PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Compelled By Substitution

01/20_2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Constrained By Substitution ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190120_2cor5_14-15.mp3

The Governing Influence

What moves you? What motivates you to action? What gets you up in the morning and propels you forward? What is the driving force in your life that moves you to do what you do? And what keeps you on course, what prevents you from veering off in an unwise direction? In 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Paul gives us his motive for ministry, and I submit to you, this would be a great passage to paint in large letters on the ceiling above your bed [or you could write it on a 3×5 card and keep it on your nightstand or on your mirror or on the dash of your car].

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

[Pray]

The love of Christ controls or constrains us; this is why we do everything we do. In the past verses Paul pointed to the fact that he lives to God and in service to others. Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (v.11). In light of the coming judgment, where every person will stand before Christ to receive what is due for what he has done in the body, good or evil (v.10), we make it our aim to please him (v.9). The love of Christ and the fear of Christ are the twin motives that propel Paul to do everything he does. He aims above all else to please his Master. Fear and love. We could put them together this way; because of the great love with which Christ has so loved him, he fears displeasing him in anything.

Doctrine Drives Desires and Decisions

The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this. Paul concluded, judged, decided or determined; this is a logical conclusion or determination drawn from doctrine. And this shows us that doctrine is not merely scholastic; doctrine is practical. Understanding the truths of scripture motivates our passions, our desires, our decisions. Many people say ‘I’m not into all that doctrine or theology stuff; I just want to follow Jesus’ – as if there was a choice between the two! Following Jesus means believing things about God – that’s the essence of theology. Everyone is a theologian – everyone believes stuff about God and life and the world. The question is not if you will do theology; the question is will you do it well, biblically, or poorly?

Paul gives us a dense theological statement that expresses the love of Christ for him, and he uses it as the motivating force for how he lives.

One Died For [ὑπέρ] All

Today we are going to attempt to unpack this statement, to treasure it, to see how it works as power to propel a life pleasing to the Lord.

One on behalf of all died

so the all died

and on behalf of all he died

in order that the living

no longer to themselves live

but to the one who on behalf of them died and was raised

This is the great love of Christ; Christ died for the ungodly (Rom.5:6). While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). The Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal.2:20).

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for [περὶ] sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, …

Jesus said:

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

Jesus died for; one died instead of, in the place of, in the name of or in the interest of, as a substitute. I deserved death. He stood in my place; he took my punishment; he died my death, for me. Jesus died for my benefit, but more than that; he died as my substitute. He took my name. Think of it this way; I was guilty of a capital crime. I stood before the judge and was condemned. I waited in my cell. The day of execution arrived, the guard came to lead me away, he called my name, and Jesus stepped forward. He answered to my name. He took my place. He died for me. That’s what 1 Peter 3:18 said; ‘Christ suffered… the righteous for the unrighteous.’

So The All Died – Romans 6 & 7

And if that happened, I had better disappear. I better never use my name again. According to the law, I am dead, so I must not show up again. That points to the other half of this:

One on behalf of all died

so the all died

Paul concludes that if Jesus died for all, then whoever the ‘all’ is, they all are dead. If he took my identity, and died as me, then my identity is now dead. In Galatians 2, where ‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me’, it says

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live…

Jesus gave himself for me. He died as my substitute, and as a result, I was crucified with Christ. I was condemned with him under the law, and I died. His death was my death.

About a year after writing this letter of 2 Corinthians, while Paul was in Corinth, he wrote another letter, to the church in Rome. In Romans 6 and 7 he unpacks and fleshes out this dense doctrinal statement; ‘one on behalf of all died; so the all died.’ The best commentary on Scripture is Scriture.

In Romans 6, Paul is arguing that we who have experienced God’s grace must not continue in sin.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Baptism is a picture of being plunged into the death of Jesus. We have been united to Jesus in his death. We were buried with him into death. We were immersed into his death. Therefore we have died to sin. When he took our name, he died for us, and we died with him. We have been united to him in death.

He goes on.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

My old sinful identity was crucified with Christ. If that person who was enslaved to sin is now dead, then the power of sin over him has been broken.

In Romans 7, Paul shows us ‘that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives’ (v.1). He uses the illustration of marriage, ’till death do us part; if the husband dies, his wife ‘ is released from the law of marriage’

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. …6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, …

The law is binding only as long as I live. And in Christ’s death, I died to the law.

When Christ took my name and died for me, my identity died with him. So now I am set free from that old identity – it is dead. I am now free to assume a new identity; ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ (Gal.2:20). I now belong to him.

The Purpose of The Doctrine

One on behalf of all died

so the all died

and on behalf of all he died

in order that the living

no longer to themselves live

but to the one who on behalf of them died and was raised

Here we get to the purpose of the doctrine, the conclusion he draws from the truth of our death with Christ who died for us. Christ died in my place, so I died with him. He died in my place in order that I no longer live my life to myself but to him who died in my place and was raised.

If I get this, if I really understand what Jesus did for me, that he died my death, that he paid my price, that he took my name, and that my old identity died with him, then it should change the way I live. I am not my own. I was bought with a price (1Cor.6:20; 7:23). I am alive, spiritually alive, eternally alive because he died for me. I want to live my life for him, to please him. I must not live my life for me, to please me. Christ’s love constrains me, compels me. I want to live for his glory. I want to use my body, my energy, my gifts, my abilities not to please me, but him.

This is powerful. The truth – doctrine, theology is powerful! ‘You will know the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘and the truth will set you free’ (Jn.8:32). Am I tempted to lust, to look at pornography? Jesus died because of that sin; he died for me, and I died with him. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Jesus does not want to look with lust on another person for whom he died. His love constrains me. Do you see how powerful this truth is?

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

This is transformational truth!

I have been hurt, I have been wronged, and I want to respond, to react in the flesh. But that flesh that I want to respond in is dead. It was crucified with Christ. Anger, animosity, bitterness, grudge-holding, gossip, revenge; that was my old identity, and it is dead. Jesus forgives those who wrong him, he does not open his mouth in his own defense, he is patient and kind. Jesus loves his enemies. He loved me!

Things haven’t gone my way. Circumstances are out of my control. I am struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety. I want to respond with my old coping mechanisms, with my old patterns of behavior. I am inclined to eat too much or drink too much or spend too much or harm myself in other ways. I am inclined to withdraw, to put up walls, to close myself in, or to snap back, to react, to lash out, to hurt others because I am hurt. But it’s not all about me. I am no longer to live to myself but for him, and for others. I am set free from the slavery of a heart turned in on itself. Jesus said ‘not my will but yours be done’.

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We have died to that which held us captive. We now belong to another, to Jesus, who was raised from the dead, and his resurrection power is at work in us. We are set free to bear fruit for God by the work of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

So in all things we make it our aim to please him.

***

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

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

Baptism and Newness of Life (Romans 6)

01/14 Baptism and Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180114_baptism-new-life.mp3

We had some baptisms last Sunday, and we have a baptism today. I thought it might be helpful today to look at one of the key passages on baptism, Romans 6, to see what baptism is about, and really, this is much bigger than baptism, to see what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to be all about.

The Strange Symbol of Baptism

If you think about baptism for a minute, it’s a weird thing. We don’t even have an English word for it; we’ve borrowed ‘baptizo’ from the Greek. It’s really a foreign thing. We have this giant bathtub in a public place (or sometimes we us a lake) where someone else bathes you in front of a bunch of other people. I can bathe myself, thank you. And I can do a better job of it too. And bathing is meant to be private. But the point is not really to get clean. Of course, we keep our clothes on, because we want it to be modest. And that’s another strange thing about it; we wear clothes to get dunked in water. If I’m going swimming, I wear a swimsuit, not my everyday clothes. And when we’re swimming together, the goal is usually not to get dunked by someone else. I don’t like it when someone pushes me under the water. But in baptism, we voluntarily let someone else dunk us.

When I was serving as a youth pastor back in Washington, our church was doing baptisms out at a beach. The pastor was out in the water, and I was on the rocky beach with my clothes on, carrying the video camera in its case, and I think a diaper bag in the other. One of the other leadership guys came up behind me and bearhugged me and picked me up and started walking toward the water. He’s a bit bigger than me. I thought he was just joking around, but I let the bags drop on the beach just in case. By the time he had me out a little more than knee deep, somehow I was able to get my leg behind his, and to both our suprise, I ended up baptizing him. It was a total immersion. The only thing that didn’t survive the incident was my cell phone.

Baptism Symbolism

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, as 1 Peter 3:21 says, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus.

Baptism is not something we do, someone else does it to us. The one being baptized is passive. They receive baptism. They are really at the mercy of someone else. That is part of the picture too; we ‘were dead in our trespasses and sins,’ (Eph.2:1)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him…

Titus 3:5 tells us ‘he saved us.’ Salvation is not something we do, it is something God does. He saves us.

When someone gets baptized, literally dunked in water, they come out looking different. There’s a change. If you had your hair all done up, it is going to look different coming up out of the water. Your clothes will be all wet. When Jesus comes in to a person’s life, there’s a change. It may not be as visible, but he begins to change us from the inside. And it will become visible to those around us. Baptism is a picture of that.

Romans 6

Let’s look at the text. In Romans 5 Paul is arguing that God gives those who depend on Jesus a gift they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Jesus earned the gift, and he gives it to us freely. Adam by his disobedience earned death, and he passed that on to us. Jesus by his obedience earned justification (the verdict of ‘not guilty’) and life, and he gives that as a gift to all those who believe or trust him. The greater our sin, the more it shows off how great his grace is to cover all that sin.

In chapter 6 Paul sees a logical conclusion from this coming; ‘So if all my sin shows off the power of God’s amazing grace, then I should keep on sinning so that God’s grace is put on display even more, right?’

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Pau’s answer is strong and decisive. Their premise is sound; but the conclusion does not follow.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Where sin increased, grace abounded (5:20). But it does not follow that we should increase our sinning so that grace will abound all the more. That kind of thinking overlooks the fact that if we are truly in Christ, we have died to sin. Dead people don’t do the things they used to do. Dead people don’t feel the way they used to feel, they don’t desire what they used to desire, they don’t think the way they used to think. Dead people are, well, dead. Dead people don’t get up in the morning and get dressed and brush their teeth and enjoy a cup of coffee and drive to work. Dead people stop doing what they have always done. That life is over. That’s what dead means. Paul describes us as dead and says ‘how can we?’ How can we still live in sin? ‘How can we continue in sin?’

Not Sinless Perfection

Understand he is not saying that Christians never sin. 1 John, talking to Christians, says

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Walking in darkness while claiming to have a relationship with the one who is light is inconsistent. But then he goes on to say:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. …10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

He goes on to say:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We are not to walk in darkness. We are to put to death the deeds of the darkness. We are not to make peace with the sin in our lives. But neither are we to pretend that we don’t sin. James tells us

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways…

By saying that we died to sin, Paul is not saying that followers of Jesus never sin again. He is saying that it is inconsistent for us to live in sin, to continue in sin, to make peace with our sin and walk in it as a lifestyle.

Thinking and Acting

Paul goes on to give us the doctrinal foundation we are to stand on. There is biblical teaching we ought to know, and it ought to impact the way we live. As followers of Jesus we are to be taught. When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he said they were to baptize them and teach ”them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt.28:20). There is truth we ought to know. We need to be learning, listening, reading, thinking, studying. But the goal is not just facts to fill our head. The goal is a renewed mind; new patterns of thinking that begin to shape new patterns of action. We can attempt to fight the battle against sin with our own willpower, and we will fail. Or worse yet, we will have a measure of success and become proud of ourselves. That is not God’s way. We are to be armed with truth and the word of God.

An example: The bully on the playground bulllies because it makes him feel powerful and in control. It makes him feel strong and superior to others. It makes him feel good about himself. His patterns of behavior are shaped by his beliefs. He must bully to continue to feel good about himself. His actions may make him feel good, but it is at the expense of others, and it doesn’t last. The bully might demand respect, but he never experiences love.

Jesus teaches us that true greatness is using our strength and resources to love and serve others for their good. If the bully learns that there is a deeper and richer and lasting satisfaction in selflessly serving for the good of others, if he begins to experience the joy of selflessness; not serving to feed his own ego and make himself feel better (this is subtle and dangerous), but ultimately serving to please God, really and truly loving God and loving others, this new truth will begin to shape new actions.

Paul says there is truth you must know that will begin to shape who you are.

United with Christ in Death

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is pointing to the picture of baptism and the truth it displays. The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse in, to plunge or dunk.’ When you are immersed in water, you are connected with the water. You are surrounded by and covered with the water. Water is a good conductor of electricity. If things aren’t wired properly and a microphone is dropped in the water, the electricity will pass through the water and through you if you are in the water. By believing in Jesus, we are immersed into Jesus, we become connected with Jesus, covered by Jesus, surrounded by Jesus. When we are dunked in water, we get wet. When we are plunged into Jesus by faith, we get Jesus all over. We are united with Jesus. There is a real connection with Jesus. And part of that connection is a connection with his death and resurrection. Because he died, and we are united with him, ‘we were buried with him by baptism into death. Because he didn’t stay dead, and we are connected to him, ‘just as Christ was raised from the dead, …we too might walk in newness of life.’

He goes on to point to this unity:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Here he gets explicit. We were crucifed. Crucified with Christ. Jesus died a real death. A shameful death. He didn’t die of natural causes; he was executed publicly as a criminal. They buried him because he was dead. The soldiers made certain of that. We are united with him in death; our old self was crucified with him. The guilty sinful you was executed. If the old you was executed as a criminal, then it is dead. Buried. Gone. ‘Brought to nothing.’ Powerless. And if the sinful you is dead, then you are set free from sin.

You see how this works? The wages of sin is death, and God’s law requires your death. If you have really been united with Christ in his death, crucified with Christ, if the sinful you has been executed, then that legal demand has been satisfied. The greatest penalty a human court can issue is the death penalty. Someone sentenced to 30 years who dies two years into his sentence is not forced to serve the remaining 28. He is released. The law has been satisfied. The word in verse 7 translated ‘set free’ is really the word ‘justified’. He is released from his sins’ legal demands. The penalty has been paid.

United with Christ in Life

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

This connection with Jesus is not limited to his death, but it extends to his resurrection. Our old self is dead. The penalty has been paid. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose! He will never die again. Death has no claim on him. He died to sin, and in him we died. He lives to God, and in him we live. We no longer live to sin, we are dead to that. We live to God, to please God, to enjoy God, to be in the presence of God.

Here he brings us back around to his original question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Truth That Shapes Us

This is the truth you must know. Baptism is a picture of this. Believing in Jesus connects us with Jesus, immerses us into Jesus. His death becomes our death. We enter in to his resurrection life.

This is the truth we must know, and it must shape who we are.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Truth, teaching, new patterns of thinking and believing lead to new patterns of living. This is what is true of you in Jesus. Consider it so! When temptation comes, I don’t feel very dead to sin. I actually feel quite alive to it! I think I could get a great deal of satisfaction out of that. This is when I need to preach the gospel to myself. Rodney, you’re dead to that! Jesus died for that, and you died with him. Picture the granite with my name chiseled into it. Picture the dirt, hear the flies buzzing, smell the stench. Dead, buried, rotting, decayed, I am dead to that! I can get no pleasure out of that. That guy that used to enjoy that was executed, nailed to a cross!

Truth requires a response from me. I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin’s power is broken. I am under no obligation to be controlled by its desires. My body is a tool. My hands, my eyes, my mouth, a tool. I can do great harm with my words. I can allow my eyes to lead me into sin. But that is not what I was made for. I am dead to that. I am alive to God. My body is a tool to glorify God., to enjoy God. I am united with Christ; I am alive to God. I can enjoy intimacy with God. I can walk in the light, sins forgiven, in the presence of God. I can walk in a new kind of life, the abundant life. A resurrection kind of life.

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

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrection Sunday – Colossians – Raised With Him

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110424_resurrection-sunday.mp3 

04/24 Resurrection Sunday

Today is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Anticipating his death, Jesus said:

John 12:23 … “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Fruit of the Resurrection

Jesus’ death bears much fruit. Jesus died alone, forsaken by his Father, with the weight of the sins of the world on his shoulders. But Jesus did not stay dead. He sprang back to life, and like his illustration of the seed, his life that bursts up out of the grave is not alone. He bears much fruit. Jesus death and resurrection has massive implications for us.

Today I want to look at some of the fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us today. We will spend most of our time in the New Testament letter to the Colossians. In it, Paul says:

Colossians 1:18 [Jesus is]…the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Colossians 2:12 …you were also raised with [Christ] through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead …God made alive together with him,

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ

And he draws practical implications of Christ’s death and resurrection and ours. I want to spend some time this resurrection morning examining the implications of the resurrection for us today

Jesus the Firstborn from the dead

In this passage in Colossians, Paul gives Jesus the title ‘The Firstborn from the Dead.” He receives this title also in Revelation 1:5. What does this mean? Jesus was not the first person ever resurrected; Elijah raised the son of the widow of Zarepha (1Ki.17:22); Elisha raised a Shunammite woman’s son (2Ki.4:35); Jesus interrupted several funerals; he raised the widow of Nain’s only son (Lk7:14); Jairus’ daughter (Mk.5:41; Lk.8:54); and his dear friend Lazarus (Jn.11:43). At Jesus’ crucifixion, Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus was not the first in time to rise from the dead. So what does it mean to say that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead? It will help to understand what is meant by the word ‘firstborn’. The position of the firstborn was that of priority and privilege. Several times in the Old Testament, we see the rights and privileges of the firstborn going to a son who was not physically born first, or even to an adopted son who was not physically born into those rights. ‘Firstborn’ implies priority and sovereignty (Wuest, p.183). Jesus has first place among those who rise from the dead. Jesus has authority over all who rise from the dead.

The Preeminence of Jesus

This whole passage is pointing to Jesus as the one who holds first place in everything. Back in verse 15, this same word ‘firstborn’ is used, where it describes Jesus, who is the very image of the invisible God, who possesses sovereign authority and priority over all creation. Verse 16 gives the ground of his sovereign rights in that he is the creator – everything was created by him and for him – everything that exists in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, including every authority that exists – they exist because he caused them to exist, and they exist to serve him. Jesus is the firstborn in sovereignty. Verse 17 continues by showing that he is the firstborn in priority – he is before all things. Jesus is eternal. He holds everything together. Hebrews describes Jesus as the one who ‘is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power’ (1:3). Verse 18 points to Jesus as the head or authority over the church. Jesus is the beginning, the active cause, the architect, he has first place. He has sovereign priority over all who come out of death. He holds first place in everything. His rule and authority is comprehensive. He reigns supreme over everything created and over everything re-created. He is the creator and the regenerator. He is the cause of creation, and he is the cause of the new creation. He gave life to all things, and he gives new life to the dead. In everything Jesus is preeminent. Everything really is all about Jesus!

Verse 19 continues the thought in describing how he gave new life to his body the church. In Jesus, God’s fullness was pleased to dwell, and the blood of his cross made peace and reconciled all things to his Father. Jesus, fully God and fully man, offered an infinite and perfect sacrifice, fully satisfying justice and making peace between God and sinful man.

Diagnosing our Condition

Verse 21 goes on to describe us, for whom the blood of Christ was necessary to purchase peace. It says we were alienated or estranged, we had severed our fellowship with God. It says we were hostile, hateful, or opposed to God in our mind. We were not on God’s side, and we didn’t want to be. Our wills were bent against God. Broken fellowship and determined opposition to God find expression in works that are evil. Down in chapter 2 verse 13, he expands on our condition that made the death of Christ necessary. He says we were dead. We were dead in trespasses – deviations from the right path. Our flesh was uncircumcised, which means that the things that displease God had not yet been cut away and destroyed. Verse 14 tells us that there was a record of debt that stood against us, and attached to that debt were legal demands. We had violated God’s honor and were under the hopeless legal obligation to repay the debt.

Now isn’t this a bit over the top, the way he describes our condition? Isn’t he exaggerating, or maybe describing a worst case scenario? Surely it would not be a fair description of most of us to say that we were hostile to God in our minds and bent on doing evil. But in raising the question we demonstrate the truth of it. I am saying that my estimation of my condition is more accurate than God’s. I am saying that my failure to honor God and give him thanks as he deserves is really not that big a deal. In saying that, I undermine the worth of God and exalt my own opinion. My failure to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength is an understandable failure to meet an unrealistic demand that is too high and too hard and surely I shouldn’t be held to it. After all, nobody does that perfectly, and I probably do it better than a lot of people. So I compare myself with others and am self-righteous in my own eyes and disagree with God’s assessment of my condition. God says I am dead.

Only the dead get resurrected

Friends, we need to embrace God’s diagnosis of our condition. We need to see that as part of the good news. Here’s why God saying I am dead in my sins is good news. Only the dead get resurrected! You don’t start CPR on someone who has a pulse and is still breathing. They don’t bring out the paddles to shock your heart until you’ve flatlined. This is a passage about resurrection and the cure for our condition. If we disagree with the Great Physician over his diagnosis, we won’t want to undergo his prescribed cure. Listen to the passage:

Colossians 2:13 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. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Yes, we stand condemned under God’s righteous law with the record of debt that stands against us. And that record of our debt Jesus carried to the cross and he paid our debt in full. Our debt was nailed to his cross! God forgave all our trespasses. Yes, we were dead, and God made us alive together with Christ! Yes, we were hostile toward God and he made peace by the blood of his cross. Yes, our actions were evil because our wills were bent against God, and he has now reconciled us to God in his body of flesh by his death. The good news is only good to those who own God’s diagnosis of their problem. Only the dead get resurrected.

Two Kinds of Dead

Here we need to note that there are two different kinds of dead that this passage talks about. Verse 13 talks about being spiritually dead, dead in sins, being under condemnation, being guilty, and being forgiven and made alive as a result of the finished work of Christ on the cross, where God’s legal demands were satisfied, our debt was canceled, and we were given spiritual life. This is fits the biblical teaching of justification – being exonerated of guilt, and regeneration or new birth.

If we move back to verses 11-12, we see a different kind of dead and a different kind of resurrection.

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 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.

In these verses, the death is a putting off, a circumcision of the body of the flesh, a burial with him in baptism, and a resurrection in the powerful working of God. Here, death is a process. This is mortification, putting to death the flesh, or sanctification, the process of being made holy. Paul goes into more detail on this subject in Romans. This is how Paul argues in Romans 6 against those who have been justified by faith continuing to embrace sin as a legitimate lifestyle.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Jesus died as a substitute, bearing our penalty and purchasing our forgiveness. We were spiritually dead and have been given life. That is justification and regeneration. We are now addressing what that new life should look like, and that is based on the other kind of death – not only did Jesus die for us, but we died with him. Our old self, our old way of life was crucified with Christ. That is the basis for our practical day to day battle with and victory over sin. He continues:

Romans 6:7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Hear the continuing action words: you must consider yourselves dead to sin; let not sin reign in your mortal bodies; do not present your members to sin. Those are fighting words. The basis for this fight is my death and resurrection with Christ. The power to live the Christian life is resurrection power. ‘Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom.6:4)

When Paul prays for the saints in Ephesus, he asks:

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Part of our blood bought inheritance is the ‘immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.’ The power to ‘walk in newness of life’ comes because:

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

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The resurrected life is the crucified life. In Colossians chapter 3, we are given details of what the resurrected life should look like, and practical instruction on how to live it.

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.

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 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, compassion, 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. 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.

The assumption is that those who claim to be believers have not only been justified and regenerated or born again, that the death and resurrection of Jesus have been applied to us, but also that we have been crucified with Christ and have been raised to a new kind of life.

That new life is described by what it should and shouldn’t look like. It shouldn’t look like sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It shouldn’t look like anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying.

It should look like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other as we have been forgiven. It should look like love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. It should look like the peace of Christ ruling in your hearts. It should be characterized by thankfulness, by joyful gratitude, all for the glory of our Lord Jesus.

What are the practical instructions on how to live the resurrection life? Seek the things that are above; set your mind on things that are above. Put to death what is earthly in you. Put them all away. Put off the old self with its practices. Put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on the fruits of the Spirit. Put on love. With a conscious choice, by an act of the will, based on the crucifixion and empowered with resurrection power, put off and put on. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with overwhelming thankfulness to him who loved you and died for you.

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

April 24, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Centrality of the Cross

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090906_centrality_of_the_cross.mp3

9/6/2009 The Centrality of the Cross

In light of communion and doing communion more often, I want to spend some time together meditating on the significance of the cross of Jesus. The cross is not part of Christianity; the cross IS Christianity; there is no Christianity without the cross. The cross is not something we gain an understanding of and move on. The cross is where we live our lives. The cross of Christ will be the focal point of our worship– for eternity!

The Cross was the Center of Jesus’ Purpose

The Cross was the Center of God’s Purpose for all Eternity

The Cross is the Center of the Gospel

The Cross must be Central in the Christian Life & Ministry

The Cross is the Center of Church Life

The Cross will be Central for all Eternity

The Cross was the Center of Jesus’ Purpose

Jesus did not come primarily to live a perfect life and set a great moral example for mankind. Jesus came to die.

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Mt.16:21; Mk.8:31; cf. Lk.24:7)

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

After his resurrection, he said to them:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

The Cross was the Center of God’s Purpose for all Eternity

The cross was the goal and focal point of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. But this was not Jesus’ creative plan to appease the wrath of his angry Father. The death of the Son on the cross of Calvary was the plan of God before the foundation of the world.

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Hebrews 10:5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”’

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Luke 22:22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

Ephesians 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

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

God made Jesus to be sin on our behalf.

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

God’s righteous wrath must be poured out and his justice must be satisfied. And God put forward Jesus as a propitiation by his blood. Jesus was appointed by his Father as the sin-bearing substitute.

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Father sent the Son. Jesus came in perfect obedience to his Father, in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. There was perfect unity among the persons of God.

The Cross is the Center of the Gospel

The good news message is a message of blood-bought freedom and forgiveness. The ultimate price paid. Peace with God purchased at the highest cost. The just wrath of God absorbed by the willing sacrifice of a sinless substitute. As Phillip Bliss described it so well in the old hymn:

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Paul describes the gospel this way:

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. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

The good news message is the most important message in the universe – of first importance. And the good news message is the substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Corinthians 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. 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.

1Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The gospel message is called the message of the cross, and the message of the cross is the power of God for saving sinners. This was the content of the apostolic preaching; Christ crucified. In fact, Paul resolved to know nothing except Christ crucified:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Here’s some more verses that describe the gospel accomplishments of the cross:

Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us––for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”––

1Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Reconciliation, forgiveness, redemption, propitiation. The message of the cross – Christ crucified – is the gospel. Without the cross, there is no good news. Here’s some verses from another favorite hymn: O Sacred Head Now Wounded; James Waddel Alexander

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

The cross must be central in the Christian life & Ministry

But the joy of the cross does not stop with the message of justification, propitiation, reconciliation and redemption. The cross is essential to our sanctification; our progress in holiness. We don’t hear the good news of Christ crucified for sinners, and then move on to something else as we grow in the Christian life. The good news message of Christ crucified is good news for Christians too!

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

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

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

The good news of Christ crucified begins the Christian life by the great truths of justification – being declared ‘not guilty’ by the judge of all the earth; redemption – being bought from the slave market; propitiation – the wrath of God fully appeased by the blood of Christ; and reconciliation- enemies of God conquered by his terms of peace. But the good news of the cross continues throughout the Christian life in the great truths of sanctification – being made holy; and mortification – putting to death the sin that remains.

Listen to what Jesus taught:

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Mt.10:38;16:24; Mk.8:34)

Jesus taught this before he was crucified. He does not tells us to take up the cross of Jesus, but to take up our own cross daily. A condemned criminal was forced to carry their own cross to their place of execution as a public demonstration that they were guilty. Taking up your own cross is a daily public acknowledgement that I am guilty and I deserve to die. Jesus calls us to daily embrace our own cross – our own guilt before him. Again today I am a sinner deserving of condemnation and in desperate need of God’s undeserved grace. I stand here deserving of death row and yet I have been selected to receive God’s pardoning mercy. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves. Peter loved his own skin so much that he disowned any relationship with Jesus. Jesus calls us to disown ourselves, to utterly reject and renounce self. I disown me. I utterly abhor and reject my own traitorous heart. I want to be identified only and completely with the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily I must deny self and own my guilt and identified with Jesus through his cross.

The cross is essential to my own sanctification or growth in holiness. The cross is vital to my salvation. The cross was central to Jesus’ purpose and the plan of God from eternity. The cross is also to be crucial in the life of the church.

The cross is the center of church life

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, …

The church was devoted to the breaking of bread. Day by day they broke bread together. They gathered together on Sundays – the first day of the week to break bread. Breaking bread was an essential part of the life of the early church. They took this ordinance from Jesus:

1Corinthains 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (cf. Lk.22:19)

Jesus commanded his followers to break bread and drink the cup to regularly remind us of him. Daily we are to embrace our own guilt and renounce our sinful self. Regularly we are to be reminded together of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. Jesus calls us to be keenly aware of our own guilt, and Jesus invites us to stay close to his cross and revel in the undeserved mercy that he pours out there. Elizabeth Clephane writes: [Beneath the Cross of Jesus; Elizabeth C. Clephane]

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

1Corinthains 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Jesus invites us to feed on him, to draw our life and sustenance from his limitless resources. We should never tire of drawing near the cross and being freshly amazed by the riches of grace toward us who believe.

The cross will be central for all eternity

We are not done with the cross after salvation. The cross is vital to our sanctification. We need to be regularly reminded of God’s grace toward us at the cross. But our reflection on the cross will last much longer than our momentary lives here. We will spend eternity reveling in the grace of God that was secured for us at the cross. We will never outgrow the cross of Christ. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John, we get a glimpse of heavenly worship around the throne of God. Jesus is announced as:

Revelation 5:5 … behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”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, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Notice the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, the victorious Root of David is seen in heaven as a lamb standing as though it had been slain. The glorious king is a butchered lamb.

7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 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, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

The cross is never left behind and forgotten. The cross is the eternal ground and source of worship and wonder. Jesus, you are worthy because you were slain and you ransomed people for God with your own blood. The bloody memory of the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God is the centerpiece of angelic worship.

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

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

September 6, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment