PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Knowing God; Romans 1:15-32

08/16 Knowing God

Today I want to launch us on a study of God. Who God is, what he is like,

I want to spend some time together looking at what the Bible says about who God is. I believe it will be beneficial to our minds and our hearts to open God’s word and to seek him there. As we seek his face, we must learn to respond to him rightly, in worship and service and thanksgiving. It is not enough just to know what he is like, to know facts about him, to gain an understanding of his character. We must respond to him, interact with him. We must know him.

Romans 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

In Romans 1, Paul tells us he is eager to preach the gospel to the believers of Rome. He is eager to preach the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to believers. But salvation from what? What do we need to be rescued from? Verse 18 tells us – the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. That sounds pretty serious. If you were entering a courtroom because you had been charged with a serious crime which you had in fact committed, that would be cause for great concern. But if, as you were being escorted into the courtroom, the guard leaned over to you and said ‘watch out, the wrath of the judge toward you is about to be revealed’, what would you be feeling? That sounds personal! What is God so angry about? Why is he preparing to unleash the full fury of his wrath from heaven?

It is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Ungodliness [ἀσέβεια] is a lack of reverence or awe toward God, a lack of reverential fear. Unrighteousness [ἀδικία] is injustice, violating what is right, dealing fraudulently with others. In what way are we unjust, going against what is right? We are not left to wonder. By our unrighteousness we suppress the truth. It is wrong to hold back, to restrain, to hinder truth. But what truth? Is it truth in general? Or is it a specific kind of truth that God is enraged when we suppress it?

It is ‘the truth’. He tells us in verse 19 that the truth we are condemned for suppressing is ‘what can be known about God’. This implies that there are some things that cannot be known about God. We will never know everything about our infinite Creator. There are some things that are past finding out. We are not held responsible for what we cannot know. But this also tells us that there are things that we can know, that we must know, and that we will be held accountable for knowing. What can be known is plain. God has shown us what we can know about him, what he wants us to know about him, what he expects us to know about him. And he will hold us accountable for what we do with what he has made known. He lists his ‘invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature’ as things we must know about him. His divine wrath is revealed against those who suppress this knowledge of him.

He warns in verse 21 of those who know God but do not honor him as God or give him thanks. So not only is it essential that we know about him, but that we respond to him in ways appropriate to his character and nature. The consequences of not responding to him in ways appropriate to his majesty and greatness are grave. Our thinking will become futile, empty, worthless, and our hearts will become foolish and dark.

In verse 23 he says we exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of things he has made. In verse 25 he says we exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. In verse 28, we do not see fit to acknowledge God. So the right response to knowing God as he really is must be to acknowledge him for who he is, to give him the honor and thanks that is due, to worship and serve him. In other words, we are to know God as he really is and to live in a manner consistent with what we know. Right knowledge of God must lead to right humble worship. If we truly see him for who he is, our hearts will be overwhelmed and overflow in genuine worship of him.

Practical Atheism

Stephen Charnock in the 1600’s spent a good deal of time talking about what he called ‘practical atheism’ in reference to the knowledge of God. True, all who claim to be Christians would agree that God exists and most would even be able to tell you quite a bit about what they believe he is like. But many who claim to be followers of Jesus live the better part of each week as if God did not exist. Charnock wrote:

Actions are a greater discovery of a principle than words. The testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words; and the frame of men’s hearts must be measured rather by what they do than by what they say. There may be a mighty distance between the tongue and the heart …Who can deny an atheism in the heart, when so much is visible in the life ? [1682; Charnock, Existence & Attributes, Discourse 2]

We honor him with our lips, but our hearts are far from him (Is.29:13). We claim to believe in God, but we live as if he were not there.

Look at what this refusal to practically acknowledge God leads to. Romans 1:29-31 says:

Romans 1:29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

The gospel is the remedy. Paul was eager to preach the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation – salvation from the lack of reverential fear toward God; salvation from our fraudulent dealing with God; salvation from suppressing the truth about him by our actions and incurring his just wrath.

Good News About God

The gospel is more than a message about forgiveness of sins. It is that indeed, but it is more. Forgiveness of sins is a means to a greater end. The gospel is not merely good news about how to escape from hell, although that is very good news. The gospel is more than a message. The gospel is a person. The gospel is about God. Paul speaks in 1 Timothy about

1 Timothy 1:11 …the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

The gospel of the glory of the blessed God. We could rephrase that ‘the good news of the radiance of the happy God.’ The good news is about the glory of God. The good news is that God is glorious beyond our comprehension, and God is overflowing with delight. He is blessed or happy.

In Romans 3:21-26, at the very heart of the gospel is a display of the righteous character of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested… 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. … 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, … 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The gospel at its core is a message about God, God’s glory, God’s righteousness, how we as sinners can be changed so that we may enjoy God without God compromising his own character.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about our great enemy seeking to blind people to the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Notice how he describes the gospel: it is light, and it is good news of the glory of Christ, and Christ is the perfect representation of God. The gospel is light about the character and nature, the glory of God. Our enemy wants to prevent us from seeing God for who he is. He goes on to describe how God himself overcomes this 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.

In the gospel, God gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God as seen most clearly through Christ. The gospel shows us who God is.

Peter puts God at the center of the gospel.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

Christ’s suffering was for a purpose. He suffered for our sins, but the purpose was ‘that he might bring us to God’. The goal of the gospel is not to have a better life now or to escape from our sins or to go to heaven when we die, but ‘that he might bring us to God’. The goal of the gospel is that everything that prevents us from enjoying God is taken out of the way so that we can have a right relationship with him.

We are told in the gospels that Jesus proclaimed ‘the gospel of the kingdom’; good news about the domain of the King. He said:

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The climax of history has arrived, the rule of God is here; turn and embrace the good news. The good news about the reign of God. The good news is that God has made a way so that we will not be destroyed when God establishes his rightful rule, but rather that we can enjoy him forever.

Jesus defined eternal life this way:

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, the gift that God gives to all who trust Jesus, is a relationship. Eternal life is defined by knowing God and knowing Jesus. This is really what the whole Bible is about. The Bible is God’s revelation; it is him revealing himself to us, telling us who he is, showing us through his historical interactions with people, what he is like.

Becoming by Beholding

We desperately need to see God for who he is. We need to respond to him in ways appropriate to his majesty and glory. We need to allow God to open our eyes to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. We need to take time to look. Take time to perceive the glory of the Lord. Take time to enjoy him. And this will change us.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This beholding the glory of the Lord will begin to transform us. It has been said that you become like the person you most admire. When we spend time admiring God, standing in awe of God, enjoying God, we begin to reflect his image. We begin to be who we were created to be, to enjoy and display his glory. Slightly, imperfectly, little by little, as we spend time in his presence, we are transformed. We all fall short of the glory of God. We fall short of bearing his image, the glory of his infinite perfections. But as we stand in his presence, we begin to bear his image once again.

A Prayer of Longing

May our souls resonate with Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Create in us a hunger for knowing you God! Give us a desperate passion to know you. Let us not be satisfied with knowing about you, but really knowing you; enjoying intimacy with you; standing in awe of you, worshiping you! Give us an insatiable appetite to behold your glory. Open our minds to grasp the truths about you that you have revealed to us, and open our hearts to love what we see. May you be to us the sweetest of pleasures. Let us taste and see that you are indeed good. Give us an acute awareness of your nearness, your presence. Let us live every moment of every day with a consciousness of you, and an eager desire in everything to please you.

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

Advertisements

August 17, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devoted To Prayer

01/04 Devoted To Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150104_devoted-to-prayer.mp3

As I began my readings for the new year, a word in Acts 1 intrigued me. It is translated ‘were devoting themselves to’

The Greek word behind the English ‘devoted to’ is [προσκαρτερέω proskartereo]. Here is how some of the dictionaries define it:

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G4342 προσκαρτερέω proskartereo (pros-kar-ter-eh’-o) v.

1. to be earnest towards

2. (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent

3. (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises

4. (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor)

[from G4314πρός pros (pros’) prep.1. forward to, i.e. toward and G2594 καρτερέω kartereo (kar-ter-eh’-o) v.1. to be strong 2. (figuratively) to endure]

[Thayer] – Original: προσκαρτερέω; Transliteration: Proskartereo; Phonetic: pros-kar-ter-eh’-o

– Definition:

1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one

2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing

3. to continue all the time in a place

4. to persevere and not to faint

5. to show one’s self courageous for

6. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly

This is a strong word. It appears only 10 times in the New Testament. What is it that the early believers were devoted to, what were they earnest toward or constantly diligent or steadfastly attentive to; what is it they gave their unremitting care to? As we evaluate the successes and failures of a past year and look forward to a new year and seek to re-prioritize and re-purpose for the new year, it would do us well to look to what the early church was passionately committed to. Twice we find this word connected to another word. In Acts 1:14 and in Acts 2:46 we find the word translated ‘devoted to’ with the word [ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon], which is translated ‘together’ or ‘with one accord’ or ‘with one mind’

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G3661 ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon (hom-oth-oo-mad-on’) adv.

1. unanimously

[adverb from a compound of the base of G3674 and G2372]

Whatever it is that the early church was unanimously constantly diligent and steadfastly attentive to, is probably important for us to resolve to devote ourselves to as well.

Let’s look at some of the verses, see if we can pick up some themes, and think together about what we should do about it.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

The early believers unanimously constantly diligent in prayer. Acts 2:42 adds three things to prayer.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

They were earnest towards the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayers.

Acts 2:46 has both of these words together.

[ESV] Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

It comes through more clearly in the Lexham English Bible, another literal translation.

[LEB] Acts 2:46 And every day, devoting themselves to meeting with one purpose in the temple courts and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their food with joy and simplicity of heart,

They unanimously gathered to meet together in public, and they gathered in homes to break bread and to eat together. The next verse is telling.

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

As the early church was passionately committed to these things, God was saving people and connecting them with the growing church. There seems to be a connection between the unanimous devotion of the believers and the fruitfulness of the gospel in their communities.

Here is why the Apostles appointed others to oversee the charitable activities of the church:

Acts 6:2 …“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. …4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The same word is used in Romans 12 and Colossians 4.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

So we see repeatedly that the early church devoted themselves to prayer. We also see that they devoted themselves to preaching and hearing the word, to breaking bread, to fellowship, to eating together. If these are things the early Christians were earnestly and unanimously devoted to, these are things we to ought to be faithfully passionate about.

Why These Things?

But why have the followers of Jesus throughout history been committed to hearing and teaching the word, to table fellowship with the believers, to remembering Jesus in the breaking of bread, and primarily to prayer? What is it about these things that captured the heart and the attention of the church? What is it about prayer that is so clearly foundational and central to the Christian life?

Prayer

First, what is prayer? Simply put, prayer is our communication with God. When we address God with worship, with thanksgiving, with confession, with requests, that is prayer. Prayer is our side of communication with God. Jesus had much to say about prayer. He exhorted his disciples to pray, he taught them how to pray (and how not to pray), he told them parables about prayer, and he modeled for them a life devoted to prayer.

Prayer, the way Jesus taught it, is humbling. If you think of the four aspects of prayer, worship is telling God how awesome he is, that he is greater than all else, including me. Worship is telling God all the things I admire about him, most of which are not true of me, and those things that are true of me in some degree are true in me only in an imperfect and flawed reflection of who he is. Worship is turning my attention away from me an to God, paying attention to him, celebrating and enjoying him for who he is. Confession is agreeing with God about the perfect standard and acknowledging how far I fall short of that standard. Thanksgiving is looking at the good things he gives that I don’t deserve and couldn’t earn and expressing gratitude as a humble recipient of great and glorious gifts. Requests are an expression of my need and his overwhelming generosity, of my emptiness and his fullness, of my brokenness and his wholeness, of my lack and his infinite supply. Being devoted to prayer means being constantly humbled in his presence.

And yet the privilege of prayer is amazing beyond comprehension. I can approach the all holy God in prayer because he so loved me that he gave his only Son to die in my place, pay my price, and purchase me as his own prized possession. Jesus opened to me the way of prayer through his own blood. I have been forgiven and cleansed and made new, and I can stand before him as a saint, a holy one. I have been adopted into the family of God, and can now address him as Father. He has taken me into his confidence, and I can address him as Friend. I have been granted bold access to the throne of grace. That is a humbling amazing reality that I am reminded of when I pray.

Prayer is our necessary connection to Jesus. Jesus used the metaphor of a vine with branches. He said:

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.

We must stay constantly connected to Jesus in order to be alive and to bear fruit. The circulatory system must carry away waste and deliver nutrients to the branch and or the branch will die. We are to pray as if our life depended on it, because it does! We are to be devoted to prayer. A branch disconnected from the root will not last long. Prayer is to be as natural and constant as breathing; taking in life giving oxygen, exhaling to carry away dangerous waste. Our connection with Jesus is directly related to our life and fruitfulness. A Christian who is not constantly connected with Jesus will not grow or produce fruit.

The Apostles,

Acts 1:13 …Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

These men had been with Jesus. When Jesus had called them to follow him, they gladly left everything. They enjoyed being with him. They had spent time with Jesus. Jesus had poured into them, invested in them, spent time with them. He taught them, trained them, answered their questions, calmed their fears, assuaged their doubts, prepared them for the future. When Jesus told them that he was going away, ‘sorrow filled their hearts’ (Jn.16:6). They wanted nothing more than to be with Jesus. They longed to spend time in his company, being part of what he was doing, remaining connected. Jesus said:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. …24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus was crucified and his disciples scattered. But he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. Their hearts rejoiced and no one could take their joy. Before Jesus ascended bodily to the right hand of his Father, he said

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

We abide in Jesus, we maintain that intimate connection with Jesus through prayer, through worship, confession, thanksgiving and requests. We depend on him. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him and his word abides in us, we will bear much fruit.

The Word

Our side of the communication is called prayer. God’s side of the communication is called divine revelation, and this happens primarily through the preaching and hearing of the word. This is why we see an unswerving commitment to the proclamation of biblical truth among the followers of Jesus. We want his word to abide in us. Jesus said to the religious leaders,

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Apostles were Jews who had heard the Scriptures read all their lives. But they had met Jesus, and he created in them a new appetite for God’s word. When Jesus appeared to his disciples,

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Because we have been with Jesus, because we have experienced him as the Word made flesh, we have a new appetite for Jesus, a hunger for his words. We want to hear him speak. His words are life and they are light. We are to be devoted to, steadfastly attentive to the Apostles’ teaching.

The Gospel

The early followers were devoted to the breaking of bread. Jesus broke bread and said ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19). Remembering Jesus by breaking bread is a way to keep our eyes fixed on the gospel. We must not lose sight of the gospel, the good news that Jesus died to save sinners. Jesus took bread.

1 Corinthians 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus intended for us to remember him by breaking bread together. The early church was constantly diligent to break bread together. We too, should be devoted to the breaking of bread whereby we remember Jesus and keep our focus on the gospel.

Table Fellowship

The early church was devoted to fellowship. They ate together. They took food with joy and simplicity of heart. They ate at one another’s homes. Why eating together? The Corinthian church was rebuked for the way they ate together, each one going ahead with his own meal, not sharing and not waiting for one another. The purpose is not food, the purpose is building relationships. Eating together with joy and thankfulness is a way to build relationships. Having a meal together is a way of loving one another, and it can be a way to care for the needy. Discipleship, as Jesus did it, happened through the daily routines of life, walking, talking, traveling, fishing, eating, spending time caring for broken hurting people. The early church was devoted to table fellowship because our vertical relationship with God must bend outward to other people. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

The early disciples were earnest toward eating together as an expression of love. We too must be devoted to fellowship with other believers.

Devoted to Unity in Community

The early church was unanimous in their devotion to fellowship, breaking bread, the word and prayer. These were not only individual exercises. They were together devoted – praying together, listening together ‘with one accord’, eating together, ‘house to house’. The early church was devoted to unity in the context of community. They were together in public, and they were together in their homes. The early church valued one another. Their relationship with Jesus found expression in their attitudes and actions toward one another.

Hindrances to Unanimous Devotion

Why aren’t we devoted to the same things that the followers of Jesus passionately committed themselves to? What keeps us from being earnest toward the things of Christ? If we can identify some of the things that prevent our devotion to Christ, we can begin to weed them out and cultivate a deeper devotion to the things that we are called to be devoted to.

We live in an individualistic society. Our culture does not encourage us to spend time face to face with other human beings, interacting, doing things together, caring for one another, being involved in the lives of others. We have been trained with a consumer worldview, where we ask the question ‘what can I get out of this’ and ‘how does this benefit me’ rather than, ‘what can I give’ and ‘how can I benefit others?’ If we can root out the individualism and self-focus that prevents us from living in genuine community with others, we will be more free to devote ourselves to these things.

Sin clearly will hinder us from being devoted to the things of Christ. When we fill our souls with counterfeit food, we ruin our appetites for that which gives life. Our desires need to be transformed. We have an empty gaping hole in our souls, and we seek to cram it full of stuff to satisfy our longings. We need to unpack the junk so that we can recognize that our true longings can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. When we crowd our lives with busyness we are simply being pulled in too many directions to be devoted to anything. When we fill our lives with noise, it drowns out any opportunity to listen to his voice. We need to take a hard look. Some things may have to go so that we can devote ourselves to prayer, to the word, to the gospel, to love.

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

January 4, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Church Functions; What The Church Does

01/12/14 Church Functions; what the church does Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140112_church-functions.mp3

Last time we looked at what it means to be a church member. We defined church as an assembly of Jesus-followers; the church is the blood-bought people of God who gather together. When we talk about church membership, we are not talking about membership in a society or club where there are member benefits, perks and privileges. Being a member of the church is language taken from the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians. As members of the body of Christ, we are to be connected, functional parts of the whole, each uniquely equipped to fulfill the role God has assigned to us.

Today I would like to explore some of the functions the church is meant to carry out. If we are to be functional parts of the whole, it is essential that we all have a clear vision of the goal. What is the purpose of the church? If each part has a clear understanding of the mission, we can move in unity toward the common goal, valuing the contribution of each member.

Last time we said that the clear objective of the church in encapsulated in the great commandment and the great commission. The purpose of the church and of every member is to glorify God by loving God, loving people, and making disciples who glorify God by loving God, loving people and making disciples.

Evangelism and Baptism

Let’s see how this played out in the formation of the new covenant church in Acts 2. Jesus had presented himself alive to his disciples, and commissioned them as eye-witnesses to testify to his death and resurrection. He charged them with the task of making disciples of all nations, and then he told them to wait. Wait until you are clothed with power from on high. Wait for the promise of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit filled them and they began to proclaim the mighty works of God to the crowds in Jerusalem. They were supernaturally enabled to communicate with the crowd in all the languages that were represented. All were amazed, but some mocked. Peter explained what was happening by referring to the prophesy in Joel:

Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

Peter connects this proclamation of the mighty works of God by the apostles to the promised outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. He concludes his quotation with these words from the prophet Joel:

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Everyone. Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved.

We get a taste of the content of this gospel proclamation of the mighty works of God in the following verses.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Then he gives some Old Testament evidence to prove his point.

…32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. … 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. This Jesus, the one who did mighty works, this Jesus whom you crucified, this Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, this Jesus is YHWH, Lord and Christ, Messiah. Call on this Jesus as Lord and Christ, Jesus who died for you and was raised and you will be saved.

Notice carefully the response of his hearers:

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

They were cut to the heart. They were convicted of their sin. They were responsible for the crucifixion of God’s Messiah. They felt the weight of their guilt. They had crucified the Lord of glory! “Brothers, what shall we do?” This was broken-hearted recognition of their offense before God. We too are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus; it was our sin that made it necessary for him to suffer and die, it was my sin that he came to pay for.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Repent simply means to have a change of heart and mind. Turn from your hostility toward God, turn from your rebellion, turn from your sin which nailed Christ to the cross. Turn away from whatever false religious hopes you were holding on to, and turn to Jesus. Demonstrate this turning by baptism, the outward sign of the inward truth, confessing Christ Jesus as Lord, declaring publicly that your heart and mind have been transformed, that you have become a follower of Jesus. There is hope for you who by your rebellion have crucified the Lord of glory. There is forgiveness for your sins. You can never do anything to earn it. You must receive it as a gift. Turn to Jesus and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s promise for you, no matter how far you have strayed. God is calling you to himself.

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Peter proclaimed the good news that Jesus is God, that he is the promised Messiah, that the Father authenticated his identity with supernatural signs, that Jesus was crucified, and that he rose from the dead. They were cut to the heart, convicted of their sinfulness, and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent, to change their minds, to turn to Jesus, and they would be forgiven and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who received his word, those who believed, who turned to Jesus, were baptized, publicly demonstrating their faith. 3,000 were added that day to the church through belief and baptism. The church grew from 120 to over 3,000. Let’s look at what the early church did.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42 is very instructive. It tells us what the early church emphasized, what they were devoted to, what they were diligent in and earnest about. Four definite things the early church was committed to. Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. Two things we have already seen in this passage that the early church did and we see them doing throughout the book of Acts: evangelism and baptism. They were proclaiming the good news about Jesus, making disciples, and baptizing into the church those who were believing.

The Apostles’ Teaching

Those who became followers of Jesus were devoted to the apostle’s teaching. Jesus commissioned his 12 disciples to be his eye-witnesses in a unique and unrepeatable way. He spent 40 days with them after his resurrection. He promised them the Holy Spirit who would continue to teach and guide them.

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

The apostle’s teaching formed the foundation of the church, centered around Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, …14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

God gave the apostles to the church to equip them for ministry and to give them a stable foundation of doctrine so they would not be led astray. The apostle’s teaching was a big deal. The early church was warned against any deviation or distortion of the apostle’s teaching.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

The apostle Paul warned young pastor Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, …6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

…13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to [the] exhortation, to [the] teaching. …16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Do not depart from the faith. You have been trained in the words of the faith, in the good doctrine that you have followed, so devote yourself to the teaching.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul exhorted him to:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Titus was left in Crete to appoint elders in every town. One of the necessary characteristics of a church leader was:

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

The apostle John wrote:

2 John 1:8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

We must abide in the teaching of Christ. The apostle Peter, aware that he would soon die, wrote a letter. He said:

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Because of the diligence of the Lord’s apostles, we have their teaching today in written form. We as the church must be devoted to the apostle’s teaching.

The Fellowship

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The second thing that the early church was devoted to is the fellowship. Fellowship is a broad word that can mean partnership, sharing, participation, communion. It comes from a root word that means common. In some contexts it means sharing financially (Rom.15:26; 2Cor.8:4, 9:13; Phil.1:5; Heb.13:16; root word in Acts 2:44, 4:32); it can mean oneness of spirit with God or with people (1 Cor.1:9; 2Cor.6:14, 13:14; Gal.2:9; Phil.2:1; 1Jn.1:3,6,7); or it can mean participation or sharing in something (suffering: Phil.3:10; blood and body of Christ in communion 1Cor.10:16; faith Philemon 6; root word: faith Tit.1:4; salvation Jude3).

John writes:

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. …6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

The fellowship of believers took sin seriously. They confronted each other, exhorted, admonished and encouraged one another, confessed to one another, and were quick to forgive one another. The early church was devoted to fellowship, partnership, relationship, unity of spirit with God and one another. They shared life together. They sang together. They ate together. They enjoyed a common relationship with God and with one another. They fought sin together. They shared financially with one another as people had needs. They partnered in gospel missions with their money and their prayers. There was a true sense of community spiritually, socially, and financially. They cared for one another in practical ways. The early church was committed to the fellowship.

The Breaking of Bread

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The third thing the early church was devoted to was the breaking of bread. To break bread together simply mean to have a meal together. When Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves, he gave thanks to his Father and broke the bread so that it could be distributed it to each person (Mt.14:19; 15:36). This common form of eating together took on special significance at his final passover meal with his disciples before the crucifixion.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

After his resurrection, Jesus joined some of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. …35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

We find in 1 Corinthians that breaking bread was something the church did when they met together. Paul writes to correct the abuses of this meal that was intended to remind them of Jesus. They called it the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

The early church was diligent to remember Jesus through the breaking of bread.

The Prayers

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The fourth thing that this passage tells us the early church devoted themselves to were the prayers. Prayer is communication with God. Jesus, by his example taught us the importance of intimacy with God. He taught his followers to pray for God’s name to be worshiped, God’s rule to be realized, for God’s purposes to be accomplished. He taught us to ask in dependence for our basic physical and spiritual needs, and for rescue from temptation (Mt.6:9-13). Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Mt.5:44).

The church in Acts gathered together to pray for their leaders.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. …12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

In fact, I counted at least 10 places in the New Testament where the author either referred to or specifically asked for the people to pray for him. Prayer for rescue, for freedom, prayer for effective ministry, prayer for gospel opportunities and clarity in declaring the gospel, prayer for boldness. That’s about the same frequency of the author saying that he was praying for the people he was writing to.

Jesus prayed when he selected his 12 apostles (Lk.6:12). The early church prayed when they appointed leaders in the churches.

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

We are instructed to pray for gospel opportunities and salvation for all people:

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. …8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

We are to pray for the needs of one another:

James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

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.

Conclusion

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church was active in proclaiming the good news about Jesus. They were active in making disciples. They were serious about preserving, proclaiming, and living out the truth once for all delivered to the saints. They were connected in community with one another. They were committed to keeping Jesus central to everything, remembering and reminding one another what Jesus did for them. They were characterized by their relationship with God, constantly communicating with him and depending on him in everything. The early church brought much glory to God by loving him, loving one another, and making disciples. This is how the church functioned. We would do well to follow their example.

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

January 12, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:8-13; The Cross Before the Crown

08/25 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 The Cross Before the Crown; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130825_1cor4_8-13.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

8 Ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ, ἤδη ἐπλουτήσατε, χωρὶς ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε· καὶ ὄφελόν γε ἐβασιλεύσατε, ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν συμβασιλεύσωμεν. 9 δοκῶ γάρ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἐσχάτους ἀπέδειξεν ὡς ἐπιθανατίους, ὅτι θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις. 10 ἡμεῖς μωροὶ διὰ Χριστόν, ὑμεῖς δὲ φρόνιμοι ἐν Χριστῷ· ἡμεῖς ἀσθενεῖς, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰσχυροί· ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. 11 ἄχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας καὶ πεινῶμεν καὶ διψῶμεν καὶ γυμνιτεύομεν καὶ κολαφιζόμεθα καὶ ἀστατοῦμεν 12 καὶ κοπιῶμεν ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν· λοιδορούμενοι εὐλογοῦμεν, διωκόμενοι ἀνεχόμεθα, 13 δυσφημούμενοι παρακαλοῦμεν· ὡς περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου ἐγενήθημεν, πάντων περίψημα ἕως ἄρτι.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul has brought the Corinthians back to the simple message of the gospel, the foolish message of the cross, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners.

He is addressing spiritual pride. He is calling them back to gospel centered humility.

Paul has held himself up as an example of what Christian leadership should look like; he is a field-hand planting and watering seed; a builder constructing a building on the one foundation, an under-rower, propelling the ship forward under the direction of the one Captain. He has used the Scripture to warn them not to go beyond what is written, because all of Scripture demonstrates the folly of human pride. God promises to destroy the wisdom of the wise (1:19; Is.29:14). The only boasting that is appropriate is boasting in the Lord (1:31; Jer.9:24). God’s salvation is beyond what the heart of man could possibly imagine (2:9; Is.64:4). No one understands the mind of the Lord (2:16; Is.40:13). The wisdom of this world is folly with God (3:19-20; Job5:13; Ps.94:11). He invites them to consider what they have that they did not receive. Everything, absolutely everything, every singe thing that they have is a gift, by grace, and it is totally inappropriate, arrogant, ungrateful, and rude to boast in something you have received as if you did not receive it.

Now he uses sharp sarcasm and irony to drive his point home. We might be surprised to see the apostle using sarcasm. Many of us have been taught that sarcasm is sin. Here we find biting sarcasm in God’s inspired Scripture. So when is sarcasm appropriate, and when is sarcasm sin? Charles Hodge, principal of Princeton Theological Seminary from 1851 to 1878, has some very helpful comments on this subject.

That the passage is ironical, and even sarcastic, cannot be denied. This is not the only instance in which these weapons are used by the inspired writers. The prophets especially employ them freely in their endeavors to convince the people of the folly of trusting to idols. The propriety of the use of weapons so dangerous depends on the occasion and the motive. If the thing assailed be both wicked and foolish, and if the motive be, not the desire to give pain, but to convince and to convert, their use is justified by Scriptural examples.” (C.Hodge on 1Cor.4:8).

In this instance, the quarreling and boasting of the Corinthians was both wicked and foolish, and the desire of the apostle was not to crush, but to bring repentance and restoration, so he employs the most biting sarcasm to wake them from their foolishness and bring about a repentant humility.

Three inappropriate attitudes for the present age

First, he sarcastically lists three attitudes that are inappropriate for the present age.

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!

The Corinthians act as if they are already satisfied, rich and reigning. These are not bad things for a believer to look forward to, but the fact that the Corinthians felt they already possessed them revealed a deep flaw in their understanding of Christian doctrine and what it means to follow Jesus. Many Christians today share their misunderstanding. Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, that he is the King. Jesus paid for our sins, defeated the devil, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of his Father on high. He is the rightful King of the universe. We as his followers are adopted into his family, so that means that we are co-heirs with Christ, the King’s kids, royalty, and so, many conclude, we should live and act like royalty. We should drive the nicest cars, live in the nicest houses, eat the richest foods, have all the toys and the comforts and the pleasures that this world offers. After all, everything in this world, the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine, belong to our Daddy, and he loves to give good gifts to his children. The Corinthians, and so many of us, are enjoying the good life.

Already you have all you want! Already we are satisfied, satiated, glutted. The idea is that our stomach, or our life, is crammed so full that we have no room for anything else. It’s that feeling you have after thanksgiving dinner when you’ve eaten so much that those delicious pies which earlier looked so appealing now no longer hold much interest for you. All you want to do is go lay down somewhere and digest. This is not what the Christian life was meant to be. You should not already be satisfied. Your best life is absolutely not now! The best is yet to come, when we will see our King face to face, and we should be hungering, longing, yearning, aching to be with him. Our heart should resonate with the heart of the Psalmist:

Psalms 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Already you have become rich! We have increased in goods. We have a lot of stuff. We live in nice houses, we drive nice cars, we have enough to eat, we spend money on things we don’t need. You might argue, no, we are just barely scraping by. Take a look at this chart by the World Bank’s Branco Milanovic. According to the New York Times, this tells us that “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants” (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-the-have-nots/?_r=0 ). That means that everyone here today would be considered rich by global standards. America’s 70 million pet dogs are probably better fed and medically cared for than the world’s 870 million people who suffer from chronic undernourishment. Jesus’ instructions to a rich man who came to him were

Mark 10:21 “…go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus told a story about a rich man in Luke 12.

Luke 12:16 …“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk.12:15). God calls anyone who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God a fool. Those are strong words, and they probably apply to everyone in this room. If God has blessed us with prosperity, he has blessed us so that we can share what we have and give to those in need. Some of us need to simplify our lives so that we can free up resources to give away. Resources in God’s church are like blood in the body, meant to flow and bring life, rather than pool and bring sickness and death.

Already you have become kings! Already you are exercising authority and rule over others. All of us have an opinion. We all think we know what everybody else should be doing. If we are given the opportunity, if we have the power, we leverage our opinion on others.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

We are eager to pronounce judgment, but none of us have all the information or insight with which to render an accurate judgment. All our ruling is premature and partial.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Corinthians were satisfied, rich, and reigning, three attitudes that are inappropriate for this present age. Paul says ‘I wish it were true!’ I wish we were already reigning with Christ, but this is simply not true. Here are some of Jesus’ instructions to his followers found in Luke 6.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

According to Jesus, the appropriate state of his followers now is poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned. Jesus says woe to you if you are rich, full, laughing, and well spoken of. The church in Laodicea was similarly blind to their own true condition. Jesus says to them:

Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

The Apostolic Example

Paul holds Jesus’ apostles up as examples for the church to follow. Actually, he says that God has put them on public display.

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.

Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified head down in Rome, Andrew was scourged and tied to an X shaped cross in Greece, James was beheaded in Jerusalem, John was thrown in boiling oil but was unharmed so spent the rest of his days in exile in Turkey, Philip was crucified in Syria, Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) was beaten, flayed, and crucified in India or Armenia, Thomas was lanced and burned in an oven in Greece, Matthew was axed to death in Ethiopia, James was thrown down from the temple tower in Jerusalem and then clubbed to death, Judas (or Thaddaeus) was crucified in Greece, and Paul was beheaded in Rome.

God put the disciples on display as the very last and least. In a Roman triumph, the victorious military commander would lead his troops on parade through the city, displaying the spoils of war, dragging along the most important captives, and last of all the captive slaves, destined to die in the Colosseum at the hands of gladiators or wild beasts for the entertainment of the crowds. Paul puts himself and the other apostles at the end of the procession, on public display to the universe, both men and angels.

We should learn a lesson from the apostles. A frequent argument among them was ‘who will be the greatest in the kingdom?’

Mark 9:35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

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

Matthew 18:2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus taught his followers that they must be humble, they must serve others, even giving their lives. The cross must come before the crown, both for Jesus and for his followers.

Three Contrasts

Paul continues his scathing sarcasm with three contrasts between the apostles and the Corinthians, and he holds up six snapshots of the current condition of the life of an apostle.

1 Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands…

The first contrast is between fools for Christ and the wise in Christ. This should remind them of the first two chapters of this book where God’s true wisdom is displayed in the foolishness of the cross. You want to be thought wise in Christ, we are willing to become fools for Christ. The true wisdom of God that is wiser than men is the crass and base message of a bloody Messiah.

The second contrast is between weakness and strength. This again should bring them back to the first chapters of this letter, where the hidden power of God is unleashed through the seemingly weak proclamation of the gospel of the cross. In wanting to come across as forceful and strong, you have abandoned the power of the simple gospel.

The third contrast is between disrepute and honor. The Corinthians are seeking honor and glory, the apostles are seeking to give all glory to Jesus. They are willing to be humiliated for the sake of Christ. What the Corinthians don’t understand is that the way down is the way up. In 2:8, Paul describes Jesus as the Lord of glory, and in 2:7 he says that this hidden wisdom of Christ crucified was decreed by God for our glory. We will be glorified later because in humility we received the message that we were so bad that we deserved death, and that God became flesh so that he could die in our place.

Paul gives six snapshots of what the current apostolic lifestyle looks like in contrast to the already satisfied, rich and reigning attitude of the Corinthians. Rather than already experiencing the blessings of Christ’s kingdom, the apostles right up to the present hour are craving and thirsting and naked and beaten and homeless and exhausted in the demeaning role of laboring with our own hands.

Three Appropriate Responses to Hardship

Seeing that the Christian life follows Jesus’ example of the cross before the crown, and that Jesus promises his followers much difficulty (Jn.16:33), Paul gives three appropriate ways to respond to hardship.

1 Corinthians 4: 12 …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat.

This is the hard stuff of practical application. When someone condemns, blames or criticizes you, what do you do? What is your emotional reaction, and what is your immediate response? Retaliate, vindicate, defend, explain, justify, exonerate. Can you let it go? Can you be silent? Can you go one step beyond and bless that person that trashed you? The word literally means ‘to speak well of’. If someone speaks evil of you, can you speak well of them? Only with the strength that God supplies!

What do you do when you are pursued, persecuted, afflicted, injured, harassed? I am shocked and offended. It’s not right! I want justice to be done! I want it to stop! Can you endure? Can you bear with it? Can you wait? Can you simply hold on in the middle of it? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you!

How do you respond when someone slanders you, vilifies you, drags your name through the mud? Must you clear your name? Can you live with the fact that others might think something about you that may not be true? Can you pray for the person who slandered you? And I don’t mean the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms; ‘O Lord slay the evildoers in thy great wrath!’ Can you implore God for mercy and help for them? Can you bring comfort and encouragement to them? This is exactly what Jesus instructed his followers to do.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Paul concludes with two synonymous summary descriptions of the apostolic ministry.

1Corinthians 4:13 …We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

The present is not the time for fullness, riches and authority, not if we are going to listen to Jesus or follow the example of the apostles. This is an offensive picture. This is the stuff that gets scraped off the plate and goes down the garbage disposal. This is the stuff that gets scraped off your boots after you walk through the farm field. This is the reputation of the followers of Jesus. Are you willing to have this be what people think of you?

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;

let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin,

Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

(Arthur Bennett, 1915-1994)

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

August 25, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:9; The Faithful God and the Fellowship of His Son

01/27 1 Corinthians 1:9 The Faithful God and the Fellowship of His Son; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130127_1cor1_9.mp3

1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦδιὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ,κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν·3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει,6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν,7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ·8 ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

We have been examining the content of Paul’s thanksgiving to God for the church in Corinth. With their divisive spirit and disregard for authority and self-centered attitude and actions, we might be hard pressed to find anything to give thanks for in this church. But listen to the gracious God-centered words of Paul:

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is a God-centered, Jesus saturated greeting and thanksgiving. Paul mentions Jesus by name 9 times in these opening nine verses. And he mentions the will of God, the church of God, God the source of grace and peace, he offers thanks to God for God’s grace given, and now he points to the faithfulness of God. This word of thanksgiving was addressed to God in verse 4, and now in verse 9 as he closes his thanksgiving, he draws our attention back to the faithfulness of God. When you receive a gift, you don’t thank the mailman who delivered the gift; you address your thanks to the giver of the gift. Anything good in the Corinthians, anything worthy of thanks, is a direct result of God’s grace and God’s gift, and so God gets the praise and the thanks. God’s grace was given, God in Christ Jesus had enriched them, had confirmed the gospel among them, had equipped them with grace-gifts, caused them to anticipate the return of Jesus, and was sustaining them guiltless. God is faithful.

Faithful

In the original, the adjective ‘faithful’ is placed first in the sentence for emphasis; faithful the God. What does it mean to be faithful? To be faithful is to be trustworthy, one who can be relied on. If you are faithful you are dependable, you follow through and do what you say you will do.

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

It is characteristic of mankind that we are fickle, we do not always follow through. Sometimes we make a bad decision based on a limited amount of information, and when we are informed of more of the facts, we change our minds. Sometimes we make a good commitment or resolution, but because of laziness or selfishness or distractions, we don’t follow through. Sometimes we have good intentions, but we simply forget, or circumstances beyond our control prevent us from keeping our word. God is not like that. God does not base his decisions on only some of the facts. God is not fickle, selfish, distracted, or lazy. God is not forgetful, and nothing – nothing can frustrate his purposes. With him ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change’ (James 1:17).

Isaiah 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, …27 For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

God is faithful. No one, no thing can prevent him from doing what he has said he will do.

Isaiah 46:9 …for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 … I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph.1:11).

So the confidence of Paul that the Corinthians will be sustained to the end guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus is based not on the fickle Corinthians, but on the unfrustratable faithfulness of an omnipotent God.

By Whom You Were Called

Paul’s confidence for the Corinthians rested in the fact that a sovereign God had called them. In verse 1, Paul said that he was called by the will of God to be an apostle. In verse 2 he said that the believers in Corinth were called to be saints. Here he points to a faithful God as the one who called them. In Romans 8, Paul refers to believers as those who love God, as those who are called according to his purpose.

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

And for those whom God calls, there is absolute confidence that all things will work together for good, because, as he goes on to say, those he calls he also justifies and glorifies. When the faithful King calls you into his service, he will overcome every obstacle and see to it that the purpose of his call is carried out. He will see to it that you are sustained to the end guiltless. He will see to it that you are glorified. Paul’s confidence rests not on man, but squarely on the always faithful God.

Called into the fellowship of His Son

Look with me at what we are called to. Ponder for a moment on what we are invited into. Meditate on what we have been made participants of. Savor the gracious goodness of God in our calling.

9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We were called into the fellowship of God’s Son. Fellowship. The rich Greek word koinonia [κοινωνια]. Fellowship is a word that means having things in common. Fellowship means sharing life together. Jews would not eat with Gentiles, because Gentiles don’t follow the same kosher laws of food preparation and ceremonial washing. For a Jew to eat with a Gentile would mean contamination. We might look at it as sharing germs. This separation could lead to a feeling of superiority. God addressed this with Peter in Acts 10, where God said three times ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’. Paul had to deal with Peter again later on this issue in Antioch, when Peter withdrew from table fellowship with Gentiles (Gal.2:11-14). Paul confronted his hypocrisy publicly, because his conduct was ‘not in step with the gospel’. At the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility, abolished the commandments and ordinances, and made peace between those who were alienated (Eph.2:11-22). We are now brought near by the blood of Christ. To have fellowship with someone is to let them into your life, to invite them into your home, into your family, to have a meal together, to share your things with them, to share yourself with them. Fellowship is being connected, being community, being close.

Relational Intimacy

What does it mean to be called into the fellowship of the Son of God? This is staggering! We are called by God into the fellowship of his Son. We are brought into a relationship with Jesus where there is intimacy, where we do life together, where we have everything in common. Real relational intimacy with the Son of God! We can talk to him and he listens! We don’t have to make an appointment three weeks in advance. He is there for us always. He is available. He is for us. He cares. He understands. He will carry our sorrows. We can enjoy his presence. We are invited to ‘cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you’ (1Pet.5:7). He said ‘come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Mt.11:28); ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’ (Jn.7:37); ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5); ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Mat.28:20). He is the ‘friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Pr.18:24). You were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Doing Life Together

Fellowship means that we do life together. Listen in on the prayer of Jesus for you before his crucifixion.

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Jesus prays that we believers would share in the intimacy and fellowship of the triune God! That we would be one with each other, just as God the Father and Jesus are one with each other, in perfect unity and community, sharing everything. As the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, we must be in the Father and the Son, and the Father and Son are in us. In John 14, Jesus said:

John 14:19 … Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Jesus is in his Father, we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us. John 15 helps us understand this connection. Jesus commanded his followers:

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.

If we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us, if we are connected to Jesus like a branch is connected to the trunk, then the life of Jesus is flowing through us, and Jesus is alive in us. Listen to how Paul expresses this thought in Galatians:

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

The me who I once was is dead. I am now grafted into Christ, and it is now Christ’s life that is living in me. I am living a life so intimately connected to Jesus that I can really say it is Jesus who is living in me.

Paul prays that this union with Christ would be realized by the Ephesian believers. He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Strengthened in your inner being through his Spirit, Christ residing in your hearts through faith, rooted, connected, drawing life from his love, experiencing the depth of Christ’s love, filled up with all the fullness of God. This is the power at work in us, able to accomplish more than we could ever dream. Strengthened by his Spirit in your inner being; Christ dwelling in you; filled with all the fullness of God. I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Abiding in the vine.

Everything in Common

Fellowship means that we have everything in common. We share everything. When we got married, we entered into a fellowship. My possessions, my decisions, my body, my bank account, my joys and my sorrows are no longer mine, they are ours. What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. Everything is in common. If I have fellowship with Jesus, then everything Jesus has is mine. Because he is the only Son of God, I can call God Father. Jesus said ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (Jn.20:17). I am adopted into his family (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:5). I share in his relationship with the Father. Jesus as the Son of God is the only heir; because of fellowship with Jesus I am an heir of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom.8:17). I share in his inheritance. Because Jesus is righteous, I am clothed in his righteousness (Is.61:10, Rom.5:17; Phil.3:9). When the Father looks at me he can find no spot or wrinkle or blemish or any defect whatever. What the Father says to Jesus, he says to me: ‘well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master’ (Mt.25:21; 3:17; 17:5). What inestimable treasures are ours because our fellowship is with Jesus!

But if we have everything in common, then not only is everything that belongs to Jesus mine, but everything that is mine he shares in. Hebrews 2 tells us:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Jesus, infinite God from all eternity, shared in flesh and blood. And in that real humanity he tasted death for everyone (Heb.2:9). I am a sinner.

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

Jesus became sin for me. As a sinner I am under God’s curse.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–

Jesus became a curse for me. As a rebel I deserve God’s wrath.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus propitiated the wrath of his Father against my sin. The result of my sin is suffering, sorrow, grief, pain.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

My iniquities have caused a separation between me and God (Is.59:2).

Matthew 27:46 …Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, …“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

What fellowship is this! Everything he has is mine, everything I am is his. But this fellowship with Jesus extends farther, maybe farther than I am comfortable with. Paul says in Philippians 3:

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share [κοινωνια] his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share [κοινωνεω] Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are called into the fellowship of his sufferings. Fellowship with Jesus. Relational intimacy, doing life together, everything in common. All that he has is ours; and all we are is his. If he has willingly taken our sin, our cross, our shame, should we not also offer him our time, our talent, our treasure? Should we not offer him our very lives to spend as he sees fit? Let us pursue deeper, richer, more satisfying fellowship with Jesus. God is faithful. He has called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our King.

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

January 27, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:8-9; True Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120930_exodus34_8-9.mp3

09/30 Exodus 34:8-9 Asking as Worship

Exodus 34:8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Today we learn about true worship. The sequence of this passage is amazing, humbling, encouraging, and instructive. Let’s put this in context. God had entered in to a covenant relationship with his people. He was taking Israel, above every other people on the face of the earth, to be his treasured possession, not because of some inherent worth in them, but because of his mercy and love. He saw their misery in Egypt and rescued them. He put up with their grumbling and brought them to the mountain where he would reveal himself to them. He outlined for them what it would mean to be in relationship with the holy God. They said ‘all that the Lord has said we will do and we will be obedient’ (24:7). But while the covenant mediator was up on the mountain receiving the written terms and details of the relationship, they violated their covenant commitment, forfeited their privileged position as God’s chosen people, and committed spiritual adultery. They made their own god and gave it their worship and held a feast to it at the same time that the true God was giving his instructions to their covenant mediator. God was justly angry and threatened to divorce them, destroy them, and start over with Moses.

We have been following Moses’ prayer to God, as he gradually, little by little, asks God to fully restore his relationship with his disobedient people. Moses begged God to extend mercy instead of justice. God agreed not to destroy all of them as they deserved. Moses came down from the mountain and publicly shattered the tablets of the covenant, displaying what the people had done. Moses purged the camp of the idol and those unrepentant and persistent in their idolatry. Moses attempted to make atonement for the people and asked God to forgive, even offering himself, but God insisted that the ones who sinned will suffer the consequences. The Lord said he would send them away, promising that they would make it safely to the promised land, but without his accompanying presence. Because of their persistent sinfulness and his holy character, his presence with them would require that he destroy them. Moses held up to God his promises and the fact that he had already shown undeserved grace to them. He begged God that he go with them, because it was his very presence with them that made them different from every other people on the face of the earth. God responded to this request, promising that his presence would go with them, because they had found grace in his sight. Moses asked for confirmation of God’s promise, that he would set his seal to his promise by revealing to him his glory, the beauty of his character and nature. So God communicated to Moses in words what he had already communicated through his actions up to this point, that he is YHWH, the self-existent one, a God freely merciful and gracious, slow to anger and overflowing in steadfast love and faithfulness, extending his covenant love to thousands of generations, a God inclined to forgive all types of his people’s sin against him, yet at the same time maintaining his justice, by no means clearing the guilty.

True Worship

Moses’ response to God’s revelation is appropriate.

8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

Moses gets low in the presence of God. God is the only being in existence who is worthy to be exalted. Genuine worship does not draw attention to the worshiper, but deflects all attention to the all-glorious God. True worship is getting out of the way so that everyone can see God for who he is. Here we also see where true worship comes from. Worship is a response to the revealed character of God. I’ve heard people say things like ‘I just can’t seem to get into worship today’ or ‘I can’t worship with this kind of music’. These kind of statements betray a total misunderstanding of what worship is. Worship is not a style of music, and worship is not a feeling or emotion. Worship is a response of the will to the revealed character of God. Worship is getting low in the presence of God so he can be seen for who he is in all his awesome majesty. So if you’re not feeling particularly worshipful, then you need to reflect for a moment on the character of God as revealed in his word, and respond with attitudes and emotions and actions that are appropriate to his greatness; responses that make much of him and show off his glory. Moses quickly bowed his head and worshiped. And then Moses asked.

Asking as Worship

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Do you see how this asking is worship? The text says that Moses bowed and worshiped and said. And then he utters this prayer of asking. We might think that worship is what we give back to God in response to what he has given us, so asking would be inappropriate in worship. Worship is giving praise, not taking from God. But this again betrays a misunderstanding of worship. If God is rich and I am a poor beggar, it does not glorify the one who is rich to pretend like I am not needy. It does not magnify the one who is gracious and merciful to pretend that I am deserving or just fine on my own. To glorify the ultimate giver, we must be willing to humbly receive the gifts that he offers. The only way the asking of a beggar would dishonor a benefactor is if the asking reveals the limits of his generosity. If the generous person has no more desire to give or no more resources to give, then that would reveal the limits of his wealth or his willingness. But our God is a God who is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is eager to forgive. His wealth is inexhaustible and there is no limit to his grace and mercy toward repentant sinners. He has invited us to ask. We worship God, we glorify God, we show off the character of God when we come to him as needy sinners and ask for him to show himself gracious and merciful. We bow ourselves low as beggars and give him the opportunity to show off his abundant forgiveness in the face of our need.

Grace Based Asking

Let’s look at how Moses magnifies God’s revealed character by asking.

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

First of all, Moses’ asking is based on God’s promise of grace. God had said ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious’. God is free to show his grace to whomever he pleases. But Moses had already experienced evidence of God’s grace. In 33:12, Moses quotes God as saying ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor (or grace) in my sight.’ In 33:13 he bases his request to to know God better on the fact that he had found favor or grace in God’s sight. The goal of his prayer to know God better is so that he would continue to experience his grace. In 33:16 he asks for God’s presence as a demonstration of his grace, and again here in this verse, he asks for God’s presence as evidence of God’s grace. Grace is favor that is not earned or deserved. If we come to God with our rights, demanding that we get what we deserve, we will not like the outcome. Our only basis for asking God for anything is his gracious character. This is so rich, so freeing, but it is so hard for us humans to grasp! Anything good we receive from God has nothing to do with us! We are not more likely to receive good things from God if we have performed well, and we are not less likely to receive good gifts from God if we have performed poorly. We are more likely to receive if we ask him for good things, because HE is gracious! All our asking must be based on God’s gracious character, his delight in giving good gifts to sinners who don’t deserve it.

Persistent Request for God’s Presence

The content of Moses’ request, as we have seen before, is God’s presence with his people. This is the persistent request of Moses. He doesn’t move on to other things, other requests, other needs. He is stuck on this one thing – that God go with his people. He is determined to secure the promise of God’s presence with them. This is the only thing that seems to matter to him; indeed it is the only thing that does matter. If God is not with his people, they will not experience his favor, and they cannot enjoy his presence. This is what we were created for, and nothing else will satisfy. We must have the promise of God’s presence, we must experience peace with God, we must be reconciled to him or all is lost. Nothing else matters. ‘O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us’

Stiff-necked

The next phrase is puzzling: ‘for it is a stiff-necked people’. This is the reason God wanted to unleash his wrath and destroy the people in chapter 32

Exodus 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

This is the exact reason God gave for not going with his people.

Exodus 33:3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

Exodus 33:5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. …

Now Moses turns this around and uses it as the very reason for his request that God go with his people.

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people…

How can this be? God’s reason for not going with his people is the very thing Moses seizes upon and turns into the reason for his request for God to go with his people. This is a bold way to pray. God says ‘I will not go with you because you are stiff-necked and I would consume you’; Moses prays ‘you must go with us precisely because we are stiff-necked’. What makes the difference? I am convinced that it is God’s promise of grace that makes all the difference. If God were to act strictly in holiness, justice and righteousness, his wrath would burn hot and he would consume this stiff-necked people in a single moment. But if God turns his favor toward them, as he is free to do, then he will turn away his wrath and extend to them his forgiveness, mercy and grace. But how can God turn away his wrath from sinners? Where does he turn it to?

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

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;

The Father turned his wrath toward the perfect substitute, his Son Jesus.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,…

You see, the cross of our Lord Jesus is central even to the Old Testament. It answers the question ‘How can God be both just and justify the ungodly?’ (Rom.3:25-26; 4:5). How can God remain holy and righteous and show mercy and grace to sinners? This question finds its resolution only at the cross of Jesus, where the just wrath of a holy God against sin is poured out and satisfied, so that he is free to show mercy to those whose sins have been paid for.

But why would Moses remind God that the people are stiff-necked? Why bring this up, and even make it the reason for the request of his presence? I think it goes something like this: Lord, we are a stiff-necked people, daily in need of your transforming presence; do not leave us to ourselves. If we are this bad while you are so near to us, I fear to imagine what we would become if you withdrew your sanctifying presence from us. We are utterly dependent on you; our only hope of becoming holy is your purifying presence with us. The only value we have is that which your grace creates in us.

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Pardon our iniquity and our sin. Our only hope is in you, because you are a God who forgives iniquity and transgression and sin. You must go with us, because there is no other God like you whose forgiveness, mercy and grace is a match for a stiff-necked people like us. As the prophet Micah would say:

Micah 7:18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

God’s Inheritance

Go in the midst of us, because we are a stiff necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin. But Moses’ final request tops even this. ‘And take us for your inheritance.’ Take a moment and let this sink in. Take us for your inheritance. An inheritance is a prize possession, a special treasure, something of great value that you look forward to. Take us for your inheritance. Take us, an iniquitous sinful stiff-necked people. You, the holy, sin hating, awesome, self-existent needing nothing God, you take us for your inheritance!? This is beyond belief! God had said back in chapter 19:

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

If you will obey. But they had not obeyed. They had quickly turned aside. They had violated his covenant. They had committed idolatry, adultery. They had forfeited any claim to be his treasured possession. And now, after the golden calf, Moses has the audacity to ask God to take the people back, not as a pet project or an interesting experiment, but as his inheritance. Treat us as if we had obeyed your voice and kept your covenant perfectly. Take us, a stiff-necked people as your prized possession. How can this be? Moses is boldly asking, calling on the character of God, testing, pushing to the extreme. God you say you are gracious – giving good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. There is nothing we deserve but your wrath; will you show us your favor? We are pitiful, hopeless, helpless; will you extend mercy to us? You say you abound in covenant love and faithfulness; will you be faithful to us even though we have broken faith with you? We have sinned a great sin. Will your forgiveness cover even this? Take us, not because we have any inherent worth and value in your sight, but take us in order by your grace to make us into something valuable. Take us as your treasure.

We find the ultimate fulfillment of this in Jesus;

Titus 2:13 …our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

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

September 30, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:30-35; Our Desperate Need for a Substitute

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120729_exodus32_30-35.mp3

07/29 Exodus 32:30-35 Our Desperate Need for a Substitute

We are looking at Exodus 32, where Moses seeks to make atonement with God for the sin of the people. As we study this out, I believe it will give us greater insight into the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross for sinners like us.

The people have sinned a great sin. While Moses, the covenant mediator is on the mountain in the presence of God receiving the terms of this covenant relationship, the people, who had vowed their faithfulness to YHWH alone, have now corrupted themselves. They have quickly abandoned the commands that God had given them to have no God beside him, to worship no created thing but the unseen Creator only. They have abandoned strict monotheism (the belief that only one supreme God exists) and embraced polytheism (the belief that there are many gods). They have turned their worship toward the work of their own hands, rather than the God who created all things, and for whom all things exist. They have committed spiritual adultery, violating their exclusive covenant commitment to the one true God by giving themselves in worship to a false fabricated god. Moses interceded for the people, pleading with God that for the sake of his own reputation he not wipe them out completely.

When Moses returned to the camp, he shattered the tablets containing the terms of the covenant, demonstrating what the people by their actions had done to their relationship with God. He destroyed and desecrated their idol, making it unfit to ever be worshiped again. He confronted the leader who failed in his responsibility to care for the people, and he began to clean up the mess. He called for those who would repent from their sins and align themselves with the Lord to purify the camp and put to death those who refused to confess their sin and turn from their idolatry. 3,000 men died that day, a small fraction of the total population, demonstrating the great mercy of God. This is where we pick up the story.

Atonement

Exodus 32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

Moses as leader had done what was in his power to set the people back on the right path. Now, he tells the people that he, as mediator, will attempt to make atonement for their sin. Aaron had downplayed the sin, passing the blame to others, implying it was really no big deal, excusable because of the sinful inclination of the people. Moses takes the sin very seriously. He calls it a great sin – language often used for adultery. He says ‘perhaps I can make atonement for your sin’. He does not say ‘now I have to go make atonement for your sin’; he says ‘perhaps’. God is free to forgive or not forgive as he freely chooses. Moses can give no guarantee of the success of his intercession. Perhaps he can make atonement, but perhaps not. There is no presuming here on the mercy of God, as we so often do. We often take the attitude of Aaron – that our sin is no big deal, and that it is God’s job to forgive. Moses takes sin seriously. He sees that atonement needs to be made.

This word ‘atonement’ is interesting, because we have seen this word before. In the instructions for the tabernacle that Moses received from the LORD, he was told to build a box that would contain the tablets of the covenant agreement. The lid of this box was called the mercy seat, or atonement cover, or propitiatory. This was the place where God would meet with his people, and where their sins would be covered through the blood of a sacrifice. Now the tablets are broken, the covenant has been broken, the tabernacle is not built, there is no atonement cover, there is no sacrificial system in place by which atonement can be made. But remember, the tabernacle, as we have seen in the New Testament book of Hebrews (8:5), was a shadow of the heavenly reality. Moses says that he will go up to the LORD and attempt to make atonement.

Confession

Exodus 32:31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin–but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

This is a great example of what true confession should look like. Remember Aaron, when confronted with his sin tried to downplay the sin, asking Moses not to be angry, he tried to deflect blame, he tried to excuse himself and the people based on their natural propensity toward evil. We find none of that here. Moses starts his prayer with the word ‘Alas’. He is pleading, crying out to the Lord, begging. He acknowledges that it is a serious offense; ‘they have sinned a great sin’. This is no light matter, and he takes it seriously. He openly confesses the truth that God already knew – ‘they have made for themselves gods of gold’, unlike Aaron who said ‘I threw it into the fire and out came this calf’. He gets to the heart of the issue. They have violated the core of the covenant relationship, to have no other gods but the one true God, to not represent even the one true God with images. ‘They have made for themselves gods of gold’. He does not try to sugar coat their sin. He tells it like it is. And then he pleads for forgiveness. This is a broken sentence, difficult to translate because it is incomplete, expressing deep emotion, inability to put into words even the request. ‘if you will forgive their sins…’ If you will carry off, bear, take away their sins… He can’t complete the sentence.

Substitution Offered

‘But if not, please blot me out of the book that you have written.’ What a difference between Aaron and Moses! Aaron tries to save his own skin – you know what these people are like. Blame, excuse, blame, excuse, not my fault. Moses, who not too long ago felt inadequate to the task, Moses, who said ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Ex.3:11), Moses who was reluctant to take on the responsibilities of leadership, has now grown into this role that God placed him in, and he pleads with God ‘if you will, forgiven their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written’. God had suggested that he wipe out Israel and start over with Moses. Moses so identifies himself with the people that he offers up himself. He is attempting to make atonement for the people, and he is offering his own life; ‘please blot me out of the book that you have written’. Moses has truly matured as a leader who sacrificially loves the people who have been entrusted to his care

Substitute Rejected

But notice God’s response.

Exodus 32:33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Moses says ‘take me as a substitute – blot me out of your book’. God says ‘no, whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book… I will visit their sin upon them’. Moses attempts to atone for the people, attempts to cover their sin, even offering himself, and God says no, the people will die for their own sin. God is passionate about justice. This is a principle we find in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

God’s love for justice demands that only the righteous be justified, and only the wicked be condemned. People are judged for their own sins. You won’t be judged for another person’s sins, and you cannot pass your righteousness on to someone else. You are directly accountable to God for what you do. You cannot blame someone else for your sins, and you cannot say you are being punished for someone else’s sins. Many misunderstand what God says in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:5 …for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

This is sometimes misconstrued to mean that God punishes the innocent children of wicked parents or that we might be under some kind of generational curse. That is not what it says. The point is that parents do train their children by their actions; often by their own sinful behavior. And when those children follow in their parent’s sinful footsteps, God does not give them a free pass to sin and say, ‘it’s okay, they are just repeating what they have been taught at home’. No, God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Ex.34:7; Num.14:18). The flip side of this is that God loves to extend forgiveness, and godly parents can set the example for thousands of generations to love God and keep his commandments. This is made explicitly clear in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.

And Ezekiel chapter 18 lays out several scenarios to demonstrate the principle that:

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

So Moses’ attempt to make atonement and be blotted out of God’s book must be rejected. ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book’.

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

Our Problem

The problem, our problem is that ‘all have sinned and fall short’ (Rom.3:23), and ‘no one living is righteous before you’ (Ps.143:2), and ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23).

Romans 5:12 …sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–

This is our problem – we all have sinned, and so we all deserve to die. This is one of the problems with Moses’ offer. He could not die for the sins of Israel, because he himself was a sinner and worthy of death.

A Prophet Like Me

We have drawn a contrast between Aaron and Moses; now I’d like to draw a contrast between Moses and Jesus. Moses himself knew he was pointing ahead to someone greater. He said:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen–

…18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

The New Testament authors confirm that the ‘prophet like Moses’ that this pointed forward to is Jesus (Acts3:22; 7:27), so let’s look from Moses to Jesus.

Moses and Jesus

Moses went up to God to receive instructions from him for the people; Jesus is the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (Jn.1:18). Moses came down to see the extent of the people’s sin; Jesus had perfect knowledge of the desperate condition of the people he came to save (Jn.2:25; Lk.19:10). The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn.1:17). Moses came down the mountain with tablets of stone that were broken before they were received; Jesus writes the law on our hearts (Jer.31:33). Moses’ ministry was a ministry of death that brought condemnation; Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of new life in the Spirit (2Cor.3). Moses destroyed the tablets of the law and executed judgment on the people; Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save us (Jn.3:17; 12:47). Moses was a sinner like us; Jesus had no sin of his own (1Pet.2:22; 1Jo.3:5). Moses offered himself to make atonement and he was rejected; Jesus offered himself as a substitute for our sins and he was accepted by his Father (2Pet.1:17; Acts 17:31). Moses could not be punished for sins that he did not commit; Jesus became sin for us, took on himself our guilt, and bore in his own body our sins, so he could be justly punished in our place.

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

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; …

Isaiah 53:6 …and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Moses went up to the Lord to see if perhaps he could make atonement for their sin;

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, …12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. …24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. …26 … he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus, our great Prophet, Priest and King, did what Moses could not do. Jesus, God in human flesh, bore our guilt and paid our price in full and cried out ‘it is finished!’ (Jn.19:30)

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

July 29, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:11-17; Bold Intercession

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120715_exodus32_11-14.mp3

07/15 Exodus 32:11-14 Bold Intercession

Today we come to the subject of prayer. God has saved a people to be his own special possession, a people who would worship him, be in relationship with him, and he would come and live with them and be their God. God has instructed them in what it means to be in relationship with the holy God. But now all that is in jeopardy. These rescued people have quickly turned aside from God’s instructions. They have abandoned the one true God and made an image and worshiped the works of their own hands. In the language of Romans 1, ‘although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him …they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling …animals …they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …they did not see fit to acknowledge God …by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth. [So] God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity …God gave them up to dishonorable passions …God gave them up to a debased mind …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against [their] ungodliness and unrighteousness.’ Let’s look together at the text of Exodus 32.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

This is the desperate place we left off last time. God is disowning his people. No longer are they ‘my people’; they are ‘your people’. The mighty power of God displayed in the exodus event has accomplished nothing. The audible revelation of God to his people was wasted breath. God’s plan is to let his wrath burn hot against this hard hearted people and consume them and start over by making a great nation of Moses. They deserve it. God’s justice would be vindicated. It would display his righteous character. And God could still keep his promises. He would start over with Moses. No longer would God’s people be called the children of Abraham, or the children of Israel, but the children of Moses. I can’t think of one place in the whole bible where God’s people are called the children of Moses. This would be an appealing offer to Moses. To be free of the difficult task of leading this unruly people, and to have God’s promise personally – ‘I will make a great nation of you’!

Moses could have responded with a passion for the glory of God and said ‘yes, Lord, you are right to destroy this people. They have rebelled grievously and are undeserving of your affection. Rise up to defend the honor of your great name. Let your wrath burn hot. Display your righteousness in all the earth and blot them out of your sight. Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk.1:38). But we’ve read ahead. We know it doesn’t go down that way. This horrific rebellion is followed by five chapters of the people’s meticulous obedience, and then the glory of the unseen God comes to dwell in the midst of this people. What happened? What made the difference? Look with me the text and learn the awesome power of prayer.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

‘Moses implored the Lord his God …Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people …And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.’ What awesome power of prayer! God told Moses what he planned to do; Moses pleaded with God, and changed the mind of God. Moses persuaded God to change his course of action. The outcome of events was different because of Moses’ prayer. We could speculate – had Moses not made intercession for the people, the rest of the Old Testament would read quite differently from this point forward. We have much to learn from Moses’ prayer. Our access to God through prayer is an effective weapon. The enemy of souls would like us to lay down this weapon and leave it unused.

Invitation to Prayer

Before we examine the anatomy of this prayer to see what we can implement in our own intercession, I’d like to look at some other examples of prayer and the character of God.

Think of Abraham. (Gen.18) God visited him and told him what he planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham bartered with God, calling on the justice of God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Abraham persuaded God to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people, then he talked him down to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. God did destroy those cities, but not before he rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot.

Consider the prophet Jonah. Jonah is a very different sort of example. God called Jonah to go to the wicked metropolis of Nineveh and proclaim that his judgment was coming. Jonah did not pray for Nineveh. Jonah ran in the other direction. After God delivered Jonah to the city, he still did not pray for them, he preached their coming destruction. But the people of Nineveh believed God and turned from their evil and cried out mightily to God.

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

What was Jonah’s response?

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God. Jonah suspected what God was up to. He knew that God was gracious and merciful, and that God was using Jonah as the instrument through which to administer his grace to this undeserving city.

In Ezekiel, God speaks judgment against Israel. He goes down the list from priests to princes to prophets to people, and says that they have all turned away from him. God says:

Ezekiel 22:30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

God was seeking for someone who would intercede, God was looking for someone to stand in the breach before him to persuade him not to destroy, but he found none. Psalm 106 recounts the history of Israel, and uses Ezekiel’s language to describe what Moses did.

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

It is essential for our prayer to understand the character of God, the character of God that Jonah knew, the character of God that Ezekiel points to, the character of God that Moses boldly called on. This puts into perspective God’s statement to Moses in verse 10.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

God could have unleashed the fury of his hot wrath against Israel and consumed them before he said anything to Moses. God is informing Moses of what is going on at the foot of the mountain and inviting Moses to stand in the breach and turn away his wrath from them.

Now let’s look at the attitude and the arguments of Moses’ intercession and see what we can learn. We will see that this prayer is humble, it is founded on the past acts of God with his people, it demonstrates a passion for God’s glory, and it calls for God to make good on his promises.

Attitude of Prayer

First, we see the attitude of Moses’ prayer in the narration of verse 11. It says ‘Moses implored the LORD’. Other versions translate ‘sought’ or ‘besought’ or ‘entreated’. This word can be translated ‘to beg’. It carries the idea of weakness or sickness. Moses is bold in arguing his case, but his attitude toward God is that of a beggar approaching the King. He is not ordering God around; he is imploring or pleading. He is seeking the favor of God; he is seeking God’s face; he is asking.

Humility

Moses shows great humility in this prayer. Moses doesn’t even acknowledge God’s suggestion that the nation start over with him. Often we confuse humility with self-deprecation. Moses doesn’t spend the first five minutes of his prayer lamenting how inadequate and miserable and worthless he is. That would be a false humility that betrays a self-focus. True humility is a self-forgetfulness, being so caught up in the bigger picture of who God is that self is not even on the mind. God referred to Israel as ‘your people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt’; Moses doesn’t take any credit for the exodus. He doesn’t even concede that it was a joint effort and say ‘we‘; the people we brought up out of Egypt’. Moses corrects God; ‘your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand’. Moses shows bold self-forgetful humility in his prayer.

The Past Acts of God

Moses is also reminding God of God’s relationship with this people. He points back to the saving acts of God in the past. This is your people. God, you are the one who in chapter 6 said:

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, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God, you said in chapter 19:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Moses is basing his prayer on God’s relationship with his people. He has taken them to be his own people. He has initiated the relationship. He has saved them. This is a God who finishes what he starts.

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

Moses is recalling God’s affection for his people, his relationship with his people, and his past savings acts for his people. Surely, after all you have done for your people, you will not destroy them all and start over?

The Glory of God

The second argument Moses makes in this prayer flows out of a passion to see God glorified in all the earth. Moses says:

12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

There is no question here that God’s wrath would not be just. God has every right to punish sinful people. And we will see as the chapter progresses, that God does indeed punish sin. The question Moses raises is about how God’s character will be perceived among the nations. To punish sin demonstrates God’s holiness. To completely annihilate the people he had rescued from Egypt may send the message that he is incapable of finishing what he started; he was able to get his people out of Egypt, but he was not able to get Egypt out of his people. Can this God be trusted? It may send the message that the people were right in their grumbling and complaining; God did indeed bring them out of slavery to kill them in the wilderness. It would place a question mark on God’s goodness – what kind of salvation does this God offer? It would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt. Moses’ argument here is ‘for the sake of your great name, for the glory of your reputation among all the nations, turn back and repent of this evil. The primary driving passion for Moses was not his own reputation or even the good of the people but a passion for the glory of God.

The Promises of God

The final plea Moses makes is to hold God to his promises. He says:

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

You made promises to your people. Here again is the aspect of relationship – with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants. You swore by your own self. Here again is a concern for the glory of God. You took an oath and confirmed it with your own character and nature. Here Moses is reading God’s words back to him. God, here is what you said. I am holding you to your own words. This is the definition of faith. Faith is believing and expecting and depending on God to do what he said he would do. This is a prayer of faith. This is a prayer based on the promises of God, a prayer recalling the past acts of God, flowing out of an overarching passion for the glory of God. This is a prayer that God answered.

14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Our Place in the Story

We can learn much about prayer from the prayer of Moses and we should be encouraged to pray boldly for others. But if we place ourselves in this story, ours is not the place of Moses at the top of the mountain, interceding with God. Our place is with the people at the foot of the mountain, those who have heard God’s instructions and grown impatient and dissatisfied, those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and chosen to worship the works of our own hands. We are the ones who are deserving of God’s wrath and need someone to stand in the breach before God to turn his wrath away from us. And, praise God, if we will see ourselves there, then we will see that God has raised up for us a prophet like Moses (Deut.18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37), God sent his own Son Jesus, who has stood in the breach to take the full force of God’s wrath toward us, Jesus, who bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), Jesus, who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rom.8:34; cf. Heb.7:25).

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

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:34-38; The Fragrant Incense of Prayer

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120603_exodus30_34-38.mp3

06/03 Exodus 30:34-38 The Fragrant Incense

Incense and Prayer

Several weeks ago, we looked at Exodus 30:1-10, which described the building of the golden altar for incense. Then we looked at the ransom money, the bronze washbasin, the holy anointing oil, and now, at the conclusion of the the instructions for how the tabernacle was to be constructed and used, we come back to a description of how the incense is to be made. We saw when we looked at the altar for incense, that the incense is a symbol of prayer.

Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,

and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

In Luke 1, when Zechariah was serving in the temple, we are told:

Luke 1:9 …he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.

The hour of incense was a time for praying. Morning and evening, prayers to God were offered with the holy incense. Jesus taught that:

Mark 11:17 …‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’… (Is.56:7; cf. Mt.21:13; Lk.19:46)

And in the book of Revelation, we see the scene in heaven, where there are

Revelation 5:8 … golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Our prayers are a fragrant incense offered to God.

Exodus 30:34 The LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), 35 and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. 36 You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. 37 And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. 38 Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.”

Gospel Centered Prayer – Based on Substitution

We looked at the fact that the altar of incense is not mentioned until after the altar for sacrifice; because our sins must be covered by the blood of our sacrificial substitute before our prayers can be acceptable to a holy God.

This incense was made of sweet spices; many of them are difficult to identify today. The word translated ‘stacte’ literally means ‘drops’ and refers to the oozing gum resin from trees, possibly myrrh. ‘Onycha’ is thought to be an aromatic powder derived from scraping mollusk shells. ‘Galbanum’ is a very strong smelling gum resin taken from the stalk of the Ferula plant. Frankincense is a resin from Boswellia trees.

One curious ingredient is salt. The incense was to be ‘blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy’. Why salt? Salt was highly valued as a preservative in the ancient world, but incense does not go bad and would not need a preservative.

We find instructions in Leviticus that:

Leviticus 2:13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

Salt, a preservative that makes things last, is symbolic of the permanence of the covenant agreement between God and his people. We find the phrase ‘covenant of salt’ several other times in the scriptures (Num.18:19; 2Ch.13:5). ‘Covenant of salt’ was a way of saying a covenant that would last or be preserved, synonymous with ‘an everlasting covenant’. Adding salt to the incense offered in the holy place would be a reminder that approach to God in prayer was based on a covenant relationship, where forgiveness was granted and access was opened through the sacrifice of a substitute.

Our prayers are to be gospel-grounded, gospel-centered prayers. When we approach God, we can approach him only on the basis of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We must always be mindful of the covenant God has made with us, the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood. We cannot come to God on our own merits. We must come in the name of Jesus, on the merits of Jesus, trusting in and relying on the price Jesus paid in full on the cross. Our only access to the Father is through his Son Jesus.

Meeting with God in Prayer

But what is prayer? We see that prayer, by definition, is entering into the presence of God, talking with him, enjoying fellowship with him, making our requests to him, interceding with him for others. This is a fragrant pleasing aroma to him. For us as believers, it is a sin not to pray. Sin is missing the mark; falling short of doing what we were created to do. We were designed to have fellowship with God; we were created to commune with him, we were made for intimacy and fellowship with the infinite God. When we fail to take seriously this privilege of prayer, we miss the mark; we fail to be what we were designed to be – beings in relationship with our sovereign Creator.

This was the purpose of the tabernacle – to teach Israel what it means to be in relationship with a holy God. God says:

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

The first piece of furniture God described was the box that held the terms of his covenant relationship with his people, together with its cover or mercy seat, where he would be propitiated. He said:

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

Then, in chapter 29, after describing the twice daily burnt offering, he says:

Exodus 29:42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. … 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

This is highlighted in the instructions for the placement of the golden altar of incense.

Exodus 30:6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you.

We see this theme repeated in verse 36; the incense is to be put ‘before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you’. God desires to meet with his people, to dwell in their midst and to be their God. Prayer in essence is meeting with God.

Misuses of Prayer

James tells us that there are two potential misuses of prayer.

James 4:2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. 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.

Neglect of Prayer

The first misuse of prayer is simply not praying. You do not have because you do not ask. How often are we guilty of not spending time with God in prayer? Jesus strongly encouraged and invited us us to pray. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

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

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

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.

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.

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 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. …26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

I think the worst misuse of prayer today is our total neglect of prayer. We fail to place this fragrant incense before the throne of God. We have this blood bought privilege of bold access to the Father through the Son under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and we simply don’t bother. We are too busy to pray. We are too distracted to pray. We have more important things to do than pray. To say this sounds blasphemous: Too busy! More important things to do! More important than entering the presence of the Creator of the universe to talk to him?! But how often is that exactly what we say by our actions? We have been loved by the Father with an everlasting love. We were ransomed with the priceless blood of God the Son. We are being empowered and transformed by God’s Holy Spirit. We have the King of kings living in us, and we don’t bother to talk with him.

Not For You

The other misuse of prayer mentioned by James is that we think prayer is for us and about us. He says:

James 4:2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. 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.

We misuse prayer when we use it as a tool to get what we want. ‘You desire and do not have… You covet and cannot obtain… You ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions’. When we ask out of covetousness, wanting something we don’t have, when we ask out of discontent with what God has given us, when we ask because we are after something, then we ask wrongly.

We are told that this incense is most holy. ‘You shall not make it for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD’. This incense was not for personal use or private pleasure. Prayer is primarily and ultimately not for you. It is for the LORD. A common misconception is that prayer is how we get stuff from God. That is a distortion of what prayer is. Prayer is given to us by God, it is communion with God, it is all about God, and it it ultimately for God, for his pleasure. We are to talk to God, not to get stuff from him, but to deepen our relationship with him. This is what Jesus taught.

Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Do not use prayer to get praise from others. Do not pray to impress God. Do not use prayer as a tool to get what you want. This is not what prayer is for. Spend time privately in communion with your Father.

It is not wrong to bring our needs to God in prayer. Jesus taught us to pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’. But our first concern must be ‘may your name be magnified’

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. (cf. Lk.11:2-4)

Of course we are to ask God for what we need. We honor him when we take our requests to him because we are declaring that he is the only one who can meet our needs. But we must not attempt to use him as if he were a genie in a bottle who exists to give us what we want.

Illustrations of Asking

Maybe an illustration would help. Think of the parable known as the parable of the prodigal son (Lk.15). Really, it is a parable about a father and two sons. One son came to his father and asked for his share of the inheritance. This was equivalent to saying ‘dad, I don’t care about you, I just want your stuff. I don’t want to wait until you are dead to get my share, so give it to me right now.’ He asked his father and got what he wanted and then he got as far away from his father as he could as quickly as possible. How often do we approach God this way? ‘I don’t care about you, but I know you are rich and I want the gifts you give so I can go away and enjoy them on my own’. This is a severe example of misuse of prayer. But the older brother is not any better. He sees his broken, humbled, and repentant brother welcomed back into relationship with his father, and he is bitter, angry, jealous, and resentful. He dishonors his father by refusing to attend the feast, and when his father comes out to entreat him, he answers his father with disrespect.

Luke 15:29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

He was outwardly obedient, but this episode reveals his heart. He was self-righteous and he also was more interested in his father’s stuff than the father himself. He was doing all the right things as a means to get what he wanted. He was not interested in relationship; either with his lost brother or with his father. He was doing what he thought he had to do to get what he wanted from his father so he could go off and party with his friends. Two bad examples at opposite ends of the spectrum – one doing everything wrong and one doing everything right; both more interested in the gifts their father gave than in the father himself.

But where is the good example? What should prayer look like? What does it look like to want the relationship even if the gifts never come? What does it look like to want God to get glory more than wanting my own needs to get met? Jesus told his disciples:

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” …

Jesus, wrestling in the garden with the prospect of becoming sin for us, of bearing in his body the sins of the world, of drinking the cup of the righteous wrath of his Father against my sin,

Mark 14:36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Open honest communication. Plain asking. Humble submission to the will of the Father. Priority placed not on the gift, but on relationship with the giver. A desire above all for God to be glorified in all things. This is a sweet aroma, well pleasing to the Father. May we be those who continually offer up a sweet aroma of prayer to God. 

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

June 3, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:1-10; Furniture in God’s Tent – Incense Altar

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120506_exodus30_1-10.mp3

05/06 Exodus 30:1-10 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Incense Altar (37:25-28; Lev.16:12-14)

We are examining God’s instructions to his people whom he redeemed out of slavery. He rescued them so that they would know him, so that they would enter into relationship with him, so that they would serve and worship him. He gave them instructions for an elaborate tent where he would symbolically dwell with his people, a place where they could approach God in the way that he specified. God’s description began with the container that held his covenant agreement with his people, inscribed on tablets of stone, and the cover of this container, where blood would be applied to cover the sins of God’s people when they violated his covenant. Then he describes the table for the bread of his presence that abundantly supplies our need, and the lamps that overcome the darkness and illumine our path. He describes the tent itself, with the ornate curtain that divided his throne room from the holy place. He gave instruction for the large bronze altar for burning his offerings, and then he turned to describe the people who would serve him in his tent, what they would wear and how they were set apart for his service. He defined the offerings that they were to offer every day, morning and evening on his altar, offerings that would be a pleasing aroma to him. Now, having the priests in place and the burnt offerings begun, he turns back to give instructions for a piece of furniture in the holy place that he skipped over until this point in his instructions.

Exodus 30:1 “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. 4 And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

In the fulfillment passage telling that they built everything according to God’s plan, this incense altar falls logically from a construction perspective right after the ark, table, and lampstand, and before the altar of burnt offerings.

Exodus 37:25 He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. Its length was a cubit, and its breadth was a cubit. It was square, and two cubits was its height. Its horns were of one piece with it. 26 He overlaid it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And he made a molding of gold around it, 27 and made two rings of gold on it under its molding, on two opposite sides of it, as holders for the poles with which to carry it. 28 And he made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. 29 He made the holy anointing oil also, and the pure fragrant incense, blended as by the perfumer.

This altar was similar in construction to the altar of burnt offering, in that it had protrusions, or horns on its four corners, but it was much smaller, only about 18 inches square and 3 feet tall. But it was similar in construction to the ark and the table for bread, in that it was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold.

To Cover Odors

A practical function for this incense altar would be to cover the smells of the sacrifices. The tabernacle, with all the animals being offered there, would smell like a slaughter house. The fragrant incense burned on this altar would help to make things smell better in God’s tent.

A Symbol of Prayer

But what is the significance of the altar of incense? And why was it not mentioned back in chapter 25 with the other furniture that was placed in the holy place?

We get a hint at the significance of this altar in the Psalms:

Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,

and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

There is some connection between this incense and prayer. We see this connection reinforced when we look to the New Testament. Zechariah, soon to be the father of John the baptist was serving in the temple.

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

See the connection between this incense altar and prayer? At the hour of incense, ‘the whole multitude of the people were praying outside.’ Even the placement of this altar points us to this. God tells his people to put it ‘in front of the veil’ and ‘in front of the mercy seat’ ‘where I will meet with you.’ God wants to meet with his people. That is what prayer is; meeting with God, conversing with God, talking with God. The prayers of God’s people are pictured to rise up to God as a sweet fragrance to him. This is the reason Jesus gave for overturning tables and chairs and driving out those who bought and sold in the temple.

Mark 11:17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Is.56:7; cf. Mt.21:13; Lk.19:46)

Jesus is angered and takes action against those things that would divert God’s house from being what it was intended to be, a place for God to meet with man; a place of prayer for all the nations.

This prayer / incense connection is made explicit in the book of Revelation. In the scene in the heavenly tabernacle, around the throne of God, when Jesus takes the scroll from his Father.

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

The bowls full of incense are the prayers of the saints. Remember, in the bible, the term ‘saint’ is not reserved for some special class of person who has achieved some special standing with God. It means ‘holy ones’, those who have been set apart to God. All of us who are believers in Jesus are called ‘the saints’. Your prayers, my prayers, our prayers are kept as it were in golden bowls in God’s presence, a fragrant aroma to him. Just a few chapters later in Revelation, we see this connection again.

Revelation 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Qualified to Pray

‘Let my prayer be counted as incense before you’ (Ps.141:2). Now we can begin to understand why the altar of incense was left out of the description of the holy place until this point. The sins of God’s people must be dealt with before the prayers of God’s people can be acceptable to God. Guilt must be confessed and the substitute must be offered on the altar of burnt offering before incense can be carried into the presence of God. We are told in verse 10 that:

10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

The instructions for the day of atonement are given in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 16:11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

We are told in Isaiah 59 that

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

Our sins must be dealt with through sacrifice before our prayers can be acceptable. Proverbs tells us

Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

No one is righteous. No, not one. Only when our sins are covered by the blood of our substitute Jesus, only when we are clothed in his perfect righteousness, can we boldly approach the throne of grace.

Devoted to Prayer

And then, pray we must. The early church was devoted to prayer.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 6:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

We are encouraged by the example of the Apostles, who prayed like this: ‘my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved’ (Ro.10:1); ‘I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, …And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment’ (Phil.1:3-4,9); ‘We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, …we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God’ (Col.1:3,9-10); ‘We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1Th.1:2-3); ‘we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith’ (1Th.3:10); ‘To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2Th.1:11-12); ‘I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day’ (2Ti.1:3); ‘I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ’ (Phm.1:4-6); ‘Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul’ (3Jo.1:2)

Exhorted to Pray

We are exhorted to ‘be constant in prayer’ (Rom.12:12); to ‘strive together …in your prayers to God’ (Rom.15:30); to pray ‘at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication’ (Eph.6:18). We are told ‘in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God’ (Phil.4:6); to ‘continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving’ (Col.4:2); to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1Th.5:17). We are urged ‘that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people’ (1Ti.2:1). We are told to ‘pray for one another… The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working’ (Ja.5:16).

Jesus on Prayer

We are encouraged by the teaching of Jesus to ‘pray for those who persecute you’ (Mt.5:44); to ‘go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret’ (Mt.6:6); to ‘pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Mt.9:38). Jesus said ‘whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith’ (Mt.21:22); he said to ‘watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation’ (Mt.26:41). Jesus told us ‘whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses’ (Mk.11:25); he told us to ‘bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’ (Lk.6:28); he taught us that we ‘ought always to pray and not lose heart’ (Lk.18:1).

We, as followers of Jesus, must be devoted to prayer. We, forgiven sinners, now called to be his holy priesthood, must take up our responsibility to regularly, daily, offer up the fragrant aroma of our prayers to God. Our attitude should be that of Samuel, who, in spite of being rejected by God’s people when they demanded a king, said

1Samuel 12:23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

Samuel considered it a sin not to pray. Entering into the presence of God, talking with him, enjoying fellowship with him, making our requests to him, interceding on behalf of others, this should be our delight, our favorite thing to do. Access to God through prayer is an awesome privilege we as believers enjoy.

The Prayers of Jesus

But there is one even greater thing to look at before we leave this subject of prayer. We, as kings and priests (1Pet.2:9; Rev.1:6; 5:10) to God have the awesome privilege and responsibility to commune with God in prayer. But even greater than this, we need to know that we are being prayed for. We, as God’s priests, have a great High Priest, who is praying for us. Did you know, that day and night, moment by moment, you are the subject of Jesus’ conversation with his Father? Jesus prays constantly, without ceasing, for you! Romans tells us:

Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Jesus is right now, at the right hand of his Father, interceding for us. The author of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

The resurrected Jesus is persistent in prayer for us. He is able to save us to the uttermost. He continues to apply his finished work on the cross to us, continues to intercede for us, continues to carry us on his heart into the presence of his Father with joy.

But what does Jesus pray for us? What is the content of his prayers? He told Peter ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail’ (Lk.22:32). In John chapter 17, we get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus as he prays for us. In verse 9 he says ‘I am praying …for those whom you have given me, for they are yours’. And in verse 20, he says ‘I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me though their word’. Jesus is praying for his disciples, and for us, who believe in him through their recorded words. What does he pray?

First, he prays for the glory of God; that the Father and the Son would be glorified. Then he prays for us. He asks ‘Holy Father, keep them in your name’ (v.11). He prays ‘keep them from the evil one’ (v.15). He prays ‘sanctify them in the truth’ (v.17). And he asks ‘that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory’ (v.24). Jesus prays for us that we would be kept in his name, that we would be kept from the evil one, that we would be sanctified or set apart in the truth, that we would be with him to see his glory. And in and through it all, he prays for our unity. In verse 11 Jesus prays ‘that they may be one, even as we are one’. In verse 21 he prays ‘that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’. In verse 22-23 ‘the glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Jesus, today, continues to make intercession for us. He prays for the glory of God, for our unity, for our faith, for our protection, for our sanctification, and ultimately, that we would be with him where he is to see him for who he is.

Soul, take encouragement that even when you fail to pray, Jesus never fails to pray for you.

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

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment