sorrow, and rejoice with those who are experiencing joy (Rom.12:15). This requires effort of a different kind. Some people are hard wired to be sympathetic – my wife is one of these. Our cat just had kittens this week, and she was entering into labor right along with our cat. She is by nature a sympathetic person. But whether this comes naturally to you or not, we are all called to be and do all of these. The things that come less naturally to us, we must exert special conscious effort.

Brotherly Love [filadelfoi] – this is the centerpiece of the five admonitions. Peter has already pointed us to this in 1:22:

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

(also Rom.12:10; 1Thess.4:9; Heb.13:1; 2Pet.1:7). In Christ we have become siblings and we are to have brotherly affections toward one another. This is the mark by which others will know that we are Christians (Jn.13:34-35).

John 13:34-35 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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The first and the last words in this list have to do with the mind. The second and fourth have to do with the emotions. This word ‘brotherly love’ is more than emotion. This involves the will. It is an action word. You won’t often find brothers sitting around saying ‘I love you’ to each other. But brothers do love and it is a love that runs deep. It is a love that is expressed in action. Love at its core is seeking the highest good of the person loved. Here’s one way my brother expressed his love for me: my brother was a smoker. He once told me ‘if I ever catch you smoking, I will kill you’ – and I knew he was serious. At least in that instance, had my highest good in mind. Brotherly love can be costly. Seeking the highest good of the person you love may require you to inconvenience yourself greatly. Because ‘God caused us to be born again’ (1:3), we are his children. In Jesus Christ we are now brothers and sisters. We must love one another.

Tender hearted [eusplagcnoi]- Literally translated, this term ‘eusplangknoi‘ is ‘good boweled’ The bowels were thought to be the seat of emotions. In fact, we say ‘I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach; my stomach is in knots; I have butterflies in my stomach; or this is my gut feeling.’ This refers to the deepest of human emotions. The verb in the gospels is used exclusively of Jesus:

Mark 1:41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”

Mark 6:34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

Luke 7:13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

This is being good hearted or tender hearted, sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. This was the emotion that motivated the good Samaritan in Luke 10:33; it was what caused the father to run to embrace his prodigal son in Luke 15:20. In Ephesians 4:32 we see that this emotion toward each other is rooted in the mercy that we have experienced from God in the forgiveness of our sins:

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Humble Minded [tapeinofronev]- Peter has highlighted attitudes of the mind, emotions, will, emotions, and now back to the mind. First he said we are to have unity of mind; now he says we are to have ‘humility of mind’. What does that mean? Are we to be so modest in our thinking that we don’t claim to know anything for sure? Here’s a tension I want to highlight. We are told:

Jude 1:3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

How do we reconcile this command to fight for truth with the command Peter gives us here to be ‘humble-minded’? In 1908, G.K.Chesterton, a British writer said:

“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason… We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table” [Orthodoxy, p.31-32; cited in Piper, Brothers We are Not Professionals, p.162]

Humility of mind is not the abandonment of conviction but a subordination to God and his truth. Jesus said ‘you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). Speaking truth is an instrument for salvation of unbelievers and as such it is an essential part of love. We do not know everything; 1 Corinthians 13:12 says ‘now I know in part’; and yet we are told:

Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Humility of mind is not being wishy-washy about the truth. If it were we could have no real substantial unity of mind. That’s why Paul can put unity of mind together with striving for the faith of the gospel:

Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

True humility is a gift. If it were something we could attain, we would be proud of attaining it. Humility of mind is the gift of receiving the good news and standing firmly on the rock solid truth of the good news, knowing that we did nothing to deserve it. Anything we know we know by the grace of a merciful God who chooses to reveal himself to us. And what God has revealed to us in his word we can proclaim with absolute confidence and with humility of mind.

So we are to embrace fellow believers mind, emotions and will; with brotherly love, with sympathy and a tender heart, with unity and humility of mind. But we are to go beyond this. Peter says:

3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling…

One commentary I read said that verse 8 addresses the Christian’s relationship with fellow believers and verse 9 addresses our relationship with unbelievers. An older commentary I read got it right. This was written in 1658, so the language is more difficult to follow. Alexander Nisbet said ‘The children of the Lord may resolve not only to meet with hard usage and bitter language from the profane or those that are without, but even from their fellow professors’ (p.129). He’s right. I have learned from personal experience that the most painful blows you take in ministry with other Christians are the ones you take from within the group of believers. You are on the front lines of ministry and you take a bullet. That’s no surprise. The surprise comes when you examine the wound and you realize the shot came from behind – from one of your own. Brothers and sisters, that ought not to be, but it is. And Peter, writing to believers living in a hostile community, knew that this would be the case for them as it will be for us, and he gave us some clear instruction on how to deal with it. When that happens, whether you receive evil, whether you receive insult from the world outside or from those that claim to be your brothers and sisters, do not repay with evil and with insult. When that happens, your flesh rears its ugly head and demands retribution. We might even justify it as righteous indignation. We have been hurt, we have been wronged, we have been sinned against and we want it to be made right – or more than right. That is what the laws of retribution were for – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I feel that if you took out my eye, I am justified in taking your head off. If you knocked out my tooth, I have the right to kick all your teeth down your throat. But the New Testament takes us further than simply not paying back more than is deserved. It takes us even further than not demanding immediate justice at all but leaving room for the wrath of God. Peter calls us to more than relinquishing our rights or passive inaction. Peter calls us to bless those who insult us and do evil against us. Don’t be satisfied to simply let it go; do good to the person who wronged you and pray that God would bless them.

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Jesus taught us:

Luke 6:27-36 “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. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (cf. Matthew 5:38-45)

This takes us back to what Peter said in 1:15 ‘but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,’ – our being kind to those who mistreat us reflects the character of God who was kind to us when we were his enemies.

Peter gives us the reason for this conduct:

9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

We have been called to bless those that injure us. This is the fourth reminder in Peter that God acted to call us to himself; in 1:15 ‘as he who called you is holy’; 2:9 ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness’; 2:21 ‘to this you have been called’. In 2:20-21 Peter encouraged servants that suffering for doing good is what they have been called to do:

2:20 …But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

All the way back in Genesis 12, God’s called Abram to be a blessing to all the nations.

Genesis 12:2-3 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

We are called to be a blessing to those around us, even to our enemies; especially to our enemies.

Now this all sounds good. It sounds right – until we walk out those doors and someone says something or does something to us that isn’t right. Then it all comes apart. What do we do? How can we possibly respond the way Peter commands us to respond?

“when Christianity calls upon us to do what does not seem humanly possible it shows us its genius – supernaturalism. Peter, of all men, should know what the grace of God had done for him in this respect. He had been not only fast with the sword; he had been quick with his tongue.” [D.J.Kenyon, He that will Love Life, p.197; cited in Hiebert, p.214]

Here’s the point. We cannot do this apart from the grace of God at work in our lives. The power of God has to be at work in my life to create the desire to respond this way to the various circumstances that confront me each and every day. This is not normal or natural. This is supernatural. And Peter tells us ‘if you respond this way, if you allow the power of God to work in your life so that you bless your enemies, you will inherit a blessing’. We’re going to look more at what that means next time.

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

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

March 29, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:13

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081012_1peter_1_13.mp3

1/12 1 Peter 1:13 fixing hope on future grace

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1:13 dio anazwsamenoi tav osfuav thv dianoiav umwn nhfontev teleiwv elpisate epi thn feromenhn umin carin en apokaluqei ihsou cristou

We saw in the last verses how God’s glory is put on display before the whole universe – prophets, evangelists, even angels; and you -you who are the recipients of this great salvation.

Verses 1-12 lay the theological foundation for everything that follows. Peter has packed into these twelve verses massive truth about God’s work of redemption in our lives as a ground for joy and worship. Now, in verse thirteen, he gives the first imperative command to his readers. And the command is connected inextricably with everything that went before. Verse thirteen is the hinge on which the whole letter turns. If you have a door with a hinge and the hinge isn’t anchored securely in the door frame, when you try to open the door, the door will fall on you. Peter is going to begin to give instructions to his readers, but he has spent twelve verses making sure their action is anchored securely in the truth. Because of the joy that you have in Jesus, because the Triune God is at work securing your salvation, because God by his power is ensuring that you make it to receive the inheritance that he is keeping for you, therefore you do this; therefore live like this. It is essential to see the connection here. If we rip these following verses out of their grammatical connection with what precedes, we rip the door off its hinges and we run the disastrous risk of turning this into a way for us to impress God by our own performance and win his favor, rather than seeing our holiness as a result of God’s grace and power, as a response to God’s love in Christ. In the bible what God has done for us is always the basis for how we should live our lives; the way we conduct ourselves is the outworking of what God has initiated. The word ‘therefore’ may be the most important word in the whole letter to keep us from twisting what Peter said and using it for something that he never meant.

Now we need to look for a minute at the basic sentence structure so that we can fit the parts together and see what Peter is telling us. There is one imperative, one command in this verse; it is ‘hope!’ We are commanded to hope. And we are given the object of hope; it is ‘grace’. And this is a specific kind of grace; it is a future grace – a grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. There are two participial clauses that precede the main command that tell us how to hope; you hope in future grace by ‘preparing your minds for action’ and by ‘being sober-minded’.

So we will start by looking at what it is we are commanded to do, then we will look at what it is we are hoping in, and we will finish up by looking at Peter’s practical instructions on how we are to go about obeying the command.

First, the command – hope! Thou shalt hope. A definition might be helpful here. Merriam-Webster defines hope: 1. to cherish a desire with anticipation; to desire with expectation of obtainment; and lists synonyms trust, expect or look to. Biblical hope has nothing to do with wishing about something that is highly unlikely. Biblical hope is banking on the promises of a faithful God. Biblical hope ties together the concepts of belief and joy. In order to hope, you must have something to ignite that hope within you. That’s what I hope the first twelve verses have done in us. We were going along, minding our own business, and we heard God’s word, God speaking, and God’s promises ignited hope in our hearts. If God is trustworthy and keeps his promises, then these things that I read are not only the truth, but they will prove true in my life! This is cause for great joy! If it is true that I am chosen by God, if it is true that God loves me intimately, that the Holy Spirit is at work in me to set me apart for his use, if even the suffering that I am faced with is God at work refining and purifying my faith, if I believe and embrace this truth, I cannot do it with an Eeyore attitude: ‘oh bother, I suppose it’s true, God has picked me to be on his team, he is using his awesome power to preserve me and he has an inheritance waiting for me beyond my wildest dreams. Has anyone seen my tail?’ You can’t do that! Hope not only embraces the facts as true, but there is a response of joyful expectation and eager longing. Hope is belief in the truth mixed with joyful expectation. Hope is more than merely waiting for something. Hope would not be the best word to choose if you are waiting for your root canal. Dread might be a more appropriate word for that situation – you have embraced the fact that your tooth is rotten and the drill is ready, but you are not looking forward to the procedure. Hope is looking forward to something. Hope is believing with joyful expectation. The bible uses hope almost interchangeably with believing or saving faith.

Psalms 147:11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Matthew 12:21 (of Jesus) and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Ephesians 1:12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

What is it we are commanded to place our hope in? ‘Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ The focus of our hope is to be God’s future grace. This is what Peter has already spoken of. In verse 3 God caused us to be born again to a living hope. In verse 4, we have an inheritance kept in heaven for us. In verse 5, we are being guarded by God’s power for our salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In verses 6 and 7, we see that our trials will result in God giving us praise and honor and glory in the end because our faith will have proved genuine. In verse 8 our love for Jesus and joy in Jesus is evidence of our genuine faith, and in verse 9, we will obtain the outcome of our faith and that will be the final salvation of our souls. Here, he sums up all that and calls it ‘the grace that will be brought to you’. I can’t take credit for my new birth, because God caused me to be born again. I can’t take credit for my genuine faith, because it is a gift of God and God is proving it genuine. I can’t take credit for my persevering to the end, because God in his power is at work in me enabling me to persevere to the end. And the outcome of my faith will be my final salvation and yet I cannot take any credit – it is all grace – God brought it about. So here’s what we are commanded to do: we are commanded to put our hope fully in God’s grace. We are to lean hard into what God is going to do, put our full weight on God’s future grace that is coming to us. What you are commanded to do is to depend completely on God doing the work to bring you to salvation in the end.

Isn’t it funny, that the first command in Peter’s letter is to hope? Thou shalt hope. I would expect something hard, like thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, or thou shalt love your enemies, or thou shalt not want what somebody else has. Peter is telling us the most natural thing in the world to for us to do in light of what he’s said, and he is commanding us to do it. When I see the amazing promises of God to me, and I read what God is doing in me, and I hear of the purpose he has for me, that he will not forsake me but will be faithful to bring me to completion, hope is automatically ignited in my heart – isn’t it in yours? So why does Peter feel he has to command us to hope in grace? I may have to command my kids to eat their Brussels sprouts, but I don’t think I will ever have to say ‘you’re not getting up from the table until you’ve finished all your ice cream.’ Why command what we are now inclined to do? I think we see a few reasons implied right here in the text. The first one is in the description he gives of how we are to hope – he says hope fully or hope perfectly. Our hope is naturally flawed and fickle and divided. I am hoping in God and in the government. I am trusting in Jesus and in my 401K. I am delighting in God’s promises and in my new toy. I am looking forward to heaven and to our next vacation. My affections are divided. It takes effort to re-calibrate your hope. We are used to having our hope set on things and people and money and security and events, we hope in our job and our family and our strength and abilities, we hope in our retirement and in the natural goodness of people and the capability of mankind and medicine and technological advances; and it takes conscious effort to move our hope off of those things and set it fully on grace. We are to fix our hope completely – not partially; not 50% or 80% or 95% but fully, perfectly on grace.

Peter’s focus here is a specific kind or aspect of grace. Paul in Ephesians 2 tells us that it is ‘by grace you have been saved’. That is past tense grace for past tense salvation. In Romans 5 he says ‘since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God’. Peter is looking toward the ‘grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’ God’s grace toward us in justification is awesome! God’s grace in pardoning sinners through the cross of Christ is unimaginably great! But that’s not all! There’s more to come! God has not exhausted his gracious purposes toward us!

Ephesians 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

There is grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ! Let me read a description of the revelation of Jesus Christ:

Revelation 1:13-17 …one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two–edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

We will stand before this Jesus in the presence of all the angels in heaven and he will acknowledge us before the Father; he will say:

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.’

That’s grace worth hoping for!

So we’ve looked at the main command of this verse: hope! And we’ve looked at the object of this hope – God’s future grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Now we’re going to look at the two participial phrases that give us the how of hoping. This gives us more insight into why Peter thought it was necessary to command us to hope. ‘Preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded’. ‘Preparing your minds for action’ could be literally translated ‘girding up the loins of your mind’. It’s an Old Testament metaphor that anyone in that culture would readily connect with. The standard clothing would be a long undershirt with a long robe flowing down to the ground. This is great for lounging around discussing philosophy and looking good, but it’s not so great if you need to dig a ditch or run a race. In preparation for those kind of activities, they would ‘gird up their loins’ – this meant taking all the loose tails of their robe and tucking them up into their belt so that their legs would be bare and unencumbered for vigorous action.;

Exodus 12:11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.

Job 38:3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. (also Job 40:7; Jeremiah 1:17)

Luke 12:35-36 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.

This would be the equivalent of ‘roll up your sleeves and tighten your belt’ – get ready for God to show up and be prepared to respond with instant obedience.

Peter applies this metaphor to their thinking. You have to cut off vague loosely flowing thoughts and speculations that lead nowhere and only trip you up and hinder your obedience. Bare the muscles of your mind and get ready to engage all your thinking capacity. ‘Hope will not become a reality without disciplined thinking… Thinking in a new way does not happen automatically; it requires effort, concentration, and intentionality’ (Schreiner, p.78). Fixing hope on future grace requires focused mental exertion.

And he says ‘being sober-minded’. In order to fix your hope on future grace, your mind cannot be inebriated. You will need all your mental faculties. This of course would include not being drunk with alcohol, but would also extend to anything that distorts your thinking and shifts your hope. ‘There is a way of living that becomes dull to the reality of God, that is anesthetized by the attractions of this world. When people are lulled into such drowsiness, they lose sight of Christ’s future revelation of himself and concentrate only on fulfilling their earthly desires’ (Schreiner, p.79). We must gird up the loins of our mind, and we must keep from becoming inebriated by the attractions of the world so that we can fix our hope fully on God’s future grace.

Maybe we can better understand how to fix our hope on future grace by seeing an illustration of it in the bible. Let’s look at Paul’s attitude toward the Corinthian church. The church at Corinth was a train wreck. There was blatant sexual immorality of the most perverse kind accepted by the church. They were a lawsuit-happy church; there were divisions in the church. They were a church that embraced false doctrine. They had turned against Paul and his ministry. They abused the Lord’s Supper and misused the gifts of the Spirit. Their meetings did more harm than good. They were a church completely out of control that needed strong rebuke and correction. Listen to the way Paul addresses them:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

It is amazing that Paul can find anything good to say about the Corinthians. He starts by giving thanks for past grace, and then he expresses his confidence in God’s future grace for them:

…as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is a church that is guilty guilty guilty! And Paul looks forward to the grace that will be brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and says that God will sustain them guiltless. Paul is expressing his confident expectation, not in the character of the Corinthian people, but in the faithfulness of God who called them. Paul’s faith is fixed completely on God’s future grace.

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

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

October 12, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment