PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Church; Matthew 16

01/09 – Who are we? What in the world are we doing? the church); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220109_the-church.mp3

What in the world are we doing here? Just who do we think we are?

It’s good on occasion to pause and ask ourselves questions like this to gain clarity on our identity and to refocus on our purpose.

pray –

Church – a Gathering or Assembly of Dissimilar People

Who do we think we are? We are a church; the word ‘church’ simply means an assembly or gathering, people called out, called together. There are lots of different kinds of gatherings. Our city council meets together regularly. There’s the Parent Teacher Association, 4-H, Lion’s club, the archery club, Friends of the Library, the humanitarian council. There’s a lot of different organizations that meet together with their own unique goals and purposes and missions.

We are an assembly of different people from different ethnic and geographic backgrounds, different upbringings, different ages, different family dynamics, different occupations, different incomes, different walks of life, different personalities and preferences, different styles, different struggles, different opinions, different hobbies. We are a diverse people; what brings us together? Just who do we think we are?

What We Do; Sing, Pray, Listen to the Word, Ordinances

And what in the world are we doing? When we gather, we sing together. What other gathering do you participate in where you sing together, except maybe a choir or a sporting event where our national anthem is sung?

We sing and we pray; we talk to someone we can’t see, and we assume that he hears and cares and can actually do something about what we talk to him about.

We sing, we pray, and we read and study an ancient book together. But it’s not a discussion group; instead we typically have one guy claiming to speak with authority and telling you how to live your life based on what we find in this ancient book, written at a very different time in history to very different groups of people in different geographic and cultural settings, and yet somehow we believe that it is relevant to us today; in fact we expect it to shape the way we live our lives.

We also observe ancient rites or ordinances. We take a small bit of bread and a cup of juice, and we all eat it together, as commanded in this ancient book. Those who want to become part of our gathering, we ask them to be immersed in water, fully clothed, in front of everyone.

Does any of this seem just a bit strange? Imagine inviting a friend who has no familiarity with what we call ‘church’. ‘I’d like you to come with me. You’ll have to get up early on a weekend morning when you’d normally be sleeping in, and we will gather together with a bunch of people we have very little in common with, some of whom we probably disagree with over important life issues. We sing songs to a crucified man who claimed to be God, who we believe is now alive, we talk to him, we take bread and juice that symbolize eating his flesh and drinking his blood. We listen to someone talk at us out of this ancient book and tell us how to live our lives. Oh, and if you decide you want to become part of our gathering, you’ll need to get dunked in water in front of everybody.

A Subversive Kingdom

By the way, this gathering has been viewed throughout most of history by governments in power as subversive and dangerous. Many churches today have to gather secretly, but they continue to gather. Politically we may be on different pages, with different goals and priorities. But we agree on this; whatever human governments are over us, our primary allegiance is to a different kingdom and a different King; our citizenship is in a different country. And although human governments will rise and fall, the kingdom we belong to will one day rule over all others and will last forever. Do you see why many human governments feel threatened by this kind of assembly?

Exclusive and Universal Claims

Here’s another thing that makes a lot of people really uncomfortable about what we call church. If you spend any time in a gospel preaching church, you will hear talk of being lost and being saved. Our society is all about self help and self improvement and positive affirmation. But the central message we as the church have is that everyone is hopelessly lost and broken with no possibility of self improvement; no way to fix ourselves (Is.53:6; Rom.3:23). We are completely helpless and utterly dependent on outside help that we don’t deserve. We talk about sin – that going our own way and doing whatever we think might make us happy – is not a good thing to be celebrated, but a bad thing worthy of eternal punishment by the God whose world this is (Is.59:2).

This is a shockingly negative message about us, and a surprisingly narrow claim in today’s world. Everyone is lost and condemned, and the one and only way of rescue is believing the message churches proclaim about a Jewish Messiah who was crucified for sinners and raised from the dead.

This message is incredibly narrow (Jn.14:6), but the claim of the church is that it is universal in scope. This is not just our truth that is true for us because we find it compelling; we claim that it is absolute truth that will prove true for you whether you believe it or not. We have been entrusted with this message, and we have been commissioned to bring it to every person and every people group around the globe, because it is the one and only way to be rescued from what we deserve.

Let’s review; what have we said so far about the church? We are an assembly of dissimilar people with very little in common, who gather to sing and pray to someone who isn’t visibly present, we hear teaching from an ancient book that we seek to live by. We tell people that they aren’t free to do whatever they want or whatever they think will make them happy; rather they are accountable to the God who created all things and whom they have offended by their assumed independence. We rehearse rites that remind us of a crucified man who claimed to be God and who rose from the dead. We immerse in water those who turn away from their own path and entrust themselves to this crucified One. Although we seek to submit as far as possible to our local governments, our ultimate allegiance lies with a greater King of a greater kingdom to which we belong.

How do you think this will go over with your neighbor, your co-worker, your boss? How can we possibly expect anyone to listen to this kind of a message? Could this message gain any traction in today’s world?

Why get up early on a Sunday morning and gather with dissimilar people where you might catch a cold or worse, and when you can get better content online in the privacy of your home on whatever subject interests you whenever it’s most convenient? In a world of viruses and virtual meetings and telecommuting, why actually come to meet together in person?

Meeting With a Person

Here’s the most important reason to come to meet together in person; because we come together to meet with a Person. Although Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord is not visibly with us, he is indeed with us. Jesus said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Heb.13:5);

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the context of seeking lost sheep, and church discipline, and extending lavish forgiveness to those who sin against us repeatedly Jesus said:

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Doing church with dissimilar people is messy, but it is Jesus who brings us together. It is Jesus that we have in common.

The Identity of Jesus

In Matthew 16, Jesus took his disciples away from busily serving the crowds, and he asked them ‘who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ After listing several of the popular opinions, ‘John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets’ Jesus asked them ‘But who do you say that I am?’

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church. Jesus is the promised Christ, the Messiah, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King, one who will reign forever on David’s throne. Jesus is the eternal Son of the living God, the only begotten, God of God, eternally existing in relationship with God and as God; God with us, who came down.

The identity of Jesus is essential, it is central, and it is something that is supernaturally known. Jesus affirms that Peter didn’t come up with this on his own. It isn’t merely one more opinion about Jesus. This is the revelation of the Father about his only Son. And it is on this revelation of the identity of Jesus that Jesus will build his church.

But what Peter said was not complete. He was missing part of the story.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Jesus wanted to make sure his followers understood that he was the promised reigning King, but he was also the suffering Servant, the one who would bear the sins of many, he would be like a lamb led to the slaughter, he would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, he would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows; the Lord would lay on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53).

It is on the identity of Jesus as coming King, Divine Son of God, suffering Servant that his church will be established.

I Will Build My Church

Notice, the church does not belong to us, and it is not our job to build the church. It is not our job to persuade people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah King, Son of the living God, who died for their sins. It is our commission to proclaim the truth about him, to bear witness that we have experienced him as such. But Jesus claims to be the one who will build his church. Using the unlikely message of the gospel, that we all are sinners and have all fallen short, but that Jesus bore in his body the consequences of my sin, died the death I deserve, so that I could be forgiven and live to enjoy relationship with him; using the unlikely announcement of a crucified Messiah, Jesus will build his church and his church will advance against the very gates of hell.

Do not be ashamed of Jesus. Do not be ashamed of the good news of the Messiah crucified for sinners. It is the very power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Jesus is building his church, and the gates of hell will not be strong enough to stand up against the advance of Jesus’ church.

Who Do We Think We Are?

Just who do we think we are? We are the blood bought and dearly beloved bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the flock of God. We are the temple of God, the church of the living God, the household of God, the pillar and buttress of the truth.

What in the world are we doing here? We are bearing witness to the identity and transforming power of Jesus to make people new inside, to forgive and give life, to conquer sin and set captives free. We are advancing against the very gates of hell, taking ground from the enemy of our souls.

***

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

January 13, 2022 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Remember Me

08/30 Remember Me (Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200830_remember.mp3

Last time we talked about worship, the importance of who we worship and how we worship. We are to worship the one true God who reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because God is spirit, Jesus says, we are to worship in spirit and truth. We must be born again of the Spirit of God, empowered by his Spirit, and we must worship in line with the revealed truth of God’s word. We are to ascribe worth to God who alone is worthy of our attention, our affection, our devotion. We are to declare him worthy not only with our words and in our songs, but also with our actions and lives, with our time and attention. We looked at Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. Jesus said this is the good portion, the one thing that is necessary (Lk.10:38-42). There is no substitute for time spent at the feet of the Master. The disciples were shaped above all by this; ‘that they had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). Is it evident that you sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching? Do you give him your undivided attention? Are you known by the fact that you have spent time with Jesus?

We are looking at what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, what it looks like to obey everything he commanded us. We must sit at his feet and listen, and we must fall on our face before him and worship.

One of the most significant things, one of the most important things Jesus commanded happened over his final meal with his disciples before he went to the cross.

Luke 22:13 …they prepared the Passover. 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Two Ordinances

Jesus commanded his followers “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is one of only two ordinances that the protestant church recognizes; baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An ordinance is a prescribed practice, something we do, something that Christ commanded, the apostles perpetuated, and the early church practiced. Baptism is a one-time event, where a new follower of Jesus publicly proclaims his allegiance to Jesus, and it pictures the new birth. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, the Breaking of Bread is our subject today.

Passover

Notice in our text that this was a Passover meal. It was the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus told his disciples to “Go and prepare the Passover for us.” Jesus said “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover come from the Exodus. To understand what Jesus is commanding, we need to understand some of the background of what Passover is.

God chose Abraham and promised to bless his family and through them to bless the nations. Abraham, had Isaac, who had Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, whose 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. God had sent him ahead to preserve life. The family moved to Egypt to find provision during the famine, and 400 years later, the children of Israel were enduring bitter slavery and cried out to God for deliverance. He heard their cries for rescue and remembered his promises to Abraham and raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt.

Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

To Pharaoh God said:

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (cf. Rom.9:17)

The final plague that forced the release of Israel from Egypt was the death of the firstborn son in every household. But God gave them the provision that a lamb could be sacrificed and the blood applied to the door so that “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex.12:13).

God said:

Exodus 12:14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

The Israelites were to remember forever how God delivered them from Egypt. They were to observe the Passover as a perpetual reminder of what great things the Lord did for them.

It’s All About Me

Jesus and his disciples were remembering God’s deliverance of his people from bondage, and how he made provision for his people to be spared from his judgment through sacrifice and the blood applied. Jesus takes two of the things at the meal, unleavened bread (leaven is a symbol for sin), and wine (a picture both of the wrath of God and of joy and celebration) and re-directs their focus to himself. This is revolutionary; this is monumental! Jesus, celebrating the historic deliverance of the people of God from Egypt, turns it around and says it is now about me!

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Jesus turns the historic Passover celebration commemorating the exodus from Egypt and says they are now to remember him, his body broken and his blood that brings about the New Covenant.

His Exodus

Back in Luke 9, when Jesus was transfigured, it says

Luke 9:30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [ἔξοδος], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

They spoke of his ‘departure;’ literally his exodus which he was about to accomplish or fulfill. Jesus is the greater Moses who brings us out of our slavery to sin and into a reconciled relationship with God. Jesus is the greater deliverer who crushes a greater enemy and brings about a greater rescue. Jesus is the greater Passover sacrifice, the spotless Lamb who took our place and died to give us life (1Cor.5:7). Jesus accomplished a greater exodus.

1 Corinthians 11:23 …the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.”

Jesus takes the bread and wine of the Passover meal and re-orients us to remember him, his exodus, his sacrifice, his deliverance. He commands his followers to ‘Do this in remembrance of me… Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

Breaking Bread Together

When Peter preached at Pentecost,

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. This phrase can simply mean to have a meal together, as breaking bread was a common part of every meal. But this phrase seems to take on a special meaning when it is one of the four things that the church devoted themselves to. Then, in Acts 20, when Paul visited Troas, we are told

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

The believers were gathering together on Sunday to break bread together and to listen to Paul preach.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul says

1 Corinthians 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.

Notice this is something we do together. We as one body, the body of Christ together bless the cup and break the bread. It is a participation in the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. This is something the gathered church does.

Discerning the Body

In 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul rehearses Jesus’ command to ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ he is correcting selfish abuses of what he calls Lord’s supper when the church came together to eat the bread and drink the cup. By the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians (around AD 53) not only did the church have an established practice of meeting on the first day of the week (1Cor.16:2) to break bread together, but they had already begun to lose sight of remembering Jesus and they were selfishly abusing this most sacred practice. Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Their selfishness destroys the point of the Lord’s supper. He reminds them of the words of our Lord, that this is to be done as a way to remember Jesus together. This is a way to proclaim the good news of the crucifixion and resurrection. And it anticipates Jesus’ coming again.

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

And it is not to be taken lightly.

1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

This is a gathered church thing, and we are to discern the body, the body of Christ, that we are members of one another, that we are one body. There are to be no divisions among us, because we ‘have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’ Jesus ‘himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.’ We have been ‘reconciled …to God in one body through the cross’ (Eph.2:13-16). We are not to despise the church of God and put ourselves above others. We are to discern that because of the cross, we are one body. This is serious thing we do.

1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

When you come together as the body of Christ, recognize the body; be considerate of one another.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.”

Remember. We need to be reminded. Remember Jesus. Remember his body broken, his blood poured out, the once-for-all Lamb who paid our price in full. Remember the exodus he accomplished, how he set you free from bondage to worship the living God. Enjoy the benefits of the new covenant that he purchased with his blood. Recognize that you are now part of a body. You belong. To something bigger than you.

***

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

September 1, 2020 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment