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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 3:26-30; Not a Hair Of Your Head

08/29_Daniel 03:26-30; Not a Hair Of Your Head; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210829_dan03_26-30.mp3

We left Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace last time. You would think that’s not a great place to leave them, but we did see that although their executioners died, they survived. In fact, it seems they were thriving; the fire freed them from their bonds, and they were walking, enjoying fellowship with the Son of God in the midst of the fire. So all in all it was not a bad place to leave them.

Let’s pick back up in verse 15 for context with the king’s threatening:

Daniel 3:15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made… But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “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.”

Challenging God

Remember, Nebuchadnezzar was in a furious rage that they refused to serve his gods or worship his image. In pride, he challenged the gods; ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’

Nebuchadnezzar is king of kings; he had made a 90 foot god of gold and demanded that all peoples, nations, and languages fall down and worship the image that he, Nebuchadnezzar, had set up. He forgot the lesson learned in chapter 2, that although he was king of kings, it was the God of heaven who gave him the kingdom, the power, the might, and the glory. It was God who placed in his hands authority over all the children of man, the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens (2:37-38). The power was not inherent in him; it was a gift, given to him by the God of heaven.

It seems he was challenging this God, shaking his fist in defiance; ‘Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ Now, in the seven times superheated fiery furnace that killed his strongest soldiers, he saw the three he had thrown in the furnace, now freed of their bonds, and walking in the midst of the fire apparently unharmed, and a fourth man with them, a divine being, like a son of the gods.

Safe In The Fire

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.

Nebuchadnezzar came near (but not too near; he could feel the heat of his superheated fiery furnace; he had seen what it did to his strongest warriors), and he commanded the three to come out. In the fire, they were safe. Neither Nebuchadnezzar the king nor his next strongest soldiers (he had already lost his strongest) could reach them. They were safe in the fire, with their Lord. They did not come out until they were summoned. It seems they were in no hurry to come out; they were content to stay in the midst of the fire, enjoying fellowship with their God. But when the king summoned them, they obediently came out.

Ready to Meet God?

It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar calls the three by name. He saw four men walking in the midst of the fire. But he only asks Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out. He did not dare to command the fourth man, the divine being to come out. He knew he had no authority over him, nor was he ready to meet face to face the God he had so arrogantly defied; a God who obviously was more powerful than his hottest fire. Nebuchadnezzar had seen God’s wisdom in chapter 2 in interpreting his dream, and he had acknowledged him as God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries’ (Dan.2:47). Now he perceived this God’s power greater than the hottest flames. But he is not yet ready to encounter this Most High God. He is comfortable speaking with the servants of this God, but he is not yet ready to face God directly.

The Pervasive Power of Fire

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.

I’ve been in the middle of fire. It was an elementary age science experiment gone wrong that involved a small enclosed space, a highly flammable aerosol can and matches. Don’t try this at home! My friend and I were momentarily engulfed in flames, and after the split second flash, the hardest thing to conceal from mom was our singed hair; head hair, arm hair, eyebrows, all singed, curled up on the ends from an instantaneous flash of the flames. And the smell. There is nothing like the smell of burnt hair. Hair burns fast. We had some friends over for dinner; this was the early 90’s with way too much hairspray, and a candle in the window sill of the dining room. Our friend leaned back a little too far, and vooom! Her hair was literally on fire.

I like fire. I enjoy a good roaring campfire. I like to cook over fire. But it is amazing how much the smell of smoke permeates clothing and lingers. You can’t hide that you’ve been around a fire.

When these three came out of Nebuchadnezzar’s superheated furnace, all those who had conspired to get these three thrown into the fire, who had witnessed them being thrown into the fire, came around them to examine the lack of effect the fire had on them. The smell of charred flesh still hung in the air from the soldiers who had thrown them in. But on these three, they all observed that the fire had not had any power over their bodies. Not a hair singed, no damage to their clothing, not even the smell of fire on them.

This fire was real fire; it was lethal, demonstrated graphically by those that threw them in. But these that had been thrown down into the burning fiery furnace were unharmed. The fire was powerful; it incinerated the ropes that tied them. But supernaturally the fire had no power over their bodies.

Not A Hair Of Your Head

Jesus told his followers that they would be persecuted, some even to death. But then he said something very strange.

Luke 21:16 You will be delivered up …and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

I’ve scratched my head over this. ‘Some of you they will put to death, but not a hair of your head will perish.’ What does this mean? How does it make sense that they will be killed, but not even one hair will perish? What does it matter if my hair remains intact if I am dead?

Jesus said earlier in Luke:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Fear God alone. God alone has power to destroy both body and soul in hell (Mt.10:28). God has every hair of your head numbered. And although many Jesus followers have been burned to death, yet not a hair of their heads have perished eternally. You see, we believe in a physical bodily resurrection. Not an immaterial ghost-like existence; Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that our hope is bodily resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

He says in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Fear not! Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. They may put you to death, but not a hair of your head will perish! Our God promises to be with you in the flame, he is able to preserve you through the flame, and he promises that although they may kill the body, not a hair of your head will perish for eternity!

Repent or Legislate?

The satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors all witnessed something. They were eye witnesses of the impotence of the king before the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He had been respectfully resisted by them, and his most furious efforts were powerless to bring about their execution.

What do you do when you are the most powerful man on the earth, and you have been disregarded, disobeyed, with a flat out refusal to bow to your authority? When in a rage you order the execution of the rebels, but the execution backfires and you loose some of your best soldiers, the fire serves only to free the exiles you are angry with, and God himself walks in the fire with those you sought to destroy? What do you do?

Here’s what you ought to do. Repent. Acknowledge you were wrong to demand absolute allegiance; only God has that right. Acknowledge that you were wrong to set up an image and demand worship; only God deserves the worship of all peoples, languages and nations. Cry out for mercy from that God whom you have offended by your arrogance and pride. Repent. You ought to repent.

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

In response to Daniel revealing both the king’s dream and its interpretation, the king fell on his face and commanded an offering and incense be offered. He acknowledged God as God of gods and Lord of kings, revealer of mysteries.

Here, in response to God’s thwarting of his execution, of God’s own presence, visible, protecting in the fire, of the three brought safely through the fire, the king didn’t bow, didn’t offer offerings. He didn’t repent. He didn’t confess his sins or acknowledge that what he had done was wrong. He blessed God and he made a decree. He legislated protection for the religious freedom of these three. He rewarded their civil disobedience. He acknowledged that their God is unique in his ability to rescue in this way. He didn’t repent, he issued a decree!

This would be laughable if it were not so tragically ironic! Nebuchadnezzar who defied God and was publicly defeated by God still is deluded to believe he has power. How difficult it is for a rich man, or a man with power or authority, to enter the kingdom of God (Mk.10:23). Nebuchadnezzar, who had publicly failed in his attempt to execute those who defied him, now issues another death threat, this time to defend the God who proved himself more powerful! But the burning fiery furnace thing didn’t work out so well, so we’ll revert back to the tearing limb from limb. God defeated him publicly, in front of his satraps, prefects, governors, and counselors, and he tries to save face by passing legislation, promoting to power, and making more death threats.

Application

I said this would be laughable if it were not so tragically ironic. We want to laugh at the foolishness of Nebuchadnezzar, but we need to look in the mirror. How often are we deluded by our own grandeur, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think? How often are we confronted by God? He is pursuing us, he is pursuing a relationship with us; but we refuse to deal with him, to fall on our faces in repentance and faith. Instead we do the thing we’ve always done, we pretend to have power, we pass resolutions, we make decrees. We try to save face in front of those we so desperately want to impress. We’ll talk to other people, but we won’t face him, we won’t deal with him.

Here’s the good news. He knows what you’ve done. He knows who you are. He already knows. And he is pursuing you. Surrender. Lay down your pride, turn, face him. Run to him. Find forgiveness. Find freedom. Jesus paid your price at the cross. Let go whatever you are clinging to, and turn to him.

***

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

August 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering

07/25_Daniel 03:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210725_dan03_13-18.mp3

In response to his dream that he was the head of gold, to be succeeded by lesser empires, and ultimately replaced entirely by the kingdom crushing stone, Nebuchadnezzar made an image all of gold, 90 feet high, and demanded that all ‘peoples, nations, and languages’ fall down and worship the golden image. God had given into his hand authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens,’ but he did not give glory to God; rather he attempted to make a name for himself.

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Judging from the parallel event in chapter 6, it is possible that this event was politically motivated, orchestrated or encouraged by the Chaldeans out of jealousy of the king’s appointment of Jews to positions of authority over them.

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The Chaldeans remind the king of his decree, and of the consequences he established for disobedience. Now they bring to the king’s attention that there are three Jews whom he had appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon who stand in defiance of the king’s decree.

Where Was Daniel?

After Daniel’s revealing of the king’s dream and its interpretation, at the end of chapter 2 we read:

Daniel 2:48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

This is likely meant to answer the question ‘where was Daniel in chapter 3?’ Daniel remained at the king’s court. With the king and all his governing officials assembled several miles south of Babylon in the plain of Dura, someone would have needed to remain in Babylon to maintain order in the city in the absence of the king.

There was obvious resentment on the part of the Chaldeans toward these foreigners who had been promoted above them. They maliciously accused the Jews; literally they ‘ate the pieces of’. Their animosity was thinly veiled. They wanted to consume them, to see them destroyed. They even implicate the king in unwise decisions; appointing foreigners to positions of power who are secretly rebels against the king and his authority. They said:

Daniel 3:12 …These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

This is only partly true. Indeed they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. This was not a gray area; the Scripture is clear that:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

Their conscience was captive to the word of God, so they could not bow to the image or serve the gods of Babylon.

Christian Work Ethic

But the allegation that they ‘pay no attention to’ the king was false. They were summoned to the plain of Dura, and they obediently came. There is no evidence that they acted with anything short of the greatest integrity in their positions of authority over the province of Babylon. In fact if they had performed poorly, shirked their responsibility or undermined the authority of the king in any way, the Chaldeans surely would have brought it to the attention of the king. They were following the instruction of Jeremiah;

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: …7 …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.

Those who know and follow Jesus should have the greatest integrity, be the best employees, have the highest work ethic, because we know that we are not just working for an earthly boss for a paycheck, but we are serving the Lord Christ.

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.

We are not told how the three Hebrews refused to bow. There is no evidence that they petitioned the king for an exemption to his decree. We are not told that they drew attention to themselves in their refusal to worship. There is nothing that says they attempted to persuade others to join them in refusal to bow, carrying signs, waving banners, shouting the danger of bowing to false gods. It seems that when the music played and all the peoples, nations and languages fell down and worshiped the image, they quietly stood their ground.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Raging Pride

But Nebuchadnezzar was foolishly persuaded by the flattery of the Chaldeans, he allowed his raging pride to overshadow clear headed judgment, and he took offense against these three Jews.

Daniel 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, … But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

The king, in raging pride, asks if it is true that they do not serve his gods or worship the image he has set up, but he doesn’t give them time to respond. He starts to say that he is going to give them another chance to worship the image, but doesn’t finish his sentence. Instead he reiterates his threat of punishment for refusal to worship.

It is likely that this furnace had been used to refine and melt the gold for the construction of this colossal image there on the plain of Dura. Mesopotamian smelting furnaces had a large opening at the top to add the ore, and a smaller opening at ground level for feeding the fire with wood and charcoal. It was kept burning as a visual reminder of the consequence for failure to worship the king’s image.

King Nebuchadnezzar makes this arrogant and blasphemous statement ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ He had learned in chapter 2 that there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, who is all-knowing and wise, but he had yet to learn that this God is also all-powerful and sovereign over all mankind.

Nebuchadnezzar was the god-maker, who set up this image for all peoples, nations and languages to worship. If he could set up the image, it meant that he was in control, more powerful even than the god the image was meant to represent. It was into his hand that God had given dominion, and it was out of his hand that those who opposed him would need to be rescued. The Chaldeans accused, the Jews were apprehended and brought before the king, the furnace was blazing, and there was no way on earth for these three to escape from the alternatives; either bow in worship or be burned in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was in absolute control, and he knew it.

Submission to Sovereign Wisdom

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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.”

No negotiation, no begging for mercy. No discussion, no need to give a reason or argue in their own defense. No need for the orchestra to play the symphony again. They were resolute, and they were willing to suffer the consequences of their stand. They were glad to serve the king and seek the good of the city but they will not serve the gods of the king, and they will not worship the image he has set up.

Compromise would not be seeking the good of the city. God had sent them on mission in exile in Babylon so that the nations would know that there is a God in heaven. They were willing to submit to the king’s God given authority, but they would not compromise their testimony by acknowledging false gods.

Yahweh is Gracious, Who is What God Is, and Yahweh will Help (those are the meanings of their Hebrew names; Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) testify to the God they serve. God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. God who created all that exists with his word, God who destroyed all life on the earth with a flood, God who rescued his people from bondage in Egypt with displays of his mighty sovereignty over the false gods of Egypt, God who took his people safely through the Red Sea and closed that sea over their enemies, God who brought down the walls of Jericho, God who sent an angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians who had besieged Jerusalem in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, God who had given them favor with the chief of the eunuchs and prospered them, God who answered their prayers and revealed the king’s dream, this ‘God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’

Our God is able. There is no limit to his power. His hand is not shortened that he cannot save (Is.50:2). Nothing is to difficult for the Lord (Jer.32:17). There is no king too powerful, no furnace too hot, no cancer too advanced, no prodigal too far gone. Jesus spoke into the tomb of his friend who had been dead four days, and Lazarus came out! Our God is mighty to save. Nothing is impossible with God (Lk.1:37). God can deliver people from the burning fiery furnace, God can deliver his people out of the hand of the most powerful king. These three had no doubt about the ability of God to do whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

But If Not

The next three words are stunning. But if not. There was no question about God’s power, God’s ability. But there was a realistic realization that although God can save, sometimes he does not save, and this is not a lack of either his power or his goodness. God saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians in response to Hezekiah’s prayer (2Ki.19:32-35). God gave Jerusalem into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Dan.1:2). God could have saved Joseph from his brothers who conspired against him and sold him into slavery. But instead God sent Joseph ahead, into slavery, to preserve life for many people (Gen.45:5,7; 50:20).

So many of us love salvation by grace. God freely gives good to those who do not deserve it. But we don’t want to live by grace. We want to live by works. When bad things happen to us, we begin to ask ‘what did I do wrong to deserve this?’ If we want to live by works, the answer is that I am a sinner, and what I deserve is hell, the eternal wrath of God. I am a sinner, and that’s what I deserve. But to those who live by grace, we enjoy a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, a gift God is free (not obligated) to give. But somehow the works mentality is so ingrained in us that we easily switch over to our default thinking that if we do the right thing, then God is obligated (not free) to reward us with good things right now. We so easily forget that any good we do is ‘not I but the grace of God that is in me’ (1Cor.15:10).

We want to come to Jesus on our terms, not his. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, to all who believe in him? Great! I’ll take that! Reconciliation with God, an all-satisfying relationship with him? Sounds good to me! Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at his right hand? Sign me up! Take up your cross and follow me; in the world you will have tribulation? Wait, I think I’ll pass. God hears and answers prayers? That’s great! Sometimes he says ‘No’? I think I’d rather have a genie in a bottle.

These three give us a beautiful example of bold confidence in the omnipotence of God and humble submission to the sovereign wisdom of God. God is able to save. But if he doesn’t save right here right now, will I walk away? Will I doubt his goodness, his love? “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.” When Jesus said some things that were hard to swallow, many stopped following him. When he asked his disciples if they too would go away, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn.6:68). Job in the midst of his anguish and suffering, said ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him;’ (Job.13:15).

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

The author of Hebrews celebrates the faith of those:

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. …

Stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire; these are exciting stories of miraculous deliverance; but Hebrews saves the best ‘till last.

Hebrews 11:35 … Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy

Paul said:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

These are heroes of the faith. Some are rescued miraculously. God is able. But if not… may he find us faithful even unto death.

***

Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

***

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

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Are You Afraid Of? (Matthew 10:28)

01/24 Jesus; What to Fear; Fear God (Mt.10:28); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210124_jesus-what-to-fear.mp3

What Do You Fear?

What are you afraid of? Many fear disease, fear danger, fear loss, fear failure, fear rejection, fear people, fear disappointing others, fear being alone… the list could go on and on.

What are you afraid of? Fear is a natural and normal part of our human existence. Some fears help keep us safe. A healthy fear of heights may keep you from getting to close to the edge and falling. Fear of the dark may keep you from stubbing your toe. Fear of snakes might prevent you from getting bit.

In Mark 4,

Mark 4:37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Fear of drowning is a legitimate fear. Fear of death, fear of violent storms and shipwreck are all reasonable things to be afraid of.

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

The disciples had something real to fear. But Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and tells them not to be afraid.

In Mark 6, Jesus was not in the boat. They were again out on the sea, again facing a storm, this time in the dark, this time alone.

Mark 6:47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. …

The disciples, in the boat battling the storm see a figure approaching them across the water. We already know the story, but put yourself in their boat. That’s terrifying. They thought it was a ghost, a phantasm, a spectre, a spirit. Something unnatural, spiritual, other-worldly. They were rightly afraid.

Mark 6:50 …But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,

Do Not Fear What Is Frightening

Do not be afraid. In John 14, when Jesus tells them that he is leaving and they cannot follow, he says:

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 commands us ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not fear.’ How? How do we not fear things that are legitimately frightening?

Sheep Among Wolves (Matthew 10)

Look with me to Matthew 10. Jesus tells us what’s coming. He says in verse 16,

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

If there is one wolf that gets in to the sheep pen, the sheep have much to be afraid of. But here Jesus says he is sending each of us as sheep into the midst of a pack of wolves. One wolf in the sheep pen and one sheep is likely to be torn and carried off, but the rest may hope to escape. But one sheep sent into a pack of hungry wolves has no chance. That’s what Jesus prepares us, his followers for.

Matthew 10:17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

You will be arrested. You will be beaten. You will be put on trial and testify. But do not be anxious. Don’t be afraid.

Matthew 10:21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

You can really trust no one. You will be hated. You will be persecuted. You may have to flee. You may be betrayed and even put to death. Endure to the end.

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Jesus is the teacher, we are his learners. Jesus is the Master, we are his slaves. Jesus was misunderstood, maligned, mistreated, betrayed, taken into custody, falsely accused, beaten, executed. If you follow Jesus, you can expect the same. Encouraging? Frightening? Listen to Jesus’ conclusion:

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

Jesus prepares us for the worst, and our response is to not be afraid. There will be a tendency when under pressure to be silent, to go into hiding, to lay low. Jesus tells us that we should have no fear, that we should not be afraid, but rather boldly and openly proclaim. ‘So have no fear of them.’

The Freedom of a Greater Fear

In verse 28, Jesus gives us the ground for our freedom from fear in the face of mortal danger.

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

Jesus tells us both what not to fear, and whom to fear. Freedom from fear comes from a greater fear.

You understand how this works? Fear can be overcome by a greater fear. The Princess Bride throws herself into the water and begins to frantically swim, seeking to escape from her kidnappers. But when she discovers these are eel infested waters, she is willing to be brought back on board and risk her fate with Vincini’s band rather than be eaten by the shrieking eels. The greater and more certain threat makes her willing to endure the lesser threat.

Consider this; if you are deathly afraid of skydiving, your fear may prevent you from jumping out of the plane. But if you have a greater fear of snakes, and you discover that the plane is teeming with the slithering creatures, you may gladly take leave of the plane and entrust yourself to your parachute. Our fears can be overcome by a greater fear.

How many of you would jump out of the plane? How many of you would stay on board and face the snakes? Much of this is subjective, based on perceived danger. People perceive danger differently. But there is real objective danger.

Luke records Jesus’ words in Luke 12:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

The fear of being killed is real. This is sobering when we consider the various ways the apostles were tortured and executed. But legitimate fears are overshadowed, overturned, overthrown by a greater fear. Those who can kill the body is high up the list of things to fear. But the fear of God should be greater. In fact, Jesus says we should not fear death, but we should only fear God.

Fear God the Judge

Our greatest threat is not disease, disaster, poverty, famine, or war. God is our greatest threat, the real, objective, all powerful and eternal danger. God has the authority to cast our souls into hell, and it would be right for him to do it! As the Judge of all the earth, it is what we deserve. We all have sinned and fail to give God glory. We were dead in our sins, in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, …by nature children of wrath. We deserve hell. It’s what we have earned by our God rejecting, God ignoring, God belittling hearts.

It is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that he took our punishment on the cross, that offers any hope of escape from what we rightly deserve. And if we would look to Jesus on the cross, God forsaken, crushed, shamed, abandoned, our jaws would drop in stunned horror at he price that was paid for us. A look to the cross should remind us to fear the Lord.

Re-Calibrating Our Fears

Throughout the Scriptures we are commanded to fear the Lord, and the wisdom literature tell us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Ps.111:10; Pr.1:7; 9:10; 15:33). We are commanded and instructed to fear God because our perception of danger is skewed and needs to be corrected. We naturally fear the wrong things. We must continually re-calibrate our fears by the truth of God’s word.

Fear Self-Deception

Jesus goes on in Matthew 10 to say:

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

We ought to fear the real possibility of deceiving ourselves, and one day hearing those terrible words ‘I never knew you, depart from me’ (Mt.7:23).

Flee to Jesus for Refuge

Jesus is coming back. He will judge the living and the dead (Acts.10:42). He will give to each person according to what they have done (Mt.16:27). As 2 Thessalonians predicts;

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

The Lord Jesus is to be worshiped, and he is to be feared. Recognize that he will surely punish every evildoer, and you are an evildoer. Run to him for forgiveness, for cleansing, for refuge. Hide yourself in him. Be found in him, not having a righteousness of your own that comes from the law, but the righteousness from God which comes through faith in Christ (Phil.3:9). Obey the gospel and be safe.

Back in Mark 4, where Jesus was asleep on the boat in the middle of the storm, when the disciples feared for their lives, when Jesus awoke and calmed the wind and the waves with his word, it says:

Mark 4:41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They had been afraid of the storm. But they began to realize the one in the boat with them was more powerful, more to be feared than the raging sea. The sea was now calm, and they were filled with great fear. ‘Who then is this?’

Exhortation

Hear this exhortation from the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

***

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

January 25, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; Coming Again!

12/27 Jesus in His Own Words; Coming Again/Coming Back; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201227_jesus-coming-again.mp3

We’ve been looking this Christmas season at Jesus in his own words; what he said about himself, about his coming.

We looked at why he came. Jesus said that he came for sinners (Mk.2:17). He came to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). He came to lay down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:10-11). Jesus came because we had gone astray. He came because we were that bad; to pursue us and rescue us, to forgive our sins. He came to pay our price.

Jesus came. But Jesus claimed to have come differently from anyone else. He claimed to have come from above, to have been sent by his Father, who he claimed is the God we worship. He claimed to have existed from before creation, sharing his Father’s glory. Jesus claimed to be the I AM. Jesus who created all things humbled himself and became human in order to rescue us, to save us from our sins by taking our punishment on the cross.

Advent – Coming

Christmas is all about Jesus, his coming. Traditionally, this season is called Advent, from the Latin adventus which means coming. Jesus came. We celebrate his coming at advent. But Jesus also said that he is coming again; that he is coming back for us. Advent looks back to the coming of Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem. But Advent also looks forward with anticipation to the promise of his coming.

Jesus talked a lot about his coming. Today we will look at a few of the things Jesus said about his coming.

I Will Come Again and Take You to Myself; John 14, 17

At the last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus told them that he was going away. Jesus said ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” (Jn.13:33, 36). At first, Peter didn’t understand. But he was beginning to realize that Jesus was talking about his death, so he said he was willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even to lay down his life for him.

The disciples were grieving because Jesus said he was going away. They didn’t want him to leave. He said:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

You cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Jesus promises that he will come again for us, to take us to be with him.

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

In fact, in John 17, Jesus’ prayer to his Father, he says:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is praying for the unity of his followers,

John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

And he is praying not only for his original disciples, but he explicitly mentions us, you and me, today.

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us to be with him forever. He will come again to take us to himself. We have his word on it.

This could be the word Paul has in mind when he writes to encourage the Thessalonians and correct their misunderstandings:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Lord himself is coming back for us. He went to prepare a place for us. Dead or alive at his coming, we will be raised to meet him in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Jesus is coming again!

Matthew 24; Don’t be Alarmed; Don’t be Led Astray

In Matthew 24, Jesus predicted that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed,(as it was in 70 AD). His disciples asked “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Mt.24:3).

Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.

He warned that false christs would come to lead many astray. There would be wars and rumors of wars. Wars between nations and kingdoms, famines and earthquakes. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:6 …See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

He told his followers that they would be hated and persecuted, even executed. Did you know that this year around 3,000 of our brothers and sisters were killed because of their faith in Jesus? That’s at least 8 every day [OpenDoors WWL2020].

Jesus said many would fall away and betray one another. False prophets would lead many astray. Lawlessness will increase, and the love of many will grow cold.

Matthew 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

According to the Joshua Project, there are 7,413 people groups unreached with the gospel; that’s 3.23 billion people, 41.6% of the world’s population. Friends, we have a lot of work left to do.

Jesus said the false christs and false prophets would perform great signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. He warned not to believe it if they claim to have found the Christ.

Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

This teaching was no doubt the basis for Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 2:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Jesus is coming back for us. Don’t be shaken in mind. Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be deceived. It hasn’t happened yet. You haven’t missed it.

Stay Awake, Be Ready, Watch

Jesus encouraged us to be aware of the signs that indicate his coming is near, but he warned that no one but the Father knows the day or the hour (Mt.24:33-36).

Matthew 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

He said:

Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Jesus uses the illustration of servants left in charge of their master’s household, and he gives us this encouragement:

Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

In Matthew 25, Jesus uses the illustration of young women awaiting the bridegroom, some who were prepared, and some who were not.

Matthew 25:5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

Matthew 25:10 …the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Jesus compared it to a master leaving for a journey, and entrusting to his servants his property. They were expected to invest wisely and multiply their master’s property.

Matthew 25:19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

To those that invested and multiplied their master’s resources,

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

But the one who perceived the master to be hard and unjust, he said ‘you wicked and slothful servant!’

Matthew 25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. …30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Stay awake! Be ready! Be faithful, be busy serving others. Invest wisely what he has entrusted to your care.

As You Did It to One of the Least of These My Brothers

Jesus says of his coming in Matthew 25:31

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Love for the brothers is evidence of love for the Lord. The gospel reminds us that the righteous aren’t righteous because they do good; they do good because they have been made righteous through the finished work of Christ. The righteous are not even aware of their own good deeds, because they naturally flow out of a transformed heart. The works are evidence of an inward change. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. The kingdom was prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Seek his Kingdom and He will Serve You

In Luke 12, Jesus tells us not to be anxious or worried, but instead to seek the kingdom of God. Then he says:

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

And he gives us this startling encouragement.

Luke 12:35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.

Be ready, be watching, be waiting, be awake, be anticipating his coming. Be ready to serve. And when the Master comes, he turns the tables. He will give you a place at his table, and he will serve you. Because the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). We are to be waiting, be alert, to anticipate his coming and be ready to serve, but it is ultimately he who serves us, not we who serve him.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. This is our King! Our king who humbled himself and became obedient even to death, even death on a cross. Our King is preparing a place for us to be with him. He promised that he is coming back for us. This is our king. Our King is coming! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

***

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

December 31, 2020 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

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

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

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

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

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

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

Luke records it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tested Genuineness of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

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

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

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

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

The Steadfastness of Christ

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

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

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

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

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

The Lord is Faithful

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

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

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

Kept to Keep Yourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

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

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

***

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

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

Obey Jesus – Primary Allegiance (Matthew 10:24-39)

05/10 Obey Jesus: Primary Allegiance; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200510_primary-allegiance.mp3

We are looking at what it means to obey Jesus. Jesus instructed us to make disciples who make disciples who obey Jesus in everything. So What did Jesus command? We’ve been looking at some of the commands of Jesus, to know what he expects of us his followers, and to equip us to better disciple those who become his followers. He commands that we come to him and believe in him, that we believe what he says about himself, that he is the I AM come down from heaven to give life to the world. We are to find him in all of Scripture, because he said the whole of the Scriptures point to him. We are to meet with him there in his word. We are to abide in him, stay connected to him in relationship, pray to him and pray in his name so that we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God.

A Servant Not Above His Master (Matthew 10)

Today I want to look at what Jesus says about our primary allegiances. In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his followers for what it is going to be like for them in this world. He said:

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

If we are following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to be treated better than he was treated. If he was slandered and maligned, we should not be surprised if we experience the same.

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus talks to us about our fears. He knows our tendency to be afraid, and he reminds us who to fear. What anyone says about us falsely will be brought into the light, so we don’t have to lose sleep over it.

They may kill the body. Many of Jesus’ followers have been killed because of their faith in him. But he reminds us not to fear those who have the power to kill only the body but cannot touch our soul. He reminds us that God alone is to be feared. We possess an invincible hope, that even death cannot quench!

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Two sparrows were sold for one small coin. Luke 12:6 has five sparrows sold for two of these coins; they were of so little worth that if you buy four you got one thrown in for free. And yet not one insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from the sovereign will of their omnipotent Creator. He has numbered the hairs on your head, and he has numbered your days on this earth. You are of more value than many sparrows. So fear not.

Primary Allegiance

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

Our allegiance to Jesus matters. To be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge him before people is to say that what they think is more important, more weighty than what God thinks. It is evidence that we don’t really believe in him. Jesus continues:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus is the great divide [this is fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 7:5-6]. Jesus polarizes people. You are either with him or against him. He tolerates no lukewarm opinions about himself. Jesus divides.

I know some of you know personally the cost of following Jesus, and have experienced exactly what Jesus says here.

Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

For Jesus to say that we are to love him above father and mother is to affirm the value of those relationships; family love and natural allegiance run deep. But he is to take precedence over even the highest of natural affections, the deepest of natural allegiances.

This is strong language. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, son or daughter, more than our own skin. He picks our closest ties, our deepest allegiances and demands that we are committed to him above all.

It is worth noting here that this demand would be audacious and unthinkable if Jesus were not God. To demand our unqualified allegiance is a clear claim to be the only one worthy of that kind of allegiance. Jesus is demanding that our love for God (and thus for him because he is God) must supersede every other affection and devotion

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his own skin more than me is not worthy of me.

Not worthy of me; not worthy not in the sense of not having earned or achieved the right, but rather not fit, not equal to the task. Those who are not willing to put God above all other loves are not willing to be Jesus’ disciples. They are not believing that the Lord is worthy of our highest love, not believing that in order to love others rightly, they must be loved in their proper place under God; the Lord must be loved first and above all.

In Luke 14, he says:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is not justifying hatred toward family members. But some of our actions and decisions may be perceived that way, because of our overriding allegiance to him. When we put Jesus first, everyone else comes in second, and nobody likes to be second. This is not dislike or disdain, but a supreme loyalty.

What This Does Not Look Like

Jesus affirms that we ought to honor father and mother. He even rebuked the Pharisees who created a legal loophole so that children could get out of the responsibility of taking care of their parents. What they were doing, it seems was taking the resources that they should have used to support their parents, and declaring them as dedicated to God, to be given to the Lord at some future date. This was a hypocritical way to say they were putting God first, while really they were avoiding responsibility to their parents and keeping it all for themselves. Jesus

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mk.7:9-13)

Jesus affirms that it is commanded by God to honor father and mother, but we must honor them under the Lord. Our loyalty must be to Jesus above all.

Government Submission

We can extend this to civil authorities, to states and empires. Peter tells us we are to

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Timothy tells us that we are to pray for those who are in authority over us;

1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And keep in mind that the context of these letters would have been the evil emperor Nero who was no friend of the cause of Christ.

Jesus answered a question about paying taxes:

Matthew 22:21 …Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Their coins had the image of the emperor on them. We bear God’s image. We are to give the government its due, but we must give God that which bears his image.

But when it comes to it, when the two are in conflict, our allegiance is to Jesus above all earthly allegiances. When the Jewish leaders rebuked the disciples

Acts 5:28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We are to pray for our leaders and be subject to our earthly governments as far as possible, but when the demands of these two collide, we must submit to the higher authority. We must obey God rather than men.

Gospel Community

In Mark 10, when Jesus pointed to the difficulty people have with following him, with giving him their undivided allegiance,

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands that we put him higher than every other love. Although the cost of following Jesus may be great, the reward will be far greater. Because Jesus demands our highest allegiance, this will mean that we seek to honor him above all. For some, this may actually mean walking away from a close relationship with an unbeliever, although in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul clarifies that it will be the unbeliever who wants out; so far as it depends on us we are to seek to live peaceably will all (Rom.12:18). But according to Jesus, whoever leaves family for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this life, brothers and sisters and mothers and children. What does he mean by this? Although in some cases blood relatives may want nothing to do with a believer, as believers we are adopted into the family of God. Although these relationships man never replace a lost relationship, we become part of a much larger family with a depth of unity through our common allegiance to Jesus. We become family. It is a beautiful thing to meet a believer from another place, maybe another country and a different culture, and discover that depth of connection we have in Jesus.

Invited In

In Mark 3, there was such a crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. The religious leaders were saying he was possessed by a demon, and his family came to get him, thinking he was out of his mind.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is not negating the importance of family. But he is inviting us in to his own family. My disciples, those who obey me, those who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. That’s the depth, that’s the intimacy, that’s the loyalty Jesus invites us in to. He takes the closest relationships we experience and says that is the kind of relationship I want with you.

What about you? Jesus invites you in. He wants that kind of depth, that kind of closeness with you. He is inviting you in. But he wants you to count the cost. It is costly to follow Jesus. He demands your highest devotion, your undivided loyalty, your absolute allegiance. He requires that you take him for who he is, to acknowledge him as God, with absolute rights over you. He commands that you devote yourself to him above every other affection. Will you take up your cross and follow him and not look back? Will you follow him wherever he leads? Will you obey everything he commands? Will you be his disciple?

***

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

May 11, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Body – Romans 12

01/19 Vision – individuals experiencing the gospel together in community (Romans 12); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200119_church-body.mp3

We’ve been looking at vision, God’s vision for the church, what it means to be a healthy church, and how we can grow more and more into what we were meant to be.

So far, we’ve seen from Matthew 16 that the church is Jesus’ church, a gathering of Jesus followers built on the identity of Jesus and the offense of the cross, united into one body by the Holy Spirit through the new birth. If each local church is composed of individual believers, then a healthy local church is made up of healthy believers. We’ve seen from Colossians 3 that followers of Jesus live by faith, we are to keep our thoughts fixed on God and his glory, we are to live in love and forgive as we have been forgiven; we are to be those whose lives are saturated with the word of God and with prayer.

We are going to spend our time today primarily in Romans 12. Our focus will be the church as the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual believers, and as individuals, we each bring something to the table, something to the body. We are individuals transformed by the good news, but we are meant to experience the gospel in community.

Established on a Gospel Foundation

Let’s just dive right in and look together at Romans 12.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,

It is essential to stop right here and pay attention to the ‘therefore’. That’s a connecting word, and it reminds us that we are jumping in at the end of a letter. ‘Therefore’ tells us that everything that is said here in chapter 12 is built on the foundation of what was said in the first 11 chapters. God is righteous. We are all sinners, and being unrighteous, we all deserve the just wrath of a holy God. But that same God of holiness and justice is also a God of compassion and love, and he sent his only Son to be the propitiation, the wrath-absorbing sin-bearing substitute for us. In this way God can uphold his own righteous integrity and fully punish sin, while at the same time declaring guilty sinners righteous, justified, as if they had never sinned, credited with Jesus’ own perfect righteousness.

This gift of God’s own righteousness comes to all who believe, who simply take him at his word, trust him implicitly, cast themselves completely on his mercy, entrust themselves to his care. (Rom.3:23-25

Service is Worship

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Our response to God’s astounding mercy ought to be worship. Remember, Christians sing! Singing is one of many forms of worship.

This verse points us to another act of worship. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice. A sacrificial animal was an animal that belonged to the worshiper, a flawless animal, a valuable animal, one of his best, and he would give it to God. Ownership was transferred to God. The animal was no longer his own to do with as he willed; it belonged to God. Some sacrifices went entirely up in smoke, as a fragrant aroma pleasing to the Lord. Some sacrifices were eaten, both by the priests and the worshipers, a feast enjoyed in God’s presence. You no longer belong to yourself. You were bought with a price (1Cor.6:19-20; 7:23).

Notice, the ‘you’ is plural; you all. ‘Bodies’ is plural. Each of you individually are to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. In joyful response to God’s stunning mercy and grace, I gladly surrender rights over my body to the Lord. This is worship. And although the ‘you’ is plural and ‘bodies’ is plural, the ‘sacrifice’ is singular and the ‘worship’ is singular. As one body we each offer our bodies as a singular act of worship to the Lord.

Service is worship. What we do with our bodies on Sunday is worship. The teachers who teach our children’s church and serve in the nursery are worshiping. Those who volunteered to come yesterday to clean the church, that was an act of worship. What we do Monday through Saturday is meant to be an act of worship. Going to work and earning an honest living so that you can provide for your needs and the needs of those who depend on you, so that you can give generously to God, that is worship. Raising your children to love and fear and follow Jesus, that is worship. Preparing a meal for your own family, or for someone in need, that is worship. Calling someone or getting together to encourage or to pray or to simply spend time with, that is worship.

Mental Metamorphosis

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

Colossians 3 told us to ‘seek the things that are above’ (v.1); to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (v.2). To ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (v.16). We need a complete metamorphosis in our thinking. We need to be entirely renewed in how we evaluate and process and plan. It feels natural to follow the world’s patterns, to define success by the world’s standards, but our aim is no longer to please people. We are to seek to do the will of God, to do what is good in his estimation, to be acceptable to him, to please him in all things. As followers of Jesus we think in new categories, we set our minds on things above.

Humility

Here’s a monumental metamorphosis in our thinking.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

From the playground at recess to the job market, we are taught to make much of ourselves, to inflate our abilities, to show ourselves bigger than we are. We make ourselves out to be larger than life, and then we have trouble sleeping because we are concerned someone might find us out.

But this is deeper. This verse is saying that we are inclined to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We actually believe that we are better than we are. We think that we are OK. We think that we are better than others, that we don’t sin as much as others, that in some way by our own efforts we can please God. We don’t like to think, and it is contrary to how the world teaches us to think, that we are not enough. That we are fundamentally flawed, in desperate need of help, in desperate need of the gospel. I am a sinner, I deserve death, and my only hope is in the rescue that only comes through Jesus. We are to think about ourselves with sober judgment. This requires grace, supernatural grace, God’s grace.

The Body

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

I am not enough. I am part of something bigger than myself. As a follower of Jesus, I am a part of a body of believers. We are inextricably connected to one another in Jesus, and we need each other. Paul uses the human body as an illustration. If you understand anything about how the body works, you know the respiratory system is inextricably linked to the circulatory system. The lungs bring in a fresh supply of oxygen to the blood stream. The heart pumps the oxygenated blood around to the various parts of the body to keep the organs and tissues healthy. By the way, the heart is a muscle that needs oxygen that the lungs supply, and the lungs only work when the chest muscles are supplied with blood from the heart so they can expand to take a breath. They are inextricably interdependent. Neither works without the other.

We tend to downplay our own importance to the body. I’m not really that important. If I don’t show up, nobody will even miss me. Paul wrote earlier to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

Eyes and hands are essential. But feet and ears, well they look kind of funny and often stink. We can probably get by without them. Or can we? I sometimes hear people say ‘Well, I don’t really fit in, I’m different, I don’t feel like I belong.’ It’s precisely because you are different that we need you. No one else does what you do. You bring something unique to the table.

There can also be a frustration on the other side, where a person is gifted and passionate about something, and is frustrated that everyone else doesn’t share that same passion.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

You have probably been wondering why we are sitting in a circle today. That was not my idea; it was suggested to me by one of you as a visual illustration of the body. Jesus is at the center, he is the head. He brings us together. We gather around him. And we are all sinners, hurting, broken, daily in need of the gospel, of God’s amazing grace. Daily we need forgiveness, and we need to forgive one another. There is not those who serve and those who come to be served. There are not some who are essential and some who are expendable. Every body part is unique, perfectly designed for its own distinct role, and no other part can take its place. None of us on our own is enough. We are meant to function together, to complement one another. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

Gifts That Differ

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Every believer in Jesus has experienced God’s grace. We each have been given a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. We have been uniquely equipped to serve others. As an act of worship, we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, to use as he sees fit. We have each been given gifts, and we are to use them through love to serve one another.

Notice all the attitude words? Zeal, cheerfulness, genuine love, abhorring evil, brotherly affection, not slothful but fervent. Our attitudes matter. Grudging half-hearted ‘I guess I’ll do it because no one else will’ service is not pleasing to the Lord. You see, when you discover who God made you to be, there is passion and joy in being who you were created to be and doing what you were designed for. There is satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. And we need each other to help each other discover those unique gifts and passions.

…But Not Yet

I find it interesting where he goes next.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

He talks here about tribulation, difficult circumstances; and about persecution, opposition from people. And I asked, is he switching subjects here, moving from life within the body out to life in the world? As followers of Jesus we expect persecution from the world. He definitely moves out to talk about that in chapter 13. And that is at least included in what he says here. But these instructions come in the context of body life and all mixed in with ‘one another’ language. We find joy now in service, but we rejoice in hope. Hope is something that is anticipated but hasn’t been fully realized yet. There is joy in service in the body now, but it is not yet as it is meant to be. There is also tribulation, and even persecution. We live in a community of redeemed sinners undergoing sanctification. And even redeemed sinners sin against one another. That is why we are commanded to forgive one another. Don’t be surprised by opposition, even when it comes from within the body, even when it comes against you using your God given gifts. Live in harmony with one another. That means you don’t all have to sing the same note, but that you do work together and complement one another. There will be times when well meaning fellow believers will seem to be working against you, criticizing your best efforts, frustrating your gifts. Be patient in tribulation. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Live in harmony with one another. If possible, live peaceably with all.

In chapter 15 he has more to say about body life and bearing with one another in love, and so today we will close with his prayer from 15:5-7.

Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Lord, make it so, here, in this body, your church, today!

***

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

January 20, 2020 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Resume of Afflictions

03/17_2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Résumé of Afflictions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190317_2cor6_4-5.mp3

Paul’s Resume

Last time we looked at the cover letter to Paul’s résumé:

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

He is commending his ministry as a ministry of integrity, a blameless ministry. He removed obstacles from the gospel so that it would have maximum effect. God alone saves, but he did everything in his power to eliminate stumbling blocks to clear the runway for the gospel. The only offense he allowed was the offense of the gospel itself, the message of the cross.

Paul gives his resume in verses 4-10. Don’t open your Bibles, and let me read to you Paul’s resume:

‘I’ve successfully planted over 20 churches all around the Mediterranean, I’ve brought the gospel to every important city, preached to huge crowds, made an impact everywhere I’ve traveled, packed out every venue. I’m a skilled communicator to both large and small groups. I’m a gifted writer; I’ve authored at least 11 best sellers. I’m driven and tenaciously faithful; I had to part ways with a co-worker who just couldn’t keep up with my pace. I was even instrumental in correcting one of the Lord’s own original twelve when he got off track. I’ve mentored countless people in successful ministry techniques and developed leaders. I’ve seen the risen Lord face to face, he speaks to me in dreams and visions. I have an abundance of spiritual gifts, not to mention my charitable work collecting and distributing funds to the poor and oppressed.’

Although most of that is true, and these are the things we would expect anyone to highlight in a resume, that is not what Paul says. This is not the kind of resume anyone would expect. If you haven’t already, please open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 6 and look at what Paul lists as his credentials that commend him as an authentic minister.

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

As I said last week, this passage is lyrical, poetic, it has a rhythm and cadence to it, it is memorable, and as worthy of memorization as 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. This passage is structured in a way that does not come through in many translations; there are three different prepositions; in (ἐν) 18 times in verses 4-7; through (διὰ) 3 times in verse 7-8; and as (ὡς) 7 times in verses 8-10. After the introductory statement in verses 3 and 4, he lists ten hardships in verses 4-5 that he faced in ministry, beginning with the way he faced them (in much endurance) followed by three general hardships (in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities), three specific types of persecution (in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots), and three voluntary hardships (in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers). In verses 6-7 he lists eight characteristics of ministry; four fruit of the Spirit (in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness) and four means of grace (in Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in word of truth, in power of God). In verse 7 he gives us a picture of how he fought the battle of ministry (through the weapons of righteousness for the right and the left), introducing nine paradoxes of ministry (through glory and shame, through slander and praise, as deceivers yet true, as unknown yet well known, as dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not killed, as sorrowful but always rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing everything).

This is not what the Corinthians expected ministry to look like They were being led astray from the way of Jesus by false impostors who painted a worldly picture of ministry as glamorous, prestigious with plenty of fame and fortune. For them the sign of God’s blessing was outward and material. For Paul, the evidence of authentic ministry was ministry that followed in the footsteps of the Master.

The authenticity of a ministry is not demonstrated so much in God’s external blessings, but rather in how one responds to adversity.

In Much Endurance [ἐν ὑπομονῇ πολλῇ]

Paul starts his list with ‘in much endurance’. The word endurance literally means to remain under.

Paul lists endurance or patience in chapter 12 where he says

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

Here we get insight into what he means by the signs of a true apostle. In Mark 13 Jesus warns:

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

It is not merely supernatural signs and wonders that evidence authenticity; it is primarily character, especially under adversity. Just a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships (ἀνάγκαις), persecutions, and calamities (στενοχωρίαις). For when I am weak, then I am strong. 11 …I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

Paul repeats in the context of the signs of a true apostle two of the terms he lists on his resume here in chapter 6; hardships and calamities, with much endurance or patience.

As we will see later in this list, this endurance in the face of adversity is not a mere stoic resolve to tough it out, but a gift of the Spirit of God. It is divinely enabled endurance, the ability to remain under adverse circumstances with joy that demonstrates authenticity.

General Adversity; In Afflictions, In Hardships, In Calamities

[ἐν θλίψεσιν] [ἐν ἀνάγκαις] [ἐν στενοχωρίαις,]

Afflictions, hardships, and calamities are broad general categories of circumstances that call for endurance. Affliction means to be hard pressed or squeezed. Hardship means necessity or distress. Calamity means anguish, or literally narrowness. The verb form of this word in 2 Corinthians 4:8 is translated ‘crushed’. Afflictions, hardships, calamities; under heavy pressure, in distresses, experiencing anguish. Together these words paint a picture of hardship, the trials and stresses of ministry.

Jesus promised his followers affliction or tribulation.

John 16:33 …In the world you will have tribulation (θλῖψιν). But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In his parable about the sower and the soils, Jesus warned that affliction would cause false believers to fall away (Mt.13:21; Mk.4:17). Jesus said in Matthew 24

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation (θλῖψιν) and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. …13 But the one who endures (ὑπομείνας) to the end will be saved.

In Acts 14, Jews from Antioch and Iconium pursued Paul to Lystra and persuaded the crowds to stone him. He was dragged out of city, assumed to be dead. But he rose up and went back in to the city, the next day continuing on with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue (ἐμμένειν) in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations (διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων) we must enter the kingdom of God.

I can imagine what Paul looked like after being stoned and left for dead, and I’m sure hearing from his lips was a vivid picture of what kinds of afflictions they may have to endure in following Christ.

At the opening of 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of God’s comfort that he has experienced in the midst of his afflictions, and he invites them to join him in patiently enduring suffering so that they too might experience God’s comfort in affliction.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions (θλίψεσιν). For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction (θλίβεσθαι), just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. …7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress (ἀνάγκῃ) and affliction (θλίψει) we have been comforted about you through your faith.

There is that word distress or hardship. Paul experienced distress and affliction out of concern for the faith of the young believers who were experiencing affliction.

Paul is painting a picture that affliction, hardship, even calamities are all part of normal ministry, part of following Jesus.

Specific Persecutions: In Beatings, In Imprisonments, In Riots

[ἐν πληγαῖς] [ἐν φυλακαῖς] [ἐν ἀκαταστασίαις]

Beatings, imprisonments, and riots are more specific forms of adversity that require endurance; while the others can be purely circumstantial, these three forms of persecution are carried out by people.

Up to the time of writing of 2 Corinthians in the narrative of the book of Acts (20:2-3), Luke only records one imprisonment and beating (Philippi – Acts 16:22-33), and one riot (Ephesus – Acts 19:23-20:1). We learn from this and other statements in Acts that Luke did not record every event that happened everywhere; he was selective. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul mentions ‘countless beatings’ specifically listing five lashings, three beatings with rods, and one stoning.

Acts 16 records one beating and imprisonment in Philippi:

Acts 16:22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Acts 19 records a riot in Ephesus:

Acts 19:23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. …26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. …28 …they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Notice that this riot was a response to what Paul preached, and the fact that people had believed his message. His preaching was a threat. It challenged their culture and beliefs.

Several months later, Paul gathered the elders from Ephesus:

Acts 20:18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Here we see Paul embracing afflictions and even imprisonment as an expected part of gospel ministry.

Voluntary Hardships: In Labors, In Sleeplessnesses, In Hungers

[ἐν κόποις] [ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις] [ἐν νηστείαις]

Labors, sleeplessness, and hunger are things voluntarily endured in the service of Christ and the advance of his gospel. They are not necessarily unavoidable, but they are embraced by the genuine servant of God.

Labor can mean trouble, toil, wearisome work. It could refer to manual labor, that Paul worked with his own hands to support himself in ministry. It can also refer to the labor involved in preaching, teaching, and making disciples.

Sleeplessness could refer to times Paul went without enough sleep because he was working night and day to support himself (1Thess.2:9; 2Thess.3:8). It could also refer to the long hours of ministry (Acts 20:31). Often it refers to being vigilant or watchful in prayer. Paul mentions praying earnestly night and day (1Thess.3:10; 2Tim.1:3). It is not that Paul had trouble sleeping; it was that the demands of ministry often required him to serve well into the night.

Hunger can mean fasting, voluntarily abstaining from food to focus on prayer; or Paul could mean that he simply went without enough food. As he says in Philippians 4

Philippians 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Cross-Shaped Ministry

All this points to circumstances that are both physically and emotionally draining; weariness, fatigue, exhaustion that comes through serving others. Paul understood what it was to be brought to the end of himself so that he would rely not on himself ‘but on God who raises the dead’ (2Cor.1:9).

Last time we saw that Paul seeks to give no offense but the cross, and this is exactly what the Corinthians are offended by; that his life and ministry is characterized by the cross. He endures suffering in service to others, because his Master is the Suffering Servant. He took up his cross to follow Jesus.

He said back in chapter 4 as a description of his ministry ‘we are:

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul endured, not by sheer strength of will, but by divine enablement, by the resurrection power of Jesus at work in him.

And he invites us to share with him in the sufferings of Christ.

***

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

March 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:13-14; Believing Leads to Speaking

09/16_2 Corinthians 4:13-14; Believing Leads to Speaking; Theology Fuels Missions ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180916_2cor4_13-14.mp3

Today we are going to hear Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 that believing leads to speaking; that theology fuels missions (even in; maybe especially in the midst of affliction). What is our hope that keeps us going in the middle of it all, what is our ultimate aim? What is it that we believe that overflows in proclamation no matter what the consequences?

To pick up some of the context, we will start in verse 7.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure

This treasure; the treasure from verse 4 of ‘the light of the good news of the glory Christ, who is the image of God’. The treasure from verse 6 of ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay,

Common, plain, ordinary clay pots; fragile, breakable, disposable earthenware.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

We have an afflicted, a crushed, a persecuted, a struck down ministry. A ‘carrying around the dying of Jesus’ kind of ministry, a ‘given over to death’ kind of ministry, a ‘death is at work in us’ kind of ministry. We have a ministry that is modeled after our crucified Lord. This is to show, to put on display, to make manifest that the power is not our power; it is God’s power, resurrection power. The life of Jesus is put on display in these mortal bodies, resurrection life in fragile earthenware containers.

Death is at work in us, but life in you. Death is working, energizing, creating life. Death is doing something. This ministry characterized by the dying of Jesus is bringing about life; life in you.

The Danger of Speaking About Jesus

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,

Speaking is what Paul has been talking about in this whole passage. He says ‘we are very bold’ (3:12). He says ‘we refuse to tamper with God’s word‘; it is ‘by the open statement of the truth’ (4:2). He says ‘we proclaim …Jesus Christ as Lord’ (4:9). It is God’s creative word that creates light in the dark hearts of unbelievers. It is all this speaking and preaching that has got the apostle into so much trouble, has brought on him so much crushing pressure, so much inner turmoil. We know from Acts 18 that Paul was tempted to back off in his proclamation of the truth when he came to Corinth, so much so that Jesus himself spoke to Paul in a vision and said

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

We know from earlier in Acts that Peter and John were arrested and ‘charged not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus’ (4:18). Then Peter and the rest of the apostles were imprisoned and ‘strictly charged not to teach in this name.’ They were accused of ‘filling Jerusalem with their teaching’ (5:28). They were beaten and charged ‘not to speak in the name of Jesus’ (5:40).

Paul would save himself a lot of trouble, a lot of affliction, pressure, persecution, if he simply stopped speaking about Jesus. But as the other apostles responded ‘we must obey God rather than men;’ ‘we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard;’ ‘they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus’. And they rejoiced ‘that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.’

Psalm 116

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,

Paul is quoting a phrase from Psalm 116. No doubt this is a Psalm he had been meditating on, a Psalm that had brought him much comfort and strength and encouragement. God uses his word in our lives to strengthen us.

This Psalm is all about affliction. Paul has been talking about being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake. Listen to Psalm 116:

Psalm 116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6 The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. 8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; 9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. 10 I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”;

Paul could certainly resonate with what the Psalmist experienced. ‘The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.’ He was facing death, affliction; he was brought very low. And yet like the Psalmist, in the middle of his affliction ‘I believed, therefore I spoke.’

Believing Leads to Speaking

Paul’s point is that believing leads to speaking. As in Romans 10:9 believing in your heart is accompanied by confessing with your mouth. He has the same spirit of faith; faith is believing, trusting, depending or relying on another. He has the same spirit of faith. The Holy Spirit who writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts (3:3); the Spirit who gives life to those who were dead in trespasses and sins under the law (3:6); the Spirit who brings transformation (3:18). It is the Spirit who creates faith in a hard human heart. Because Paul has been given the spirit of faith; since God ‘has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,’ he believes, he trusts, he depends, he relies on God. Even in the midst of affliction, even when facing death, he trusts in the Lord, he depends on the Lord, and he cries out to the Lord.

In this speaking, there is a private, inner dialogue, and there is a public, out loud aspect. Believing results in speaking. We see this throughout this Psalm Paul quotes. First, there is the voice crying out to the Lord for help. He has head my voice, my pleas, he inclined his ear to me, I will call on him. I called on the Lord “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” Out of his distress he speaks, he cries out to the Lord for deliverance. This is the private dialogue between the believer and the Lord.

Second, there is public speaking that follows and flows out of this Godward cry. It articulates; it vocalizes; it is public, for others to hear. I believed, therefore I spoke. If we continue in the Psalm, he says in verse 14 ‘I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.‘ In verse 18 he repeats this public recognition of God’s mercy toward him ‘in the presence of all his people.’ He says in verse 17 ‘I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving.’ In verse 19 he expands ‘in the presence of all his people’ to ‘in the courts of the house of the LORD’ and ‘in your midst, O Jerusalem.’ This is public confession, public recognition of receiving God’s grace when he cried out to the LORD for help. In the presence of all the people. Both in the house of the Lord, and in the middle of the city he praises and thanks the Lord.

In his distress, he believes; he trusts, he depends on the Lord, he cries out to the Lord for help. And God meets him in his affliction; in the midst of suffering distress and anguish, in the face of death, the Lord saved him, delivered his soul from death. Now he responds by speaking publicly, declaring in the church and in the city his praise, his thanksgiving to the Lord, telling his story of how the Lord delivered him. ‘The Lord is gracious and righteous. Out God is merciful. I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. When I was brought low, he saved me.’

Taste and Tell

Have you experienced the mercy of the Lord? Have you tasted his undeserved kindness? Have you cried out to him from the middle of the mess, and he met you there? Have you depended on him as your only hope? Then speak. Believing, depending on him leads to speaking about him to others, both inside and outside the church. Have you told your brothers and sisters in the house of the Lord how great he is and what he has done for you? Have you told the people you work with on Monday morning? Have you told your unbelieving family? Have you told the doctors and nurses? Have you told the people of our city?

Our daughter Hannah was born 2 months early. I was at work when I got a call from a friend who had taken my wife to the hospital. She said ‘you’d better get here right away. She’s not doing well. They are prepping her for an emergency C-section.’ By the time I made the more than an hour drive from work up to the hospital in our town, I found out they were now transporting her by ambulance down to the University hospital, so I followed the ambulance back down past my work to intensive care at the university, where they were trying to keep my wife and our baby alive. That was a scary time. And God was with us through it all. He carried us. Songs we sang in church like ‘you give and take away, you give and take away, my heart will always say, Lord blessed be your name’ took on a new depth of meaning. At that point I didn’t know if I would lose my wife, and the mommy to our three little girls at home. We leaned in hard to the Lord. And he carried us. It became almost tangible that he was with us and he was enough. We told our church family how the Lord was with us through it all. I told my co-workers, my boss, the people on the van pool. We told the nurses. We told the doctors. We told the anesthesiologist. I cried out to the Lord and he met us in the middle of it all, I believed, I trusted him, and he was enough. And that naturally overflowed into speaking to others about him.

Paul already modeled this in the first chapter of this letter. He wrote:

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

We were in over our heads, but that caused us to believe, trust, rely on him more. On him we have set our hope. We want you to know. We have to tell you how faithful the Lord is.

Theology the Fuel for Missions

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The believing has content. Our speaking has roots that go down deep into something solid, sustaining. We believe, and our believing leads to speaking because we know something. We know truth. We know theology. Theology is the fuel for missions. Passion, zeal, enthusiasm can carry you for a time, but what will sustain for the long haul and through the affliction that inevitably comes is good solid theology; truth about God in his word, an anchor for the soul.

Paul is facing death. He is always carrying around in his earthen vessel the dying of the Lord Jesus. He is always being given over to death. What does he know that sustains him even in that? You could say ‘well, things turned out all right for you. You didn’t lose your wife. Your child didn’t die.’ Does that mean that if they had, I would have given up trusting, gotten angry at God? Paul’s theology is so rock solid substantial and sustaining that it can even produce praise when things all go wrong. Consider Job. He lost everything. And he fell on his face and worshiped. What is it Job believed? What is it Paul believed that caused him to speak even when facing death daily?

2 Corinthians 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The roots of our believing, our trusting run deep in the resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead. That is fact, a historical event. The crucified cold corpse of Jesus was sealed in a tomb chiseled into the rock, and three days later, the tomb was empty and he was alive, appearing, spending time with his disciples, convincing the skeptics, teaching them, eating with them. God raised Jesus from the dead. And he promises to raise us who believe up with Jesus. Death has lost its sting, because Jesus conquered death and rose victorious! We can face death with courage, because death was defeated at the cross. Sin separates us from a holy God, and Jesus took all our sins on himself, paid our price in full, so that we can now stand in right relationship with the Father.

God will raise us up with Jesus, and bring us with you into his presence. Being alive forever isn’t the point. The point is being in his presence, being established, so that we can enjoy him forever.

Jude closes his short letter with this word of praise:

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

He is able to present you blameless before the presence of his glory.

He will bring us with you into his presence. Paul’s hope, the hope that kept him going, even in the face of death, was that he would be resurrected to stand in the presence of God, and to stand with those that he proclaimed the gospel to. He looked forward to the day when he would be in the presence of God in company with all those who believed as a result of his speaking. He believed, so he spoke, and in response to his speaking many others believed. His theology of the resurrection fueled his mission to reach others with the good news, even in the face of affliction, persecution, death.

Do you believe? Is your theology robust enough to sustain you through the trials so that you can speak; proclaim the goodness of the Lord to others? Even out of the middle of the brokenness? Is your believing resulting in speaking?

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

September 17, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Comfort in Affliction

10/15 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Comfort in Affliction ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171015_2cor1_3-7.mp3

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.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Missing Thanksgiving

This letter even in its greeting is rich and deep with gospel truth. But to one familiar with Paul and his letters, and even with how letters were commonly written in Paul’s day, this letter is startling in what it does not say. The normal letter writing structure is: author, readers, greeting, thanksgiving, prayer, body, closing greetings.

This is one of only two New Testament letters that lack the thanksgiving. In Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, who were abandoning the grace of Christ and turning to another gospel, Paul attacks the problem head on. In Corinth, Paul laments that they are inclined to turn to another Jesus, another Spirit, another gospel (11:4).

Compare this even with 1 Corinthians, where he addresses many serious issues in the church. He begins:

1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Instead of a section of thanksgiving for what God is doing in the lives of his readers, he blesses God directly; his thanksgiving is about what God is doing in his own life. This omission of a thanksgiving may have communicated to his readers that all was not well in their relationship.

He offers no thanksgiving; but invites the Corinthians to give thanks for God’s work in their apostle. He also offers no prayer for his readers; but he invites them to pray for their apostle (v.11).

Even in this opening benediction Paul confronts the misunderstanding of the Corinthians; they thought that Paul’s weakness and sufferings were a sign that God was not pleased with him; that he was not a genuine apostle. They were misunderstanding the gospel. Instead he holds up his weakness and sufferings as evidence that he is following in the very footsteps of the real Jesus, who came not as a reigning King, but as a suffering servant.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul made it clear that he preached the cross; he proclaimed Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor.1:18, 23), which seemed foolish to many, but the cross is in fact the power of God for salvation.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

He begins by drawing their attention not to what God had done in them, but to God himself. In his greeting, he asked that the twin gifts of grace and peace be extended together from the two united givers; God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here he declares God blessed; blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The titles God, Father, and Lord Jesus Christ are repeated, but in the greeting God is our Father; where in this blessing God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In his humanity Jesus prayed to and referred to his Father as his God. This in no way undermines the clear fact that Jesus recognized himself as fully God, equal to his Father, sharing the same divine nature with his Father. Yet as a distinct person from his Father, he was in conversation and relationship with his Father, and he gladly submitted to the authority of his Father as his God.

God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the eternal Father who sent his one and only eternal Son into the world out of his great love to rescue sinners.

The Father of Mercies

God is the Father of mercies. In Nehemiah the people prayed and confessed their sins, recounting the repetitive mercies of God

Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. …19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. … …27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. …31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

Mercy is pity, feeling sorry for one who by their own foolishness and rebellion has got himself into great trouble. Mercy is granting escape from the punishment one rightly deserves. Where grace is enjoying the benefit you did not earn; mercy is avoiding the consequences you did earn.

God is the Father of mercies; he gives birth to mercies. God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; it is only through Jesus that we can experience mercy. God fathered mercy when he sent his only Son into the world. We escape the punishment we deserve only because Jesus paid in full for my every sin on the cross.

The God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

God is the God of all comfort; God is sovereign over all comfort, he is the source of all comfort.

We tend to have a very Corinthian problem. We might say ‘God is not doing his job of comforting me, because I am not feeling very comfortable.’ We have softened this word; we think of comfort food and a comfy recliner that makes you feel all warm and cuddly.

We need to redefine comfort. Dictionary.com defines

the noun as ‘a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety. Something that promotes such a state.’ They define the verb comfort as 1. to soothe, console, or reassure; bring cheer to. 2. to make physically comfortable. And then they list 3. Obsolete. To aid; support or encouragement. This obsolete sense is the sense we are after. The ‘fort‘ in the word comfort comes from the Latin fortis (fortare) – which means ‘strong’. From it we get fortitude; mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously. We could translate this ‘encouragement;’ notice the root ‘courage‘ in encouragement?

The word literally means to call near or to call alongside. Jesus promised that he would not leave us alone, but he would send another comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us (Jn.14:16-18). There is amazing courage that comes when someone is by your side. One day in grade school a bully that had been harassing me made the grave mistake of following me home. My big brother happened to be outside, and this bully was much less intimidating when his feet were dangling about six inches off the ground as my brother picked him up by his coat and breathed into him some words of life; ‘if you want to live, you’ll leave my brother alone!’ There is strong comfort in knowing someone has your back. God promises ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5). This is the kind of comfort we are talking about. The comfort that he is with me.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Comfort in All Our Affliction

The God of all comfort comforts us in all our affliction. The word affliction means pressure; a crushing burden; picture a donkey weighed down by a burden so great it can no longer stand. Are you experiencing great pressure? A crushing weight? God comforts us in all our affliction. No affliction is excluded from the comfort of the God of all comfort.

Purpose In Afflictions

And there is great purpose in this. Notice the purpose words ‘so that‘. So often affliction seems random, meaningless, and therefore hopeless.

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

So that; there is design in affliction; the afflictions we experience are not meaningless; this alone gives great encouragement to persevere. It is not random chance; it is not that God is angry with me, or I have done something wrong that I am now paying for; that is a non-Christian idea; more along the lines of karma. The Bible says ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.8:1). God is not against us; in Christ he is for us. Even in the midst of affliction we can be gospel confident that God is for us. Every affliction that comes our way is purposeful, designed and crafted by the good hand of a loving Father to be exactly what we need to accomplish in us his perfect purposes.

What happens when you are under pressure? How do you respond when you are facing affliction and opposition? We tend to pull in, to withdraw, to be on the defensive; if the affliction is severe we might curl up in the fetal position. Our focus is all within. In the midst of our pain, we might reach out to others in desperation for help, but we don’t reach out to others to help them. We focus on the pain, the pressure, and we do anything we can to make it stop.

Paul, one who had endured much affliction, teaches us something about suffering. He says it is not all about you. It is not primarily for you. Paul tells us that our affliction, and even God’s comfort in our affliction is not for us. ‘God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.’ His purpose is that our focus would turn outward, that we would reach out to others in all affliction, that we would become a conduit of God’s comforting mercies to others. In our affliction, God intends that our arms stretch outward to others.

Philippians 3:10b

Do any of you have a favorite verse but when you look it up, you don’t like the context? Philippians 3:7-10a has been a passage like that for me. It is an amazing section, but I’d prefer to omit verse 10b.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

This is great stuff! ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord; …that I may gain Christ and be found in him; …that I may know him.’ I’d prefer that the verse stopped after ‘that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.’ Who likes suffering? Who wants to sign up for sufferings? But if I want to know him, really connect with him and identify with him, to really experience the surpassing worth of ‘knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,’ I must enter in to his sufferings; sufferings on behalf of others. Knowing him corresponds to sharing in his sufferings just like the power of his resurrection corresponds to becoming like him in his death.

You see, it’s only dead people who get resurrected. It’s only suffering people who can be comforted. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord comes through suffering the loss of all things to gain Christ and be found in him.

Sharing Abundantly in Christ’s Sufferings

This comfort is purposeful, and it is others focused. We are comforted so that we are then able to comfort others with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

We share in the sufferings of Christ; the sufferings of Christ were not for him. They were not at all about him. They were not his sufferings; they were ours. As our substitute, he took our sufferings. He suffered not for himself, but for us. If we are suffering for our sins, then we deserve it. But if we are suffering on account of Christ, in so far as our suffering is for the benefit of others, we share in the sufferings of Christ.

Understand, our sufferings are not like Christ’s sufferings, in that we can’t pay the price for the sins of anyone. But they are sharing in the sufferings of Christ in that they are for the benefit of others.

Paul says ‘we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings’. There is an overflow, a superabundance of suffering.

Do you want to experience abundant comfort? Embrace suffering. God’s comfort is in direct proportion to the suffering you experience. I am not saying you should seek suffering or pray for suffering. Don’t look for affliction; look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus, obey Jesus, and affliction will find you. But don’t hide from it. Don’t run from it. Embrace it. Open yourself to it. Allow Jesus to meet you in it. Savor the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It is only through abundant suffering that we experience abundant comfort.

We and You

Paul has been talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’. A reader might assume that he is included in the ‘we’ until he gets to verse 6, where he says ‘If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.’ Then we find out that the ‘we’ here is Paul and the other apostles, Paul and his co-laborers in contrast to the readers. The Corinthians are not part of the ‘we;’ they are the ‘you’. They had rejected suffering. They did not want to take up their cross and follow Jesus. They looked down on Paul because of how much he seemed to suffer. But Paul is not alone in his affliction. ‘We’ the apostles experience overflowing sufferings; and we experience overflowing comfort.

Paul had already pointed out this contrast between we and you in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

Paul is gently rebuking his readers. He is showing them that they are not part of the ‘we;’ but he is inviting them to become part of the ‘we.’

All for your comfort

2 Corinthians 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Paul gives a two part sentence here. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. The afflictions of the apostles, the afflictions of Paul and his co-workers were for the comfort and salvation of the Corinthian church. Indeed, they heard the gospel and experienced salvation because Paul did not shy away from suffering. His current persecution is meant to bring them encouragement. They ought to be emboldened by his example to stand up for Christ even if it costs social standing and opposition. Instead, they are embarrassed of Paul and his sufferings.

We would expect the pairing of this sentence to go something like this: If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is because of your affliction. Instead he gives a lopsided picture. Our affliction is to bring you comfort. Our comfort is also to bring you comfort. Both the affliction and the comfort we experience is meant to give you courage.

There is space for the Corinthians to share in the sufferings. Paul understands, they will only experience the comfort when they patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

2 Corinthians 1:7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Our hope for you is confirmed; it is steadfast. Listen to Paul’s confidence! Paul’s confidence rests not on the character of the Corinthians, but on the faithfulness of God. He is certain that as followers of Jesus, they will face affliction. They will share in his sufferings. Not if but when. When you have fellowship in the sufferings, you will also have fellowship in the comfort.

Paul is gently inviting them into the cross shaped life of suffering for others. Not only is it to be expected that an apostle of Christ Jesus should suffer, but it is normal for every follower of Jesus to experience suffering. And it is only in the midst of the pressure and the abundant sufferings that we will experience the abundant comfort from the God of all comfort.

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

October 16, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment