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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 6:21-23; The Presence of God in the Pit

02/27_Daniel 06:21-23; The Presence of God in the Pit; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220227_dan06_21-23.mp3

Daniel was conspired against by those who were envious of his favored position. They could find no ground of accusation against him, so they manipulated the king to mandate that all prayer go through the king alone.

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

For Daniel, it was unthinkable to alter his habit of communion with his God. Every good thing comes from God, and it would be sin to fail to give him the thanks he is due.

Daniel 6:13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

The trap is sprung, the king is caught, Daniel will be the defenseless casualty.

Daniel 6:14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Despite his best efforts, king is cornered, helpless to effect any deliverance for Daniel.

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.

Daniel was beyond help. His fate was sealed. No one could intervene, for good or evil, except the Lord alone. The king knew that, so he entrusted Daniel to God’s intervention; “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” It is not clear if he was stating the desperate facts ‘your God must deliver you,’ expressing his confidence ‘your God will deliver you,’ or offering a wish or prayer ‘may your God deliver you.’

Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Whatever he knew of Daniel’s God, he spent a uncomfortably long sleepless anxiety filled night.

The Living God

Daniel 6:19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

The king had hope. He didn’t stay home and assume the worst. Had he spent the sleepless night wrestling in prayer? What did he learn about Daniel’s God during this night? The day before he had said ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you.’ Today he adds ‘O Daniel servant of the living God.’ Has he come to recognize, regardless of the outcome, that Daniel’s God is more than just Daniel’s God, that he is the living God? Daniel would only be alive if his God proved to be alive and active, at work, intervening on behalf of his servant. Jeremiah, some 50 years earlier said:

Jeremiah 10:10 ​But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

Job said:

Job 12:10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Daniel himself back in chapter 5 rebuked the wicked Belshazzar on the night Darius conquered him:

Daniel 5:23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. …but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

Darius now acknowledges Daniel’s God as the living God. A king who understands that God is the living God, who understands where his own life comes from and who sustains his every breath, will be a better ruler than a king who does not recognize the God who gives life.

Higher Allegiance

Darius addresses Daniel as ‘servant of the living God …whom you serve continually.’ Daniel was his top administrator, put in a position of authority to serve the interests of the king. Back in chapter 2 the Chaldeans referred to themselves as servants of the king (2:4,7). Darius rightly could have addressed Daniel as ‘O Daniel my faithful servant.’ Why doesn’t he? It had become clear that although Daniel did faithfully serve the king and the kingdom, he held a higher allegiance. He faithfully served the king because he served his God, and this is what his God would have him do. When the edict of the king contradicted the will of his God, there was no question whom he must obey.

And this does not sound derogatory on the lips of Darius, as if he were frustrated by the fact that Daniel had a higher allegiance. Rather it seems to be a title of honor and respect, Darius recognizing the privilege and value of having a servant of the living God in his administration.

O King Live Forever!

The king’s voice was filled with anguish, but he spoke out loud, addressing his question to a Daniel he didn’t know was alive or dead.

Daniel 6:20 …“O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”

The first thing the king heard from the lion’s den, and the first words recorded in this chapter that were spoken by Daniel was ‘O king, live forever!’ Not ‘help!’ Not ‘how could you?’ Not ‘hurry up and get me out of this pit!’ Daniel was more concerned about the life of the king than his own situation or safety. Daniel showed appropriate honor and court etiquette addressing the king even from the lion’s den.

Remember, his accusers had:

Daniel 6:13 …said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Daniel demonstrates that he does pay attention to the king and is genuinely pursuing what is best for the king, even if that means disobeying the king’s own edict at great personal cost. To pray to God, no doubt praying for the king and for the kingdom, is what is best for the king, whether the king likes it or not.

Daniel states that he was found blameless before his God, and also before the king he had done no harm. Again, notice the persistent priority. It is more important to be found blameless before God than it is to be found to have done no harm to the king. But this is also cause and effect. It is precisely because Daniel was seeking to please his God above all else, that he had done no harm to the king. It was God’s command through the prophet Jeremiah to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile’ (Jer.29:7). His obedience to God resulted in seeking the good of king and kingdom.

The Justice of God

Daniel 6:22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; …

Once the king saw through the conspiracy, he was much distressed and made every effort to protect the guiltless and bring about justice, but he could do nothing to deliver Daniel. He was constrained to execute the innocent. Murderous jealousy had won the day. But that was not the end of the story.

God is just. But so often justice does not prevail. We often ask ‘Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? (Jer.12:1). But God is just, and this is not the end of the story. ‘Leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord”’ (Rom.12:19). The Judge of all the earth shall do what is just (Gen.18:25).

Daniel may have cried out for justice like David in Psalm 7

Psalm 7:1 O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, 4 if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. — Selah

The Presence of God’s Messenger

God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths. Is this one thing or two things that God did? Did God send his angel and that angel shut the mouths of the lions? Or did God shut the lions’ mouths, and God sent his angel to be with Daniel? We are told precious little about what actually happened that night in the sealed lions’ den.

But I think we can take some cues from what happened in the fiery pit in chapter 3; there it was Nebuchadnezzar who observed “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Dan.3:25). He concluded ‘God …sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him’ (3:28). Should we imagine the angel busily fending off and muzzling lions all night, or should we rather see Daniel enjoying sweet fellowship with the divine messenger throughout the night?

As we see throughout the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord or the angel of God often seems to be a divine person; God himself, not merely a created angel. Likely this divine messenger is the Word who was with God and who was God, before he became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1,14). God is with his people in the fire, and he is with his people when they are unjustly accused and thrown to the lions. God is personally with us when the stone is put in place and the tomb is sealed and we are left for dead. Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5).

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 ​When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. …5 ​Fear not, for I am with you;

The king was worried, anxious, stressed all night, in anguish, at daybreak came in haste to the sealed den. But now we see why Daniel was not hurried or anxious to get out of the den. In the midst of his darkest night, he was experiencing intimacy with his God. The one he spoke to regularly three times each day was with him.

Daniel might have been singing Psalm 57

Psalm 57:1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. 2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. 3 ​He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. — Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! 4 My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! 6 They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. — Selah 7 ​My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 8 ​Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

Joyous Good News!

Daniel 6:21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

The king, who was much distressed and had labored until the sun went down to rescue Daniel, the king who had spent a tormented sleepless night, the king who went in haste at the break of day to the den of lions, who cried out in anguish on the way, is now overjoyed at the good news that God was able and Daniel is alive. Finally, Daniel is taken up out of the den, and he is seen to be unharmed.

The Gospel

Do you see yourself in this story? So much of this story is about Darius. We see his circumstances, his efforts, his emotions. Proud, thinking the world of himself, he fell for flattery and was sold a bill of goods. You don’t need God; you can live for yourself, get glory for yourself.

But when their lie is exposed and you come to your senses, you realize the ones you thought were your friends were playing you, using you to accomplish their own ends.

But you’ve made foolish choices that can’t be reversed. Distressed, you labor to right your wrongs, to make up for what you’ve done, but you simply can’t. What you’ve done can’t be undone.

But you are undone. In your grief you recognize your foolish pride will cost an innocent person his life. You cry out to God as a last resort, hoping against hope that somehow he can rescue. In anguish you cry out, and surprisingly, you hear an answer. You find out that God can deliver. God can even raise the dead. This is grounds for exceedingly great joy.

This is the gospel. I’ve been lied to. My pride, my self-sufficiency doesn’t ultimately satisfy; rather it is an offense to the living God in whose hand is my very breath. I can labor and try, but I can never undo what I have done. And the wages of my sin is death. It is agonizing to see an innocent man die because of what I have done, but Jesus died willingly, in my place, he was sealed in a tomb, but he didn’t stay dead. He conquered death and rose from the grave and gives me real joy in his presence.

***

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

February 28, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 6:16-20; Contrasting Confidences

02/20_Daniel 06:16-20; Contrasting Confidences; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220220_dan06_16-20.mp3

Daniel was the victim of conspiracy. The king himself was conned by his top officials, and now found himself forced to condemn his most competent and trusted official, the 80 plus year old enemy of the state, Daniel, who was caught in the very act, flagrantly violating the king’s latest edict, in his own home, upstairs, on his knees, praying to his God, just as he had always done.

We can estimate the age of Daniel because we know that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took some of the nobility captive in May or June of 605 BC, and Cyrus conquered Babylon October 29, 539 BC, 66 years later. Daniel was likely around 14 or 15 when taken as a youth to Babylon, so he would have been about 80 when Babylon fell to Medo-Persia. We don’t know how far into Cyrus’ reign this event took place, but Cyrus II (the Great) reigned until 530 or 529, so Daniel would have been between 80 and 90 years old during his reign.

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” 14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” 16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions.

The Quiet Confidence of Daniel

In what do you put your confidence? Is your confidence contingent on your circumstances? Let me ask the question a different way; what kinds of things happen to you that wreck your day or derail your week? What sends you into distress or depression or despair? What is it that creates fear or anxiety in you? What has that effect on you?

When Daniel became aware of the conspiracy, that prayer was outlawed under penalty of death, he continued in his formed habit of prayer. Not only that, but he continued to see God as good and worthy of thanks. ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’. He gave thanks.

What if God doesn’t answer your prayers? Or he doesn’t answer in the way you had hoped? Daniel was thrown in the den of lions. The Lord didn’t intervene. Look at the quiet confidence of Daniel. He was not shaken by the king’s edict from his settled pattern of prayer, and he wasn’t shaken by the prospect of facing hungry lions. It seems nothing at all in his outward circumstance could shake his confidence in God.

And Daniel makes no complaint. In fact, based on the record we have in the text before us, Daniel doesn’t say anything at all. He didn’t speak a word in his own defense. Daniel doesn’t speak until verse 21. Might we learn something from Daniel here? In what at least outwardly looked like the biggest crisis of his life, Daniel spoke to no one but God.

Back in chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, when they defied him by refusing to bow to his statue, and they calmly asserted their confidence before him;

Daniel 3:17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel had made it clear by his actions that he would pray to no one but the Lord his God, deliverance or no deliverance, regardless of the consequences. And in Daniel’s case it was the desperate king who uttered his hope that Daniel’s God might rescue him from the hungry lions.

The Desperate Crisis of the King

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

Daniel was quietly confident in his God, but Daniel’s crisis got the king praying. Darius was desperate. How many of us only seek the Lord when our circumstances are desperate? We don’t know if the king every prayed before, especially seeing that he signed an edict that for 30 days no prayers should be offered except to him alone. But he discovered through his circumstances that he wasn’t enough. In spite of his distress, in spite of setting his mind to deliver Daniel, in spite of his labor till the sun went down, in spite of being the king, he could do nothing. At the end of himself, he finally offers a wish, we might even call it a prayer to Daniel’s God. (I guess, since he was the one offering this prayer, it wasn’t illegal!) He desired to deliver, to rescue, but he had to acknowledge that he was unable to bring about the desired deliverance, and if any rescue was to come to Daniel, it must be from Daniel’s God, to whom Daniel faithfully prayed.

So the king appeals to Daniel’s God in desperation, as a very last resort. Daniel prayed consistently before the crisis, as a settled habit, three times daily. For Daniel, prayer was not a tool for crisis management, but a rhythm of relationship.

We can learn both from Darius and from Daniel. Darius shows us that even if we gain all earthly power, some things are still out of our hands. We are not ultimately in control. We make foolish decisions out of pride, and we have to suffer the consequences of those decisions. Ultimately, we are not enough. We need outside help. Circumstances can show us our need and drive us to our knees.

But Daniel shows us a better way. Daniel lived above his circumstances. He started every day with an acknowledgment that God is God and he is not, that in himself he is not enough, that he is a needy sinner daily in need of God’s amazing grace. And God delights to give grace to sinners who ask him! And he went back to God throughout his busy day. Daniel shows us that spending time, regular time enjoying relationship with the sovereign God of history frees us from being reactionary to circumstances. When our circumstances are staring us in the face, they loom large and fierce. But when we arise from bowing at the feet of the omnipotent One, we gain perspective on those same circumstances. They are tamed, on a leash held by his sovereign omnipotent hand, awaiting his command to do his righteous bidding, ultimately for his glory and for our ultimate good. Daniel could look lions in the snarling teeth and not be afraid, for he knew the one who held their leash. Your snarling circumstances today are on a short leash. Our God is sovereign, and we can enjoy peace in his presence in the middle of the storm.

Faithful Service to God

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

What commendation from the king! He knew that Daniel served his God continually. The king also knew that Daniel served him and his kingdom faithfully. He intended to set him over his whole kingdom, ‘because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him … with regard to the kingdom’. But in his serving the king, the king knew that he was serving his God. Daniel was obeying God’s command through Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

In Daniel’s seeking the welfare of Babylon, he was serving his Lord. We read in Colossians:

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (cf. Eph.6:5-8)

We are all called to be ministers, full time servants of the Lord Christ. Whatever you do, business owners, manual laborers, food handlers, public servants, elected officials, students, educators, administrators, whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men. Darius understood that Daniel was serving his God continually as he was serving Babylon with integrity.

The Deal Sealed

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.

The deal was sealed. No one could now intervene either for or against Daniel save the Lord alone. No foul play from the deceitful officials, no rescuing intervention from the distressed king. Nothing could be changed concerning Daniel, for good or for ill, without the seals being broken. Daniel’s fate, and his tomb, were sealed.

The Frightened Faith of the King

Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Here we see the frightened faith of the king. He hoped against hope that Daniel’s God might be able to deliver him. Had the story of the Hebrew’s God delivering the three from Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace some 60 years earlier come down to him? He had hope, but it was feeble and frail. He spent the night fasting, no diversions were brought to him, sleep fled from him. He had a faint hope in God, but it was no quiet confidence like Daniel. He was full of anxiety, worried and afraid. No doubt his vivid imagination got the better of him, the aged Daniel gruesomely torn in pieces by the ravenous beasts. Was it slow and agonizing, or was it over quickly? What grizzly evidence would he find at the crime scene in the morning? Would there be anything left? What would become of the kingdom, if his top officials were such scheming manipulating self-seeking deceivers? What would he do without his trusted Daniel?

Maybe his fasting was merely an expression of grief and mourning. Maybe he felt he could manipulate God by denying himself pleasure and food. He labored by his own efforts until the sun went down to deliver Daniel, and now he spent a sleepless night fasting and denying himself until the sun came up. Fasting can be a good thing, used to train our own hearts that it is God who truly satisfies, not the good things of this world. But fasting is misused if by it we think we earn God’s favor or coerce him into answering our prayers.

Daniel 6:19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

The king is holding on to hope, but it is faint and fleeting. He went in haste to the sealed tomb. He cries out in anguish as he comes near. He doesn’t know if Daniel is dead or alive, but he addresses a question to him in desperate hope. ‘Has your God been able to deliver you from the lions?’ His question is different than the confident statement of the three before the king;

Daniel 3:17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

They had no question about God’s ability. He is able. Is anything too hard for the Lord (Gen.18:14)? But Darius does not yet know this God. Has your God been able? He expressed his wish ‘May your God deliver you’ and now he asks the question; ‘Has your God been able to deliver you?’

This reminds me of the father who brought his demon possessed boy to Jesus’ disciples, but they were not able to cast it out. Explaining the situation to Jesus, he says:

Mark 9:22 …But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

He brought his boy to Jesus, hoping he could help. Now desperate, he pleads with Jesus ‘if you can do anything…’ At the beginning of Mark’s gospel,

Mark 1:40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”

He expressed confidence in Jesus’ ability. You can. No one else can, but you alone can. The question is not in God’s ability, but in his will. Is it his purpose in this circumstance to deliver in this way, or will he choose to be glorified another way? When Paul prayed three times that the messenger of Satan would leave him, he received this answer:

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 never a question of God’s ability. Jesus responded to the doubting man who asked if he could do anything:

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus is gracious. He condescends to our faith or lack thereof. His ability doesn’t change. Our experience of his presence changes depending on where our attention is fixed. Darius spent a sleepless night filled with anxiety and fear. Daniel was able to rest and enjoy the presence of the sovereign omnipotent God before whom he regularly bowed. God’s ability doesn’t change, but our experience will either be joy in his presence or fear at our circumstances depending on what or Who has captured our attention.

***

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

February 21, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nativity & Shepherds; (Luke 2:1-20)

12/19_4th Sunday of Advent; Nativity & Shepherds; (Luke 2:1-20); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211219_advent-nativity-shepherds.mp3

Historical Narrative

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

This happened. Luke gives geographic and historical details to anchor his account in a real place at a real time. Luke set out to compile a narrative, an orderly account of historical events based on eyewitness accounts, to give certainty that what we believe about Jesus is real, true, historically verifiable (Lk.1:1-4).

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to the temple to announce to Zechariah that he and his barren wife Elizabeth would have a child in their old age, and John would be used by the Spirit to prepare people to meet their God; he was to prepare the way for the coming of YHWH.

About 6 months later, Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth, and communicated to her that by God’s grace, she, a virgin, would bear a son, who would be Son of the Most High God; the Holy one – completely unique, in a class by himself; the promised Messiah who would rule from the throne of David forever. She was to call his name Jesus – YHWH is salvation.

Journey to Bethlehem

Now, approaching the time of birth, the expecting mother with her husband-to-be made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; either by the most direct route, about 70 miles, due south, right through the heart of Samaria, a route often avoided by devout Jews; or the longer route, about 90 miles, avoiding Samaria by traveling east, following the Jordan valley to Jericho, and then traveling up to Jerusalem. The ascent from Jericho to Jerusalem was steep and dangerous, the setting of Jesus’ parable about the good Samaritan, where the Jewish man fell among thieves.

We know that Joseph went up from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. We could ask ‘Why?’ Luke gives an answer that the Roman Caesar had made a decree, likely for the purpose of taxation. We are not told if the decree demanded that a very pregnant Mary appear with him, or if she came because she didn’t want to be apart from Joseph at the birth, or possibly Joseph sought to protect her from the malicious rumors and gossip circulating around Nazareth about the questionable origin of this pregnancy.

Whatever the apparent cause, God providentially moved a Roman emperor to issue a decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to fulfill the words of the prophet Micah

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

The one whose coming forth is from ancient days; the one who is to be ruler in Israel, was to be born in Bethlehem.

Luke emphasizes that:

Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up …to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

Jesus’ legal father was of the house and lineage of David. So he went up to Judea, to the city of David. All 45 times this phrase occurs in the Old Testament, it refers to Zion, the stronghold of Jerusalem. But twice in this passage Luke uses ‘the city of David’ to refer not to Zion in Jerusalem, where David established his throne, but to Bethlehem, where David was from.

Jesus the Firstborn

Luke 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Such a simple description of this monumental event. The time came, and she gave birth. She gave birth to her firstborn son.

Colossians uses ‘firstborn to refer to Jesus in two senses:

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Hebrews declares Jesus to be greater than angels;

Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Jesus is firstborn over all creation; firstborn from the dead, God’s firstborn son.

As the creed says:

“I believe …in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man;…” [Nicene Creed]

The Manger and the Inn

Luke 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

There was no place for them in the inn. We should probably not picture a commercial hotel or motel with rooms for rent; the inn where the good Samaritan brought the injured Jewish victim and paid the innkeeper to care for him in Luke 10 is a completely different word. The word used here is also found in Luke 22:11 referring to the furnished guest chamber Jesus used to eat Passover with his disciples. It would be more accurate to think of an airBnB in a family’s home, a room where family or other guests could stay.

The historic site for the birth of Christ is a cave, similar to caves still in use in Israel today, where shepherds can shelter their sheep. Mangers used in Israel were carved stone troughs used to feed or water animals. Because the guest chamber was already occupied, the couple sought shelter and privacy in a shepherd’s cave, and when Jesus was born, he was wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in an animal’s feed trough.

The Glory and Fear of the Lord

Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

This is the third angelic announcement in Luke; this time the angel is unnamed, he appears to a group rather than an individual, and the glory of the Lord is also present. This glory is described in Exodus as a cloud;

Exodus 24:17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

No wonder the shepherds were filled with great fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Job28:28; Ps.111:10).

Evangelizing Shepherds

Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

I bring good news; this is the word for evangelize; to proclaim the gospel. The angel proclaims the gospel of great joy to the shepherds; joy which will be for all the people. Good news produces joy.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

This had to be a shocking and confusing statement. An angel shows up to a bunch of shepherds in the middle of the night with a birth announcement; everybody will be filled with joy because a baby is born to you! Do you think the shepherds were looking around at one another wondering who of them the angel is talking to? Born to who? To you! The ‘you’ is plural; to you all! How is Jesus born to a bunch of shepherds? Jesus is not born to them as if they were the parents. He is born to them in the sense that he is born for their advantage. This says something about them to whom the good news is proclaimed; it says they need help. The one born is a Savior; because they need saving. He is a rescuer, because they are in deep trouble and need to be rescued.

the glory of the Lord; more acutely than flashing blue lights in the rear view mirror revealed to them in their gut the trouble they were in. They were filled with great fear because the presence of God revealed to their hearts their own guilt, their own sinfulness, and the Lord is a consuming fire. None of them had to ask ‘Savior? To save from what?’ They all felt it in their bones that they all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death (Rom.3:23; 6:23).

But the angel told them to fear not. Look, I’m preaching the gospel to you, good news that creates great joy. And it will extend beyond you; it is good news for all the people. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None is righteous, no not one. All need a Rescuer. And listen to the identity of this rescuer. He is Christ, the promised anointed Messiah king; born in the city of David to sit on David’s throne. He is the Lord; YHWH himself come to save us from the wrath of YHWH toward our sins.

What an announcement! The promised Messiah, the Lord YHWH come down, is born to you, for your benefit, to rescue you. Messiah has come, the LORD has come down, and brings salvation and great joy to sinners. This angel shows up to a representative group of ordinary sinners like you and me and proclaims that it is for you that this long awaited one is born. He is born to you!

The Sign of the Manger

Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

This must have been unexpected. Zechariah asked for a sign in unbelief; Mary in honest curiosity asked how this will happen, and she was given Elizabeth as evidence that nothing is impossible with God. These poor shepherds were too stunned to ask for a sign, but a shocking sign was given unasked. The King of the universe, the Lord, Messiah, a Savior is born to you. To us shepherds? Here’s how you will know. You will find the baby wrapped up and stuck in a food trough for your sheep. That’s not where royal kings are put! But he is the good shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:11). Food goes in a food trough, not a baby. But this is the one who will say:

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Here’s a sign for you, that he came for you; you will find him in a food trough.

Glory and Peace

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

As if one angel wasn’t paralyzing enough, the whole angel army shows up in battle formation proclaiming the glory of God, and declaring terms of peace on earth. God graciously grants peace to those on whom his favor rests. God extends grace and peace that brings great joy to ordinary undeserving sinners like these shepherds.

Examining the Gospel

Luke 2:15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

The shepherds had been told good news of great joy. What did they do with it? They didn’t just sit on the information. When they picked themselves up off the pasture, they went to see ‘this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ They heard the gospel preached by the angel, but they recognized the angel was a messenger bringing them the word of the Lord. They had been graciously given a sign, so they went with haste to examine the evidence. This wasn’t something that could wait. It won’t wait ‘till morning. It can’t wait ‘till a more convenient time. This was the most important thing ever. It interrupted and took precedence over everything else. The gospel does that. It interrupts us and demands our immediate attention. Behold, now is the day of salvation! (2Cor.6:2)

This is the third mention of the animal’s food box. Mary gave birth and laid the baby in a manger; the angel gave a sign of a baby lying in a manger, and the shepherds came and saw the baby lying in a food trough, just as they had been told.

Responding to the Gospel

Luke 2:17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Here’s what we can learn from the shepherds. We are sinners just like everyone else. If you don’t believe it, ask God by his Holy Spirit to convict you of your sinfulness and his righteousness and the coming judgment. Jesus came to you, for you, because you need to be rescued. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine. Don’t take my word for it. Go examine the evidence for yourself. The shepherds heard the good news; they had the gospel preached to them. News too good to be true. So they checked it out. And they found it to be precisely as they had been told. They heard the good news, they tested the good news, they believed the good news, and then they proclaimed the good news. Good news of great joy that will be for all the people. The good news is to you, but it isn’t intended to dead end with you. News this juicy, this joyous, must be passed on and on and on.

And ultimately it results in glory to God. The God of glory brings peace to the earth through the condescension of Jesus, and the earth responds by glorifying and praising God for the great thing he has done. Father, may your name be glorified on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for giving us this day the Bread of life, who is Jesus.

***

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

January 13, 2022 Posted by | advent, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; The Unexpected King

01/10 Jesus in His Own Words; The Unexpected King; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210110_jesus-unexpected-king.mp3

We’ve been looking at Jesus in his own words; what Jesus said about himself; why he came, where he came from, that he’s coming back, and in the mean time how we should live while we wait for him.

Today I want to look at something else he said about who he is, who he claimed to be.

The Promised King

Jesus is the King. The Magi came to Jerusalem

Matthew 2:2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Jesus is the King, and he deserves to be worshiped.

The angel came to Mary and said:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Jesus is the great King, promised to sit on the throne of David. Jesus is the King who will reign forever, whose kingdom will never end.

The prophet Isaiah foretold:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Jesus will shoulder the responsibility of governing. He will sit on the throne of David and establish it in peace, justice and righteousness.

The Prophet Daniel:

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

A Son of Man given everlasting dominion, a kingdom that will never be destroyed.

When Jesus was put under oath by the Jewish high priest, who asked:

Mark 14:61 …“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus affirmed that he was Messiah, Son of God, seated at the right hand of his Father, the I AM. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

History of Kings

To really understand Jesus, we need to understand something of the background of kingship, and the experience of Israel with kings.

After 400 years in Egypt enslaved, God delivered his people and took them to be his own, to serve and worship him alone. He gave them his law and they bound themselves by covenant to be his subjects and obey his statutes. He led them to the promised land, but they refused to enter in, and wanted to return to Egypt. 40 years later, after that disobedient generation died in the wilderness, God brought his people in to the land under Joshua’s command and the Lord delivered their enemies into their hands. After Joshua died, the people did what was right in their own eyes and worshiped the false gods of the people of the land, so God gave them into the hands of their enemies. When they cried out to the Lord for rescue, he would raise up a judge to deliver them. Once they had peace, they would again turn away from following the Lord. This time of the judges continued over 300 years as they spiraled worse and worse. Because of their corruption, God raised up Samuel to lead them, but when he was old and his sons were not godly, the people demanded a king to rule over them like the peoples around them.

1 Samuel 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

In their demand for a king, Israel was rejecting God as their king. God told Samuel to warn them what a king would be like.

1 Samuel 8:11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

A king would tax them heavily and force them into his service. After Saul’s disobedience, things went relatively well under David and Solomon, but after Solomon’s extensive building projects (and his many wives), the people were crying out for relief;

1 Kings 12:4 “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.”

Rehoboam refused, so after only around 100-120 years, the kingdom was divided between Israel and Judah. The history of the kings was disastrous, with only a few shining exceptions, and after 200 years, Israel fell to Assyria. Another 150 years and Jerusalem fell and Judah went into captivity in Babylon. After about 50 years of captivity, exiles were allowed to return and begin to rebuild the temple and then Jerusalem, but the Jews never fully regained their freedom, being ruled by the Persians for about 200 years, then successively by the Greeks, Egyptians and Syrians for the next 160 years. The Jews regained some measure of control for about 100 years under the Hasmonean dynasty, until conquered by the Romans in 63 BC, who appointed local puppet kings over the Jews. It is into this context and under the Roman Emperor Augustus and under king Herod the Great that Jesus was born.

Expectations of a Conquering King

The Magi announce the one born King of the Jews, which sends Herod on a jealous rampage, slaughtering all male children 2 and under in the whole region of Bethlehem. Joseph, warned in a dream, fled to Egypt and returned after Herod died.

Jesus is born King of the Jews. Jesus is the I AM, God come in the flesh, God with us. He is the sovereign, the omnipotent, the ultimate authority. He is the lawgiver and the judge.

Mary was told that God would give him the throne of David, and that his kingdom would never end. Expectations were high. John prepared the way for Yahweh. Jesus began to gather followers.

John 1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

But among his closest followers, there was argument over who would have the highest positions of honor in his kingdom (Mk.9:34; 10:37).

He fulfilled prophecy by healing the sick, casting out demons, and feeding the multitudes. But in John 6,

John 6:15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Jesus is the King, but not the kind of king they expected. Jesus will establish his rule, but not in the way they think. In John 7, Jesus’ own brothers seek to force his hand at the time of the Feast of Booths. They suggest he go openly to Judea, to show himself to the world. Again, Jesus declines the public spotlight.

But his disciples are convinced, and many in the multitudes are suspecting that he is the Christ.

By John 12, as he entered Jerusalem, the crowds

John 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

The crowds hail him as the King of Israel, and Jesus accepts the title in fulfillment of Zechariah 9.

The Unexpected King

But by John 13, things are turning. Jesus predicts his betrayal by Judas, and even questions Peter’s confidence and warns him that he will deny him three times. He tells his disciples that he is leaving them, but they ought not to be troubled.

In John 18, Judas has procured a band of soldiers

John 18:3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

The King is confronted by an armed mob. I love this passage! Jesus the King confronts the mob in the dark and unveils his glory.

John 18:4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

What just happened? Jesus clarifies who they are after and volunteers himself. They are after Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus says ‘that’s me’. Literally, he says ‘I AM’, an echo of the divine name from Exodus, YHWH, the self-existent one. And when he says ‘I AM’, Judas, the band of soldiers, the officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, with their lanterns and torches and weapons all draw back and fall to the ground. I wonder what they were all thinking at that moment! ‘What just happened? Why am I on my face? Did I just black out? Why is everybody on the ground and Jesus alone is standing, unarmed but in absolute control?’ Jesus unveils just a glimpse of his deity with the words I AM, and his oppressors are compelled to bow the knee to the King.

John 18:6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”

Jesus, in absolute control, willingly gives himself up in order to protect his followers.

My Servants Would Fight

This time it’s Peter who forces his hand. Peter no doubt just saw everyone fall down at Jesus’ word. He has Jesus’ words that he would deny him ringing in his ears, and he is determined not to let that happen, so he pulls his sword and starts swinging.

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus is the King, and Peter is going to do all he can to protect him from arrest. He is willing to go down swinging for his King. Peter understands the game of chess; sometimes you have to sacrifice a pawn in order to protect the king and gain the advantage. Peter is willing to be that pawn. But this is where Peter is wrong.

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Normally, a king would be honored to see his loyal subjects risking their lives to defend him. But that is not why Jesus came. Peter is not the one who will die today protecting his King. Jesus is a King come not to be served but to serve, not to have his faithful subjects give their lives to protect him, but to give his own life a ransom for rebellious subjects. Jesus is willing to lay down his life for Peter.

Upside-Down Kingdom

Jesus is King, but his kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. When his disciples were discussing who was the greatest, he said

Mark 9:35 …“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

When James and John were seeking to secure the places of honor in the kingdom;

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

Jesus is omnipotent King, and he came with all power to seek and to save the lost. He came not to lord it over others, but to be the slave of others.

Later in John 18, now being questioned by Pilate;

John 18:33…“Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Jesus is King, but his kingdom doesn’t follow the pattern of this world. If it was a worldly kingdom, the servants would fight to protect their master. But Jesus the King is fighting for the lives of his subjects. And as their King, he resolutely determined to die to save them.

Peter’s Transformation

Peter didn’t understand. He didn’t get it. This sent him into a tailspin. This was so upside-down it was disorienting. He didn’t know which way was up. He ran away with the others. He followed at a distance. He denied he even knew Jesus. He ran to the empty tomb. He went into hiding. He went back to fishing. He was wrecked by the risen Lord when he met him on the beach, when he asked him if he loved him, when he invited him once again to follow him. Peter was beginning to understand what love was, and what it meant to follow Jesus.

***

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

January 11, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

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

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

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

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

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

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

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

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

Because He Trusts in You

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

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

This is what Jesus taught us;

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

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

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

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

Context of Global Judgment

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

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

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

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

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

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

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

Look back at chapter 24.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response of Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

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

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

Resurrection Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

The Peace of Christ (Colossians 3)

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

The Peace of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul instructs the Philippians

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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

Peace Commanded

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

If Therefore; Gospel Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He addresses us in 1:21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Mind and Heart on Christ

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

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

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

Put Off / Put On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the context where he says:

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

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

Peace and the Body of Christ

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

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

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

-Set your mind and heart on Christ

-Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart

-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

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

***

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

2020 Vision; Healthy Church – Colossians 3

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

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

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

Not a Building

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

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

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

Healthy Believers Healthy Church

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

Colossians

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

The Miracle of New Birth

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

The Bedrock Identity of Jesus and the Offense of the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

Indicative/Imperative

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

Mind Set on Things Above

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

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

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

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

Are you fixing your thinking on things above?

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

The Crucified Life

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

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

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

The Peace of Christ

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

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

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

The Word of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Steadfastly in Prayer

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Luke 2:14; Peace Among Men of Good Pleasure

12/15 Advent: Luke 2:14 Peace among Men; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191215_peace-among-men.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift, the gift beyond fully telling, the gift that must be told over and over and over again, the gift we must remind ourselves and our families and one another to take time to treasure, to ponder and take pleasure in. The inexpressible, the indescribable, beyond words greatest gift of all time.

God’s Glory Primary

We are looking at the chorus of the angelic multitude as they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Luke 2:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

We saw last time that what is primary is the glory of God. It matters that the first thing the angels said was ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ The highest goal of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Another way to say this is that the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus in his coming, in his life and in his death and resurrection was pursuing above all else the glory of God. Jesus came to rescue us from our insistence on glorifying created things rather than the Creator, who is worthy of all glory, to free us from being glory thieves who pursue our own glory, to restore us to our purpose of living all of life to the glory of God. This is primary. It’s important that we keep first things first.

Second Place

The thing the angel choir put in second place was peace on earth among men of good will. Peace is important. But only when God’s glory gets first place will we be able to enjoy genuine peace that endures.

What is this peace? And who does this peace come to? The King James version has this verse as

Luke 2:14 (KJV) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Songs like ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ and ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ have memorialized the words of the angels as ‘peace on earth, good-will to men’ That sounds global, like a declaration of peace to all mankind. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned his poem on Christmas day 1863, during the American Civil War, the year his son had joined the Union army without his permission, and had been severely wounded in battle. You can hear him wrestling with these words in this verse:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Where is this peace the angels sang of? Is that what it actually means? Does the angelic declaration announce peace and goodwill to all mankind? What kind of peace is this?

The second part of the angels praise corresponds to the first. Glory in the first corresponds to peace in the second. In the highest corresponds to on earth. God corresponds to men of good pleasure. It answers the questions ‘what, where, and to whom?’ Glory or peace, in the heavens or on earth, to God or to men of good pleasure. God is glorified in the highest. To us is announced peace on this earth.

Peace

Let’s back up and take in this staggering scene:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

A multitude of the heavenly host. These are military terms. The multiplied hosts of heaven; the armies of heaven appearing in battle array. We are told what they say, but not how they said it. It could have been in song, it could have been shouted, it could have been chanted in military cadence. The infantries of heaven appear in battle array bearing a declaration of peace.

Peace. What is this peace they declare? We need to understand what this peace is. What kind of peace did Jesus bring? We can quickly identify what it is not. Jesus said:

Mark 13:7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. (cf. Mt.24:6; Lk.21:9)

So the peace that Jesus brings is not a military peace, not the absence of wars, at least not at his first coming.

Nor is it peace in relationships among people. Just ten chapters after the angelic declaration, Luke records Jesus saying:

Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (cf. Mt.10:34)

And he goes on to describe the conflicts he will create within families.

In John 16, Jesus talked of a time when all his followers would be scattered, a time ‘when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (v.2). Then he promised his followers:

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.”

So Jesus does bring peace to his people, but the peace that Jesus brings is peace in the midst of tribulation. Not international peace (not yet) and not interpersonal peace (not yet), not even personal peace and safety, but peace in him. The peace Jesus brings is other-worldly peace, peace that passes understanding.

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.

This is otherworldly peace, not peace that changes our circumstances, but peace that conquers our fears. The apostles heralded this peace through Jesus Christ. Peter said to the Gentile household of Cornelius:

Acts 10:36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened…

And then he went on to recount the life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, and he concludes

Acts 10:42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The good news of peace through Jesus Christ is peace with God, the forgiveness of sins through his name. This peace comes as a gift to everyone who believes in Jesus.

In the book of Romans, after explaining the concept of sinners counted by God as righteous not because of their own works but because they trust in Jesus, it says

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

The peace that Jesus brings is peace in our relationship to God. We were weak, helpless, ungodly sinners, enemies of God and fully deserving of his just wrath. But because Christ died for us, that severed relationship is made whole; we can have peace with God. And this reconciled relationship with God produces great joy.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Good news of great joy!

Men of Good Pleasure [ευδοκια]

To whom does this peace come? If we are right in defining the peace as peace with God, a reconciled relationship, then not everyone experiences this peace. The testimony of Jesus and the Apostles is unified that this peace comes to everyone who believes in Jesus, and only to those who believe in Jesus. This is not universal peace, because not everyone will believe. This phrase of angelic praise actually qualifies the peace. This is translated in the King James as.

KJV: …and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The comma makes it seem like there are two distinct things here, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. And this should cause us to ask ‘What does that even mean? Whose good will?’ Is this the good will of man toward man; nothing more than the warm sentiment ‘I wish you well’ toward our fellow man?

The ESV and NASB both translate this phrase ‘peace among men (or among those) with whom he is pleased.’ Rather than two things, the good will defines to whom this peace comes. The NIV renders this ‘peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ Wycliffe gave us a very literal translation ‘in earth peace be to men of good will’

This word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ modifies and defines the ‘men’ in the sentence. Literally, it says ‘to men of good pleasure’ What does it mean to be a person ‘of good will’ or ‘good pleasure’? Does this mean that God is pleased with the performance of some people, so he gives them his peace? This option is excluded on the grounds of the teaching of the rest of the New Testament:

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

There was only one man who ever totally pleased God with his life:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (cf. Mt.12:18; 17:5; Mk.1:11; Lk.3:22; 2Pet.1:17)

The clear teaching of the New Testament is that peace with God comes to those who don’t deserve it, who didn’t earn it, to those who simply believe the promises of God. The well pleasing life of Jesus is credited to the account of those who embrace Jesus as their King.

Looking at other places this word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ shows up might help get a clearer picture of what is meant here. Luke uses this same word in chapter 10

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (cf. Mt.11:26)

Jesus rejoices in the gracious will, the good pleasure of his Father in hiding things from the self-righteous and revealing them to the humble. The verb form shows up again in Luke 12:32

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The same word shows up twice in Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

This word points to the mystery of the good pleasure of God’s will. It is God’s gracious purpose, what God is pleased to do, what God wants to do and chooses to do. On earth peace to men who are objects of God’s good pleasure. This is not the well-wishing of man toward man. This is not that God is impressed with the performance of some or responds to the initiative of some. This is good news of great joy to undeserving sinners! This is good news to unexpecting ordinary shepherds. To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! This message came to some shepherds. It did not come to Herod the Great, not to Caesar Augustus, not to the scribes and pharisees, not to the religious leaders, not to the Jewish High Priest, but to some shepherds who were out watching over their flocks at night.

Luke 10:21 …“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

God’s grace, his undeserved favor is extended to sinners. It was his good pleasure, his gracious will to reveal this to shepherds.

This message of peace with God is the gospel of great joy that will extend to all the people.

Response

Notice the response of these simple shepherds to this gospel presentation.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

These shepherds heard the good news. They talked to one another about it. They resolved to go see. They went with urgency. They went and found things exactly as the angel had promised; the message of good news was confirmed. So they made the message known. They told everybody! Good news of great joy for all the people! Good news of a birth, good news of a person. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. All who heard wondered, marveled. Some treasured. Some pondered. The shepherds returned glorifying God.

Good news has been proclaimed to you. Jesus came for you. The shepherds provide us with a great example of how to respond to the good news. Be like the simple shepherds. Hear the gospel. Believe the gospel. Make the gospel known. Give glory and praise to God for the gospel. Give him thanks for his greatest gift. This is the sure path to lasting peace, to genuine joy.

***

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

December 17, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work

02/10_2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190210_2cor5_18-21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Intro: Regeneration, Justification, Reconciliation

This passage is about reconciliation. Reconciliation is a key biblical concept. In fact this section at the end of 2 Corinthians 5 is rich in the massive bedrock truths of the gospel.

Verse 17, which we looked at last week, points to the new creation, which includes us being part of that new creation through regeneration or new birth.

Verses 14, 19, and 21 point us to substitution; that Christ died for us, in our place, and in him we died, so that he no longer counts our trespasses against us; instead he credits us with his own perfect righteousness. We looked at verse 14 three weeks ago, and I hope to spend more time savoring the truths of verse 21 together next week.

Verses 18-20 is one of the key passages in the bible on reconciliation, and that’s what I hope to unpack and celebrate together today. All these foundation truths are interwoven together in this rich passage.

2 Corinthians 5:17 new creation/new birth/regeneration

2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, 21 justification/substitution/imputation

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 reconciliation

All This is From God

Verse 18 begins ‘now all this is from (lit. out of) God. So we should ask ‘All what?’ This points us back to the previous verses.

2 Corinthians 5:14 …the love of Christ … that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. …17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, …new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God. God’s love, that one died for all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8). Substitution, justification, all this is rooted in God’s love, put on display in Christ. Christ died for us, his death was our death; we died in him. All this is from God.

Now those who are in Christ are instances of new creation. The new creation has broken into this old one. We have become part of the “…new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet.3:13). The new birth, regeneration, new creation is all of God. God is the creator, the grand architect. ‘…God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give …light’ (2Cor.4:6).

All this is from God. All this originates in God. All this has its source in God. This is God’s action, God’s activity. God is the one who sent his only Son to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ as the wages of my sin. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who regenerates me, who ‘has caused us to be born again’ (1Pet.1:3). God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation. All this is from God. Paul wants us to know that all this is God’s work, and God’s alone.

Reconciliation is Personal

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation is a relationship term. Reconciliation assumes the personality of God. It tells us first of all that God is a personal being; he can know and be known; he can enter into relationships, and he desires a relationship with us.

Reconciliation Overcomes Hostility

Reconciliation also assumes that something is wrong in the relationship. The need to be reconciled assumes enemy status; reconciling means changing hostility or animosity or enmity into friendship. In the beginning, God created all things very good, and he walked with man in the garden, enjoying fellowship. But sin destroyed that relationship; we destroyed God’s good created order. We refused to submit to his benevolent rule and took the authority to ourselves. We questioned his character, dishonored his good name, and transgressed his good command. We committed high treason, bringing death and the curse into his good creation. And so we had to be put out of his good presence. No more walks with God in the cool of the day. We deserved to die. We became children of wrath, allied with the serpent. We became God’s enemies. And God became our enemy.

Colossians 1 describes our relationship:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Alienated. There was that in us that estranged us from God; that severed our relationship with him, as Isaiah describes our situation:

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

James puts it in even more intimate relational terms; he says we violated our covenant relationship; we slept around.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

To align ourselves with this world system is to become God’s enemy.

Ephesians 2 puts it more in terms of our ejection from God’s presence:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Reconciliation Overcomes Inability

Separated from Christ… alienated… strangers… having no hope and without God in the world. This is the kind of situation that requires reconciliation. But it also describes our powerlessness to remedy the relationship. We had no hope. We couldn’t fix the damage we had created. A simple ‘sorry’ wouldn’t do. Reparations had to be paid, but the wages of sin is death, and if death is defined as separation from God, then that doesn’t leave us any options for reconciling ourselves to God.

There was nothing we could do to effect reconciliation, to actually make it right, to fix the relationship. Only once is this word ‘reconcile’ used in the New Testament to describe something between people, in 1 Corinthians 7, where a wife who separates from her husband is told to remain single or be reconciled to her husband. Every time this word is used in the context of our relationship to God, it is God who is active, bringing about the reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

God through Christ reconciled us to himself. All this is from God. Reconciliation is rooted in God’s desire to be reconciled to us, his creation. Reconciliation comes about through the finished work of Christ.

Reconciliation is Built on Justification

Romans 5 in many ways overlaps with our passage in 2 Corinthians. Romans 5:6-10 describes us as weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies. We were God’s enemies.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul in Romans 5 describes the work God performed to accomplish our reconciliation as our being ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘saved by him from God’s wrath’. We transgressed, we slept around, and God is justly angry, his wrath is hot. Justification is the verdict of not guilty. Justification is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness says that the judge finds you guilty but he shows mercy. He releases you from the debt. You are a condemned criminal, and an unpunished criminal. You have been released from your debt. Justification goes further. Justification tries you in court, and there is no evidence to convict you. Your name is cleared. You walk free, not as a forgiven criminal, but as righteous. This can only happen because of the great exchange. Christ stepped forward and took my name. He took my guilt, my punishment. He died in my place. And the guilty me died with him. Now I bear his name, a perfect name. I stand spotless, clean, justified before him, tried and found innocent; fully cleared.

Reconciliation is built on justification and substitution. The adulterous me was executed. That is what we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:14; that because Jesus died in my place, I am considered dead. This is what we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21;

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

There is so much more to say about that one verse (and I plan to spend more time on it next week), but for now notice that it is the foundation of our reconciliation. It is what God did to reconcile us to himself. It is what God did to remedy our sin problem. He put our sin on Christ, and he puts Christ’s righteousness on us.

Reconciliation Requires Imputation

In verse 19 he puts it this way; God was ‘not counting their trespasses against them.’ The word ‘count’ is an accounting term; to reckon, count, consider, or credit, to impute; its a balancing the books term. Paul uses it this way in Romans 4.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

How does your employer expense payroll? Does he take a tax deduction for your wages, saying it was a charitable donation? No, that would get him in trouble with the IRS. You worked, and he owes you your wages. They have to be counted as wages, not as a gift.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

God credits or accounts righteousness to the one who was not righteous as a gift, received by faith. A righteousness that wasn’t earned can’t be counted as wages. It has to be counted as a generous gift. He goes on:

Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

This connects back to 2 Corinthians 5:19

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was …not counting their trespasses against them,

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. But our trespasses do stand against us. They show up on our record. How can God not count our trespasses against us? This is where verse 21 comes in; God reckoned or imputed, credited our sins to Christ’s account.

The transfer of my sins to Christ’s account and the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to my account is what makes it possible for me to be reconciled to God. As Romans 5 puts it ‘being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; through him we have now received reconciliation.’ We receive reconciliation as a gift, bought for us by the death of God’s only Son. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Rom.5:1). Our reconciliation, our peace with God is rooted in justification, God’s crediting or imputing a righteousness to us that was not ours.

Active and Passive Reconciliation

And notice that this reconciliation is presented to us as a completed action. It came from God, he accomplished it through Christ, he reconciled us to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

God through Christ completed the work of reconciliation at the cross.

God is still active in reconciling the world to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

This can’t mean a universal salvation as some attempt to read it. Reconciling the world cannot mean every individual is reconciled whether they like it or not; that makes nonsense of the text. Paul refers to ‘the reconciliation of the world’ in Romans 11:15 in response to the rejection of Israel, meaning that the gospel is now going global, not just among the Jews. It is only those who are in Christ, Jew or Gentile, only those who believe against whom the Lord does not count their trespasses. This is why the word, the message of reconciliation was entrusted to the apostles.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is a word for the world! God has done the work of reconciliation. All this is from God. It is all of grace. God is active in reconciling. We are commanded here not to reconcile, but to be reconciled; we are passive – receiving by faith God’s reconciling work. Or in the language of Romans 5:11 ‘through Christ we have received reconciliation.’ ‘Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ Are you? Are you enjoying relationship with this personal God? Have you received by faith his finished reconciling work? Are you blessed, because the Lord no longer counts your sins against you? If you will only acknowledge your need, cry out to him in simple trust, he will reconcile you to himself; and you too will be entrusted with the message of reconciliation for the world! ‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

***

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

February 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Authority, Identity, Community

10/08 2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Authority and Identity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171008_2cor1_1-2.mp3

Paul makes his words count. Every word is significant. I want to invite you to read with me, to meditate with me on the words of holy scripture.

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins even in the greeting to address some of the issues he will take up in more detail in the remainder of his letter.

Paul, Apostle

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle [1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος]

As we will see later in this letter, Paul’s role as apostle was under attack in Corinth. Here in the introduction he simply states the facts as they stand. In other letters he refers to himself as a bond-servant or slave of Jesus Christ; here an apostle. The first word is ‘Paul’; the second ‘apostle.’ Apostle means sent; one sent out as a witness and representative carrying the authority of the one who sent him.

The office of Apostle was one who bore witness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. When the 11 apostles in Acts 1 decided to select someone to fill Judas’ place, they gave these criteria for who was qualified:

Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

So an Apostle, one of the 12, had to be an eye witness of Jesus’ ministry, from his baptism through his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Paul was not one of these original 12, but he was uniquely appointed by the Lord Jesus as:

Acts 9:15 …a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

Paul was personally sent by Jesus himself. In 1 Corinthians 15, in defense of the physical resurrection of Jesus, Paul lists the eyewitnesses; Peter, the 12, a group of 500, James, all the apostles, and then he says:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 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.

Paul did not consider himself worthy to be called an apostle. He was not worthy. (None of them were!) But he was called to serve as an apostle by God’s grace. God is a God who gives good gifts to those who do not deserve them. God’s grace made him what he was.

Of Christ Jesus

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus [ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ]

Paul was an apostle of Christ Jesus; the Messiah Jesus. Christ is the Old Testament title of the anointed one, the promised, long awaited, hoped for King. In Corinth in Acts 18:

Acts 18:5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.

The fulfillment of the whole Old Testament, the long awaited Messiah was Jesus.

By The Will of God

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, [διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ]

Paul was apostle of Christ Jesus through or on account of the will of God. Paul traces his apostleship back to God’s will, not his own. He was no self-appointed apostle; actually it was against his own will; he was, in his own words ‘a persecutor and an insolent opponent’ (1Tim.1:13) of the followers of Jesus, but Jesus apprehended him on the Damascus road and enlisted him in his service. Paul was ‘convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth …in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities’ (Acts 26:9-11). Jesus took this one, chose this one, appointed this one to be his witness. Paul didn’t sign up for this. His conversion was, in the words of John 1:13 ‘not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ God blazed from heaven and knocked Saul down to the ground, blinded him, and when he had his full attention asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked “Who are you, Lord?” to which the Lord responded “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-8; 26:13-15). Paul was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.

Timothy Our Brother

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, [καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφὸς]

Timothy was a partner in ministry. Paul and Silas recruited him on the second missionary journey in Lystra, a city in Galatia (Acts 16:1). Timothy rejoined Paul shortly after he came to Corinth (Acts 18:5). Later he sent Timothy and Erastus from Ephesus into Macedonia (Acts 19:22). In the writing of 1 Corinthians, Paul expected Timothy to visit Corinth (4:17; 16:10), probably from Macedonia. He refers to him as

1 Corinthians 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

He considered Timothy as almost equivalent to himself. If Timothy were there, he would remind them of Paul, Paul’s ways, Paul’s methods in ministry. Timothy was his co-worker. Paul wrote two New Testament letters to Timothy to encourage him. Here, to the Corinthians who knew him well, he is simply referred to as ‘Timothy the brother.’

It is worth noting that Paul included others in ministry. He did not often work alone, in fact it seems he did not like to work alone. When he escaped from persecution in Berea and was brought to Athens alone, he gave a ‘command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible’ (Acts 17:15). It says ‘Paul was waiting for them in Athens.’ When he came to Corinth, he quickly connected with Aquila and Priscilla, while he continued to wait for Silas and Timothy. Paul writes in this letter about his travel to Troas to preach the gospel, but ‘my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them…’ (2Cor.2:13).

Paul did not fly solo. He strategically included others in ministry with him. He used life and ministry as an opportunity to disciple, to pour into others, to encourage them in the faith, to equip them for ministry. He gave them opportunity to step out and do ministry. He entrusted to them significant responsibilities. He multiplied his own ministry by investing in his co-workers. Timothy was well known to this church, and he is with Paul as he writes to this church.

To The Church of God Existing in Corinth

2 Corinthians 1:1 …To the church of God that is at Corinth, [τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ]

Paul writes to the church of God that is at Corinth. Paul is careful to identify who this church belongs to. It is not his church, even though he planted it. It is not Apollos’ church, even though he watered it. It is not Gaius’ church, even though it appears to have met in his home (Rom.16:23). It does not belong to any prominent local leader. It is the church of God. It is God’s church, God’s gathering, God’s assembly. God owns it. It belongs to him. It exists for God, to bring pleasure to God. The church exists primarily to honor God. The church is to meet together to glorify God.

This is the church of God that is at Corinth. The church of God which exists in Corinth; which has has its being in Corinth. God’s church is a global church that includes every true Jesus follower throughout history. That is the universal church. Here he is looking at God’s church as it exists in Corinth. This is a local geographical temporal expression of the broader church of God. God’s church is made up of local churches in specific places. It should have been a stunning evidence of grace that God’s church took root and began to have a local existence in a wicked city like Corinth. God encouraged Paul through a vision when he was at Corinth, telling him ‘I have many in this city who are my people’ (Acts 18:10). It is a beautiful thing when God’s universal church expresses itself in a new location. Do not cease to be amazed at God’s glorious grace that we can say that God’s church exists in Ephraim; God’s church exists in Gunnision Utah.

With All the Saints Who Exist in the Whole of Achaia

2 Corinthians 1:1 …To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: [σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ·]

Achaia included the entire isthmus and the nearby city of Cenchrea where a church in mentioned in Romans 16:1; doubtless there were many believers and even home churches scattered around this Roman province whose capital city was Corinth. Paul addresses not only the church in the capital city, but all the believers in the whole region.

Notice how he addresses them. The saints; literally the holy ones; the set-apart ones. Paul is not now addressing a subset of the church, the really spiritual ones. No, each and every born again believer in Jesus is referred to here as holy, set apart. Remember, it is all of grace. It is not through effort and sacrifice that we attain to the level of saint. It is God”s free gift to those who don’t deserve anything, and yet he says ‘you belong to me; you are set apart as my own prized possession.’ This is not based on performance or personal righteousness. This is grace. We find this beautifully expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

‘And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ Notice the personal effort in that verse? It’s not there! It says nothing about what they did. It says everything about what God did to them. God takes a sinner and washes him and sets him apart and clothes him in Christ’s own perfect righteousness; he takes a sinner and makes him a saint.

From the two letters we have that he wrote to this church in Corinth, we learn that this church was a mess. There was sin in the church. There was division. There was immorality, idolatry, pride, greed. He says in 1 Corinthians that ‘when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse (1Cor.11:17). It would be better if you didn’t gather as the church at all! And yet Paul does not address his letter ‘to all you messed up sinful wretches in Corinth’. No, he calls them by their true identity. You are saints. You may not be acting like saints right now, but you are holy. You have been made holy by the precious blood of Jesus. And I am going to write to you so that by God’s grace you will grow in holiness. He writes to the church of God; to the saints.

Grace to you and Peace

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace [2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη]

This is standard letter writing form in the ancient world. From; to; greeting. The usual Greek greeting was χαίρειν (Acts15:23) – be well; be glad; the equivalent of our ‘hello’. Paul takes χαίρειν and makes it χάρις ὑμῖν; grace to you. Grace – all God’s good gifts freely given to undeserving sinners. He takes the usual greeting and infuses it with precious gospel truth.

Grace; all the good from God you don’t deserve, and peace. Shalom is the typical Hebrew greeting. But it is much more rich and deep than our word peace. It means so much more than the absence of hostility. It carries the ideas of wholeness, well-being. It is the positive experience of all is well. God’s peace comes as a result of God’s grace extended to sinners who have no hope outside of him.

From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.]

Grace, this good gift freely given; and peace, a right relationship with God comes to us from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God is our Father; Jesus taught us to pray ‘Our Father…’ Because, as Romans 8 and Galatians 4 and Ephesians 1 teach us that through the new birth we have been adopted into his family. We can now legitimately call him Father. He chose us to be his own children. God is personal, he cares deeply about us, we can enjoy relationship with him.

Grace and peace come as good gifts from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord – κύριος in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament translates the Hebrew YHWH, the personal name of God, the self-existent one; the one who is. Jesus is Lord; YHWH, fully God, equal to his Father, yet distinct from his Father.

Jesus is here identified intimately with his Father; God’s free gift of grace, and the subsequent peace with God we enjoy are given to us by both the Father and the Son. They together are the givers of these precious gifts we enjoy. Paul asks God to pour out his grace and subsequent peace on this church, who, like us is in desperate need of it.

What greater gifts could we desire than a restored relationship with God, a new identity, a new purpose, a new community,

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

October 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment