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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

***

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction to Daniel

04/25_Daniel_intro; Introduction: Background and Context; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210425_daniel-intro.mp3

Sojourners and Exiles

We are going to dive into the book of Daniel in the coming weeks. Daniel’s central message is that God is sovereign over the nations. Daniel was written under persecution, in exile, when God’s people lived as strangers in a foreign land, and it teaches us how to live with integrity, how to honor God even when the world is against us.

Peter urges us,

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

‘Our citizenship is in heaven’ (Phil.3:20). We are to live as sojourners, strangers, exiles. And Daniel teaches us how to be in the world but not of the world (Jn.17:14-16), not conformed to this world (Rom.12:2), to live as citizens of the heavenly kingdom in our time here on this earth.

God the Hero

But Daniel is not really about Daniel. It is not about the three Hebrews Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael. They are not the heroes of the story. It’s not about Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar or Darius or Babylon. The name Daniel means God is my Judge. The hero of the story is God, who is sovereignly moving history in the direction he intends, establishing kings and removing kings. It is God who crushes the proud. It is God who preserves and protects the humble, who delivers his people, who can even grant repentance to

sending his sinful people into exile and watching over them even in exile. God is getting glory among the nations.

Saints On Mission

Daniel and his three friends were probably no more than 14 or 15 years old, when their city came under foreign control, they were torn from their homes, uprooted, transplanted to a distant land with a different language, different customs, different culture, different beliefs, different gods. Their lives were in danger. They were under extreme pressure from all sides. They likely never saw their parents again.

And yet God was using them to write history, to change history. God was sending them on a mission to infiltrate the enemy of Israel, not to conquer the enemy but to win them, to bring them good news about the supreme and sovereign God over all. He was sending them out, out of their comfort to be a light to the Gentiles (Is.42:6).

Dependence on God in Prayer

And Daniel teaches us to depend on God. Daniel teaches us how to pray. Daniel models the discipline of prayer, consistency in prayer even in the face of opposition, persistence and perseverance in prayer, emergency prayer in terrifying situations, prayer for wisdom and understanding, prayer of worship, prayer of confession and claiming the promises of God, prayer of intercession for others. We have much to learn from Daniel about dependence on God in everything.

Background of Israel

To understand Daniel, we need to understand some of the background and context of the events we will read about.

God delivered his people from Egypt to be his people, so that he could live among them, be their God with them. He commanded them to build him a tent so he could dwell in their midst. He promised to give them the land. Under Joshua (1406 BC), God brought the people in to possess the land of Canaan. Under David (1010-971BC) he gave them victory over their enemies. David desired to build God a house, but instead God promised to build David a house; to establish his dynasty forever. David’s son Solomon (971-931BC) was the one who would build the permanent version of the tabernacle; the temple in Jerusalem. God said to Solomon:

1 Kings 9:4 And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, 5 then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ 6 But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the LORD has brought all this disaster on them.’”

But because of Solomon’s idolatry,

1 Kings 11:11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.

In 931 the kingdom was divide between North and South; Israel and Judah under Jeroboam and Rehoboam. The northern kingdom of Israel lasted 209 years under 19 evil kings ruling from the capital of Samaria, until God brought the nation of Assyria to destroy them.

The southern kingdom of Judah endured 345 years under 19 kings, 8 of whom at least attempted to follow God.

Pharaoh Necho defeated Judah’s army led by godly king Josiah at Megiddo in 609 BC. Josiah was killed in this battle, and his son Jehoahaz became king of Judah (2Kings 23:29-34). Three months later Pharaoh Necho deposed Jehoahaz and appointed his older brother Jehoiakim as king of Judah (2Kings 23:34-24:6).

King Nabopolassar of Babylon had been struggling with Egypt over control of the Middle East for several years; in 605 BC Nabopolassar was ill and forced to remain behind in Babylon; his son Nebuchadnezzar won a decisive victory over Egypt in May/June of 605 BC at the battle of Carchemish and then at Hamath. After defeating the Egyptians, he quickly traveled south to assert his authority over Jerusalem, demanding plunder; he was given some of the sacred objects from the temple and some young men of the royal line as captives. Daniel and his friends were taken in assertion of Babylonian authority over Jerusalem. Nabopolassar died August 15/16 of 605 BC, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to be crowned king on September 6/7, 605 BC.

Jeremiah

Daniel and his friends would have been familiar with Jeremiah, who had been prophesying from around 627 BC through the time of the fall of Jerusalem. Part of Jeremiah’s message was that the prophets who said that God would deliver Jerusalem were false prophets prophesying lies (14, 23). Jeremiah even sent a letter to the captives in Babylon, saying:

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: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

We will see later in this book that Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70 years became precious to Daniel, and a matter of prayer. Daniel and his friends became shining examples of seeking the good of the pagan city, praying diligently for its blessing, seeking to be a blessing to the nations (Gen.22:18), seeking the Lord with all their hearts, and holding on to the hope that God is in control and he will be their deliverer.

Ezekiel and the Second Deportation

Daniel and his friends were deported in 605 BC. Some years later, because Jehoiakim had rebelled against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s troops marched against Jerusalem and besieged it. Jehoiakim died, and in March of 597 BC, his son Jehoiachin who was 18 years old, surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, who took him and his mother, his court officials, all the warriors, the metalworkers, 10,000 captives, along with all the treasures from the king’s house and all the treasures of the temple (2Ki.24:10-17). Ezekiel was captured in this second phase of deportation to Babylon; the Lord called him in Babylon to prophesy to the exiles there. Although Ezekiel may have been a few years older than Daniel, Daniel had already been promoted to a place of honor by the time Ezekiel came to Babylon. Ezekiel mentions Daniel by name 3 times in his work; in chapter 14 predicting Jerusalem’s destruction:

Ezekiel 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD. …16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate. …18 though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered. ..20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

It speaks strongly of Daniel’s character to hear Ezekiel associate his own contemporary with godly men who lived thousands of years earlier.

Again in Ezekiel 28; in an oracle against the prince of Tyre:

Ezekiel 28:3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you;

Daniel is held up as the standard of wisdom.

The Destruction of Jerusalem

In 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar took Ezekiel and some 10,000 other captives to Babylon, and set up Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah as a puppet king in Jerusalem. Zedekiah reigned 11 years in Jerusalem, but he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. In his 9th year, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, and in 586 BC, Jerusalem fell. Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered in front of him, then his eyes were put out and he was taken to Babylon in chains. The walls were broken down, the city and the temple were burned, and all but the poorest inhabitants were carried off captive (2Ki.24:18-25:17). They took the remaining gold, silver, and bronze from the temple as plunder.

6th Century Date, Prophecy and Jesus

The book of Daniel spans the timeframe from the first deportation of Nebuchadnezzar in 605BC in to the reign of Darius who came to power in 522 BC. Daniel, who was deported about age 14; advised multiple foreign kings and survived a transition of empires. He likely played a role in paving the way for the decree of Cyrus to release the exiles to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC. He was thrown to the lions because of his faithfulness to God at age 83 and was preserved.

Both Jews and Christians have held that Daniel was a real historical person, who wrote this book in the 6th century BC. But Porphyry, an extreme critic of Christianity in the 2nd century AD wrote 15 books ‘Against the Christians’. In his 12th book he sought to discredit the book of Daniel. Looking at the precise details of his prophecy, specifically in chapter 11, which chronicle with surprising precision major events of history from 539 BC to 165 BC; assuming there is no such thing as predictive prophecy, he concluded that the accuracy of the account meant that Daniel was written after the events took place, sometime around 167-165 BC.

Anti-supernatural critical scholarship of the 19th century has taken up the cause of Porphyry while attempting to retain their Christianity. But their argument hangs on the unbiblical and anti-Christian presumption that there cannot be accurate and detailed predictive prophecy of future events. But if this is the case, what do we do with the accurate and detailed prophecies of Jesus Christ?

And Jesus was not silent on this issue. He said in Matthew 24:15

Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (Dan.9:27;11:31;12:11; cf. Mk.13:14)

Jesus confirmed that Daniel was a real historical person, that he wrote, and that he wrote accurate predictive prophecy long before its fulfillment. In fact, Jesus informed his hearers that they were to look for the yet future literal fulfillment of this specific prophecy of Daniel.

Jesus’ favorite title for himself ‘the Son of Man’ comes from Daniel 7:13, as does his answer to the Jewish high priest under oath;

Matthew 26:63 ..And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The testimony of Jesus ought to settle the issue for any follower of Jesus.

Outline

The book splits neatly in half, with the first 6 chapters containing stories about Daniel, and the last 6 chapters recording the visions of Daniel.

But there is more to the structure of the book. Chapter 1:1 to 2:4 is written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews. 2:4 to the end of 7 is written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, and chapters 8-12 are written in Hebrew. If we take the languages as indicative of the intended audience, we recognize that while the book is addressed to Jewish exiles and deal with issues that primarily address the Jewish people, the middle Aramaic section has a broader scope, and brings a message of warning and hope to the nations.

We also see a mirror structure in these middle chapters; chapters 2 and 7 both record dreams, the kings of a 4 kingdom statue and Daniel’s of the same 4 kingdoms pictured as beasts. Chapters 3 and 6 show that while persecution comes from refusing to worship false gods, the true God rescues and restores his faithful people. Chapters 4 and 5 record the beastly pride of the kings, one is granted repentance which leads to worship of the one true God, and one which leads to a fall.

The final section looks at the future of Israel to the end of time. Throughout the book, we are pointed to the coming of the one Righteous Ruler who will reign forever and ever, who will receive the worship of all peoples, nations, and languages (7:14).

***

Timeline (approximate):

931 BC division of northern and southern kingdoms

722 BC Samaria (North – Israel) falls to Assyria

612 BC Nineveh (capital of Assyria) falls to Babylon

609 BC Josiah defeated at Meggido by Egypt (Pharaoh Necho)

605 BC Nebuchadnezzar defeats Egypt/Assyria at Carchemish

—1st deportation of Judah (Jerusalem – South)

597 BC Jehoiachin surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar

—2nd deportation; (2Kings 24:12-16)

586 BC July 18, Jerusalem captured; destroyed

—3rd deportation; (2Kings 25:2-3; Jer.39:2; 52:5-7)

Daniel Outline / Structure:

1-6: stories about Daniel

7-12: visions of Daniel.

Hebrew/Aramaic/Hebrew:

1 Prologue; exiled, undefiled, exalted

————–

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

–3 The Fiery Furnace -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

—-4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Beastly Pride – repentance -> worship

—-5 Belshazzar’s Pride & fall

–6 The Lion’s Den -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

——————-

8 Daniel’s 2nd Vision; the end prefigured

9 Daniel’s Prayer & God’s Answer; in mercy end the desolations

10-12 Daniel’s 3rd Vision & the End; how long?

***

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

April 27, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 13:1-10; Test Yourselves! Is Jesus In You?

03/21_2 Corinthians 13:1-10; Test Yourselves! Is Jesus In You?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210321_2cor13_1-10.mp3

Sin is Serious

Paul is speaking very directly to the Corinthians as he closes this letter and prepares to visit them, addressing the issues he sees in the church, pleading with them to change. He says:

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul is coming soon to visit them, and he is afraid that neither he nor they are going to like it. He said to them all the way back in 1 Corinthians as he addressed their sins:

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

Paul doesn’t want to come with a rod of discipline. He is urging them to repent of their sins and return to the simplicity of their relationship with Jesus.

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

Paul is now coming to visit for the third time. Paul first came to Corinth around AD 50-51, and proclaimed the good news about Jesus Christ and him crucified, and a church was birthed. He spent a year and a half with them preaching and teaching and building them up. After leaving he wrote them a letter that was misunderstood (1Cor.5:9), then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians. Around AD 54 he paid them a second visit, which proved to be painful, and then wrote them a letter through his tears (2Cor.2:1-4). It is about a year later as he writes this letter from Macedonia, in preparation for his upcoming visit.

This will be his third visit, and he uses the language of Deuteronomy (19:15) to show them how serious this really is. It is as if he were calling the third witness necessary to convict them. He forewarned them before and he is forewarning again now those who sinned before. Paul believes there are some there who, in spite of his repeated confrontation of their sin, persist unrepentant. He warns not only them, but all the rest. If they persist in sin, he will not spare all of them. There were not-so-innocent bystanders who were putting up with sin in the church without putting out those who refused to turn from their sin after being lovingly confronted. The sin was not OK, and the church body tolerating and accepting the sin was not OK. In 1 Corinthians 5 he had reminded them of the principles laid down by Jesus on church discipline (Matt.18). If they fail to deal with their own issues, Paul will deal with all of them when he comes.

Seeking A Sign

2 Corinthians 13:3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

This church was not listening to Paul; they were looking for Paul to prove himself to them. They had been entertaining super-apostles preaching a false gospel of power and prosperity. They wanted a sign. Jesus said “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Mt.12:39;16:4); the sign of the crucifixion. Paul betrothed them to one husband, Christ; but they were being led astray from their single-hearted devotion by satanic deception. They are now putting Paul to the test.

These verses are rich, and I want to come back to them next week and savor them more slowly, but for now lets step back and get the sweep of Paul’s argument. They want proof from Paul. It is clear from his parody of foolish boasting in chapters 11 and 12 that they wanted victory stories, supernatural signs and wonders and visions to authenticate his ministry. He has told them that they need to evaluate him on the objective standards of his life and his teaching; he wants ‘no one’ to ‘think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me’ (2Cor.12:6). They want proof that Christ is speaking in him. They want to put him to the test.

Test Yourselves

He responds:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

You seek proof of my ministry; it is you that you should be proving. Yourselves is emphatic; yourselves examine; yourselves prove. And what they must prove is much more serious. They demand proof of Paul’s ministry; Paul demands proof of their salvation.

In chapter 5, he reminded them of the good news, that for our sake God the Father made the sinless Jesus to become sin for our sake, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And he implored the Corinthians ‘be reconciled to God’ (5:20-21). In chapter 6, he appeals to them not to receive God’s grace in a vain, worthless, empty manner. He says ‘Look! Now is the day of salvation!’ (6:1-2).

He wants them to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith, if they are really believing, depending on the real gospel. They have been listening to false apostles preaching another jesus and a different gospel. They need to turn their ever-critical eye back toward themselves.

Jesus In You

Do you not know this? Do you not understand this gospel truth about yourselves? That Jesus Christ is in you? Paul had told them back in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 6:16 …we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, …

We are the temple of the living God; God dwells in you. You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you. Here he says ‘do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you?’ Believer, do you not know that you are the temple of the living God; you are indwelt by the triune God; Father, Spirit and Son have taken up residence in you?

Jesus said:

John 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. …23 …“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you? This is the Jesus who humbled himself, God who took on flesh and became one of us, so that he could become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. This is the Jesus, who embodies himself today with you; ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal.2:20). ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.2:5). Do you not know that the crucified and risen Lord is in you?

Unless indeed you fail the test. Paul is not being examined; they are. Is there evidence that the one who laid down his life for others is now alive and at work among them? Is his sacrificial service for others being embodied in them?

Have We Failed?

2 Corinthians 13:6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.

It seems surprising that Paul turns from an admonition to put themselves to the test to them discovering that he has not failed the test. They were seeking proof in him, in something supernatural in him. He held up a mirror and said ‘examine yourselves’. If God the Son is living in you, transforming you to be more like him, isn’t that enough supernatural evidence for you? And if you pass that test, ‘You yourselves are our letter of recommendation’ (2Cor.3:2). ‘You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord’ (1Cor.9:2). You want proof of my ministry? Look at yourselves. Have you been transformed by the gospel I proclaimed to you? Is Jesus Christ living in you? If you pass the test, I hope you can see that means that we have passed the test.

Paul’s Prayer

But Paul’s primary desire is not to be vindicated or to prove that he has passed the test. They want to make this about him, but he won’t let them. He prays for them.

2 Corinthians 13:7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

What is Paul praying for here? It may help us understand if we turn it around to see what Paul does not pray for. ‘I’ve loved you, I’ve served you, I’ve put my life on the line for you. But you won’t listen to me; you just keep on persisting in sin. And not only that, but you question my integrity! You have the audacity to demand that I prove myself to you. Well, guess what? You’ll get what you want and more. I’m praying that God strike you down hard, and I hope you keep on persisting in your sins, so that he shows you no mercy, and when I get to town I can see you crushed under his almighty arm.’

That might be the way we would feel if we were in his situation, but that’s not Paul’s heart. Paul prays that they not do wrong, that they do what is right. And not for appearance sake; not because when they do what is right, he looks good. If you are walking in the truth, I am not against you, I am for you. What we pray for is your restoration. I want you to do what is right even if that makes us look weak and you strong, even if we seem to have failed.

Paul has threatened that he will not spare them if they don’t repent. If they do repent of their sins, then he can do nothing against them. He will not come in power ready to punish them. Instead he will come again in the meekness and gentleness of Christ. To their requirement of an outward display of power he will again seem to fail. But he is glad if he is seen to be weak so that they can be strong. He is willing to be disapproved if that means that they pass the test, that they are in the faith, that they are in the truth, that Jesus Christ is in them. He has betrothed them to one husband, and he is willing to decrease if only they are restored to their single-hearted devotion to their Lord Jesus.

Weighty Letters

Paul began this section in chapter 10 by begging:

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

Paul was accused of being bold from a distance and humble in person. He begged that he would not have to show bold confidence against his detractors when he came again in person.

Remember, some were saying “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2Cor.10:10). Paul says ‘you’re right!’

He concludes this section by giving his purpose for writing what he wrote:

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

He writes boldly in his letters so that he does not have to be bold and severe in person. It is actually his desire to be seen as weak, gentle and meek, among them. His letter kills, so that when he is present, he can minister life to them (2Cor.3:6). He urges them to do the painful work of tearing down; testing and examining themselves to see if they are in the faith, so he can use his authority when he is present with them to edify them. He has been speaking in the presence of God, in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved (12:19).

***

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

March 23, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

01/03 Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210103_jesus-while-we-wait.mp3

We have been looking this Advent season at what Jesus said about his coming, and about his coming again. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to seek and to save us, those who were lost, gone astray, sick, sinners. He came to fix and restore and heal what is broken. Being fully and eternally God, equal with his Father, he came. He stooped down. He humbled himself. He became human. He became one of us to die for our sins, to bear our shame, and to give us new life. He came to rescue us, to set us free.

And he is coming back. He will return for us, as the groom for his bride, to take us to be with him forever. He went to prepare a place for us. His prayer to his Father for us was that we would be with him.

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.

How To Wait

Jesus is coming back for us! We await his return. But how should we wait? What ought we do as we wait?

Last time we saw from Matthew 24 and 25 that we are to be on guard so as not to be led astray (Mt.24:4). We are not to be alarmed, even though the world seems to be falling apart (Mt.24:6). Even if we are persecuted, hated, put to death, we are to persevere, to remain faithful to Jesus, to endure to the end (Mt.24:13). We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone everywhere (Mt.24:14). We are to to stay awake, to be ready, to be faithful with what Jesus has entrusted us with and to discharge our task (Mt.24:42, 44-46; 25:10, 21). We are to show our love for the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters, caring practically for their needs (Mt.25:31-40).

This is a tall order. Be on guard, be watchful, stay awake, be ready. Proclaim the good news to everyone everywhere. Be faithful to use the gifts he has given you and do what he has called you to do. Through love serve one another. Be faithful, endure even to death. How? How can I do all that? I don’t think I’m alert enough, smart enough, strong enough, determined enough. I don’t know, if it comes to it, if I would be willing to lay down my life for him. Is this even possible, what he expects of us?

John 14; Jesus is the Way

We started in John 14, where Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for us to be with him, and promised that he would come again to take us to be with him forever. Let’s go back to John 14 for help.

At the end of John 13 is where Peter brashly says that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he’s going to fail, he’s going to deny him three times before morning.

And then Jesus says:

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

Don’t let your heart be troubled. You’re going to fail, but don’t let that agitate your heart. Instead believe, trust, depend, rely on God, rely also on me. You can’t do this. You don’t have the strength. You must depend on God, lean in to God, allow God to work these things in you.

Jesus desires us to be with him. He goes to prepare a place for us. And he is coming back to take us to himself. And we know the way.

Thomas was confused at this point. Not knowing where Jesus is going, how could he possibly know the way? Jesus responds:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the goal, and Jesus is the way. Our end goal is to be with Jesus, and we get there only through Jesus. We must believe in Jesus, trust him, rely on him, depend on him, let him carry us. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And Jesus is our life. We live this life by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We live and walk in utter dependence on him. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in me.

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

This time it is Philip who doesn’t understand. He wants to see the Father.

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus is to be trusted in as well as the Father, because Jesus is inextricably related to his Father. He is one with his Father; he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He shares the same nature, the same essence or being as his Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. At the beginning of his gospel, John said:

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

Jesus made his Father known. Jesus made his Father knowable. Jesus is the only way to his Father. Through Jesus, we can enter into relationship with God. As Jesus prayed in John 17,

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life is knowing God. Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and the Son. We were made for intimacy with God, but ‘our sins made a separation between us and God’ (Is.59:2). Jesus came to take away our sins and reconcile us to God (Rom.5:10).

One day when we see him, ‘we will know him fully, we will see face to face. Now we see dimly. Now we know in part’ (1Cor.13:12). But we do now see, albeit dimly. We do now know, albeit in part. We get a glimpse, a taste now of the eternal reality we are meant to enjoy.

Abide and Bear Fruit

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of branches on a vine to describe his relationship with his disciples. Jesus is the vine, we branches. We are meant to bear fruit.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Abide. Jesus says ‘Abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing.’ Nothing. No fruit apart from abiding in Jesus. We must abide; remain in Jesus, stay connected to Jesus, draw life and strength and sustenance from Jesus. If we disconnect from Jesus, we wither. Abide in Jesus and Jesus promises to abide in you, and you will bear much fruit. Abide.

Abide in his love. He loves you. If you ever doubt that, just look to the cross, where he demonstrated decisively his love for you. What does it mean to abide in his love? The waterfall of his love is ever overflowing, pouring down, never ceasing. Many people work hard to put up an umbrella, to build themselves a shelter to block the flow of his love. Many step out of the flow and walk away from his love. Abide. Remain under the waterfall of his love, immerse yourself in his love for you.

The Word

How do we abide in his love? He tells us in verse 10.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

We abide by obedience. We do what he says. We keep his commandments. We listen to him. We listen. And our listening is rooted in relationship. We want to hear him. We want to know what he wants because we want to do what pleases him.

This is not earning by obedience. Notice his love comes first. ‘I have loved you.’ Now abide in my love. The love is already there. The love is not produced by the obedience; rather obedience is produced by his love.

Jesus draws the comparison with the Father’s love for his only Son. Jesus didn’t earn the Father’s love; he was already eternally loved. He obeyed his Father because he was loved. Obedience is a by-product of being loved. Because we are loved, we want to do what pleases him, so we listen to his words. This is abiding in loving relationship.

Jesus said back in verse 3:

John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

We have been washed clean by his word. So we abide in him, and he in us. He says in verse 7:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We abide in him and his words abide in us. We want to know what he says, so we listen. We cling to his words. We rehearse, we re-read, we memorize. We let his words abide in us.

We tend to be unjustly jealous. The grass is always greener. We say that we only have his word written. We wish we had been there to hear him speak audibly, to hear his voice. Rather we should be amazed and grateful that we have his completed word written. So many believers throughout history have only had bits, pieces, sayings. Many lived while it was being given, before it was written. Many had limited access to only parts of it. We have his word quite literally from beginning to end. Those who heard it audibly would have to trust their memory; we can go back to the very words over and over again to check and listen and read and study. We are truly blessed!

Full Joy

Look at verse 11. Do you see the connection between his word and our joy?

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He spoke, he gave us his words to fill up our joy. His commands are not burdensome. Quite the reverse, through them he gives us rest for our souls (Mt.11:28-30). He came to give us life abundantly (Jn.10:10). Jesus is eager for us to find true joy, lasting joy in him.

Love One Another

His command?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Pass his love along. Love others with his love. Abide in his love for you, and then love one another.

Friends

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Friends. Jesus calls us his friends. Intimacy. Relationship.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus invites us in to his confidence. He invites us in as friends. Because he has given us his word, the word of his Father.

Ask and Receive

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

You are meant to bear fruit, so ask. Ask the Father in the name of Jesus he would cause you to bear much fruit for his glory. Back in verse 7 he said:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And in chapter 14:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

And again in John 16, he says:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus is eager that we talk to him, that we pray, that we ask. He wants to fill up our joy as we bear fruit for him in answer to our prayers.

The Spirit in You

There is one other thread that runs through this passage that we must pay attention to. Back in 14:16, he said:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus will ask his Father to give us his Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit will be in us. Not only are we to abide in Jesus and he will abide in us, and his word will abide in us, but also his Spirit will abide in us. In 14:26 he says:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words. He will point us back to the word.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

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

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

The Spirit delivers the word of God. The Spirit seeks the glory of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit living in us to open his word to us and enable us to obey. We need the Spirit to empower us to bear much fruit to the glory of God.

Conclusion

Jesus is coming back for us. We are to be ready, anticipating his return. How are we to wait? Let not your hearts be troubled, but rather trust in him. He is coming back to take us to himself, to be with him. Relationship is the goal. If we abide in him, draw strength and sustenance from him, from his love, we will bear much fruit for his glory. We abide in him by his word abiding in us. We ask him to glorify himself through us. We depend on the presence and power of his Holy Spirit living inside. Abide and pray. Trust, depend on his Spirit. Press in to know him better!

***

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

January 4, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Walk By Faith

07/26 Walk By Faith (Matthew 17; Luke 17; Mark 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200726_faith.mp3

Today I want to look at what Jesus taught about faith. Up front I want to distinguish between what we will call ‘saving faith’ and faith for other supernatural things short of salvation. We dealt specifically with the saving kind of faith or believing in Jesus at the beginning of our series on Obeying Jesus; because it is the most important thing Jesus commanded of us. Saving faith is the kind of faith we see in John 3:16

John 3:14 …the Son of Man [must] be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. …18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

God gave his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins at the cross, so that whoever has faith, whoever believes in him, whoever trusts in him, depends on him only and completely, will not perish but will have eternal life. That is what I mean by saving faith through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is primary. That is essential. If you’re not trusting only and completely in Jesus’ finished work for you on the cross, nothing else I will say matters at all. I must understand that I am a sinner and as such I deserve God’s wrath. But God’s wrath toward me was poured out on his only Son Jesus on the cross, so that by faith, by trusting in him, I am brought in to a relationship with God, forgiven, accepted, loved. We will come back around to this at the end and see how this all connects, but that is not the focus of what I want to look at today.

Jesus disciples said ‘increase our faith!’ Jesus reprimanded his followers on several occasions ‘O you of little faith.’ He made their success in doing what he called them to do contingent on faith in contrast to doubting. We will call this ‘walking by faith’ as we follow Jesus, in contrast to ‘living by faith’ or having new life given to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

One of the reasons I want to look at this today is there is a good deal of misunderstanding around some of the passages we will look at, even some dangerous teaching. By looking at those in their context we will be able to gain a clearer understanding of what they mean, and ultimately of what it means to walk with Jesus by faith.

O Faithless Generation; (Mt.17:14-20; Mk.9:18-29)

In Matthew 17, Jesus is coming down from the mount of transfiguration with three of his closest disciples.

Matthew 17:14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

Jesus rebukes the whole generation for being faithless and warped. This would include everyone; the religious leaders, the crowds, the father, even his own disciples. They are rebuked for their lack of faith. Mark’s account includes a conversation between Jesus and the father of the boy.

Mark 9:21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

This father had already asserted that Jesus’ disciples ‘could not heal him’. Now he asks Jesus if he is able to do anything for them. He frames his request to Jesus with doubt. ‘If you can.’ If you are able to do anything to help us, have compassion on us.

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

Jesus confronts this father’s lack of faith head on. He quotes back to him his own words ‘if you can’. Do you know who you are talking to? I can’t think of any time where it would be appropriate to use these words in prayer. God, if you are able… God is able. Omnipotent. That is what it means to be God. Nothing is impossible with God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:3)

What does the word ‘faith’ or ‘believe’ actually mean? The root of this word group [πείθω] means ‘to be persuaded or convinced’. To believe is to be so persuaded of something that you trust in it, you depend on it, you put your weight on it.

Faith in a Tree

Faith can be misplaced or well placed. I once put my trust in a tree. I was hiking up the steep slope of a mountain, and I reached out to steady myself on a tree, and I ended up maybe a hundred yards below the tree, unconscious, bleeding, with a fractured skull. The tree was strong enough, but I didn’t realize it was wet and slippery. It was my grip that failed. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. It doesn’t matter how strongly you believe something. If you believe the wrong thing, it will let you down, and it may let you down hard.

This father of the demon possessed boy began to see that he was looking more at his own hopeless circumstances than he was at who it was who was standing in front of him, ready and willing to help. He begins to recognize his own need. and prays a good prayer to Jesus. His first request was prefaced by ‘if you can do anything to come to our aid’. Now he prays ‘Come to the aid of my unbelief’. Never underestimate the power of God. Jesus is able to take unbelief and change it into faith.

Little-Faith [ὀλιγόπιστος]

Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 21 —

The disciples want to know where they went wrong. And as with the boy’s father, Jesus points to their little faith. They failed to cast out the demon because of their little faith. Jesus uses a compound word ‘little-faith’; and the ‘little’ can be lacking in extent, in degree, in duration or in value. It could mean that they didn’t have strong enough or big enough faith; they didn’t believe hard enough, or that they didn’t believe long enough, or it could mean that their faith lacked value; it was lacking because it was misplaced. Jesus makes it clear that it is not the quantity or size of the faith that matters; he says if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, which is a very tiny seed, you can move mountains; nothing will be impossible for you. So he must mean little faith in the sense of lacking in value; or misplaced faith.

Failed Faith or Prayer?

It is interesting to compare Matthew’s account with Mark’s. In Mark’s account, when the disciples ask Jesus privately why they were not able to cast out the demon, Jesus answers “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” This is surprising, because in none of the three accounts, Matthew, Mark or Luke, does Jesus pray. But he had just come down from being with his Father on the mountain. In Matthew, Jesus gives the reason as their little faith, or faith of little value; misplaced faith; In Mark Jesus gives the reason as a lack of prayer. The one with faith in God, who really trusts in God, who is depending on God, expresses that dependence through prayer, asking God to do what only he can do.

Moving Mountains, Uprooting Trees

The disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5

Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Jesus’ answer to his disciples is the same. It is not the quantity of your faith that is the problem. Mustard seed faith is enough. Faith like a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains and uproot trees.

Have you ever tried that? Tried to move mountains with your faith? I have. I grew up in Minnesota, so I’d never really seen mountains. I think it was around second grade when we took a family road trip out through Glacier National Park in Montana. That’s where we found out I needed glasses because I couldn’t even see the mountains until we got pretty close. I had heard these verses growing up. And with the faith of a seven year old looking out of the back seat window of our station wagon at the majestic mountains of Montana, I wanted to see if the Bible was really true. I believed as hard as I could. And all Montana thanks God that nothing happened. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God were obligated to uproot mountains at the whim of every seven year old around the planet! Remember, faith is not some superpower like the force. Faith, like prayer, is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

Promises of Prayer with Faith

In Matthew 21, Jesus connects faith with prayer.

Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Jesus made some audacious promises to his followers about prayer.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

‘Whatever you ask I will do’ is qualified by ‘whoever believes in me’ and ‘whatever you ask in my name,’that the Father may be glorified.’ We as believers, are to ask in the name of Jesus, which means that we ask for what Jesus would ask for, pursuing the glory of the Father. As John puts it,

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Prayer is unstoppable when it is aligned with the will of God. Faith accomplishes the impossible when it is placed in what God has revealed in his written word to be his will.

Faith: Fully Convinced God is Able to Do What He Promised

I think the clearest definition of faith in the Bible is Romans 4:20-21. Talking about Abraham’s faith.

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

Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Faith ultimately brings glory to God as it realizes God’s impossible promises. We ask in prayer with faith when we take God at his word, believing he will do what he has said, and asking him to do it.

Unbelief and Jesus’ Inability

There is a passage in Mark 6 that is often misunderstood and misapplied. It is when Jesus came to his hometown in Nazareth, and all were astonished because of his wisdom and mighty works, but they began to question where he got these things because they were familiar with him and his family.

Mark 6:4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

I have heard people say that the unbelief of the people tied Jesus’ hands, so that he was unable to do the works he wanted to do, and then they draw the conclusion that our unbelief holds back the power of God to do supernatural things in our lives now, and conversely it is our faith that unlocks or activates the power of God in our lives.

This is dangerous for multiple reasons. It is dangerous because it undermines the sovereignty of God and make his power contingent on us and our faith. God is absolutely sovereign; he does whatever he pleases. After Nebuchadnezzar was warned, then humbled by God because of his pride, when ‘his reason returned’ to him, he acknowledged that

Daniel 4:35 … he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Saying that our unbelief limits the power of God, and that Jesus cannot overcome our unbelief is dangerous because it undermines the New Covenant promises of God. God promises to remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezek.36:26). In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul tells us that God can and does overcome Satanic blindness.

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

Implying that our unbelief limits Jesus’ power misreads the passage. It does say that Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except…” and then it goes on to list the few miracles of healing that he did do there. And it says in verse 6 that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” But it stops short of making unbelief the cause of the ‘could not’. If we look at Matthew’s account, he tells us not that he could not, but that “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” So the reason Jesus did not do many mighty works in Nazareth was because of unbelief. Putting Matthew and Mark together, we can say that Jesus could not do many mighty works there for an undefined reason, that he marveled at their unbelief, and that he did not do many might works there because of their unbelief. But we also have Luke’s account in Luke 4. Luke tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood to read. He read from the prophet Isaiah:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

This is where they began to question “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Luke actually tells us what their unbelief consisted of, and how their unbelief prevented Jesus from doing many might works in their town. They were disbelieving Jesus’ claim to be himself the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament. They disbelieved his identity as Messiah because they were familiar with him and his family. Jesus confronts their unbelief and desire to see signs, and then he points to the Old Testament examples where Israel was in unbelief, and God turned instead to bless Gentiles.

Luke 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee…

He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief in him as Messiah. He could not do many mighty works there because they drove him out of their town and attempted to execute him. Their rejection of Jesus as their promised rescuer, their rejection of him as the one bringing good news of salvation, their driving him out of their town cut them off from the other blessings he brought.

Could Jesus have overcome their unbelief in him as Messiah? Yes, but he came to die.

Could Jesus overcome their unbelief? He did, at least with some. James and Judas (or Jude), two of his half-brothers who had rejected him during his lifetime, after his resurrection came to believe in him, and went on to write letters now included in the New Testament.

Live by faith/ walk by faith

Let’s pull this together. Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. Saving faith is depending on Jesus alone as the fulfillment of God’s promises, trusting Jesus alone for our reconciliation with God. God ‘gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ You have his word on that. God can overcome your unbelief. Cry out to him ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’ and he will give you a new heart to believe in him. And having been made alive by faith, we also walk day by day with Jesus through faith, believing he is able do do what he has promised. Paul tells the Galatians:

Galatians 3:1 …It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

He tells the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,

We begin the Christian life by faith, and we walk day by day by hearing the word with faith.

***

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

July 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Abide and Pray (John 14-15)

05/03 Obey Jesus: Abide and Pray; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200503_abide-and-pray.mp3

Obey Jesus’ Commands

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

Make disciples, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. We are to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commands. What did Jesus command? That’s what we are looking at. We’ve looked at Jesus command to come to him and believe in him, to find him and meet with him in the Scriptures. Today I want to look at Jesus’ command to abide and pray.

The Upper Room Discourse; John 14-16

John records some amazing teaching that Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room before he was betrayed.

Our Only Access to the Father is Through Jesus

Jesus was telling his disciples that he was leaving them and going to his Father to prepare a place for them.

John 14:3 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.

When his disciples expressed confusion about where he was going and how to get there,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Anyone who wants access to the Father must come through Jesus. Jesus wants us to be with him and with his Father throughout eternity, to enjoy his glory with his Father. But we must come through the way Jesus opened to us by his blood.

Greater Works Than These

I remember reading this section of John’s gospel for the very first time. I was downtown Minneapolis on a weekend retreat with my High School campus ministry. And what I read blew me away.

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

Jesus prefaces his statement with ‘truly, truly.’ He wants us to take note, to pay attention to what he is about to say, and he wants us to be doubly confident that what he says is true. ‘Whoever believes in me;’ whoever believes in Jesus, that included me! Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works that he does. What did Jesus do? He fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead! Is Jesus saying that I will do all that?

But he doesn’t stop there, as if that is not enough. He said ‘greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Greater works than these? What could possibly be greater than all that Jesus did? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had to show someone. Jason, have you ever read this? Look at this! Look at what Jesus promises us!

Ask Jesus Anything

Look at the next verses:

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

Ask me anything. Jesus invites us to ask him anything in his name, and he will do it, to the glory of his Father. This tells us that we can pray to Jesus, we can ask Jesus directly for anything, and he will do it, if we ask in his name.

What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? The typical Christian prayer ends ‘in Jesus’ name, amen.’ Is this a special formula that guarantees to get our prayers answered? Why do Christians pray like that?

In My Name

If we look in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 18 God says:

Deuteronomy 18:19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

God takes what is said in his name seriously. If anyone presumes to speak in his name something God did not speak, the penalty was death. I am not to use God’s name to give weight to what I want to say, when it is merely my words; when God hasn’t said it.

A person’s name is tied to their reputation. The Lord’s name is holy, set apart, but his people have dragged his reputation through the mud by bearing his name while acting inconsistently with who he is. In Ezekiel 36, God acts to defend the honor of his own name.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

God’s name, God’s own reputation is at stake, and he acts to vindicate the holiness of his own great name.

Think of it this way. A steward in biblical times was a trusted servant to whom his master would delegate certain responsibilities in his absence. He had access to his master’s resources, he could make decisions, buy and sell in the name of his master. We might say he was given the ability to sign checks in his master’s name. But he was a servant, doing his master’s business, and he was expected to have his master’s best interest in mind. He was free to make decisions and sign his master’s name, but he would be held accountable for those decisions upon his master’s return. Jesus told a story about a steward in Luke 16 who had wasted his master’s resources and was being called to account.

We could say that Jesus has entrusted to us the ability to sign checks in his name. To ask in Jesus’ name is to sign his name to the request, to represent him. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask consistent with who Jesus is, is to ask for something that he would ask his Father to do.

James 4:2 …You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Abide in Me and bear Fruit

Jesus says in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Abide in me. Abide. Remain connected, like a branch of the grapevine is connected to the vine. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit to the glory of God. But he knows that to be fruitful, a branch must be connected to the vine. It must continually draw sustenance from the vine, to get nourishment from the vine. A disconnected branch will quickly wither and dry up. A dead disconnected branch doesn’t produce fruit. Rather, it’s only good as fuel for the fire. The only way we remain fruitful is to remain in Jesus, to stay connected to Jesus, to constantly be listening to him, communing with him. We are to draw strength and sustenance from him, to be with him, and enjoy him being in us. Disconnected from Jesus, we can do nothing, nothing good, nothing of eternal value. We are fruitless apart from Jesus. But if we remain plugged in to Jesus, if his words, his truth, his teaching is nourishing us, we can ask whatever we wish and we will bear much fruit that glorifies the Father and shows that we are Jesus’ followers indeed.

Abiding is the prerequisite for asking. If we are abiding in Jesus as a branch in the vine, we can ask whatever we wish, because our wishes begin to flow out of Jesus’ own heart. Our wishes will align with Jesus’ own words. Our wishes will be to bear fruit for God, to glorify the Father. Our wishes will truly begin to express the name and nature of Jesus.

Jesus commands that we abide in him, that we stay connected and talk with him.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

He commands that we ask the Father that we may be fruitful in his name.

Jesus Modeled Prayer

Jesus modeled prayer for us. He made prayer a priority in his own ministry. He found solitary places to pray alone (Lk.5:16); He prayed early in the morning (Mk.1:35); he prayed late into the evening (Mt.14:23; Mk.6:46); on one occasion he prayed all night long (Lk.6:12); he invited his close friends to pray with him (Lk.9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:40-41). Jesus took time to pray for the seemingly insignificant (Mt.19:13). John 17 records Jesus’ own lengthy prayer to his Father. Jesus was honest and even emotional in his praying (Lk.22:44), but he always submitted his own will to the will of his Father in prayer (Mt.26:39,42,44). Jesus not only commands us to pray, but shows us by his own example how essential prayer is.

One of the things that infuriated Jesus most, that stirred him to zeal for this Father’s house, was the clutter and commotion that deterred people from prayer. (Mt.21:12-13; Mk.11:17; Lk.19:46)

Jesus Taught How and What to Pray

Jesus taught his followers “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk.18:1). He taught that humility and not self-righteous pride was the appropriate way to approach his Father (Lk.18:10-13).

He taught us to pray for deliverance (Mk.9:29), for strength and faithfulness (Lk.21:36), for protection from temptation (Lk.22:40). He taught us to pray for God to send more laborers into the evangelistic harvest (Mt.9:38; Lk.10:2). He even taught us to pray for our enemies, for those who persecute us (Mt.5:44; Lk.6:28).

He taught us not to pray in order to impress others, but rather to pray privately and sincerely (Mt.6:5-6). He taught us not to make long prayers or pile up empty words to impress God or man (Mt.6:7, Mk.12:40).

He taught us to pray with persistence, with bold confidence, assured that our Father loves to give good gifts to his children.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to all who ask him. Jesus encourages us, actually he commands us to ask, to ask in prayer.

Jesus’ Model Prayer

When Jesus’ followers asked him ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Lk.11:1)

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Jesus invites his disciples to address God as Father, because through Jesus we are adopted into God’s family as his children.

Notice that this prayer is in the plural voice. It begins with ‘our Father’ and it continues with ‘give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us’. We are to pray in secret, privately to our Father, but there is an essential communal aspect to prayer. Even when we pray individually, we acknowledge that we are part of a blood-bough community of believers. We are not independent, we are interdependent. We are connected to each other.

Jesus teaches us that our praying must be God centered. We ought to start by acknowledging that God is above us, over us, sovereign and superior. He is enthroned in heaven. We ought to be pursuing his glory in prayer. Remember, in John 15, Jesus commands us to abide in him so that we will be fruitful, ultimately so that God will be glorified. We are to pray that God’s name be treated with honor and awe.

We are to pray that his kingdom and will might be fully realized. He is sovereign over all creation, but much of his creation has rebelled against him. We are to pray that all creation is brought back under his supreme authority. As God is obeyed by his heavenly armies, so we are to ask that we too would obey him immediately, enthusiastically, completely. We are really asking here for him to change our hearts, our desires, what we value most.

We are to ask him for daily bread. Father, give us what we need for today. We don’t always know accurately what it is that we need or what is best for us. So in this is implicit trust in his superior wisdom. Lord, give us what we need for today.

And if you remember what Jesus taught in John 6, after he had fed thousands with a few loaves,

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you… 32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” …35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Father, give us Jesus. Give us Jesus for today. Sustain us in Jesus today.

John 6:48 I am the bread of life. …51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

We are to abide in Jesus. We are to feed daily on him, to draw daily nourishment from our connection with him.

As we daily ask for nourishment, we are to daily ask forgiveness, daily acknowledging that we continue to fall short. We need the gospel applied daily. We need his mercies that are new every morning. In our daily connection with him, we need daily grace, daily cleansing.

And we are to remind ourselves that as we have been freely forgiven, we ought to freely forgive. We have sinned and been freely forgiven. We have been sinned against, and as followers of Jesus, we must freely forgive.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We acknowledge that God leads us wherever he deems best for us, and as his followers, we must follow. But we ask that he spare us from temptation, and when we are tempted, we ask that he rescue us from evil. We need his strength to stand firm. Without his daily deliverance, we will turn each of us to our own way. We will go astray and fall into evil. Apart from him we can do nothing.

Bear Much Fruit

Jesus commands that we come to him in prayer, that we abide moment by moment in him, so that we will bear much fruit to the glory of his Father. He commands us to ask the Father because he loves to give good gifts to his children. We only have access to the Father through the finished work of Jesus, who died in our place to bring us to God (1Pet.3:18).

And Jesus said:

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

Jesus fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead!

When Jesus fed thousands, he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples to give to others. Jesus has given us himself, the true bread from heaven, and he intends that we pass him on to others.

Greater works than these will we do, because Jesus finished his work and sat down at the right hand of his Father, and he is now at work through us as he abides in us.

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

We have this ministry by the mercy of God. By the open statement of the truth …we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and God shines in blind hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2Cor.4:1-6). ‘God… through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; …we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us’ (2Cor.5:18,20).

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

Greater works than these will he do.’

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing….7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

***

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

May 4, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2020 Vision; Healthy Church – Colossians 3

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

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

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

Not a Building

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

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

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

Healthy Believers Healthy Church

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

Colossians

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

The Miracle of New Birth

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

The Bedrock Identity of Jesus and the Offense of the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

Indicative/Imperative

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

Mind Set on Things Above

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

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

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

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

Are you fixing your thinking on things above?

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

The Crucified Life

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

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

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

The Peace of Christ

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

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

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

The Word of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Steadfastly in Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion

11/24_2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191124_2cor9_13-14.mp3

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

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

The question we have is ‘How do we glorify God? What does it mean to glorify God? What does that look like in practical daily life?’ This passage in 2 Corinthians 9 gives us one clear way we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God.

Glorify God by Loving God and Neighbor

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous (single-hearted) in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you for all simplicity, for abounding in every good work. When we use what God has freely given us to extend his grace to bless others, it does more than just meeting that need. It produces thanksgiving to God.

We want to live for the glory of God. We long for the Lord alone to be glorified. We want him to get the thanks he deserves. Paul tells us in these verses how to produce thanksgiving to God. He tells us that our unmixed devotion and love for the Lord will produce thanksgiving to God. For the Corinthians, this was specifically in the context of the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Our context will be different, but the results can be the same. This will look different for each of us. There are myriads of ways we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God in daily life. Whenever we in simplicity love God and love neighbor, we glorify God.

Approval and Authenticity

Paul goes on in the next verses to tell us how this works. How does our love for God and practical expression of love for neighbor bring glory to God? He says of the saints in Jerusalem:

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity (simplicity) of your contribution (fellowship) for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

By the approval (δοκιμή) of this service they will glorify God. It is through their approval of this service or ministry. The service of cheerful giving is proved or tested and approved by them. Paul used a related word to this word ‘approval’ in 8:8.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove (δοκιμάζω) by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Prove that your love is genuine. Proving demonstrates the genuineness of a thing. A thing is approved when it is proved to be what it claims to be. It is by the approval of this service that they glorify God. There is such a thing as service that is not really service, ministry that is not really ministry. It appears to be, but it is not genuine. The outward thing might look identical, but it is intrinsically different. Fools gold might appear to be gold, but in the furnace it is proved to be a different thing altogether. In this context, cheerful giving is the service. There might be two givers who give, and the amount might be identical. The outward act is the same. But what is the heart and attitude behind the gifts? The one might be out of a simple affection for Jesus and a desire to honor him with what he has given. The other might be mixed with a desire to be noticed, to be perceived as generous, to gain the status and respect of a generous giver. It might be out of a sense of pressure or obligation, or out of a desire to repay a debt. It might be a way to relieve guilt. Both gifts might meet the need, but as we’ve seen throughout these chapters, the heart of the giver is most important. One is proved genuine, the other proves to be fools gold.

Which is it? Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. What is the ultimate result? Who gets glory? Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Let your light shine before men. Do good works. But do them in such a way that God gets the glory. The giver gets the glory. If the giver is God and it is clear that I am merely a conduit or channel through which God’s good gifts flow, then God gets the glory. If I attempt to share his glory, to claim credit for myself, I obscure where the gift comes from, and I attempt to steal glory for myself, glory that rightly belongs to God alone.

Remember Annanias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5)? Many of the believers were selling their possessions and sharing what they had. They sold a piece of land, and presented part of the sale price as a gift, but secretly withheld part for themselves. It was not wrong to keep some of the proceeds. It would not have been wrong to keep the entire amount. The apostles make this clear. What they were accused of was lying to God. They were not genuine. They were trying to deceive, trying to be perceived as something they were not. Their hearts were wrong. They were seeking to impress others, to be perceived as generous, to gain status and approval. Instead they were exposed for what they were, and they dropped dead on the spot. Our hearts matter greatly to God.

People may be deceived. People may misread motives, but God knows our hearts.

Gentile Submission to the Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.

This word ‘submission’ is used in contexts of submission to authority, submission of children to parents, of a wife to her husband, of slaves to their masters, of citizens to their governing authorities. It is used of the submission of Jesus to his Father. It is used of the submission of demons to Jesus, and ultimately of all things under God. This is an interesting use of this word here in this context. What is ‘the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ’?

This word submission seems to have a large overlap with another word, often translated ‘obedience’. Both are used for submission to or obedience to parents, to masters, of demons to Jesus. The obedience word has more to do with hearing and obeying; as the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ voice. This submission word has more to do with being subject to authority. The obedience word is used several times in the context of obeying the gospel, as almost synonymous with believing. To hear his voice and respond to him is to believe. This is the only place that this submission word seems to be connected with the gospel. But it is not just submission to the gospel, but the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ.

This idea of submission points to something bigger. There are some verses that use this submission word to speak in a cosmic context of all authorities and powers and everything being put under the authority of Jesus, and ultimately of his Father. Here’s just one example:

Ephesians 1:19 …according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things [in subjection] under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

This points to a time when the whole universe will be under the dominion of Jesus. That there are non-Jewish people who are trusting in the Jewish Messiah, that there is a church of Jesus followers in Corinth and in Philippi and in Ephraim Utah is a big deal! This is a foretaste of everything in the universe being in subjection under King Jesus! For the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to see that there were genuine followers of Jesus from every tribe and nation was a big deal.

Confessing The Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

The submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ. What does it mean to confess to the gospel of Christ? Gospel means good news. To confess is the compound word ὁμολογία from homo – the same and logia or logos – word or reasoning. Literally it is to say the same thing. We confess or profess the gospel when we say the same thing. What the gospel says is what I say. If the good news is that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned but has eternal life (Jn.3:36) then I say the same thing. I trust in Jesus so I am no longer under condemnation but I have eternal life. If the good news is that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph.2:8), then I say the same thing. There is nothing I can do to rescue myself. I am depending on Jesus, I receive his free and undeserved gift. I confess the gospel. What the gospel says, what God says is true, I say is true.

The good news is Christ. The good news is a person. In confessing the gospel of Christ I am submitting to a person. I surrender. I place myself under his good authority. I trust him and entrust myself to him.

Communion and Community

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They give praise and honor to God because you are believing the gospel. You are confessing the gospel of Christ. You are placing yourself under the rule and authority of Jesus.

And they glorify God because of the generosity (literally simplicity or sincerity, openness) of your fellowship. When they see your single hearted love for God and neighbor, they see the genuineness of your faith, and they glorify God.

The gospel creates communion, fellowship, something in common. People who had nothing at all in common, when they belong to Jesus, now they have a common bond, a connection, something in common. The most important thing in common. People of different language and culture and ethnic background, when they belong to Jesus, have the most important thing in common. And this creates a bond, a connection. Have you experienced this? You meet a total stranger, someone you have nothing in common with, and you discover that they too are a lover of Jesus, and you suddenly have this unity, this connection, you can enjoy communion. The opposite is true. You might have so many shared interests, so much shared life experience, you might have so much in common, but if the other person is not a believer, you can’t have true fellowship, true communion. Not at the deepest, most important level. They see the simplicity of your communion to them and to all. There is a connection with every other believer, and that brings glory to God.

Passion and Prayer

This communion is reciprocal. What this looks like is described in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Have you ever had someone tell you that they have been praying for you? Maybe someone you’re not really all that close to? Yet they are invested in you enough to take you into the very presence of God and speak to him about you. That is humbling and amazing. They long for you and pray for you. Their affections are involved. They care about you. They care enough to pray for you. They are bringing you into the presence of God as a praise. They are thanking God for you, for the work God has done in you. You are loving God and loving neighbor, and maybe you don’t even feel like you’re really doing that much. But they recognize the grace of God on you, that you are a trophy of God’s unmerited grace. And they glorify God because of you. That is a humbling, encouraging experience. That creates a connection. That is communion.

Surpassing Grace

And this brings us full circle. Your ministry, your simplicity of service to others is evidence of the tested genuineness of the submission of your confession of the gospel of Christ. This is evidence of the surpassing grace of God on you. Paul started this section encouraging simplicity and generosity by pointing to the grace of God,

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

The grace of God had been given, and it overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted simplicity, love first for God and then for neighbor. Now he comes full circle. He began with the grace of God given to them, and he ends with the surpassing grace of God on you, recognized by others.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

This generosity, this love, this openness and simplicity, this ability to increase thanksgivings and glorify God is all of grace from beginning to end.

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

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

Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 5-6)

01/21 Re-Oreinet; Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180121_prayer-unity.mp3

2 weeks ago we looked at prayer as intimacy; enjoying our blood-bought fellowship with God, listening to his word, talking with him, enjoying his presence.

Today I want to look at Ephesians 5 and 6, being filled with the Spirit and spiritual warfare and prayer in the Spirit.

Being Filled with the Spirit

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? We tend to import into the passage ideas about some supernatural religious experience, some ecstatic feeling. We might think of casting out demons and prophesying and doing mighty works, forgetting that Jesus said that some who did these things in his name had no relationship with him, and therefore were not filled with the Spirit (Mt.7:21-23). Instead of importing ideas from outside, we ought to start with what the passage itself actually says.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

…15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This passage contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk with wine. When you are drunk, enough of the alcohol has gotten into your bloodstream that it begins to affect the way you think and the way you act. Being filled with the Spirit must mean that enough of the Spirit has gotten into us that our actions and our thinking begins to be affected by the Spirit.

In the immediate context of this passage, being filled with the Spirit is walking in wisdom, making the best use of the time, knowing the will of the Lord. Being filled with the Spirit has to do with how we address one another, and how we address the Lord. Is there a song in your heart? Is there a nautral overflow of joy that just must express itself? Are you thankful? Always and for everything? Being filled with the Spirit will be seen in our interaction with other people. This passage goes on to give instructions to wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. How we interact with the people in our lives will show if we are filled with the Spirit.

John’s letters make this really clear. His language for a Spirit controlled life is ‘walking in the light’. You can’t claim to be a Spirit filled person walking in the light if you hate your brother (1Jn.2:9,11).

In Galatians 5 Paul tells us to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (5:16) and be ‘led by the Spirit’ (5:18) and contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5, walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit look like not gratifying fleshly desires, but instead walking in love and the other things that are characteristic of the Spirit. This life of love and joy and peace, this walking by and being led by the Spirit in Galatians 5 must at least overlap with what Paul says in Ephesians 5 about being filled with the Spirit.

Spiritual Warfare

We have these instructions in Ephesians 5-6 on the relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, and then this passage on spiritual warfare. Again, we are inclined to import into this passage a bunch of what we think spiritual warfare is. We tend to think it has to do with demonic activity and a sense of spiritual oppression and doing battle with the enemy. We may tend to romanticize it and imagine ourselves dressed in armor, sword in hand, skillfully swinging and dismembering the demonic hordes. It may be all that, and the text does invite us into the imagery, but we tend to divorce it from its context. This passage is a reminder that ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood’ (6:12). Connected with the context, that means that your wife is not the enemy. Your husband is not the enemy. Your children or your parents are not the enemy. Your employer or your employees are not the enemy. The other people in church are not the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our flesh and blood relationships are not the enemy. In our relationships, especially in the midst of relational conflict and tension (and by the way, it is normal to have conflict in relationships), we need to be reminded who the real enemy is, and that the enemy seeks to control how you respond to all these people in your life.

Instead, we must be Spirit controlled in all these relationships. We need to stand firm in gospel truth, in our blood bought righteousness, in gospel readiness to be at peace, forgiving as we have been forgiven, in believing Jesus and not believing the lies of the enemy, in in our salvation that is undeserved, all of grace, fighting the lies with the truth of the Word of God.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Praying in The Spirit

But the passage doesn’t end there. In fact there is another part of the weaponry that is essential. Or maybe this is what all the armaments are for, this is the field on which the battle is fought. This is the battle. All the armor is equipment to get ready for this battle. Take up the armor that you may withstand and stand firm. Stand therefore …praying.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Through all prayer and petition, we are to pray at all times in the Spirit. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Again, we could import our own ideas of what this means, that it is some super-spiritual supernatural state. But the text says that we are to pray in all times in the Spirit. So this can’t be some special state state of prayer that wouldn’t be safe to do while we were driving our chariot to work in the moring. This text indicates that our every prayer is to be an ‘in the Spirit’ prayer.

Access through Jesus in the Spirit to the Father

So what does it mean to pray in the Spirit in Ephesians? First, we must remember that all the practical exhortations in the second half of Ephesians (4-6) are built on the gospel truth laid down in the first half of Ephesians (1-3). All the imperatives (or commands) are built on and grow out of the gospel indicatives (or statements of truth). So this command to pray at all times in the Spirit must be built on a foundation of gospel truth.

Ephesians 2 lays out the good news of God’s resurrecting power at work in dead sinners to make us alive as a gracious gift (2:1-9). We who were separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:12-13).

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Through Jesus, through his once for all sacrifice, through his grace, we now have access to the Father. Our access is in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit can only begin with blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. Jesus said ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6).

Into One Body In One Spirit

So praying in the Spirit means access; that through Jesus we have access to the Father in the Spirit. And praying in the Spirit connects us horizontally with other believers.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

We are all baptized into one body in the one Spirit. And our access to the Father is in this one Spirit.

Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is a blood-bought unity of the Spirit with other believers, a unity that frees us to bear with one another in love, with all humility and gentleness, with patience. It is in this unity of the Spirit that we must come to the Father in prayer.

So praying in the Spirit is both a vertical and a horizontal thing. We have access to the Father through Jesus in the one Spirit. And we have a horizontal unity with all other believers in the one body in this one Spirit. So together, in unity with every other believer in the Spirit, because of what Jesus did, we have access to the Father.

So prayer is never a solo activity. It is never just you and God. Of course you can pray alone. You should, as Jesus said, go into your inner room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret (Mt.6:6). You can pray alone, but when you pray, you are never alone. The triune God is with you. That is the only way prayer works. You pray to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. And in the Spirit you are united with every other believer. There is a connection, in the Holy Spirit, with all believers. As Hebrews says, ‘we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Heb.12:1).

For All the Saints

So there is an aspect of praying in the Spirit that connects us with all other believers. But Ephesians 6 tells us that we are to pray ‘for all the saints.’ Praying in the Spirit is both praying with all the saints and for all the saints. Let me ask you, what believers does this leave out? Is there anyone that you shouldn’t be praying for? Is there anyone you find it difficult to pray for? Someone you disagree with? What about brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations? Maybe they believe differently than you on some secondary issues. Maybe they worship differently. Maybe they are wrong. Do you confront them or speak out against them? Are you praying for them? Maybe they don’t even recognize you as a believer. Can you still pray for them?

What about someone who has offended you or wronged you? Someone who has hurt you deeply. And they don’t even acknowledge that they did anything. Can you pray for them? And I don’t mean you should pray Psalm 35 over them:

Psalm 35:4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor… 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!

Can you sincerely ask God to bless them?

Are there people you think are doing just fine and don’t need your prayers? Paul the apostle makes it explicit in verses 19-20 ‘pray also for me.’ Paul needs their prayers. We all need prayer. We need each other. Pray for all the saints.

Always,

Note how we are to pray. It is to be full-time prayer. At all times. That means all kinds of times. When things seem to be going smoothly, pray. When things are difficult and messy and broken, when things seem hopeless, pray.

It is to be alert prayer. Attentive, Watchful. Pay attention. Pay attention to the needs of others. Be aware that the enemy is seeking to divide and to destroy. Be on guard, and pray.

It is to be persevering prayer. Don’t give up. Keep on knocking, keep on asking, keep on seeking. Don’t give up. Persevere in prayer for all the saints.

But I Can’t

You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can pray like that. There’s people I don’t think I can honestly pray for. I don’t think I can be alert and persevere in prayer. I can’t pray at all times. You are right. You can’t. There is no way you can. And that too is part of what it means to pray in the Spirit. Ephesians 6:10 says

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Be strong in the Lord. It is not your strength, not your ability, not your watchfulness, not your perseverance. It is the strength of his might that is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Phil.2:13). You can’t. But in his strength, in his Spirit, you can.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

…18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Remember, you have been invited in. You have access, blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. You are in a battle, and it is not against flesh and blood. So stand your ground. Stand firm, praying.

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

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

Re-Orient: Prayer and Intimacy

01/07 Prayer and Intimacy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180107_prayer-intimacy.mp3

Re-Prioritize

The new year is a great time to reflect, to regroup, to reorganize, re-prioritize, re-orient. To get back to the basics. What is most important? What matters? What do I need to be about?

Take a deep breath. Rest. Relax. Jesus says:

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

We need to learn from Jesus what is most important. What were we made for? And that will not be burdensome. Jesus offers us the rest our souls desperately need.

Made For Relationship

So what is most important? What were we made for? If we go back to creation, we see that we were meant to be fruitful. Our first parents were placed in a garden ‘to work it and keep it’ (Gen.2:15). But that’s not all. We were made to experience God’s blessing. We were made to walk with the LORD God in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen.3:8). We were made for relationship. We were made for communion. We were made to enjoy God together.

We destroyed this good relationship when we rebelled against God. We forfeited God’s blessing. We were expelled from his garden, from his presence.

But God intended to make a way for us to return to him, to once again enjoy him and experience his blessing. In the Exodus, God promises:

Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God…

Knowing God, being with God, God with us. Belonging. Relationship. Identity. Communion. We were made for this.

The Nearness of God

This is what distinguished the people of Israel.

Deuteronomy 4:7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?

The nearness of God, whenever we call upon him. This set Israel apart from every other nation. The LORD our God is near to us whenever we call upon him. What a privileged people, to have instant access to almighty God!

Our Need

And when do we call on him? When we are in trouble, when we have sinned, when we have disobeyed, when we are in need, whenever we call upon him, he is near to us. In 1 Kings 8, Solomon prayed for the people:

1 Kings 8:46 “If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin—… 47 yet if they turn their heart …and repent and plead with you … saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart … 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion…

Throughout this prayer is the understanding that we are sinners, and that when we sin (for there is no one who does not sin) and when we turn and call out to God, that he will hear and forgive, for he is a forgiving God.

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

God created us for relationship with him, and he is eager for relationship with us. He wants us to draw near.

Notice to whom God is near. He is near to the brokenhearted. He is near to the crushed in spirit. He is near to all who call on him, to those who are aware of their need and call out to him. For God to be near to us, we need to know something of ourselves. We need to know that we are weak and poor and foolish and helpless and needy and blind and broken. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted.

Why Jesus Came

This is why Jesus came!

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,… (cf. Luke 4:18)

Jesus came for the broken, Jesus came for the captives, Jesus came for the poor. Jesus came to rescue sinners. Jesus came to bring the Lord’s favor, to bring God’s grace to those who don’t deserve it.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus came to be with us, God with us. Jesus came that by his death he would bring us near. Jesus came so that God could forgive.

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

Jesus came to restore the broken fellowship, to bring us in to relationship, in to communion with God.

Jesus invites us to:

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

Jesus invites us to abide. Jesus invites us to connect with him, to enjoy relationship with him. It is only in him that we become fruitful as we were created to be.

How to Commune:

So take a deap breath. Find rest for your soul. We were created for relationship. We were designed to enjoy God. We were made to commune with him.

The Gospel

What does that look like? It begins at the cross. Apart from Jesus, there is no relationship. ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6). Because Jesus paid my price, my sin is taken away, and he clothes me in his perfect righteousness, so that I can draw near to God. Enjoying the benefits of the gospel is the foundation of the relationship, and throughout the relationship we are meant to savor the benefits of the gospel.

Bible Reading

Within this gospel relationship, there are aspects that look a lot like other relationships. In a relationship you get to know the other person. You spend time together. You do life together. You listen to each other’s stories. Stories teach us about our loved ones. We all have stories. We open ourselves up. We reveal who we are through our stories. God has stories too. He opens himself up to us through his stories, he reveals himself to us. That is why the bible is called ‘revelation.’ In it God opens himself up to us, tells us his stories. Shares his heart. So take time. Sit at his feet. Listen to his stories. Get to know him. Interact with him.

Yes, I’m talking about bible reading. But guard yourself from just reading without interacting with him. Any good story pulls you in, engages your emotions, makes you feel like you are part of the story. The bible is the best story, the true story, and you are in the story. It’s not about you, but you are a part of the story. You are in it.

We find out about ourselves when we listen well. You see, we are in his stories. We learn our own history, our brokenness, our need, and how ridiculously much he loves us. What he climbed through to get to us, to rescue us. What it cost him. In our deadness how much we resisted him. How inclined we are to wander even still.

Read. Read your bible to listen to God, to get to know him. Read spontaneously, but read systematically. Feel free to jump around, but also discipline yourself to not miss anything. Listen to all of what God has to say to you. Read broadly to get the big picture, but also dig in. Study. Use tools. Pay attention to details. Take time. Listen. Take a deep breath, be quiet, and let him speak to you.

Prayer

And respond. If my wife opened her heart to me, shared her story, trying to communicate with me, and all she got back was an occasional ‘uhuh’ (not that that would ever happen!) and then I walked away, (hypothetically of course) that would not help the relationship. She wants me to engage. To care. To respond. Not necessarily to offer my advice to fix the problem or to avoid it in the future, but to participate in the conversation.

Here I’m talking about prayer. Respond to God. Engage. Enjoy the relationship. Commune. Interact. Express your affection. Open your heart to him. Tell him your story. Tell him your struggles. Ask for his help. Remember, he is for you. If you ever doubt that, just look at the cross. Remind yourself the lengths he went to pursue you, to enter in to relationship with you.

Diagnosing Common Problems in Prayer

I think a lot of Christians struggle with prayer. Many are dissatisfied with their prayer life. I want to take a minute to diagnose two of the more common problems we have with prayer and offer some pracitcal suggestions that may help. I offer this not as someone who has arrived, but as a fellow traveler longing for greater intimacy with God.

Genie in a Lamp

Sometimes I hear people saying that prayer doesn’t work, or God doesn’t listen to my prayers. What they often mean is that they have asked for something and they haven’t received it. We’ll call this the ‘genie in a lamp’ problem. We think if we rub the lamp the right way, the genie pops out and is obligated to grant us our every wish. Maybe we didn’t rub the lamp the right way. Or maybe there isn’t a genie in there after all. This is rooted in a mistaken view of God and a faulty view of prayer. God is not our servant, there to do our bidding. And prayer is not a magic trick to get what we want. As we’ve outlined today, God is pursuing intimacy with us, and bible reading and prayer are means to commune with him. Prayer is not meant mainly to get what we want, but to deepen in relationship.

Jesus does make some absolutely staggering promises to us about prayer. He says in John 14

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

Whatever you ask. Ask me anything in my name and I will do it. But note the condition. We must ask in his name. This does not mean tacking ‘in Jesus’ name, amen’ to the end of our prayers. Asking in the name of Jesus is asking according to the heart and purposes of Jesus, asking what Jesus would ask for. Notice also the goal; ‘that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ Jesus’ heart is to bring glory to his Father, and the Father glorifies Jesus. Asking in Jesus’ name means above all seeking his glory. 1 John 5:14 connects this to asking ‘anything according to his will.’ So Jesus promises to do whatever we ask when we ask according to his purposes.

In John 15:7 he says ‘ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’ But again, this is not a blanket promise, but a conditional one. If. If you abide in me and my words abide in you.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Answered prayer is contingent on abiding in Jesus, and having his words abide in us. This is what it means to ask according to his will, or to ask in Jesus’ name. To have our hearts and minds so saturated in God’s words, our desires so shaped by his truth, that what we ask is what we know Jesus would ask for, what would glorify him most. As we abide in him, as we begin to enjoy him, to know him, what we want most is to please him. You see the connection here between bible reading and prayer. These are not two discrete activities, as if I begin with a time of prayer, and then I move into reading. No, this asking and abiding and his word is all intertwined. I am abiding, connecting relationally with Jesus. His word is permeating my being, shaping my thinking, and my asking naturally flows out of this abiding relationship. More on this in a minute.

Vain Repetition

Another problem we see in prayer I’ll call vain repetition. Have you ever sat down and began to pray and said ‘Father, thank you for this food…’ but then it dawns on you (or maybe it doesn’t) that you are not at the table and you’re not giving thanks for a meal? Don Whitney says “When we pray, we tend to say the same old things about the same old things. Sooner or later that kind of prayer is boring.” [https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/reignite-your-prayer-life]. We are creatures of habit, and our prayers tend to fall into ruts. If you know someone well, and have listened to him pray several times, you could almost write out the script of what he’s going to say. Don’s solution to this is simple but revolutionary. He says ‘Pray the Bible.’ Here again we see these two things coming together and becoming one; reading and praying. Listening to God and speaking with God. He says ‘slowly read a a passage of Scripture and pray about all that comes to mind as you read.’ Now this is not the only way to pray, but it is a good way to pray. If you do this, you can be confident that you are praying in the will of God, and you will begin to learn what it means to abide in Jesus and have his words abide in you.

I want to close today by doing this with just one verse, also out of John 15, verse 16. Jesus says:

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

***

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you

O Lord, what an amazing truth, that you chose me. You chose me! I do not understand why, but you picked me! You wanted me. Even when I didn’t want you, you wanted me, and you pursued me. Thank you.

…and appointed you

You have plans for me. You have given me purpose; my life has meaning. I have been appointed by the King of kings!

…that you should go and bear fruit

You make me fruitful for you, useful to you? I confess that I don’t feel adequate or competent, but this is your word, your commission, and I believe you.

…and that your fruit should abide,

I want to matter, to leave a legacy, to make something permanent. Lord, you make my life matter? You can make something I do last for eternity? Lord, I want to bear fruit, good fruit for you, fruit like love and joy and peace. Work this in me I pray.

so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Jesus, help me learn what it means to ask in you name. Instill in me your heart, your desires. I may only approach the Father because of what you, Jesus accomplished on the cross. Lord, I owe everything to you. Create new desires in me, so that what I most long for is what will bring you the maximum glory, in my own life, in my family, in our church, in our community, in the world.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

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

January 9, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment