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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 12:11-13; Signs of a True Apostle

02/28_2 Corinthians 12:11-13; Signs of a True Apostle; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210228_2cor12_11-13.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 12. In 2 Corinthians, Paul re-frames our thinking about ministry. He spends the first 7 chapters pointing us to the fact that authentic gospel ministry takes its shape from the gospel it proclaims; the good news of an awesome God who humbles himself, who stoops down to our level, who out of his great love for us takes our sin upon himself and suffers in our place for our eternal good. Authentic ministers carry this gospel treasure in fragile earthen containers, to put on display that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2Cor.4:7).

In chapters 8 and 9 he points to the practical outworking of this transformative good news, which so changes the hearts of believers that they joyfully overflow in practical generosity to others. He invites and exhorts the Corinthians to join him in an opportunity to serve the suffering saints.

In chapters 10-13 we discover that there is a sinister danger set to derail the church in Corinth; triumphalist leaders have infiltrated the church and have been building themselves up by tearing Paul down.

Foolish Boasting

Although no one ought to boast except in the Lord, and it is only the Lord’s approval that carries any weight (2Cor.10:17-18), Paul is forced to defend himself against false accusations. He is forced to boast in his own ministry over against that of the false apostles, whom he calls servants of Satan (2Cor.11:13-15).

He acknowledges that boasting in oneself is foolish. He asks them to bear with his foolishness, seeing that they all too readily bear with fools (11:1, 4, 19). He doesn’t want to be thought a fool, but since they already think so poorly of him, he asks them to indulge his foolish boasting and give him their ear (11:16-18). But he warns them that boasting in self is not according to the Lord but rather according to the flesh. As he beings his boast in 11:21, he interjects ‘I am speaking as a fool’. In verse 23 he says he is not only speaking foolishly; literally ‘without his mind’, but he is ‘out of his mind’ to boast like this.

He begins by boasting in his Jewish heritage (11:22), which he tells us in Philippians 3:3-8 that confidence in the flesh, in ethnicity and religious upbringing, is worthless, a liability not an asset, nothing but offensive filth and rubbish.

But he quickly switches gears (11:23-29) and begins to boast in his superior service to Christ, which looks like sufferings, trials, hardships, persecutions, constant and varied dangers, toils and snares.

When they would expect him to boast in his successes, in his accomplishments, he boasts that he is quite literally a basket case – having to flee for his life let down through the city wall in a grocery basket under cover of night.

When they anticipate accounts of visions and revelations (12:1-6), he switches to the third person, boasting not in himself as the great apostle, but in an ordinary ‘man in Christ’ who doesn’t know exactly what happened to him, other than that he was caught up into heaven and heard things he is not permitted to tell them about. But this surpassingly great revelation came with a thorn, a satanic emissary given by God to crush his pride and keep him humble. He prayed for deliverance, but God didn’t even answer his prayer, at least not in the way he had hoped. The answer he did receive from Jesus was that his grace is sufficient; because power finds its fulfillment in weakness.

In response to this, he is delighted to boast in his own weaknesses so that the power of Christ encamps on him.

What the Church Ought To Do

He concludes this foolish boasting by pointing to the fault of the church in pushing him to that extreme.

2 Corinthians 12:11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

The church did not do what it ought to have done, and this impelled Paul to make a fool of himself to rescue them from the diabolical danger they were embracing. When false teachers came promoting a false gospel, preaching another jesus, encouraging them to receive a different spirit, they ought to have smelled the wolf by their life and teaching and given them no quarter. When the servants of Satan began to undermine the one who preached the gospel to them, who served them at great personal cost, who showed them what it looks like to follow Jesus, they ought to have stood up and testified in Paul’s defense. Paul looks back over this list of his own sufferings in service to Christ, and says ‘this is the script you should have read in my defense.’

I ought to have been commended by you. As he said earlier in response to their desire for letters of recommendation ‘you yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts’ (2Cor.3:2-3). You are the authenticating evidence of our ministry, you who once were immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers; you have been transformed by the gospel we preached. You were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1Cor.9:9-11). You who were sinners have been made saints though the gospel we brought to you.

It was not only the fault of the false apostles. It was the negligence of the church to stand firm in the message that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). They should have known better. They ought not to have stood silently by while the truth of the gospel and the character of the one who brought it to them was maligned and distorted. The church is called to be the pillar and buttress of the truth (1Tim.2:15). The foolish boasting of the apostle was made necessary by the church neglecting to do what it ought to have done.

Nothing and Still Not Inferior

Because, Paul says, ‘For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.’ Think this statement through for a minute. I am not deficient, I have no lack, I am not less than the super-apostles. Think of this in simple math terms. If he is not less than them, then he is saying that he is at least equal to, if not greater than them. And he considers himself exactly equal to zero. He is nothing. If he is not less than the super-apostles, then the super-apostles are equal to or less than zero.

But Paul, you don’t really consider yourself a zero, do you? This must be false humility at its best. I say ‘I’m a zero’ as a way to get you to affirm me and tell me how really great I am and how much I do contribute. I put myself down to get you to puff me up. Is that what Paul is doing here?

No, it’s not. Paul really and truly considered himself a zero, a nothing. He tells the Romans:

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…

He told the Galatians:

Galatians 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Our problem is not low self esteem. The temptation we all face every day is to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We think we are something, and really we are nothing.

In 1 Corinthians 3, the church was lining up each behind his favorite leader. Paul asks:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

I am nothing. Apollos is nothing. Nothing but servants, doing what the Master assigned. We each did what we were told. God is the one who gave the growth. God is everything. I am nothing.

He goes on to warn them:

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

Again, our problem is not that we think too little of ourselves, but too much. Nobody struggles with the sin of humility. Paul writes in:

1 Corinthians 4:6 …that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

My flesh cries out ‘No!’ I’m not nothing! Look at my talents, my abilities, my accomplishments, my good looks, my charming, winsome personality. What do you have that you did not receive? The question is not whether or not you got it. The question is where’d you get it? Did you deserve it? Or is it a gift, freely given?

Here’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

I’m unworthy. I am what I am by God’s grace. Grace, remember is God’s undeserved favor extended freely to sinners. It’s the opposite of being worthy, it’s the opposite of getting something in return for being something or contributing something. Grace is given to zeroes.

Paul says ‘I worked harder than any of the other apostles, but that was not me. That was God’s grace at work in me.’ I am nothing.

Signs of A True Apostle

He says ‘you ought to have defended me, because the signs of a true apostle were performed among you.’ What does he mean by that? What are the signs of a true apostle? We could look at Jesus’ ministry. When he was asked if he was the long anticipated one, he answered:

Matthew 11:4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

Authenticating signs and wonders. Blind, lame, lepers, deaf, even dead people are raised. But listen carefully to what Jesus lists as the climactic sign authenticating his ministry; the poor have the good news preached to them. That’s the climactic conclusion of Jesus’ list of his own signs.

In Mark 1, after Jesus had healed many and cast out many demons so that everyone was looking for him,

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus performed authenticating signs, but that was not primary. Proclaiming the good news was primary. In fact, Jesus warned:

Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Jesus even predicted (Matt.7:22-23) that many would prophesy, cast out demons, and do might works in his name, who did not even have a relationship with him. So what are the signs of a true apostle, if false prophets will perform signs and wonders to lead people astray? How can we know what is true if both the true and the false perform signs and wonders and mighty works?

It would serve us well to pay careful attention to what Paul says here, and what he does not say.

2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with both signs and wonders. With mighty works. He does not say that the signs of a true apostle are the signs and wonders and mighty works. He says the signs of a true apostle are accompanied by both signs and wonders and mighty works. Remember, Paul has just been talking about power, this same word for ‘mighty works’ here.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It is Christ’s power, and it is power that finds its aim and end in our weaknesses. Paul has been boasting, but he is boasting in the things which show his weakness (11:30; 12:4). Throughout this passage, he has been pointing away from supernatural signs as confirmation of authentic ministry. He carefully avoids saying anything that would cause someone to ‘think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me’ (12:6). The book of Acts records some of the supernatural signs and wonders that happened at the hands of Paul. But Paul insists that the minister be evaluated on the basis of his life and his teaching, objective findings that are seen and heard, not subjective supernatural experiences that can lie or be counterfeited.

Jesus told those who were requesting a sign from him:

Matthew 12:39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (cf. Matt.16:4)

Jesus pointed them to the greatest sign of his own death, burial and resurrection. The cross was the ultimate sign that demonstrated Jesus’ perfect obedience to his Father. In John 2,

John 2:18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Jesus did many signs and wonders, and many believed because of them. But the sign without which no other sign mattered was the cross.

With Patient Endurance

The signs of a true apostle, Paul points out here, were performed in you or among you. This is in the passive voice. Paul doesn’t say ‘I performed (active voice) the signs.’ Rather, they ‘were performed’ – passive. God performed the authenticating signs in and through Paul.

And he says that these signs were performed ‘in all patient endurance’; with utmost patience. He uses this same word ‘patient endurance’ in 2 Corinthians 6, where he lists his apostolic credentials that commend him as a legitimate servant of God. There he said:

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

There he spells out for us what he believes authenticates ministry. It is the paradox of patiently enduring great sufferings in the cause of Christ. It looks like… Jesus.

He affirms the same thing in Romans 15. He says:

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;

Any signs and wonders were not his, pointing to him; they were done through him by Christ, and pointed people to Christ Jesus. It was the power of the Spirit of God at work bringing people to Jesus. Paul’s purpose was always evangelistic; preaching the gospel of Christ; to bring the Gentiles to obedience. His holy ambition was to make Christ known, and he was willing to patiently endure suffering if that was necessary. In fact it was often through his suffering that Christ was made known.

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

March 4, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

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

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

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

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

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

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

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

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

Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

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

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

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

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

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

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

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

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

Luke records it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tested Genuineness of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

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

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

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

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

The Steadfastness of Christ

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

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

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

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

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

The Lord is Faithful

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

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

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

Kept to Keep Yourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry

03/24_2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190324_2cor6_6-7.mp3

Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. The Corinthians were looking for outward evidence of God’s blessing on his ministry, and they were beginning to question his authenticity. They were looking for power, prosperity, praise, eloquence, something flashy. Paul commends his ministry as a ministry that gives obstacles in nothing and to no one. Paul’s goal is that no fault could be found with the ministry. In all things he commends himself as God’s minister. He cares much more about what God thinks of his ministry than what anyone else thinks.

And the way he commends himself is not what anyone would have expected. What he includes in his resume is in the way he responds to adversity: ‘in much endurance’. And he lists three general hardships: ‘in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities’; then three specific types of persecution: ‘in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots’; then three hardships he willingly endures for the sake of the advance of the gospel: ‘in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers.’ Nine hardships, faced with much endurance.

The Manner; Four Essential Characteristics for Ministry

Now beginning in verse 6 he lists eight means of ministry; four essential character traits for effective ministry, followed by four enablements for effective ministry.

He started the list in verse 4 with the character trait ‘much endurance’; remaining under these nine different types of hardships. Now he gives four more character traits; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. These describe the manner of his ministry, not so much what he does as much as how he does it, and ultimately who he is. Character. When hiring for a position, many companies are looking for skills, abilities, experience. Have you been trained in this field? Do you have the knowledge necessary to carry out the task? How much experience do you have in this field? What are your accomplishments, successes, abilities? Paul emphasizes not so much what he does as how he does it, who he is.

Who are you? Are you a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker? That is not who you are; that is what you do. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a pastor. Those are roles, hats I wear. They define my relationships to other people. I was born in a Christian home, raised in a healthy two parent family in Minnesota, the youngest of five. That is some of my history, my background, where I come from. That is not who I am. I like to hike, canoe, to be outdoors, to be creative, build things, fix things. Those are hobbies, likes, preferences. But who are you? Strip all that away, who are you when no one is looking? What is your character?

6 In Purity [ἐν ἁγνότητι]

Paul starts with purity. This word shows up only here and in chapter 11. The verb shows up in the gospels and Acts referring to ceremonial purification, and in James, Peter and 1 John it shows up in reference to heart and soul purified through the new birth. The adjective shows up a little more frequently in contexts of moral purity, blamelessness, innocence, integrity. In 11:2 the adjective is used in the metaphor of betrothing a pure virgin to her husband, and in 11:3 this noun shows up alongside sincerity, and in contrast to being seduced or beguiled with trickery or cunning, being defiled, spoiled or corrupted.

In 1 John 3:3 the adjective describes the character of God;

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We become like God as we see him as he is; through our hope in him, in looking to him, we purify ourselves as he is pure.

Paul points us to his innocence, blamelessness, integrity, moral purity. This purity is not because he always had clean hands and a pure heart; rather his blood-stained hands were washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and through the new birth he stands pure and holy, a new creation in Christ.

In Knowledge [ἐν γνώσει]

Next he lists knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. He recognized that they were ‘enriched in all knowledge’ (1Cor.1:5). But he drew a contrast between the knowledge they claimed and love for brother and sister (1Cor.8:1,7,10,11; 12:8; 13:2,8). They prided themselves in their knowledge.

But as Paul had already made clear,

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.

For Paul it was not about what you know, but it had everything to do with who you know. He was in everything pursuing and advancing the ‘knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5).

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul was spreading the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul everything else was worthless, except “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know him” (Phil.3:8,10).

In Patience, In Kindness [ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] [ἐν χρηστότητι]

Next he mentions patience and kindness. The word translated patience is literally ‘slow to anger’. These two words are listed side by side in Galatians 5:22 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Both patience and kindness are attributed to God in Romans 2

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Where patience or slowness to anger is negative, refraining from responding immediately in anger even when there is something to be rightly angry about; kindness is its positive counterpart, actively doing good to those who have wronged you. God not only refrains from immediately punishing our sin; he also shows us his undeserved kindness. As Jesus instructs in Luke 6,

Luke 6:35 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.

We are to extend kindness even to our enemies; in doing so, we reflect the character of God. In being patient and kind, we are living out the gospel; we are conducting ourselves toward others how God has been toward us.

It is clear that these character traits are not natural. Who joyfully endures afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleeplessnesses, hungers? Who extends patience and kindness to enemies? These are supernatural character traits. In Colossians 1 Paul prays:

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

He combines endurance, the first on his list, and patience, and he says that we need God’s strength; we need the glorious might of divine enablement to respond to circumstances with endurance, slowness to anger, and joy. He says in Colossians 3:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

He tells us that because we have been raised with Christ (3:1), because we are his chosen ones, because we are holy and beloved, because we have been strengthened with his mighty power, we can clothe ourselves with kindness and patience.

The Means; Four Divine Enablements for Ministry

When we understand how Paul uses these words, it makes complete sense where he goes next in this list. He gives four divine enablements for ministry. The character, endurance, purity, knowledge, slowness to anger and kindness is fruit. It is not Paul as he is naturally; this is Paul as he is empowered by God through his Holy Spirit for the ministry to which he has been called.

In Holy Spirit [ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]

After four character traits, fruit necessary for ministry, Paul turns to the source. In the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time he has brought up the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in this letter.

In 1:21 he mentions God in Christ by the Spirit who establishes, anoints, seals and guarantees us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (and then again in 5:5). In chapter 3 He announces the new covenant ministry which has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, who writes on tablets of human hearts (3:3); who gives life (3:6); who brings freedom (3:17); who effects transformation in us (3:18). He said

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. …

His competency is not from himself but from God through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has made Paul competent for the ministry. This is God a ordained, God empowered, God initiated, God sustained task.

In Love Unhypocritical [ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ]

In love unhypocritical. Paul seems to have shifted gears when he mentioned the Spirit from a list of four character traits or fruit to the means or divine enablements for ministry. Is he switching back to character traits here when he mentions sincere love? Is this his love for others, or God’s love for him that enables him for ministry. To see this as God’s love for him seems to fit his flow of thought, as well as the context. He has just said (in 5:14) that ‘the love of Christ compels us’ and there he defines that love concretely as Christ dying for us; that God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. God’s love is a compelling force for ministry. It is when I know that I am loved, sincerely loved, loved without a mask, that I am freed to love others as I have been loved. It is seeing the gospel in action, that God so loved me that he sent his only Son to die for me, that I am freed from the need to seek love, freed and empowered to give love freely away. Love without a mask.

7 In Word of Truth [ἐν λόγῳ ἀληθείας]

In the word of truth. Here again we could ask, is he referring to his own integrity? Should this be translated ‘in truthful speech’ (NIV, ESV) or ‘in the word of truth’ (NASB, KJV)?

So far in 2 Corinthians, Paul has referred to how he handles God’s word, speaking in Christ (2:17); he refuses to tamper with God’s word but openly proclaims the truth (4:2). God has entrusted to him the word of reconciliation. If we turn to Ephesians we see that he refers to ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (1:13). And in Colossians he points them to ‘the word of the truth, the gospel, which… is bearing fruit and increasing,… since … you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth’ (1:5-6). Paul encourages Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2Tim.2:15). Peter says that we were born again ‘ through the living and abiding word of God’ (1Pet.1:23), and James says that God ‘brought us forth by the word of truth’ and that we are to ‘receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls’ (Jam.1:18,21).

What ultimately authenticates Paul’s ministry is the content of the gospel he proclaims. It is not a mere human message. It is not his own message; it is God’s word, a word that causes new birth, that is able to save your souls, a word that is bearing fruit and increasing. As he commends the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

This word is at work. It is a powerful word.

In Power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ]

In the power of God. Paul opens the letter to the Romans by saying

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

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. He says in 1 Corinthians

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.

The word of truth, the word of the cross, the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts God’s power with human weakness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant,

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

His competency for ministry, even his character is not from himself. It is from God. It is God’s Spirit at work in him and through him. His endurance of hardships, his purity, his knowledge, his slowness to anger, his kindness, is all of God worked in him by the Spirit.

May we too reflect the character of God in our conduct by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, through the transforming word of truth, the gospel.

***

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

March 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Paul’s Changing Travel Plans

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Defense of His Changing Plans

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

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

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

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

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

God Is My Witness

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

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

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

It Was To Spare You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When It Is Better Not To Confront

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

Now Jesus is clear,

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

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

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

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

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

Not Lording Over You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Faith you Stand Firm

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

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

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

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

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

Fellow-Workers for your Joy

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

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

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

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

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

The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience Like Jesus

06/25 The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170625_patience-like-jesus.mp3

We are studying the fruit of the Spirit. Notice, fruit is singular. These nine characteristics describe one whole fruit. This is not a buffet line – a little bit of this, a lot of that, I’ll pass on that. No, for the fruit to be present, all of these characteristics must be there and growing. And remember, this is the Spirit’s fruit, and it is in contrast to the works of the flesh. You cannot produce this fruit on your own. God the Holy Spirit must come inside and make this happen in you. It is evidence that he is there. There are counterfeits. Things that we might call love and joy and peace and patience, in our lives or the life of an unbeliever, but they are not Spirit produced. What we are talking about is what the Old Testament pointed forward to in the promise of the New Covenant.

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

So take heart! Notice who is doing the work. God says ‘I will.’ I will cleanse you. Because of the blood of Jesus, because of his crucifixion in your place, I will cleanse you. I will set you free from all your idols. Idols like enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy (Gal.5:20-21). I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove your hard stony heart. I will put my Holy Spirit within you. I will cause you to walk in my statutes. I will cause you to be careful to obey my rules. This is fruit. This is New Covenant fruit. This is God the Father, founded on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, through his Holy Spirit working transformation in us for his glory. I will sprinkle, I will cleanse, I will give, I will put, I will remove, I will put I will cause.

We need this confidence. We need this encouragement, because today we are looking at patience. Love, joy, peace, patience. Love is willing, costly self-giving for the good of others. Joy is a weighty delight in God that is unaffected by outward circumstances. Peace is God’s own quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is under his control, and all is well. What is patience?

Patience and Anger

There are some things that go under the name of patience which are not the real fruit of patience. I tend to have a patient temperament. In high school I had friends try to make me angry just to see if it was possible. Where my friends failed, somehow my children have succeeded! That is not what we are talking about. You can act patience and put up with a lot because you just don’t care that much. Patience is not being passive, indifferent, or tolerant of wrongs (Powilson, p.78). It is not merely a stoic resolution to not be ruffled by circumstances.

The Greek New Testament word for patience here is: μακροθυμία macro as opposed to micro. Micro when you are near, step in close, zoom in like a microscope. Macro is when you step back, far far back, and take in the big picture. It can mean distant or long. Μακροθυμία; θυμός is where we get thermal; heat. It means fury, wrath, indignation.

Romans 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath [ὀργὴ] and fury [θυμός].

In Galatians 5:20 the works of the flesh include (θυμοί) fits of anger.

The idea of this word μακροθυμία is that it takes a long time to get angry; anger is distant, far off. It takes a long time to get hot. We say someone is hot tempered and has a short fuse. This is the opposite; a long fuse. Slow to anger. The Old English word is longsuffering. Love suffers long.

Notice this passage does not say that the fruit of the Spirit is ‘never angered’ but ‘slow to anger’. There is a place for anger. Anger is a good God given emotion. Anger is the passionate response to what is evil that does something to bring about good. Anger often goes bad in us, but that does not mean that anger itself is bad.

Patience with Circumstances and Patience with People

There is another Greek New Testament word that is also on occasion translated ‘patience’. It is ὑπομονή. We see both in Colossians 1:11.

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance [ὑπομονήν] and patience [μακροθυμίαν] with joy,

Notice God’s power is supplied to bring about both endurance and patience with joy. The description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 begins with μακροθυμία and ends with ὑπομονή

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient [μακροθυμεῖ] and kind; … 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures [ὑπομένει] all things.

ὑπομονή patience leans in the direction of patience under adverse circumstances, patience with outward pressures. Μακροθυμία patience is more patience with adverse people. What do you do when someone wrongs you? How do you respond to irritating people? People who impose on you, inconvenience you, offend you?

Ephesians 4; Unity, Humility, and Putting Up with Crap

We see some of this in Ephesians 4.

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

Notice how patience is here, but it is not alone? It is connected with humility, gentleness, love. It is rooted in an eagerness. There is an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit. There is a diligent labor toward unity. Not superficial unity, but real, genuine unity, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Patience is a tool toward this kind of unity. Not being easily angered by my brother or sister but bearing with one another is a powerful tool toward unity. This striving toward unity with patience grows out of humility. This verse uses two words that can both be translated humility; modesty and meekness. Patience comes when I don’t think that I’m better, more important, more worthy than someone else. Patience comes with a proper view of who I am. I become impatient, even hot tempered when I feel that my schedule is more important than yours. My need for that parking spot is greater than yours. ‘I was here first!’ My comfort, my agenda ranks higher than yours. ‘Why are you getting in my way? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you understand what I have to accomplish? You are hindering me. Me!’

Jesus initiates an upside down kingdom. He says it is the one who puts others first, who cares for the least of these who is truly great (Mt.25).

Matthew 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This humility of considering the needs of others as more important than our own is what allows us to patiently bear with one another in love. There is stuff we will have to put up with. There are misunderstandings. There are unintentional insensitivities. There are also legitimate wrongs. But because we are actively pursuing spiritual unity, because we are walking in genuine humility, we can genuinely love the other person by patiently putting up with the crap they throw our way.

Colossians 3; Patience and Forgiveness

We see this same thing in Colossians 3:12.

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

Again, we see patience does not stand alone. Patience is coupled with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness. Patience puts up with the junk people knowingly or unknowingly throw at us. It is intentionally moving toward love and harmony and peace and unity in the body. Patience moves in this direction by bearing with and forgiving. Not everything has to be confronted. Some things we can choose to let go. Was it really that big of a deal? Can I just let it go? Can I assume the best, assume it was unintentional, assume you meant well, give you the benefit of the doubt and just let it go? Have I ever wronged or offended someone unintentionally? Can I in humility bear with them?

But maybe my complaint is genuine (or at least I have convinced myself that it is genuine). Then for the sake of unity, for the sake of harmony, for the sake of the peace of my own heart, in thanksgiving, because Christ Jesus has forgiven all my legitimate wrongs, I must forgive. Here we see patience and putting up with one another linked to forgiveness. The word in this verse for forgiving is χαρίζομαι from the root χάρις -grace. It means to grant as an undeserved favor, to gratuitously pardon or rescue. What you did was wrong. I have a legitimate complaint against you. I have a valid reason to be angry. You don’t deserve to receive my patience. But because Jesus has freely and undeservedly extended his gracious forgiveness to me, I must freely, graciously forgive you.

God’s Immense Patience

Do you see where we get this kind of patience? It comes from the same place all the other facets of the fruit of the Spirit come from. It comes from God. It is produced by the Spirit in us. It comes through looking. Looking in faith to God. Looking to who God is, to God’s character, as we long for God’s character to be reproduced in us. It comes through looking to Jesus. Our patience, our slowness to anger grows out of a relationship with God who is slow to anger.

Back in Exodus, shortly after God had rescued his people out of their slavery in Egypt, and he had called Moses up to the mountain to receive his laws, and the people grew impatient and made for themselves idols to worship. God was rightly angry, but Moses prayed, and God relented from the disaster he had spoken of bringing on the people (Ex.32). Because of this, Moses is emboldened to ask to see the glory of God.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Our God is a God who is immensely slow to anger. He has a long fuse. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is eager to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. Yet he is also just. He will right every wrong, and punish every sin. This understanding of the nature of God should cause us to be cautious in condemning God for seemingly excessive acts of violence. We read things like ‘The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ (Gen.19:24).

Numbers 16:31 …the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

Or in the conquest, at the command of the LORD, ‘we … devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors’ (Deut 2:34, 7:2). Our inclination is to say ‘that’s too harsh’. But we must remember the patience of God. As Peter says,

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God is longsuffering toward all, eager for all to turn and find repentance. We are to

2 Peter 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

Paul says in Romans 2:

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is slow to anger, immensely slow to anger, but his anger will come at the proper time. He is absolutely just. God’s anger is not quick and reactionary, it is not intended for his own convenience. God’s anger is cautious and constructive, slowly bringing about his own good purposes. God’s judgment is inescapable. But he is rich in kindness and forbearance. He is rich in longsuffering.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

So where does this kind of patience come from? The kind that is legitimately wronged and does not demand payment? The kind that does not say ‘you have wronged me, and I will make sure you wish you hadn’t. I’m going to hold you in my debt (which is bitterness) and make sure you feel the weight of what you did to me. The kind that freely, graciously, undeservedly reaches out and rescues my offender from what they deserve, at great personal cost? This kind of slow to anger patience only comes from looking to Jesus.

The Anger of Jesus

Let’s look at an instance of the anger of Jesus. In Mark 3,

Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, …

This is a set-up. The religious leaders are against him. Jesus is doing good, and exposing the religious people in their predatory and self-serving ways. He describes them in another passage

Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others….

Jesus knows this is a setup. He knows they are out to kill him. So he asks them a diagnostic question; is it lawful to do good or to do harm? To save a life or to kill? They are seeking his harm, they are seeking occasion against him. He holds up a mirror to reveal their own hearts. But they were silent. They were resolute in their determined opposition to him. They refused to look at their own hearts, their own need. Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart. Jesus was angry, but his anger was mixed with sorrow. He understood what they would do. He understood their need. He loved his enemies. He was grieved that they didn’t care about this person with a withered hand; they were willing to use him as bait. He was grieved that they couldn’t see their own shriveled hearts, and that one who with the power to make them new on the inside was standing among them.

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus was angry and grieved, but he acted in love. And he sealed his own fate. His enemies went out and held counsel against him, how to destroy him. Jesus’ anger was not moved by what would benefit himself. It moved out to do real good for those in need. It saw the real problem and moved decisively to fix it.

Jesus’ lovingly patient anger led him to the cross. Jesus was angry and grieved at their hardness of heart. And he took my hard heart on himself, he took my selfish pride, my callous indifference to the needs of others, my blindness to who he was, ‘He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree’ (1Pet.2:24).

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

The cross of Jesus the display of the patient anger of God against all that is wrong and hurtful and broken in his world. The cross fully displayed his perfect love of justice and righteousness; his incomprehensible love toward those who wronged him, by acting in anger for their eternal joy.

I can be slow to anger with those who have wronged me, because Jesus endured the full heat of the fury of Almighty God against all my sin. ‘It was the will of the LORD to crush him’ (Is.53:10). I can bear with the wrongs of others against me, I can act in love, because he bore all my wrongs, because when I was his enemy, he laid down his life in love for me.

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

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 14:33-57; Cleansing the House

09/11 Leviticus 14:33-57; Cleansing the House; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160911_leviticus-14_33-57.mp3

Chapters 11-15 of Leviticus deal with what makes a person unclean, unfit to enter God’s presence, and how a person can be cleansed and restored to fellowship with God. Chapter 11 deals with categories of creatures that were or were not permitted for food, and the consequences of contact with the carcass of an animal. Chapter 12 addressed the issue of uncleanness resulting from the blood involved in childbirth. Chapters 13-14 deal with various skin diseases and how to be cleansed. In addition to human skin ailments, Chapter 13 also deals with diseases in leather or fabrics. Chapter 14 also deals with diseases in the stones of a house. That will be our focus today. Then chapter 15 deals with normal and abnormal bodily discharges. We plan to take that up next week.

Leviticus 14:33 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 34 “When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, 35 then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, ‘There seems to me to be some case of disease in my house.’

As we have seen so often, Leviticus is a word directly from the Lord. ‘The LORD spoke, saying…’ ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’ (2Tim.3:16).

May we find here today appropriate reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

Notice this section looks forward to the time when Israel will be settled in the land. So far, all the other instructions had the flexibility to apply equally to Israel in the wilderness camped around the tabernacle and Israel in the promised land with the temple in Jerusalem. But this section specifically addresses ‘when you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession.’ This deals not with tents camped around the tent of the Lord, but with houses of stone and timber and plaster in the land. As a side note, this is a confirmation that Leviticus was written early, spoken to Moses and Aaron before Israel left Sinai.

God the Sovereign Source of Blessing and Disaster

This is a confirmation of God’s promise. Not ‘if you come into the land of Canaan,’ but ‘when you come into the land of Canaan.’ God takes credit. You will enter in, because I will give it to you for a possession. God is reminding them here that every good thing comes from God. Every good thing is a gift from the Lord.

But this is also a sobering reminder that bad things also come ultimately from the Lord. ‘And I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession.’ God takes credit for both good and bad. God will bring his people into the land. God may also put a disease in a house, and it may lead to the house being condemned and destroyed as a complete loss. Nothing is said here why God would do this. Could it be discipline for sin? Perhaps… Perhaps not. We are not told. We tend to look for reasons. Why did my car break down? Why did my sewer back up? Why cancer? Why has disaster overtaken me? What did I do wrong? What did I fail to do that I ought to have done? Is God angry with me? Or is this the evil one attacking me? Notice the common denominator of these speculations is a desire to justify oneself. Did I do something wrong and God is upset, or did I do something right and the devil is upset? And the focus is on me and my comfort. This text says that God might cause something really disastrous to happen to you, and it doesn’t say why.

In Isaiah 45, God is calling the Persian king Cyrus to rebuild his temple in Jerusalem. God says:

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity [ra; evil], I am the LORD, who does all these things. (cf. Lament. 3:38; Amos 3:6)

God is shifting our focus from us to him. We are concerned with our own well-being. I want things to go well for me, and I want to avoid calamity. God is lifting our eyes from ourselves to himself. ‘I am the LORD, there is no other. That people may know across the globe that there is none besides me; I am the LORD and there is no other.’ I am sovereign over sickness, over sorrow, over suffering, over disease, over disaster. I am the great Creator and I have rights to do what I will with my creation. ‘I am the LORD, who does all these things.’

Of course, it is wise to ask ‘is God trying to get my attention? What am I supposed to be learning from all this?’ But it is not necessarily about me. It might be bigger than me. We get that kind of bigger perspective from the book of Job. Horrible, unimaginable things happened to Job. He lost all that he had in a single day. His 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys were stolen by the Sabeans and all his servants were killed. Fire from heaven fell and burned up his 7,000 sheep and all his servants attending them. A Chaldean raiding party stole his 3,000 camels and killed those servants. A great wind collapsed his oldest son’s house and killed all 7 of his sons and his 3 daughters. Only four servants, one from each disaster scene survived to bring him the news. Why? What did he do? The book introduces Job as a man ‘blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.’ Then it must have been a Satanic attack! Yes, that is true, to an extent. It was a Satan who ‘went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job.’ But we could also say that the LORD incited and then allowed Satan to attack. ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ In chapter 2, God again says to Satan ‘have you considered my servant Job? …He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.’ This time Job was struck ‘with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.’ Job’s response? ‘Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?

Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job understood that ‘the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away’ and that in the midst of it all, God is worthy of worship. 42 painful chapters later, Job says:

Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. …5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;

Sometimes it doesn’t help to ask why. We need to simply trust and rest and cling to the LORD. We can confidently and expectantly hold on to Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I can be confident that whatever difficulty I face today, God is in complete control, and he is working in it for my good. For those who love God, for those who belong to God through faith in Jesus, for those who are called according to his purpose, we know that all things work together for good.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

So if God puts a case of leprous disease in your house and it is condemned and destroyed, you can trust that God is in control and he is working even in that for your good.

A Diseased House

Leviticus 14:34 “When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, 35 then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, ‘There seems to me to be some case of disease in my house.’ 36 Then the priest shall command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, lest all that is in the house be declared unclean. And afterward the priest shall go in to see the house. 37 And he shall examine the disease. And if the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be deeper than the surface, 38 then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house and shut up the house seven days. 39 And the priest shall come again on the seventh day, and look. If the disease has spread in the walls of the house, 40 then the priest shall command that they take out the stones in which is the disease and throw them into an unclean place outside the city. 41 And he shall have the inside of the house scraped all around, and the plaster that they scrape off they shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city. 42 Then they shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other plaster and plaster the house. 43 “If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it, 44 then the priest shall go and look. And if the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprous disease in the house; it is unclean. 45 And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city to an unclean place. 46 Moreover, whoever enters the house while it is shut up shall be unclean until the evening, 47 and whoever sleeps in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes.

Deep, Spreading and Persistent

We have been looking at skin diseases in Leviticus. Chapters 13 and 14 deal not only with surface issues on people, but also on cloth or leather articles, and on houses. As we have seen, the priest is to inspect the issue to see if it is a serious issue, if it is something that makes one unfit to enter the presence of the Lord. The evidence of a serious issue is ‘if it appears to be deeper than the surface’ and ‘if it spreads’. The priest is looking for deeper issues, persistent issues, things that tend to spread and grow. The diseased house is to be evacuated and sealed up for a week, and re-inspected. If the house is ultimately condemned, it is to be destroyed and none of the building materials are to be reused. The danger of an unclean house is that it hinders the ability of the one who has contact with it from entering the presence of the Lord.

The Kindness and Patience of God

Although this is a very serious issue, notice the kindness and patience of God. First, all the belongings are to be removed before the house is inspected. This allows the homeowner to keep his possessions out of quarantine and ultimately from being destroyed. And at the first sign of an issue the house is not immediately condemned and destroyed. A waiting period is established. The house is re-inspected Then the least invasive means is employed with the intent of preserving the home. Infected stones are removed, the house is scraped and re-plastered. Only if all this fails to resolve the issue is the entire house condemned.

Verses 48-53 give instructions almost identical to those earlier in the chapter for the curious ritual of cleansing a leper for making atonement for a house that has been cleansed, and then verses 54-57 serve as a concluding summary of chapters 13-14.

Jesus The Great High Priest and the House of God

I invite you to look with me to Jesus, our Great and Gracious High Priest. Let’s look at some of Jesus’ actions through the lens of Leviticus.

In John 2, after Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana, at the beginning of his ministry, we are told:

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus, if you will, as our Priest, is inspecting a house. It is the temple, which he calls his Father’s house. And he finds it diseased. So he scrapes the inside of the house. He drives all that is corrupt out of the house. And he leaves. But he does not shut the house up. Instead he returns and fills the house with his teaching. For over 3 years he is in and out of the house, spreading healing and his life giving good news. Then we pick up the story in the last week of his life,

Luke 19:37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” 47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. (cf. Mt.21:12-16; Mk.11:15-18)

Jesus came back to inspect his Father’s house. The disease had returned and spread. It was indeed deeper than the surface. Once again he scraped the house clean. But instead of submitting to the authority of the Great High Priest, the chief priests and scribes were seeking to kill him. The next day,

Mark 13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (cf. Mt.24:1-2; Lk.21:5-6)

The house is condemned. It must be torn down and destroyed. There was a persistent disease in the house.

A New Temple

But Jesus will build a new kind of house. In Ephesians 2, Paul tells the church, those blood-bought believers from every ethnicity that you are:

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

Peter tells those who have been born again through the living word of God that:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Paul tells the Corinthian church:

1 Corinthians 3:9 …You are God’s field, God’s building. …16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

We as Christ’s church are being built together into a dwelling place for God. And God still cares about the purity of his temple. From the seven letters to seven churches in Revelation, we see that Jesus is still inspecting his church. Jesus is involved, aware. Jesus is patient, he is gracious. But he will purify and perfect his church.

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

September 11, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:7; Love Believes, Hopes, Bears, Endures

02/01 1 Corinthians 13:7 Love Believes, Hopes, Bears, Endures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150201_1cor13_7.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν, 6 οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ· 7 πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει. 8 Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends...

Paul is painting the picture for us of what love looks like, what God’s love looks like, how Jesus loves us, and how we are to follow in his footsteps and love others. The Corinthians may have been spiritually gifted, but they lacked the essential characteristic of love. They wanted to know what is the primary evidence of being spiritual; Paul tells them it is not supernatural manifestations like tongues speaking or prophesy, but the supernatural manifestation of love.

This verse is concise and powerful. It consists of eight words, four verbs and the direct object ‘all’ repeated with each verb. It is structured in what is called a chaism or X shaped structure, where the first verb is parallel to the last, and the middle two verbs are paired together. At the center love believes and hopes. On the outside, love bears and endures. Each verb is has its object in the word ‘all’. What does love bear? What does love endure? What does love believe? What does love hope? All. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

All – Love Never Stops

How do we understand this ‘all’? Does it mean that love puts up with all offenses without complaining, love believes whatever it is told -true or not, love hopes for things that most likely will not come true, love endures even the worst abuses without doing anything about it? Remember, this phrase comes right on the heels of ‘love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth’. Would Paul then contradict himself and say that love willingly tolerates wrongdoing and is naïve and gullible, believing all things, even false teaching and lies, without discernment or discrimination? Certainly not! So what is the best way to understand this ‘all’? Translators have suggested that the ‘all’ here means the ‘absence of all limits’, and the best way to convey this meaning into English is with double negatives. So, where the ESV has:

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.(ESV)

And where the NIV takes the direct object adverbially:

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)

Some other translations use a negative construction to convey the idea of removing all limits to love.

7 Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits. (ERV)

7 Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. (GW)

7 Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. (Phillips)

There are no limits to the endurance of love. Love never gives up. Love bears and endures all. When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive a brother who keeps on sinning against him, Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven’ (Mt.18:22). Remove the limits to love. How? How does love put up with so much? We have learned that love has a long fuse, love extends kindness to those who don’t deserve it, love is not offended when good comes to others instead of self, love exhibits humility, love is not indecent, self-seeking, or irritable even when provoked, love does not keep records of offenses, love does not celebrate when others fail but rejoices with the advance of truth. How does love act this way? Because the foundation of love is faith and hope. Its faith and hope are in God.

Bears All Things

Lets start from the outside and work our way inward. Love bears all things. This word is differently translated. The ESV has ‘bears all things’; then NIV has ‘always protects’; The CEB has ‘puts up with all things’; the OJB has ‘covers all things’. This word comes from a root which means ‘roof’ – the roof on a house or building. A roof covers and protects, which is one possible meaning of the word, in the sense of covering, passing over in silence, keeping confidential.

If this is what the word means here, Paul would be saying something like what the Proverbs say (using a different word)

Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

And similar to what Peter (also using a different word) says in

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

So if this is how Paul is using the word, he is saying that love hides from view the sins of others, covering them over, protecting them from view, and thus protecting the sinner from some of the consequences of his sin.

This is how the word is used in the apocryphal book of Sirach

[apocrypha] Sirach 8:17 with a foolish one do not consult, for he cannot cover up a secret

While this is what the proverbs and Peter teach, that love does not parade around the sins of others, putting them on display, humiliating the sinner, (and this would fit the context here that love ‘does not rejoice at wrongdoing’), this is not the way Paul uses this word. The only other occurrences of this verb in the New Testament are 1 Thessalonians 3:1 and 5, and 1 Corinthians 9:12.

1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

Paul uses the word here in the sense of carrying a load or bearing up under difficulties. He could carry the burden no longer; we might say ‘he could stand it no longer’. The other place Paul uses this word is in 1 Corinthians 9, and there it has the same direct object ‘all things’ as it has here in chapter 13.

Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

He says we voluntarily give up our rights and we carry any load, we bear any burden, we endure any hardship rather than hindering the gospel. Paul is holding up his own conduct as an example of how he wants the Corinthians also to put the advance of the gospel in first place, so much so that they become willing to endure anything, even the violation of their own rights, to see the lost come to Christ. Paul has said, in 4:16 and again in 11:1 ‘be imitators of me’. He has held himself up as an example of what enduring anything for the sake of love looks like, and now he tells us that love is willing to bear any load for the good of the one loved.

Endures All Things

The other end of the parallel is love ‘endures all things’. This is a very similar concept to ‘bears all things’. This word carries the idea of patience, and means to remain behind. In Luke 2:43, the young boy Jesus ‘remained behind’ in Jerusalem. In Acts 17:14, Silas and Timothy ‘remained behind’ in Berea while Paul went on ahead to Athens. The idea of ‘staying behind’ does not mean being left home when everyone else goes off to battle. Quite the opposite, they shipped Paul off for his own protection, because the Jews from Thessalonica had followed them to Berea and were ‘agitating and stirring up the crowds’ against them. So to stay behind means to stand and fight, to hold your ground, to be steadfast, to persevere. In classical Greek it was often used in military contexts. Jesus points his followers to the need for this kind of perseverance

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

Endurance here is in the context of hatred, persecution, betrayal, execution, false teaching, lawlessness and a love that had grown cold. Endurance means remaining faithful to Jesus whatever the cost, holding steadfastly to the truth of the gospel as Jesus taught it, tenaciously persisting to love others even when that seems irrational and dangerous.

The author of Hebrews holds Jesus up to us as the example of patient endurance.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Jesus endured the cross. He endured hostility from sinners. We can take heart and stand our ground steadfast in love.

If there is a subtle difference between bearing all things and enduring all things, we could say that bearing all is like a roof that supports a limitless load, where endurance puts up with abuse for a limitless duration.

Never Stops Trusting

How do we do this? How can we love like this? What motivates a love that supports a limitless load and endures for a limitless duration? A love that remains steadfast in the face of hatred, betrayal, false teaching, even the threat of death? This is love that is beyond my capability. This is supernatural love. Where does it come from? I think the text answers our questions as we move from the outer pair to the inner pair. Love is able to bear all and endure all today because love looks forward to eternity believing all and hoping all.

What does it mean to believe all things? Or maybe it would be less easily misunderstood to translate it negatively ‘love never stops believing’. What does it mean to believe? The ‘believe’ word group in the bible means to trust in, depend on, or rely on. The noun form is often translated ‘faith’. We are told in Romans 4 that Abraham’s faith was credited to him for righteousness. His faith was believing the promise of God.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

His faith, or his believing, was an unwavering conviction that God is who he claims to be and he will do what he has promised to do. Jesus promises eternal life to all who believe in him. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds us of the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave.

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.

Paul tells us that the believing that is not worthless and empty consists in receiving the good news, standing in the good news, allowing the good news to rescue us, and holding fast to the good news. How does this enable us to love, to bear all things and endure all things? Because we are taking our stand in the good news. Good news that promises us eternal life even if someone destroys our body. Good news that God is working all things, even the painful things, together for our ultimate good (Rom.8:28). Because we are believers, because we never stop believing in God, trusting him, depending on him, we can take the risk of loving others.

Never Stops Hoping

Love never stops believing, love never stops hoping. What is hope? We often use the word ‘hope’ to describe things that we wish might happen but have no reason to believe will actually happen. It is almost synonymous with ‘wish’. And sometimes it is used that way in the bible. Paul talks about his plans to visit churches using the word hope to describe something he desires to do and plans to do but is not confident that it will come to pass. But hope in the bible is often used as synonymous with believe. The prophecy pointing to Jesus Isaiah 42 says:

Matthew 12:21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

To hope in the name of Jesus and to believe or trust in Jesus are saying that we put our confidence in Jesus. Hope brings out the aspect of desire and longing and eager expectation.

Hebrews speaks of forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, and confidence to enter the presence of God through the blood of Jesus. He says

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

We might expect him to say ‘the confession of our faith‘. But hope expresses the confidence of believing in a God who is faithful to keep his promises.

Timothy helps clarify what is meant by hope. It says

1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

There is a contrast between the different objects we hope in, we trust in, we place our confidence in, we look to with eager expectation. Many put confidence in riches. Paul warns ‘do not set your hope on riches, because they are uncertain. They will fail to deliver what they appear to promise. The big bank account might appear trustworthy, but it can be gone in an instant. Instead, hope in God. Place your confidence in God. God cannot fail to deliver what he promises. God is the one who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. God is the only risk-free place to put your hope.’

Love never stops hoping in God. Love does not hope for a return from the one it shows love to. That will let you down. Love always hopes or hopes in all things, because the hope is not short term return on the investment of love here and now, but a hope that reaches into eternity, a hope that is fixed on God himself. That is the only hope that will never disappoint.

Romans 5 connects faith with hope, and links it to endurance and love.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We stand in grace – God’s good gift, by faith in Jesus, who grants us peace with God and access to him, and we rejoice in hope, confident that he will make good on all his promises. And then we see the link between suffering, which provides opportunity to bear up and endure, which produces tested character, which enhances our confidence in God, because we begin to see God’s supernatural love manifest in our lives, a result of the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in us to produce this love for others.

We never stop trusting in God, depending on him, relying on him; we never stop hoping in God, having confidence in him, with eagerly expectant longing for him, and this confidence and dependence in God flows out of us in risk taking love for people, people who will never be able to repay, who are needy, broken, hurting, and who will hurt us. We persevere in loving them, in bringing the good news about Jesus to them, we bear the insults, the abuse, the scorn, the disappointments, because our faith and hope are fixed not on temporary short term rewards, but on God who is love, who richly rewards all who hope in him, all who love with his love. Love moves out and puts itself out for the sake of the advance of the gospel and for the glory of Christ. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

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

February 2, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:4a; Long-Tempered and Kind

11/02 1 Corinthians 13:4a Long-Tempered and Kind; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141102_1cor13_4a.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are in the love chapter, and we are studying the nature of biblical love, God’s love. We saw from the first three verses that someone may do what we would consider loving acts, even to the extreme, and not have love. We learned that there are different words in the Greek language for different kinds of love. There is storge, the affection of a parent for a child; there is phileo, the love of friendship; there is eros, romantic love. A person may do loving acts of self-sacrifice out of a romantic love. Someone might do heroic loving deeds out of a deep friendship love, and we honor and recognize as noble someone who sacrifices self to nurture those in need out of a paternal type of love. But Paul says:

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Even extreme acts of charity and self sacrifice not born of biblical agape love earn nothing for the one who does them. Although they may be a resonance of the created image of God in humankind, they profit us nothing. Jesus gives us one example of this kind of loving act that gains nothing in Matthew 6:2.

Matthew 6:2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Some do charitable deeds for praise they receive, and Jesus says they have received their reward in full. Some do charitable deeds because of how it makes them feel, and they too have their reward. The love Paul praises in this chapter is of an entirely different type. 1 John 4:19 makes it clear:

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

This agape love comes as a response to God’s love demonstrated to us. 1 John 4 teaches us that God’s love was demonstrated to us by Jesus dying in our place on the cross. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. We can love like this only after we have been transformed or born again by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces this kind of love in the believer. This kind of love is evidence that we know God and belong to God.

God is Love

This love finds its source in God because God is love (1 Jn.4:8). We can easily substitute God’s name in place of love in this chapter, and it would read very well. But as John says,

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

We look to Jesus to better understand what the Father is like. Because Jesus is, as Colossians 1:15 tells us, ‘the image of the invisible God’ and as Hebrews 1:3 tells us ‘He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature’. We can see the character of Love incarnate in the person of Jesus. We could substitute the name ‘Jesus’ in place of ‘love’ and nothing would seem out of place. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind, Jesus does not envy or boast, Jesus is not arrogant or rude…

Imitators of Christ

1 Corinthians 13 is not a beautiful sentimental poem, this is a wrecking ball that will level us if we listen to what it says. It was originally intended as a scathing rebuke to the loveless Corinthians, and it is strong medicine that will do us much good if we are willing to swallow it. Try this this afternoon: plug your own name in to this chapter. Read it out loud and see how it sounds. Read it to your spouse or to a close friend who knows you well. Look them in the eye and see if you can do it with a straight face. Some things may fit. Others may sting like lemon juice in an open wound. In 1 Corinthians 4:16 and 11:1, Paul invited his readers to ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.’ We are to be conformed to the image of Christ. This chapter can serve us a helpful indicator of where we are in the process of becoming Christlike.

Or put the name of our church in for love. Ephraim Church of the Bible is patient, is kind, does not envy or boast… The character of the church is made up by you, each one of its members. I look in the mirror, see how far I fall short, and cry out, God transform me by your Spirit!

Structure

Verses 4-7 give 15 phrases that describe this love, 2 that describe what it is, 8 that describe what it is not, one contrast, and 4 of what love always does. English translations struggle to bring out both the meaning and the beauty of form in this literary masterpiece. Most English translations structure these sentences beginning with the noun ‘love’, and the present tense of the verb ‘to be’, love is, and an adjective that describes a characteristic of love; love is patient. But this is not the structure of the Greek phrases. The verb ‘to be’ is not found here, instead, each descriptor of love is a verb. The King James does well here where it translates ‘Charity suffereth long’.

It is critical that we have a clear understanding of what Biblical love looks like, so that we understand what the goal is. We want to be more Christlike, we want to be more loving. So we are going to take our time working through this passage. We will take the first two verbs today, patient and kind.

μακροθυμέω

Patience, or longsuffering, the Greek word μακροθυμέω, is a compound verb made up of macro and thumos. Macro means long or large; we use a microscope to zoom in to the details, but we take a step back to take in the macro big picture. Thumos means passion, fierceness, indignation, or wrath, it paints the picture of breathing hard. In our language we have the word short-tempered, and we might say ‘he has a short fuse’. This word means to be long-tempered or to have a a long fuse.

Corinthian Impatience

This was not true of the Corinthians. They were not patient. They were not long-tempered. They are characterized by quarrels, jealousy, dissension, and strife. They were eager to be thought spiritual and mature, but Paul calls them infants in Christ (3:1-3). They were impatient for the promised blessings of the age to come, insisting that already they have all they want, already they have become rich, already they have become kings (4:8). They were impatient to get what was coming to them, so they brought their brothers to court (6:1-8). They were more interested in the instant gratification of a meal than in the long term joy of bearing with the weakness of their brothers. In coming together to celebrate the Lord’s supper, each one would go ahead with his own meal, and Paul had to command them to wait for one another. They had no patience in the exercise of their gifts, where they would interrupt one another and even talk over one another. The Corinthians were not patient with one another. They were not slow to anger.

The Wisdom of a Long Fuse

The proverbs hold up the wisdom of a long fuse.

Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Ecclesiastes says:

Ecclesiastes 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

The Patience of God

In the Old Testament, this word translates ‘slow to anger’, a dearly loved characteristic of God. God, in his self-revelation to Moses,

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Our God is a God who is slow to anger. 1 Peter 3 refers to:

1 Peter 3:20 …when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

God patiently endured the wickedness of man 120 years while the ark was being built. Methuselah, the man with the longest lifespan in recorded history, 969 years, died the year the flood came. God is slow to anger.

In Nehemiah 9, God is praises for his great mercy and patience in spite of the persistent disobedience of the people.

Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

…28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The whole history of the biblical record is a history of God’s patience with his disobedient people. God is a God who is slow to anger. This does not mean he is lenient or lets things slide. He does get angry, he is a just judge, and he ‘will by no means let the guilty go unpunished’. But he is overwhelmingly patient.

Peter tells us

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Jesus will inflict his vengeance in flaming fire on those who do not know God, those who do not obey his gospel. But he is very slow to anger.

Jesus told a parable to describe his patience in Matthew 18.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

Notice in the parable that the servant pleaded with his master to have patience with him to repay his debt. What is staggering in this story is the magnitude of his debt. A talent is the equivalent of 20 years wages. He owed his master 200,000 years wages, a debt he could never dream of paying back. The master, who is a picture of God in the story, goes beyond patience and is willing to free him and forgive him, willing to absorb the entire debt himself. The servant, however, was not patient with his fellow servant, and demanded immediate payment of a debt. The servant was owed by his fellow servant 100 denarii, the equivalent of 100 days wages. A significant amount, but infinitely less than what he owed his master. He who had been offered love was still operating in the currency of debt, and so demonstrated that he had failed to receive the love he was offered. That kind of love necessarily converts a person who truly receives to operate on an entirely different currency.

χρηστεύομαι

Paul says that love is kind. This word appears nowhere else as a verb. It is possible that Paul coined the term here to focus on the active nature of love. The root of the word means useful or suitable or fit for the intended use. Jesus uses the adjective this way in Matthew 11

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The word translated ‘easy’ is this word kind or good. It fits well. To be kind is to be gracious, generous, upright, useful, gentle, friendly, mild, and helpful. Patience and kindness often go together. Charles Simeon combines the two as “The suffering patiently all kinds of evil, and doing cheerfully all kinds of good” [Simeon, 1833, Horae, p.329].

Corinthian Kindness

The Corinthians were anything but kind. In setting themselves above others, suing a brother in the courts, defrauding a spouse by withholding sexual relations, destroying a weaker brother by violating his conscience, humiliating those who have nothing, saying to another brother ‘I have no need of you’, they were acting in ways that were anything but kind.

The Kindness of God

The kindness of God is often related to his being slow to anger.

Psalm 145:7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Jesus points us to the kindness of his Father specifically toward those who don’t deserve it.

Luke 6:35 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.

God’s kindness, his gracious generosity, is seen most clearly in Christ Jesus.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Paul combines the patience and kindness of God in Romans 2.

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. To presume on the riches of his kindness and patience is to store up wrath for the day of judgment. We see God’s kindness, his gentleness and mildness and his slowness to anger come together with his righteous justice at the cross.

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 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. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God cannot be kind in a way that overlooks sin. He cannot be patient in a way that violates justice. By not immediately punishing our sin with death, God allowed a question mark to hang over his own righteousness. Would he let sin slide and fail to be just? That question mark was removed at the cross, where the righteous demands of the law were fully satisfied by the blood of Jesus. God’s patience and kindness is meant to turn our eyes to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God.

God displays his great love for us in this generous kindness.

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 and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

He holds his own kindness in the cross up as a model for us to follow.

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

Because God has so loved us, as a response to his goodness and mercy, to his slowness to anger, out of the fullness of his love for us, we must allow this love to overflow from us to others.

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.

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

November 2, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 14-16; God Glorified in a Life Transformed by the Gospel

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130106_god-glorified-in-transformed-life.mp3

01/06 God Glorified in a Life Transformed by the Gospel (John 14-16)

Glory to God in the highest! Glory to God in the highest! God’s glory is the highest thing, the greatest thing. God’s glory is the focal point of everything. We were created to bring glory to God.

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

All heavenly beings were created to bring glory to God.

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

All of creation was designed to bring glory to God.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

We are commanded:

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

Am I Living for God’s Glory?

So if bringing glory to God is the purpose of my existence, and if my level of fulfillment and satisfaction is directly linked to doing what I was created to do, then the most important question I could ask myself is

-Am I fulfilling my purpose?

-Am I doing that which I was created to do?

-Am I living a life that brings maximum glory to God?’

-Can I increase the magnitude of the glory I give to God?

-Can I get better at fulfilling my purpose?

-Are there things that detract from God’s glory that I need to put aside?

And in order to answer these questions accurately, we need to find out what it means to bring glory to God, what ways God intends to be glorified in my life, what a life lived for the glory of God looks like. We began to answer that question last time, when we saw that God is glorified in the gospel. God is glorified in the good news message that God is for us. That God loves us. That God sent his only Son to fulfill our purpose of living for the glory of God and to pay the penalty for our God-belittling, God-ignoring sins so that we can be rescued from our self-inflicted destruction. God is glorified when we hear the gospel – that Jesus died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now reigns on high. God is glorified when we believe the gospel, when we entrust ourselves to Jesus, when we depend on him fully. God is glorified when we reflect on, revel in, and enjoy the gospel. God is glorified when we extend the gospel to others. God is glorified as more and more people come to believe in Jesus, have their sins forgiven, and enjoy a reconciled relationship with their Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

God Glorified in Lives Transformed by the Gospel

Today I want to focus on a natural outflow of the gospel that brings glory to God. God is glorified when we hear, believe, love, and extend the gospel. God is also glorified when we live lives transformed by the gospel.

Listen to what Jesus says:

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

Jesus says that when we bear fruit, it brings glory to God. So we have to ask two questions: what is the fruit that we are to bear? And how do we bear much fruit?

First, what does Jesus mean when he says we glorify God by bearing much fruit? What kind of fruit is he talking about? Is he talking about oranges or apples or grapes? Is he suggesting we all take up gardening? In the context of this statement in John 15, Jesus describes himself as the true vine, his Father as the vinedresser, and us as branches of the vine. He is using an agricultural metaphor to teach a spiritual truth. Healthy branches, when connected to the vine and properly pruned and cared for, bear fruit. If we look at the broader context of this metaphor, specific characteristics of the fruit become clear.

Faith

In the first part of John 14, Jesus mentions knowing him and believing in him and coming to him about 10 times. And then he says to those who believe in him:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

So this coming to Jesus, knowing Jesus, believing in Jesus brings glory to God. This ties in with what we have already seen, that God is glorified when we believe the gospel. Our faith in Jesus, coming to God on the basis of Jesus, asking in faith brings glory to God.

Love

Then Jesus points us to love. Jesus mentions love for Jesus six times in John 14. He says that the evidence of this love for him is keeping his commandments, keeping his words, rejoicing at his words. He holds up his own obedience to his Father as evidence of his love for the Father. After the vine metaphor in John 15, Jesus says:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

We bring glory to God by bearing much fruit. Jesus makes the connection between bearing much fruit and abiding in his love. Abiding in his love is keeping his commandments. His commandment is that we love one another as he loved us. So the fruit Jesus is talking about is believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, loving one another. This kind of fruit is evidence that we are truly disciples of Jesus.

Joy

Jesus tells us that this kind of abiding love will result in his joy being in us and our joy being full. Later in chapter 16, as he talks of leaving the disciples, they are sorrowful, but he tells them that their sorrow will turn into joy (16:20). He says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

This fruit that brings glory to God is characterized by joy, a joy we receive from God, joy that cannot be taken away, joy that is full.

Peace

Look back at John 14:27. Jesus says:

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.

And again in John 16:33, Jesus said:

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

Jesus gives us his peace. The absence of fear; the absence of anxiety. Peace that passes all understanding (Phil.4:7). This kind of peace is fruit that brings glory to God.

Patience

Jesus said (Jn.14:1-4) that he was going to prepare a place for his followers, so that we can be with him where he is. This creates hope and anticipation. It also requires patience. Patience is fruit that brings glory to God.

Perseverance

Jesus said that the world would hate and persecute his followers.

John 16:1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

Fruit that brings glory to God is perseverance in the face of opposition, or being kept from falling away.

The Holy Spirit

John 14:12 is a verse that staggers the imagination. I vividly remember the very first time I read it in my bible. I remember where I was and who I was with and what I was doing. I remember being humbled and amazed and overwhelmed. I remember grabbing my friend and showing him this verse and being worshipfully amazed together. This is a verse that is unbelievable, but Jesus said it, he said it is true, and I believe it to be true.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Whoever believes in Jesus (that’s me!) will do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do!? Jesus caused the deaf to hear and opened the eyes of the blind, he made the crippled whole, he made the lame leap for joy, he even raised the dead. Whoever believes in Jesus will do greater works than these? What can possibly be greater than this? How can this be? The only thing greater than overcoming physical blindness and deafness is overcoming satanic spiritual blindness and hardness of heart to the gospel. The only thing greater than raising the physically dead back to life (who will someday die physically again) is seeing those who are dead in their trespasses and sins raised to newness of eternal life. The only thing greater than seeing the crippled made whole and the lame leaping for joy is to see mangled and twisted sin-sick souls healed and made whole and transformed by the gospel. Friends, you and I, ‘whoever believes in me’ Jesus said, will do greater works than Jesus, to the glory of God, because Jesus went to the Father.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

How can we possibly bear this kind of fruit to the glory of God? Because we have another Helper, who is with us forever. The Holy Spirit of God dwells in me.

In preparing his disciples for his death, Jesus even told these grief-stricken followers that his physical absence is better for them than his presence.

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

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit living in believers is better than the Son of God in the flesh living with believers. It is to your advantage that I go away. It is to the advantage of fulling your purpose, living life for the glory of God.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Holy Spirit works for the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. God is glorified when we bear much fruit. So I think it is safe to say that the Holy Spirit is at work to bring glory to God by producing this kind of fruit in us; supernatural spiritual fruit like faith and love and joy and peace and patience and perseverance and hope. Does this sound familiar?

The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Paul gives us the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in contrast to the works that the flesh produces

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The works of the flesh are things that detract from the glory of God. If I am involved in things like these, they have to go.

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

Crucifixion is painful. It is where we get the word ‘excruciating’. Putting to death the flesh with its passions and desires is not easy. But it is essential for those who belong to Christ Jesus. We must live for the glory of God, and everything else must go. But please understand, this is not an oppressive list of do’s and don’ts. The works of the flesh are bondage and they lead to death. The fruit of the spirit is true freedom, freedom to be who you were designed to be, free to live a life liberated from the gnarled twisted malignant lethal virus of sin.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. …13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus has set you free to live life to the glory of God, a life of love for God and love for one another, the life you were meant for. If you are a believer in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit is at work in you producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith (or faithfulness), gentleness, self-control.

These God-glorifying character traits do not come as the result of good old fashioned grit, determination and self-discipline. That is a work of the flesh, not a fruit of the Spirit. Notice that it says ‘the fruit of the Spirit is (singular). It does not say ‘the fruits of the Spirit are (plural). I cannot say that I’ve got a great crop of patience, gentleness and kindness growing over here, but my joy is rather wilted and my self-control hasn’t sprouted yet. That would be evidence that those traits I feel strongest in are not supernatural fruit of the Spirit, but rather natural personality traits or the results of upbringing and self-discipline. I think we can gauge our Christian maturity most accurately by our weakest trait. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. I am as mature as my weakest character trait. Paul says ‘if I …have not love, I am nothing’ (1Cor.13:2). That might be discouraging, but it is often necessary to clear away the weeds that resemble healthy plants to allow room for the Spirit to do his transforming work.

How to Grow

So how do I grow in godly character to the glory of God? How do I bear much fruit to the glory of God?

It is critical to understand that I cannot produce fruit. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5).

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

Jesus is the source of life. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we are connected to him, abiding in him, his life is in us and we will bear fruit. Spiritual growth comes through believing dependence on Jesus. Jesus gives very practical instruction for abiding in him. He says:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Jesus connects abiding in him with having his words abide in you. God’s word is a powerful tool for transformation in the hand of the Holy Spirit. So fill you heart and your head and your home with scripture. Read and re-read and write and meditate and memorize. Saturate your heart and your head in the bible. Let God’s word shape your thinking, your feeling, and your acting.

Allow the painful process of pruning. Jesus said:

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Yield to the pruning process for maximum fruitfulness to the glory of God.

And Jesus repeatedly invites and encourages us to ask (Jn.14:13, 14; 15:7, 16; 16:23, 24, 26). Asking is critical, because asking admits that we need something we don’t have and can’t get on our own. Asking looks away from ourselves and to God who is the source of every good thing. Asking keeps us coming to Jesus, plugged in to Jesus, abiding in Jesus, dependent on Jesus, in relationship with Jesus.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

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

January 8, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 4:1-9; The Unbelief of Moses and the Superabundant Patience of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100711_exodus04_1-9.mp3

7/11 Exodus 4:1-9 The Unbelief of Moses and the Superabundant Patience of God

3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”-so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand- 5 “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

***

The unbelief of Moses and the superabundant patience of God

This passage is about belief in God’s word. The word ‘believe’ or ‘trust’ occurs 5 times in these 9 verses. The word ‘listen’ or ‘obey’ occurs 3 times. God has spoken. God has interrupted history and introduced himself to his servant and called him to a specific task. He has promised the outcome in detail in advance. Moses is a skeptic. Moses is struggling to believe. Already in the process of God’s revelation of himself to Moses, Moses had questioned the wisdom and the word of God. We will see in this passage the unbelief of Moses and the superabundant patience of God toward a questioning skeptic.

YHWH had said in 3:8 ‘I have come down to deliver’; in 3:10 ‘come, I will send you to Pharaoh’; in 3:11 Moses said to God ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ God answered ‘but I will be with you’. In 3:13 Moses says ‘what if they ask about you? What if they ask ‘who sent you?’ What is your name?’ God answers ‘I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent you; the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Go to the elders of Israel and tell them ‘I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt.’ In 3:18 God says ‘And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt’ Then he says ‘ I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it’ He says ‘I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty … you shall plunder the Egyptians’.

But Moses is tripped up all the way back in verse 18. God tells Moses to go to the elders of Israel and he says ‘they will listen to you.’

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’”

This is a direct contradiction to the words of God. God says ‘they will listen’. Moses says ‘but look, God, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.’ Moses is projecting his own doubt onto the Israelites. He is struggling to believe God, who is appearing to him, so he assumes that the Israelites, who have not seen what he has seen will certainly not believe a mere verbal report of what he claims to have seen and heard in the desert.

A definition of belief:

The belief he is talking about is more than a recognition that certain facts are true. That is part of the question – Moses, what you say happened in the desert – did it really happen or did you just make this up? You had a real experience. Was it God or is there some other explanation? ‘Moses, we believe you. We believe you really had this experience and that it was really God. Now everybody, back to making bricks!’ That’s not the kind of belief we are talking about. This belief demands a response. This is what James is talking about when he says ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:14-26) That’s why Moses says they will not believe or listen. He doesn’t think they’ll have any reason to buy his story, and he doesn’t think that they will respond to his message. The word ‘listen’ could be translated ‘obey’, because when I tell my children to go and do something, the evidence that they heard me is the going and the doing. If they aren’t gone and it isn’t done, they I might ask ‘didn’t you hear me?’ And they might look up from their toys and say ‘yes, we heard you quite clearly. You asked us to go and do such and such.’ and they might look back down and continue to play with their toys. I am not an auditory specialist performing a hearing test. I wasn’t checking if your ears worked. In that setting listening and obeying are one and the same. If there is no action, they did not listen.

The cost of belief:

What does this mean for Moses and for the elders of Israel? God is sending Moses to Egypt to talk to the elders of Israel, to tell them that he is coming down to deliver them. The elders of Israel who are slaves in Egypt are to go with Moses to Pharaoh to ask for the religious freedom to travel into the desert to make offerings to their God. This would be a great risk for the leaders of Israel. God had already told Moses that the Pharaoh wouldn’t listen and that things would get worse before they got better. This could cost them their popularity, their positions, their families, even their lives! These leaders would have to trust Moses. Out of their confidence in him they would have to step out to do what he asks that they do. They would have to take Moses’ word for it that YHWH had met with him and sent him to deliver. What is the credibility of Moses? This would be the first time in over 400 years that anyone had claimed that YHWH had appeared to them. And Moses was raised by the Pharaoh’s own daughter. He was rejected once before by his people. Now he’s been exiled in the desert for the last 40 years doing who knows what. Why would anyone believe him? What reason would they have to trust him? They had hoped the new Pharaoh would bring some relief, but their hopes were soon crushed. What would cause them to hope in the words of Moses?

All this and more may have been rushing through the mind and emotions of Moses, but Moses had God’s word on the issue. Moses, they will listen to you. So Moses has his experience and his reasoning and his past failures and his fears over against God’s word to him. And Moses, the one who is to lead Israel in this pivotal event of history is swayed by his fears to disbelieve God’s word. God said ‘they will listen to you.’ Moses says ‘but look, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.’ One older author put it this way [1881]

“How hard it is to overcome the unbelief of the human heart!How difficult man ever finds it to trust God! How slow he is to venture upon the naked promise of Jehovah! Anything, for nature, but that. The most slender reed that the human eye can see is counted more substantial, by far, as a basis for nature’s confidence, than the unseen ‘Rock of Ages.'” C.H.Macintosh, p.159

The Patience and Perseverance of God:

God is so patient! God is so merciful. God is so kind. He is so long-suffering. He bears with the shortcomings of his servant. Remember, God is all-knowing. He knows the weaknesses of his chosen instrument. He knows exactly what he is getting himself into. He knows he is purchasing damaged goods – used, as is. And he plans to get glory for himself by accomplishing stunning things with broken people. God is so persevering! He doesn’t give up on Moses and walk away and say ‘Fine, if you don’t want to cooperate, I’ll find someone else!’ God takes Moses as he is and does everything necessary to overcome his unbelief and create in him the required faith.

Sign #1:

God answers Moses’ unbelieving statement with a question. ‘What is that in your hand?’ God already knew what was in Moses hand. It was a shepherd’s staff, a stick. God knew what kind of wood it was and where it grew and how old it was. He knew every knot and twist of the grain. He knew its weak points and exactly how much force it could withstand before it snapped. God’s questions are not for his benefit to learn from our wisdom and experience. When God asks a question, it is for our benefit to cause us to reflect on what is true. God wanted Moses to verbalize exactly what it was that he was holding on to. Moses says ‘Ahh, I’m glad you noticed. This is my supernatural wonder working miracle stick.’ Far from it. Moses looks in his hand and sees an ordinary stick. A useful tool for a shepherd, but just a piece of wood. Maybe Moses even remembered where he picked it up. A staff in ancient culture was a form of personal identification – because no two sticks are alike. It was useful for personal protection, and it was a symbol of the person’s power. Moses’ staff would not be an ornate scepter like the Pharaoh of Egypt would possess. It was the ordinary staff of a shepherd. After Moses verbalizes that it is nothing special – a mere ordinary stick, God commands him to throw it on the ground. Put yourself in Moses’ sandals. He doesn’t know what’s coming. This seems like a weird request. I told God that no one would believe that he sent me, and he’s telling me to throw my stick on the ground. Not sure how that relates, but whatever. This would be like God asking you, ‘What’s that in your back pocket? A wallet? Take out your personal identification and throw it on the ground. Take your handgun or your pocket knife or whatever you might carry for self-defense and throw it on the ground.’ Watch what happens:

2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.

That must have shocked Moses. We chuckle at Moses running from his staff become serpent. Remember, Moses has his sandals off. He’s got bare feet. He’s just thrown down his main form of self-protection. And let’s picture if Moses is 5′ 8” then his staff is maybe 6 foot tall and thick enough to support his weight and be a useful tool herding sheep in the desert. Now he’s got a 6 foot long cobra rearing up and flaring out its neck and staring him in the face. I’m guessing it was a cobra because the cobra was the power symbol of the Pharaoh in Egypt, worn on his headdress and around his arm. Moses is barefoot and unarmed. No surprise that he ran. What is surprising is what God tells him to do:

4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”-so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-

If anyone knows anything about snakes the first rule is leave it alone! Stay far far away. But if anyone knows anything about catching snakes, rule number one is never try to catch it by the tail. Snakes are fast and flexible and strong and they can double back in an instant and strike. If you’ve got a snake by the tail, it can not only see and smell you, but now it can feel exactly where you are and it’s not going to miss. Catching a snake by the tail leaves you completely vulnerable to the venom in its fangs. God commands Moses to stop running away and stretch out your hand grasp or take hold of the snake by the tail. God has told Moses ‘I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt’. Now he is telling Moses to stretch out his hand and take a snake by the tail. The word that describes what Moses did is a different verb. He snatched at it or grabbed it cautiously. Moses’ obedience is impressive. God didn’t tell him what would happen. He didn’t tell him it would be safe or that it would all turn out OK. Moses didn’t know until it was in his hand that it was going to turn back into a stick.

By the way, I believe this was a real stick that really turned into a real snake. This was not some slight of hand trickery or illusion. The God who can speak everything into existence can surely turn a shepherd’s stick into a snake and back again. Notice again the stated purpose of all of this:

5 “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

The purpose is belief, trust, confidence. God’s purpose in the sign of the snake is to stimulate belief in the elders of Israel. The snake is the power symbol of Egypt. Moses has met with the One who holds all power in his hand.

Sign # 2

Moses is probably still a bit shaken and stunned by what just happened. But God doesn’t leave it at this:

6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.

Moses is told to put his hand against his skin by his chest. Again, Moses has no idea what to expect. This would be a terrifying turn of events. Leprosy was an incurable skin disease that banished the infected person from all society permanently. Moses, you thought you were lonely before! Now you’ve got leprosy. Even the Midianites won’t accept you now. You’ve become a total outcast. What God told Moses to do next was probably even more loathsome than taking a serpent by the tail.

7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.”

You never touch a leper. Leprosy is extremely contagious and God would give Israel clear laws about how to quarantine and control the spread of this debilitating disease. The main rule is that leprosy is spread by contact, so keep leprosy as far away from you as possible. Now God is telling Moses to take the diseased flesh of his hand and press it against the clean flesh of his chest. Again, identify with Moses. He didn’t know what was coming. He only knew the natural consequences of putting a leprous hand against clean flesh. The leprosy would spread.

7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.

Moses had been an outcast from his people for 40 years. Moses is now face to face with the healer of all disease – One who can make the outcast clean

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

God alone has the authority over sickness and disease, over life and death. That is why the king of Israel was terrified when he received a letter from the king of Syria asking that he cure one of his generals of leprosy:

[the king of Syria] 2 Kings 5:6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

We can’t help but see how this points to Jesus. In the law there was a detailed procedure for cleansing a leper who had been healed. But never in history had a leper been cleansed of leprosy. That is what makes Jesus action so staggering:

Luke 5:12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

If you touch a leper you contract leprosy. Jesus is the only one who has the cleansing power and compassion to touch the unclean and make them clean!

Sign # 3

Again the object is belief. God intends to create belief in his people by any means necessary. This is not intended to cause the Pharaoh to believe. God has already said that he will not listen, but he has promised Moses that the elders of Israel would listen:

8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

The Nile was the life of Egypt. Without the Nile river, Egypt would not exist. Here God is previewing the first of the ten plagues, and declaring his sovereignty over the Nile river and over the Egyptian god of the Nile, and over all of Egypt. Blood is a symbol of life and death, and YHWH is the true life giver. Egypt’s rebellion against YHWH would cost them the lives of their firstborn sons. Ultimately God would triumph over sin and death an hell by the blood of his own dear Son, shed on a Roman cross

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This is all about belief. But it is not about belief in Moses. It is about belief in God. God is the one who is the life giver. God is the one who is judge and can heal and make the outcast clean. God is the one who holds all power in his hand, even the power of that old serpent, the devil. God is the one who triumphed over him at the cross.

This should be so encouraging as we proclaim the good news of Jesus to unbelievers. It’s not our eloquence or winsome personality or flawless logic that will persuade someone to believe in Jesus. Paul was sent with this same purpose:

Acts 26:17 …the Gentiles––to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

We are sent, not in our own authority and with our own wisdom, but with the power of God to open blind eyes.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

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

God has the power to create sight, and he promises to be with us!

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

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment