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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Jesus Loves His Church

01/26/14 Jesus Loves the Church; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140126_loved-church.mp3

In the past weeks, we have been looking at what the bible has to say about the church. We defined ‘church’ as an assembly of Jesus-followers who believe and proclaim the good news about Jesus, that he is God, come in the flesh to die for our sins, that he rose from the dead and gives the free gift of eternal life with him to all who believe. The church is to be passionate about making disciples; the church follows Jesus and calls others to follow Jesus. The church is an assembly of people who devote themselves to the historic apostolic message, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus by the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. We saw that God has gifted some in this assembly of Jesus-followers with the responsibility to lead, to feed, and to care for his flock as a shepherd cares for his sheep. We have seen that membership in this thing called ‘church’ is not like membership in a society or club, but more like members of a body, each a unique body part with its own function, designed to be a healthy, connected, functioning part of the whole.

Many people today are down on church. There is a tendency to want to be independent, autonomous, to be free. There is a distaste, distrust, and sometimes even disgust toward ‘organized religion’ (as if disorganized religion is to be preferred). Why do we need church? ‘I feel closer to God when I’m alone in the mountains or at home with my family’ (as if how I feel is the ultimate determination of what is best for me). I have deeper discussions about God and feel more connected and accepted with my friends on facebook or with my buddies at the bar than I do with the local church body (as if church is primarily about having my social and intellectual needs met). Many are dismissing the church as irrelevant or outdated, some are abandoning the church altogether because, after all, what really matters is a personal relationship with Jesus, right?

I want to take some time today to absorb some of the things the Bible says about the church, to feel what God feels about his church, to listen to how God talks about the church. I hope this will stir in us affections for the church and a commitment to the church somewhat like God’s affection for his church and his commitment to his church.

Matthew 16

We need to remember that church was God’s idea, not some power hungry corporate heads who wanted control and to get their hands in your pocketbook. Jesus is the one who said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

There are some important things we can learn from this statement of Jesus. First, the church is founded on truth, supernaturally revealed truth. Jesus had asked his disciples:

Matthew 16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…

The truth of the identity of Jesus is foundational to the church.

Second, the church belongs to Jesus. He claims it as his own. Jesus is possessive about his church. Jesus says ‘mine’. The church belongs to Jesus. Acts 20:28 tells us that the church was purchased with the blood of God.

Acts 20:28 …care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

At the ultimate cost, he made the church his own.

Third, Jesus claims to be the one who will build his church. So when we express our negativity about the church, we are disapproving of the work of Jesus. Granted, there are many institutions that pass themselves off under the name of church that should not rightly be considered as legitimate churches of Jesus Christ, who do not believe in him or follow what he taught. And in every legitimate Jesus-following church there are problems yet to be addressed. But when we grumble and complain about the church, we are ultimately expressing our impatience and displeasure toward the one Architect and Master-Builder of the church. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Fourth, Jesus promises to sustain his church. His church will be victorious. The gates of hell shall not prevail. It will not be overpowered. His church will withstand the test of time, the onslaught of Satan, the deception of false teachers, the lure of power and riches. Jesus promises that his church, his true followers, will stand. ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’

So in this one passage, we learn that the church is founded on the truth about Jesus, the church belongs to Jesus, the church is built by Jesus and the church is sustained by Jesus. It follows that to be negative toward his church is to be negative toward Jesus.

Ephesians 5

Let’s look at the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 5:22-33 is a section addressing the relationship between husband and wife, but it tells us much about the relationship between Christ and the church. It is for that reason that we look at it today. What can we learn about Jesus and the church from this passage?

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

First, in verse 23 we are told that Christ is the head of the church, his body. The relationship between Christ and his church is one of authority. Jesus is the head. He has all authority over his church. Verse 24 states this the other way. The church submits to Christ. The church is obliged to obey Jesus absolutely.

Second, also in verse 23, we see that Christ is the Savior of the church. There is a lot of talk in our day about a personal relationship with Jesus, and I understand what is meant by this. I am an American because I was born in America. But I cannot say that I am a Christian because I was born in a Christian family. There is no second-hand relationship with Jesus. I must become a follower of Jesus myself. That is unquestionably true. But this verse tells us there is more; that Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus came to save his church, as a collective whole, as a group. If we are part of this group called the church, we are saved. If we are not part of the church, we are lost. Of course, we know biblically that the way a person becomes part of Jesus’ church is that person is born again by the Spirit of God and justified through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and then identified publicly with the church through baptism. But Jesus’ purpose in saving individuals was not simply to save individuals and leave them as individuals, but to connect them with his body, that they would be a part of something bigger than themselves, that they would belong to the church. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the church.

Verse 25 tells us that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. There is a personal, individual sense where I can say that Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me”. This is how Galatians 2:20 puts it. But there is also a collective sense in which Jesus “loved the church and gave himself up for her” That is how Ephesians 5:25 puts it. We must not despise that which Jesus loves. We must not abandon what Jesus gave himself up for. If Jesus loved the church, we too should come to love the church. If Jesus died for the church, we should be unwaveringly committed to the church. “Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her”.

Verses 26-27 give us the goal of Christ’s love and purchase of his bride the church.

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Jesus bought the church with his own blood in order to sanctify her, cleanse her and present her to himself in holiness and glory. Jesus intends to sanctify his blood-bought bride. He does this through the ministry of the word. That is why there is an essential emphasis in the church on biblical teaching and preaching. Cleansing of the church happens through the washing of water with the word. There is an emphasis on holiness, blamelessness, freedom from wrinkle or spot or defect. It is interesting that in the gospel accounts, Jesus only used the word ‘church’ twice. Once, in Matthew 16, where he said ‘I will build my church’ and again in Matthew 18, in the context of sin and seeking the lost and forgiveness and reconciliation. He instructs us when someone sins against us to pursue reconciliation first privately, then with two or three witnesses, then,

Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

In the two places Jesus mentions the church, one is his foundation, possession, and preservation of the church, and the other deals with the purity of his church in dealing with sin in her midst. Jesus puts a priority on the holiness of his church. His goal is to present the church to himself as a bride in splendor. This implies two things. One, that the church is imperfect now. There are wrinkles, spots, blemishes, dirt and grime. The church is not now perfect. So we should not be surprised and dismayed when we find that this is true. The church is in need of cleansing and washing because she is not yet perfect. But this also tells us that she will be perfect one day. Jesus accomplishes what he purposes to do. The church will be sanctified, purified, made holy. We can look forward with longing to that day, and we can participate in the process.

Guys, how many of you have a friend who dogs on your wife? Every time he comes over to spend time with you, he has something negative to say about her? Uh-oh, here comes the old ball and chain. She obviously doesn’t ever sweep with that broom; does she ride it? She spent two hours in the beauty salon, and it looks like all they gave her was an estimate. If I were married to her and she put poison in my food, I’d eat it! I love what she’s done with her hair; how does she get it to come out of her nostrils like that? If your credit card gets stolen, don’t report it; the thief is sure to spend a lot less than she does. Maybe if she ate some of that makeup she could be pretty on the inside. All joking aside, I don’t have any friends like that, and I expect you don’t either. If I did, they would quickly cease to hold the status of friend. They might even go missing. I know that my wife is not perfect. But you don’t insult someone’s wife and expect things to go well in your relationship. So many today claim to love Jesus but hate the church. That just doesn’t work. Jesus loves the church. He gave himself up for her. He will present her to himself as a glorious bride, perfected.

Verses 29 and 30 of Ephesians 5 tell us that the church is the body of Christ, and Jesus nourishes and cherishes her.

Ephesians 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Nourish. Cherish. Feed, care for (NIV); provide for (CEV); carefully protects (AMP); pampers (MSG); tenderly cares for (NRSV). If this is how Christ treats his bride, we ought to value her, treasure her, treat her with the utmost care and respect.

Ephesians 1

Just a few more passages in Ephesians to see what God says about his church. Ephesians 1 talks about the riches of our inheritance that the Father gives to his adopted children.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

God the Father put all things under the authority of Jesus. Jesus is head over all things; head over every rule, every authority, every power, every dominion, every name, now and forever. This Jesus, God has given to the church. Jesus, ruler of all things is the head of his body the church. The church is said to be the fulness of Jesus, who fills all in all. What an honored and privileged position!

Ephesians 3

Look over at Ephesians 3:10. Paul says that by God’s grace he is a minister of the gospel; he has the privilege of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. He brings to light the hidden plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God. The eternal purpose of God is this:

Ephesians 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

What is made known? The many-faceted abundant textured variegated wisdom of God. The manifold wisdom of God is made known to whom? To the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The wisdom of God is being made known to all the angelic hosts how? Through the church! The church is the stage on which God puts his manifold wisdom on display to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. We, the church, become the instrument through which God’s limitless wisdom explodes into view. The familiar, flawed, faltering church is what God uses to put his own wisdom on display.

Look down at the doxology in Ephesians 3:20-21

Ephesians 3:20 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.

The goal, the purpose, the chief end of everything is to glorify God. To him who is able, to him be glory in Christ Jesus. We would expect that God be most glorified in his Son Jesus Christ. But look what else it says: to him be glory in the church! God is glorified in the church! In the assembly of broken, messed up, imperfect, independent, rebellious sinners God is glorified. In the church that God purchased with his own blood, in the church that Jesus is building and sustaining, in the church that Jesus loved and gave himself up for, in the church that he is saving, perfecting, nourishing and cherishing, in the church over whom he is given as head, God is being glorified. Oh, may we begin to treasure the church as Jesus treasures his bride. Bring God glory by being a healthy, functioning, connected, unifying part of this marvelous mysterious thing called the body of Christ, the church! 

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

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January 26, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:17-21; Furniture in God’s Tent – The Bronze Washbasin

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120520_exodus30_17-21.mp3

05/20 Exodus 30:17-21 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Bronze Washbasin (38:8; 40:30-32)

We have been studying this section of Exodus where God describes how he, a holy God, will dwell with his sinful people. He described his throne room, where he would rule his people from over his covenant; and outside his throne room, his table, always full, his lampstand, always lit, and his incense, always fragrant; then in the courtyard, his grill, always burning, and now, finally, his washbasin.

Exodus 30:17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, 19 with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. 20 When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. 21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”

And in chapter 40, we see this basin put in place.

Exodus 40:30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses.

What was this basin for? What did it mean?

This basin was a reservoir designed to hold water. It was to be used for washing. Whenever they enter God’s tent, or approach God’s grill, they are to wash. This would serve a very practical function. Remember, the whole foundation of our ability to approach a holy God was the blood sacrifice of a substitute. Animals were slaughtered, blood was collected and applied, meat was butchered, prepared, and grilled. This was a messy, bloody process. The need for frequent washing is obvious. Of course, the whole point of sacrifice was the death of an innocent substitute in place of the guilty sinner to pay the price for sin; it all pointed to Jesus, the once-for-all final substitutionary sacrifice who takes away our sins.

Washing for Purification

When we think of washing, we think primarily of cleanliness and sanitation for health reasons. We wan to kill germs and prevent the spread of bacteria. That is indeed part of it. Especially in Leviticus, we see this idea of washing for purification and cleansing from various causes of uncleanness. We see that God’s laws were designed for the good of his people, for the health of his people, often in very practical ways. Proverbs picks up this idea of washing for cleanliness and takes it as a metaphor for moral and spiritual health.

Proverbs 30:12 There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.

How often have you had a big dirty smudge on your face and you didn’t even know it? Our own opinion of ourselves is often quite far from the truth. You can have sterilized hands but a wicked heart.

Isaiah begins his book by looking past the physical rituals in the temple to the spiritual realities that they are designed to illustrate.

Isaiah 1:11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. … 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

God is saying that the hands of his people are full of blood and need to be washed – not literal blood of animals, but the guilt of evil deeds, the neglect of justice, the oppression of society’s weak.

When Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees over the issue of ceremonial washing, he taught that:

Matthew 15:18 …what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Jesus, like Isaiah, pointed to the root of uncleanness, not physical but spiritual, not unwashed hands but wicked hearts, evil thoughts, destructive words.

Washing hands and feet is a picture that points us to our deeper need for cleansing our guilt before God. This is what Pilate was attempting to do when he turned Jesus over to be crucified; what he did was not just. He felt guilt.

Matthew 27:24 … he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Proper Hospitality

But cleansing was not the only purpose for washing. To understand this more fully, we need to think back several thousand years and try to understand a little about the culture of the middle east. There was a very important social aspect to washing. The primary mode of transportation was foot travel. Roads were dusty. People wore sandals. Washing feet was part of Abraham’s hospitality in Genesis 18.

Genesis 18:3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

If you’ve ever been on a long hike, you know how refreshing it is to dip your sore feet in some cool water. Even in many homes today, guests are expected to take their shoes off at the door before coming in. Washing feet would be an invitation into the home to relax and enjoy fellowship. Failure to provide a guest with water for washing would be a deep insult, equivalent to saying ‘you stay outside; you are not welcome in my home’. When Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat, that is exactly what he did. He offered no water for washing. This social insult is the background for Jesus’ teaching that he who is forgiven much loves much.

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. …

Simon is appalled that Jesus would allow this woman to touch him, because she had quite a reputation in the city. Jesus responds:

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus accepts the hospitality of a repentant sinner. God , by providing a basin in the courtyard of his tent for washing was extending hospitality, inviting the priests to refresh themselves, to come in to his presence and enjoy fellowship with him.

Jesus Washes Feet

Washing feet was not a pleasant duty. It often fell to the lowest of servants. There was another occasion when Jesus sat down to eat and no one had extended the hospitality of foot washing. It was his final meal with his own disciples. A common topic of discussion with them was which one of them was the greatest (Mt.18:1; 20:21; 23:11; Mk.9:34; 10:37; Lk.9:46; Lk.22:24-28). Apparently, not one of them was willing to stoop to perform the unpleasant and menial task of footwashing.

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

There is stunned, awkward silence, until he gets to Peter.

John 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Peter apparently thinks this is a test. First, he refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet, to which Jesus responds that washing is a prerequisite to fellowship with him. Peter then responds that he would like a full bath. Jesus points to the fact that he is completely clean, except for his soiled feet.

Justified – Sanctified – Glorified

This is very instructive for us. Jesus is drawing a distinction between the once-for-all cleansing that does not need to be repeated and the regular need for cleansing due to interaction with the world. It is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin (1Jn.1:7). The robes of the saints are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:14). This never needs to be repeated. But our feet become soiled from walking in this world. We need to be regularly washed with water. There is a distinction in the tenses of salvation. I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved. The bible uses all these tenses; the past, present and future to describe salvation. The past tense looks at justification – ‘since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom.5:1). That is the past once-for-all completed never to be repeated or revoked declared not guilty never to be on trial again salvation. Then there is the process of being saved; the day to day continual battle with sin called the process of sanctification. Finally there is the future final salvation, by which we will be transformed to be like Jesus when we see him face to face. That is our future glorification. Justification, sanctification, and glorification; past, present and future salvation.

Means of Sanctification – The Word

This hand and foot washing is the washing of sanctification. In Ephesians 5, in the teaching on marriage that is to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church, we are told:

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

‘Christ …gave himself up for her’ – that is the past once-for-all justification. ‘That he might sanctify her’ – that is the ongoing process of salvation in the daily battle with sin. ‘presenting the church to himself in splendor’ – that is the final future phase of salvation; glorification. Today we are looking at the present process of salvation, the sanctification process. Jesus is right now in the process of sanctifying his bride the church. We see in these verses the means of our cleansing: the washing of water with the word. The primary tool for our cleansing is God’s word. The water for washing that is in the basin is the word of God. Why do we preach from God’s word every Sunday, why do we sing biblical truth, why do we teach bible studies, why do we encourage daily bible reading both individually and with families, why memorize bible verses? Because it is the word of God that sanctifies.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word is potent! God’s word is powerful! God’s word has the power to penetrate past the outward actions and right into the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s word gets at the very root of our sin problem; our won wicked hearts. James talks about this sanctifying effect of God’s word in our lives.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Danger of Not Doing

The implanted word is able to save your souls. The present process of sanctification in the life of the believer is advanced through hearing; through receiving the word of God. The ongoing salvation process is producing in us the righteousness that God requires through the regular repeated application of God’s cleansing word. But James goes on to warn us that there is a danger of deceiving ourselves.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James warns that a common self-deception is that hearing is good enough. I showed up to church this week. I’ve done my bible reading for today. I’ve checked the boxes. Don’t deceive yourself! Hear, yes. Read, yes. But use it! Put God’s word into action in your life. Be a hearer and a doer. Apply the living word to your heart and let it wash and transform you. Take action! It is fascinating that James likens listening to the word with looking in a mirror. Do you know what the bronze basin in the tabernacle courtyard was made of?

Exodus 38:8 He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

The high quality polished brass that the women used for mirrors was the material that was used to cast the bronze basin for washing. No longer look at your natural face in a physical mirror, but look into the soul-reflecting mirror of God’s word. But don’t look only. Do something about it! When you look in a mirror and see you have grime on your face, don’t walk away and forget about it. Wash it off! When you look into the perfect law of liberty that tells the truth about the condition of your heart, don’t walk away without applying his cleansing word to your heart. When you see that your desires are in bondage to sin, apply the gospel truth of Christ’s victory at the cross and walk in the freedom he purchased for you.

Grace and Response

We tend to emphasize the grace of God to the exclusion of our necessary response. We rightly focus on the finished work of Jesus for us, but we wrongly neglect the gospel truth that his finished work is the foundation and basis for our response. The bible is clear that our works contribute nothing to the finished work of Christ. The bible is also full of commands for action.

1Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Philippians 2:12 …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Passionately pursue holiness, because God is at work in you to sanctify you. The foundation must be in place. The foundation is Jesus’ totally complete, finished, justifying work on the cross as your substitute. Without depending on that completely, relying, trusting, believing, you have no foundation and no hope. But once this foundation of faith is in place, the appropriate response must follow. Having been justified as a gift by grace, having the promise that you will be finally glorified, knowing that God is presently at work in you by his Spirit and through his word, pour strong effort and energy into your sanctification. Take Colossians as an example. Verse 5 begins with ‘therefore’, pointing back to the foundational finished work of Christ.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. … 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Read and apply the truth of God’s word to your own heart condition. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another.’

Remember what Jesus said when he finished washing his disciples’ feet?

John 13:12 …“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. … 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

As you apply God’s truth to your own heart and life, then carefully, lovingly, with genuine care and concern, with all humility and with much prayer, serve one another by applying the cleansing water of God’s word to wash away the daily dirt that we accumulate from our interaction with the world. And remember,

James 1:19 …my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…

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

May 20, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment